In the category of “What are we supposed to learn from this?” we finally get an easy one to figure out and an opportunity to reflect on how we treat our seforim in general.
The moving photo below surely touched everyone who saw it. Among the millions of tons of rubble, few precious items such as family photos, art, or jewelry were recovered. Surely this too must be an inconsolable loss at a tragic time when special mementos become even more precious. Then – finding the seforim, the holy books, the words of our Torah that supersede the emotional comfort that a keepsake might provide.
When I went to shul last Shabbos, as I selected my siddur from the bookcase, I held it near and kissed it before I began my morning prayers. Starting with Mah tovu upon reaching v’ani sefilosi, I kissed my siddur in hopes that “my prayer be at an opportune time.” Every time I closed my siddur or my chumash, as many people do, I again gave a little kiss, a heartfelt token as a way of saying I love you. Don’t ask how many times during my davening at home that I kiss my siddur.
I’m not sure when I started using a kiss to my prayer book as a sign of more than affection, a sign of love – and gratitude. It might have started many years ago when I first noticed how our holy books were treated in synagogue. It hit me particularly hard in shul the Shabbos after the photo appeared of the Surfside responders saving these precious books. It was still touching my heart.
How do we treat a sefer Torah? Of course we stand when the Aron is opened and every time the Torah is lifted from the bima. We kiss our precious Torah as it passes by. In the hierarchy of kedusha, of course a sefer Torah is paramount, but our seforim should be treated with sensitivity and respect, with comparable dignity. Do you put your chumash or siddur on the seat next to you or do you give it more respect by standing it upright against the back of the chair? Do you lay it face down or upside down appearing as if done haphazardly? A damaged book, even correspondence that contains Hashem’s name, along with a long list of items considered shaimos, must be buried with specific guidelines for disposal with respectability.
I reiterate: In the category of “What are we supposed to learn from this?” we finally get an easy one to figure out.
Let’s treat our holy books with the same kavod that the responders did amidst the rubble and ruin. The photo touched us all – did the message?