Respecting Holy Books
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
There are a number of Halachot that define how a person should properly respect all holy books (Sefarim). According to some, the obligation of respecting holy books is from the Torah.  Regarding a Sefer Torah see the Respecting a Sefer Torah page.
Using a Sefer for one’s Benefit
- It’s forbidden to use a Sefer for one’s benefit such as to protect oneself from the sun or for privacy, however, to protect another Sefer from the sun is permitted as that’s not done for one’s benefit. 
- Similarly, it’s permitted to block one’s view of a forbidden sight with a Sefer. 
- It’s permissible to cover one Sefer (that’s open) with another if one leaves temporarily. 
- It is forbidden to throw away a bag that holds Torah, Neviim, or Ketuvim. 
Leaning on a Sefer
- It’s permitted to place one Sefer on another (propping it up) while learning, however, some are strict in this regard. 
- When there’s a need, it’s permissible to lean on a Sefer for a hard surface to write divrei Torah. 
- It’s forbidden to lean one’s elbows on a Sefer, however, while learning some are lenient. 
Leaving Objects in a Sefer or on Top
- There's a major dispute in the poskim whether it is permissible to place a laptop with words of Torah on the screen on top of a sefer in the middle of learning. Most poskim are strict and don't allow this, but some poskim allow it when there's no space in order not to waste time from learning.
- Some say it’s forbidden to leave one Sefer inside another one to keep one’s place.
- It’s permitted to leave papers with Torah written on them inside a Sefer. 
- One shouldn’t leave a piece of paper, pen, or anything similar in a Sefer to guard the object.  However if it’s meant as a bookmark, it’s permissible. 
- It is permitted to leave one's glasses on top of a sefer one is learning since that isn't considered disrespectful.
- In transporting sefarim it is permitted to place soft clothing or the like on top of a sefer to protect it.
Positioning a Sefer
- If a Sefer falls on the floor one should pick it up and kiss it. 
- One should not place a sefer upside down. If a Sefer is upside down one should turn it rightside up and kiss it. 
- A sefer should not be stood upside down. If it is found in this position, it must be stood right side up. (Aruch Hashulchan 282:11)
- Some have the practice of giving precedence to a person carrying a Sefer to walk through the doorway first.
- Some say one shouldn't place a sefer on the floor even if it is in a plastic bag unless there is no other option.
Sleeping on a Sefer
- One shouldn’t sleep on top of a Sefer, however, one doesn’t need to wake up someone sleeping on a Sefer in middle of his learning. 
Stacking Holy Books
- It is permissible to place a Torah on a Torah, and a Torah on a Chumash, and a Chumash on Neviim or Ketuvim. . However, it is prohibited to place Neviim or Ketuvim on a Chumash, and a Chumash on a Torah. 
- One may not place a Gemara on top of a Chumash, Neviim or Ketuvim. 
- If sefarim are of equal holiness, it is permitted to place one on top of another. Sefarim written on paper or printed are equal in holiness. 
Bringing a Sefer into the Bathroom
- If one needs to bring a sefer into a bathroom some poskim hold that two covers are necessary, while most hold that only one cover is necessary. Today many poskim are lenient to bring a sefer into the bathroom even without a double covering.
Changing in Front of a Sefer
- Sephardim should be strict not to change a baby in front of a sefer since it is disrespectful to expose a sefer to the nakedness of a person. Ashkenazim can be lenient for a girl until she is 3 and a boy until he is 9. Similarly it is forbidden for an adult to change in a room where a sefer is exposed.
- Many poskim write that it is forbidden to have a child go to the bathroom in a potty in a room with an exposed sefer. However, some are lenient but still recommend having the child go to the bathroom in another room.
Sitting on or Next to Sefarim
- It's forbidden to sit on the same seat, bench, or bed that has a sefer kodesh on it.  However, some Sephardic poskim are lenient with printed sefarim.
- Some poskim say that it is permitted to sit on a bench on which there is a sefer if the sefer is standing upright. 
Carrying a Sefer
- Many poskim say that it is forbidden to place a sefer in a backpack and wear it on one's back. Some poskim permit.
- Some poskim even say that it is forbidden to hold sefarim in a bag hanging from one's hand in a regular fashion. Instead one must hold it in one's lap.
- It is permitted to transport seferim in a bag that is placed under the airplane.
Kissing a Sefer
- It is proper to kiss one's sefer before and after using it and this is also a segulah to have good memory. 
Borrowing a Sefer without Permission
- It is permissible to borrow a private sefer that is left in a beit midrash, because the owner does not mind if someone uses it occasionally.
- Even though it is forbidden to write pesukim from Torah without writing a complete sefer of Torah, as in a chumash, even for the purpose of teaching Torah, because of the need to learn and teach Torah the rabbis permitted it. Therefore, it is permitted to write pesukim even without writing the whole sefer.
- Some poskim hold that it is forbidden to write a pasuk as a decoration. It was only permitted when necessary for the purpose of learning and teaching Torah but not otherwise. Other poskim write that the minhag to use pesukim for decorations isn't in violation of the halacha not to write a pasuk without writing the whole sefer.
- Some poskim hold that there's no issue of writing a pasuk without writing the whole sefer if one writes with script or the like and not Ashurit as it is written in the Sefer Torah.
- Writing only three words or less from a pasuk isn't considered writing a whole pasuk and doesn't violate this halacha of writing a pasuk without writing the whole sefer.
- Some say that printing a sefer is only permitted if done leshem shamayim.
- Some had the minhag not to use Ashuri Hebrew letters for anything besides Torah since it is a very holy script and shouldn't be used for a mundane use.
- See Taz YD 271 (at the end) and Pitchei Teshuva 282:8 who hold that printed Sefarim must be treated respectfully just like a hand-written Sefer.
- There are several approaches as to the basis for the obligation to respect a sefer.
- Respecting a Sefer like Respecting a Talmid Chacham: The Emek Bracha (Kavod Sefer Torah p. 43) proves from the Gra YD 282 that the obligation of respecting sefarim is based on the concept of respecting a Talmid Chacham who is a walking Sefer Torah. This approach is supported by the gemara Kiddushin 33b that one must stand for a Sefer Torah just like one is obligated to do for a Talmid Chacham (which Iggerot Moshe OC 5:38:1 writes is biblical). He continues that in fact just as there is a mitzvah to have awe of one’s rebbe the same applies to a sefer torah. For example, the prohibition to bring a sefer torah to a person instead of him walking to it is based on the obligation of awe one needs to show a sefer torah.
- Respecting Sefarim is Respecting Hashem: Bamidbar Rabba 8:3 learns from the pasuk "כי מכבדי אכבד ובזי יקלו" Shmuel 1:2 that the mitzvah of giving respect to Hashem includes the obligation to give respect to a Sefer Torah. Kiseh Rachamim (Avot Drabbi Natan 27:1, cited by Kavod Hasefarim p. 67) explained that even though the pasuk is speaking about giving respect to Hashem, chazal understood this to include kavod to the Torah since the Zohar says that the Torah is the revelation of Hashem's essence so respecting Torah is respecting him. Similarly, HaChasid Yavetz Avot 4 writes that one should treat sefarim with respect like one would treat the clothes of king with dignity because Torah is an expression of Hashem in the world. Pelah Yoetz (“sefer”) cites this analogy as well. The general obligation to respect sefarim can be found in Avot 4:6 which states that anyone who respects Torah will have his body respected. Rashi ad loc., Rabbenu Yonah ad loc., and Sefer Chasidim 916 understand that the mishna is obliging a person to respect sefarim.
- Yirat Hashem: Mesilat Yesharim ch. 19 s.v. vheneh dibarnu explains that respecting a sefer is included in Yirat Hashem which includes respecting him. Specifically he includes in that category beautifying a sefer Torah and not disrespecting it by touching the klaf directly. This approach can be an expression of the last one since he considers the mitzvah respecting Hashem to be an expression of Yirat Hashem.
- Dvar Hashem Bazah: Pelah Yoetz (“sefer”) writes that someone who disrepects a sefer is in violation of the pasuk “כי דבר ה’ בזה” (Bamidbar 15:31), because he denigrated Hashem’s word. He seems to be extending the derivation of the gemara Brachot 24a that learning Torah in a dirty place is a violation of that pasuk. The Pela Yoetz applied the same idea to disgracing a sefer.
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 28:9, Chaye Adam 31:48, Mishna Brurah 154:31
- Rav Elyashiv in Nekiyut VeKavod BeTefillah pg 100 (quoted in Daily Halacha Discussion pg 29)
- Sh”t Selmat Chaim 2:377 (quoted in Piskei Teshuvot 154:23) and Tzeddaka UMishpat (Rabbi Yacov Balvia, 16:27, pg 383); (quoted by Yalkut Yosef (Kriyat Torah pg 324)) is lenient based on the Magen Avraham 154:14 who permits having one Sefer lean on another in order to learn.
- Mishna Brurah 154:7
- Taz Y”D 282:13 writes that leaning one Sefer on anothor is forbidden as being a great disgrace by using the Sefer as a piece of wood or stone just like leaning one’s elbows on a Sefer Torah is forbidden. Even the Taz agrees if a Sefer was there prior it’s permissible to put another Sefer on it to learn. However, Magen Avraham 154:14 argues that it’s permissible based on the logic of what difference is it whether a Sefer is placed here or there. Kitzur S”A 28:9, Chaye Adam 31:48, Mishna Brurah 154:31 rule that it’s permissible, however, Yalkut Yosef (Kriyat HaTorah pg 323) and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (footnote on Kitzur S”A 28:9) writes that the Minhag is to be strict on this issue.
- Mishna Brurah 154:31, Yalkut Yosef (Kriyat HaTorah pg 323)
- Rama 282:7 writes that one may not place a Sefer on one’s lap and lean one’s elbows on it. Sh”t Salmat Chaim YD 1:132 (quoted in Piskei Teshuvot 154:23) is lenient if it’s in middle of one’s learning as long as it isn't considered disrepectful.
- Kuntres Ohel Yakov (Kavod Vkedushat Sefarim p. 87-107) quotes many teshuvot about this topic. Rav Nevinsal, Rav Shternbuch, R' Yisay Meiselman, R' Tzvi Weber, Avnei Darech, and Ashar Chanan 8:44, permit placing a laptop on top of a sefer for the sake of learning if there's no place. However, Rav Azriel Auerbach, Rav Sarya Debelitsky, R' Yosef Liberman, R' Eliyahu Shlesinger, R' Moshe Chaliva, R' Chaim Roter, R' Dovid Teharani, and R' Moshe Brandsdorfer are strict in all circumstances.
- Kitzur S”A 28:9, Aruch HaShulchan Y”D 282:23, Pitchei Teshuva Y”D 282:17 in name of Chamudei Daniel, and Rav Elyashiv in Avnei Yashfei 1:202 write that it’s forbidden to leave one Sefer inside another to keep the place. However, Tzeddaka UMishpat (Rabbi Yacov Balvia, 16:27, pg 383); (quoted by Yalkut Yosef (Kriyat Torah pg 324)) is lenient based on the Magen Avraham 154:14 who permits having one Sefer lean on another in order to learn.
- Aruch HaShulchan Y”D 282:23 writes that one may leave chiddushei Torah inside a Sefer. Similarly, Eliyah Rabba 154:10 and Mishna Brurah 154:31 write that one may not leave blank paper in a Sefer implying that paper with divrei Torah may be left in a Sefer.
- Pitchei Teshuva 282:17, Sh”t Igrot Moshe OC 4:72 (quoted in Daily Halacha Discussion pg 28)
- Eliyah Rabba 154:10 writes that one shouldn’t leave a pen inside a Sefer, however someone who’s copying over text may leave a pen to mark the place where he left. This is also the opinion of the Kaf HaChaim 154:56. Rav Avigdor Nevinsal (Ohel Yakov Kavod Ukedushat Sefarim p. 20) writes that it is permitted to leave a blank piece of paper in a sefer as a bookmark. Tzeddaka UMishpat (Rabbi Yacov Balvia, 16:27, pg 383); (quoted by Yalkut Yosef Kriyat Torah pg 324 and Piskei Teshuvot 154:23) writes that any use of the Sefer for learning purposes one may be lenient on. [The Magen Avraham 154:14, Chaye Adam 31:48, Kitzur S”A 28:9, and Mishna Brurah 154:31 write that a pen or paper without Divrei Torah shouldn’t be left in a Sefer but don’t mention the case where it’s meant to be a bookmark.]
- Rav Moshe Shternbuch (Ohel Yakov Kavod UKedushat Sefarim p. 12)
- Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Ohel Yakov Kavod UKedushat Sefarim p. 2)
- Maharil Likutim 80, Eliya Zuta YD 240:7
- Darkei Moshe YD 282 quoting the Maharil (Likutim 80), Rama YD 282:5, Eliya Zuta YD 240:7
- Maharil Likutim 80, Eliya Zuta YD 240:7
- Rav Chaim Kanievsky (quoted by Ohel Yakov Kavod Ukedushat Sefarim p. 2)
- Orchot Rabbenu vol 3 pg 161 in name of the Chazon Ish, and Rav Nassim Karlitz in Chut Sheni (Ribbit pg 169) are stringent, while Sh”t Shelmat Chaim 2:539 (quoted in Piskei Teshuvot 154:23) is lenient if it’s in middle of one’s learning.
- Gemara Megilla 27a, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sefer Torah, 10:5; S”A 282:19
- Gemara Megilla 27a, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sefer Torah, 10:5; S”A 282:19
- Beit Lechem Yehuda YD 283
- Aruch Hashulchan, Hilchot Sefer Torah, 282:22
- Eliya Rabba 43:6 writes that if one needs to bring a sefer into the bathroom one needs to cover it with a double cover like we find by tefillin. Magen Avraham 43:14 argues that it is permitted as long as they're covered with one covering. Radvaz 3:513, Birkei Yosef 85:10, and Halacha Brurah 43:8 agree with the Magen Avraham. Mishna Brurah 43:25 cites the dispute. Rambam (Responsa Pear Hadar 7) writes that it is forbidden to bring any writing of Torah into a bathroom uncovered.
- Halacha Brurah 43:8 is lenient like the Magen Avraham because anyway there are other factors to be lenient including the factor that a printed sefer might not have kedusha and our bathrooms might be considered a very clean bathroom in which there is no issue of bringing in a sefer. Yabia Omer YD 4:21:4 and Tzitz Eliezer 11:5 are lenient to bring printed sefarim into a bathroom in one’s pocket since the pocket is one covering and the printed sefarim might not have kedusha. Rivevot Efraim 1:8:2 allows bringing into the bathroom Torah notes with one covering. Similarly, Maharsham 3:357 is lenient with one covering such as a pocket but just keeping a sefer in a transparent covering is insufficient. Machezeh Eliyahu 1:8:30 p. 58 is lenient and adds that anyway the pants pocket count as a double covering. Teshuvot Vehanhagot 1:125 is strict for any sefer that has a name of Hashem.
- Dirshu 43:20 quotes Ginzei Hakodesh ch. 4 no. 27 that Rav Sheinberg and Rav Karelitz are lenient while Rav Elyashiv and Rav Wosner are strict. In fact the quote is inaccurate. Ginzei Hakodesh is discussing having tashmish in a room with sefarim and regarding that discussion he quotes the above poskim. However, being that everyone agrees that a double covering is necessary for tashmish and many poskim hold only one covering is needed for a bathroom it is clear that the case of a bathroom is more lenient and it isn’t accurate to say that Rav Elyashiv and Rav Wosner are certainly strict.
- Mishna Brurah 45:5-6 establishes that it is forbidden to expose oneself in front of a sefer. Shemirat Shabbat Kehillchata p. 293 24:33 in note writes that one shouldn't change a baby in front of a sefer. Shemirat Shabbat Khilchata in the footnote points out that according to the Rama 75:4 it should be permitted for a baby girl until she is 3 or a boy until he is 9. However, Avnei Yishfeh 1:11:4 writes that it is forbidden to change a baby in front of a sefer unless it is difficult to avoid. He quotes that Rav Elyashiv agreed with him. Ginzei Hakodesh p. 62 quotes this.
- Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen p. 26) is lenient to change a baby in front of sefarim. He cites Machezeh Eliyahu p. 41 regarding the nakedness of a child before sefarim. Rav Mordechai Willig (Mezuzah Shiur 5) agrees that it is permissible to change a baby in front of a mezuzah or sefarim. Regarding exposing the soiled diaper Machezeh Eliyahu p. 47 is lenient. Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Daat Noteh Mezuzah p. 151) says that it is proper not to change a diaper in a room with exposed sefarim or within 4 amot of a mezuzah. Even with nakedness of a child according to the Rama one should avoid if possible.
- Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata ch. 24 fnt. 120 cites Rav Shlomo Zalman allows leaving a clean empty potty in a room with a mezuzah but it is forbidden to let the child go to the bathroom in a potty in front of a sefer.
- Children in Halacha (Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen p. 26) citing Machezeh Eliyahu p. 59 is lenient if the walls of the potty block anything from being seen.
- Shulchan Aruch 282:7 writes that it's forbidden to sit on a bed that has a Sefer Torah on it. The Rama there comments that the same prohibition applies to other Sifrei Kodesh. This is accepted by many achronim.
- Halacha Yomit with the psak of Chacham Ovadia Yosef writes that one may be lenient for printed books (this can also be found in hebrew here).
- A Gadol in our Midst (p. 32) quotes Rav Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg as saying that it is permitted to sit on a bench that a sefer is standing upright upon.
- The Gemara Brachot 18a states that it is forbidden to ride on a donkey with a Sefer Torah on the donkey unless there is a fear of bandits. The Gra YD 282:12 clarifies that it is only permitted to sit on the donkey on the same level as the Sefer Torah to avoid the danger. Can you place a Sefer Torah in a bag behind you?
- Tosfot Brachot 18a s.v. vyirkov and Rosh Brachot 3:7 understand the gemara to mean that it is obviously permitted to ride with the Sefer Torah on the donkey if there's a danger. Additionally, putting a Sefer Torah in a bag behind oneself is permitted even if there's no danger.
- The Rif Brachot 11a however implies that it is only permitted to place a Sefer Torah on the donkey to avoid danger but there's no leniency of placing it behind oneself. Rabbenu Yonah Brachot 11a s.v. ukederech and Rosh 3:7 understand the Rif as such.
- Yerushalmi Brachot 28a states that it is permitted to carry a bag of Sefarim behind you. However, the Rosh 3:7 implies that this Yerushalmi is not be accepted according to the Rif. The Tur 282:3 cites a dispute if there's no danger whether it is permitted to carry a Sefer Torah behind one's back.
- Is the Sefer Torah treated like a Sefer? Tosfot and Rosh suggest that they are different. Rabbenu Yerucham (cited by Bet Yosef 282:3) argues that Sefarim and Sefer Torah are the same for this halacha. Bach 282:3 is strict for both the Rif and the Rabbenu Yerucham. Therefore, he holds that it is forbidden to carry a sefer behind one's back. Shach 282:5 cites the Bach. Avnei Yishpeh YD 205 accepts the Shach and discusses carrying a sefer or tefillin on a ledge in the back of a bike and concludes that it should be forbidden, however, one gadol was lenient if the ledge isn't on the same level as the bike. The Avnei Yishpeh would have been lenient with holding sefarim in a box. see Biur Halacha 43:6 s.v. umeyniachan.
- Megilat Sefer Inyanim Shonim YD p. 143 writes that the minhag is that people carry sefarim in backpacks. He explains that either we aren't following the Bach or that our printed sefarim don't have the same kedusha as a handwritten sefer.
- Gam Ani Odecha Teshuvot Gri Roth 3. He explains that the idea of Brachot 18a that forbid putting a sefer torah on a donkey one is riding whether that is because it is disrespectful or because it is necessary to specifically hold it in one's lap. He shows from the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch that specifically one must hold it in one's lap.
- Torat Haderech 3:9 p. 34
- Kaf Hachaim 155:12
- Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 65, Rabbi Doniel Neustadt, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein quoted by Rabbi Chaim Jachter
Although Rama 14:4 writes that it is forbidden to borrow somebody's book without their permission because it might tear while being used, Rabbi Bodner writes that in our day and age when printed seforim are abundant and inexpensive, many poskim are lenient because the owner would probably not mind. see also Ten Minute Halacha: Borrowing a Sefer, Tallis or Tefillin Without Permission by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz
- Gittin 60a records the dispute whether it is completely forbidden or the rabbis permitted it for the purposes of teaching Torah based on the principle of "Et Laasot LHashem Heferu Toratecha". Shulchan Aruch YD 283:2 holds like the Rambam that it is completely forbidden to write pesukim without writing a complete sefer. However, the Shach 283:3 and Taz 283:1 both hold like the Rif who sides with the opinion that it is permitted to write pesukim without the whole sefer based on Et Laasot LHashem.
- Taz YD 283:1, Aruch Hashulchan YD 286:13 cited by Chevel Nachalto 7:34
- Shach YD 283:6
- Pitchei Teshuva YD 283:2 citing the Tashbetz 1:2
- Shulchan Aruch YD 283:3
- Chatom Sofer OC 208. Sdei Chemed v. 10 p. 56 writes about how it is okay for him to print a sefer that collects shitot and the greatness of such a work quoting from Pela Yoetz and others.
- Rambam Pear Hadur 7