Respecting a Sefer Torah

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Everyone is obligated to honor a Sefer Torah. One should be in a state of seriousness and awe in front of the Sefer Torah as it serves as a testament to the world of Judaism.[1] Regarding Sefarim see the Respecting Holy Books page.

Placement and Storage

Designating a Place

  1. There is a mitzvah to designate a place for the Sefer Torah.[2]

Storing a Sefer Torah at Home

  1. When storing a Sefer Torah in a Shul, certain standards are expected and easily kept. Although it is generally more difficult to properly store a Sefer Torah in one's home, it can be done and it is considered no less dignified than if it is stored in a shul.[3] It is nice to place the Sefer Torah in an Aron next to the area where other printed sefarim are kept in the house.[4]
  2. When storing a Sefer Torah at home, it isn't sufficient to leave the Sefer Torah on a table wrapped in a Tallit. It should be stored in a cabinet with nothing else inside. It doesn't need to be placed in an Aron Kodesh unless that is available. When placing the Torah in the cabinet one should stipulate that it is only to store the Torah temporarily and going to be used for mundane uses afterwards.[5]

Building an Aron

  1. There is a mitzvah to house a Sefer Torah in an Aron Kodesh as we learn from the way the Luchot were stored and not simply wrap it in a Tallit.[6]
  2. An Aron Kodesh should be built with something new or designated for that purpose. Something that was once used for any personal use shouldn't be used for an Aron Kodesh.[7]
  3. After the fact if something that was once used for another purpose was used as the Aron Kodesh it can continue to be used.[8] It can't be downgraded in its kedusha[9] and would require gezina if it isn't used.[10]
  4. If one changed the form of the materials then it is permitted to use them for an Aron.[11]
  5. It was just designated for a personal use and was never actually used it can be used for an Aron.[12]

Hanging a Parochet

  1. The general minhag is to have a parochet on the outside of the Aron Kodesh. Some communities have the minhag to have two parochot, one on the inside and one on the outside of the Aron. Both minhagim are acceptable. Either way, it is important to have a parochet since it affords another layer of honor to the Sefer Torah.[13]
  2. It is permitted to use something that was once used for a personal or mundane use for a parochet.[14]
  3. If was once worn by a woman and people in the community know or remember her and theoretically it could lead to hirhur a parochet should not be made from her garments.[15]

Gartel

  1. There is a minhag by some communities to take the gartel from the Sefer Torah for a pregnant woman as a segulah that she not have a miscarriage. Some defend this minhag and others question it.[16]

Meil on Sefer Torah

  1. The meil, the garment around the Sefer Torah, should be decorated to beuatify the Sefer Torah. If one side is nicer than the other, some say that the nicer side should face the Sefer Torah, while others say the opposite. The minhag is that it faces the outside. Ideally it should be made equally as nice on both sides.[17]
  2. They shouldn't switch the inner side with the outer side of the meil.[18]
  3. One shouldn't use a garment that was used for a personal use for the protective covering on a Sefer Torah. It is permitted to use a kittel for Yom Kippur davening for wrapping a sefer torah.[19]

Sefer Torah Leaning or Standing Straight Up

  1. When the Sefer Torah is placed in the aron and also when it is on the Bimah, according to Ashkenazim, it should be placed in a leaning position and not standing or lying flat.[20] However, according to Sephardim the Sefer Torah both when it is in the Aron and when it is read on the Bimah should be standing straight up. This is the minhag of Sephardim and how the Sephardic Sefer Torah is constructed.[21]
  2. When there are multiple sifrei Torah taken out for a Kriyat Hatorah, there is what to rely on to leave the Sefer Torah leaning in a Sefer Torah holder (wooden chair-like structure) secured properly.[22]

Turning the Klaf Over

  1. It is forbidden to turn over the klaf on the Sefer Torah so that it is should face down. If it is found overturned, it should be turned face up.[23]

Placing It On the Ground

  1. It is forbidden to place a Sefer Torah on the ground.[24]

Sitting Next to the Sefer Torah

  1. It is forbidden to sit on the same area where a Sefer Torah is placed.[25] If the Sefer Torah is raised a tefach according to the basic halacha it is permitted to sit on that same area. However, a pious practice would require the Sefer Torah to be raised 3 or 10 tefachim.[26]

Resting Elbows Upon Sefer Torah

  1. A person shouldn't put a Sefer Torah on his lap and rest his elbows on it.[27]

Sefarim on a Sefer Torah

  1. It is forbidden to place a Neviim or Ketuvim on top of a Sefer Torah. Moreover a chumash may not be placed on top of a Sefer Torah[28]. However, Neviim can be placed on top of Ketuvim or vice versa.[29]

Inappropriate Behavior in Front of Sefer Torah

Turning One's Back on the Sefer Torah

  1. It is forbidden to turn one's back to a Sefer Torah, however, if the Sefer Torah is above Ten Tefachim it is permitted according to many poskim.[30]
  2. It is permitted for a rabbi to give a drasha in front of the Aron with a Sefer Torah inside even though his back is to the Sefer Torah.[31]
  3. Some poskim hold that if one is wrapping one sefer torah it is permitted to turn his back on the other sefer torah which is on the bimah since one is involved in the respect of one sefer torah it isn't disrespectful to another sefer torah.[32]

Spitting

  1. It is forbidden to spit in front of a Sefer Torah.[33]

Undressing or Tashmish

  1. It is forbidden to undress in front of a Sefer torah.[34]
  2. Similarly, tashmish is forbidden in the room where there is a Sefer Torah.[35]

Sticking One's Feet Out

  1. It is forbidden to extend one's legs in front of a sefer Torah.[36] Therefore during kriyat hatorah unless the Sefer Torah is in another domain one should sit with one's legs close to one's body and not extended in a relaxed position.[37]

Transporting a Sefer Torah

When is it Permitted to Transport a Sefer Torah

  1. Generally, a Sefer Torah should not be transported for people who can't come to shul since it is considered disrespectful to bring a Sefer Torah to people when the opposite should take place. Therefore, many poskim hold that even if Jews are stuck in jail it is forbidden to bring them a sefer Torah.[38] Some are lenient if the Jews are unable to come to shul since it isn't a disrepect to the Sefer Torah in that case. For a Biblical Kriyat Hatorah such as Parshat Zachor we would be lenient.[39] Additionally, if there is a minyan of Jews stuck who can't come to the shul it is permissible to bring them a Sefer Torah and it is only prohibited to bring the Sefer Torah for an individual who is stuck.[40]
  2. Nonetheless, the practice is to be lenient as long as one transports the Sefer Torah a day or two in advance of the Kriyat Hatorah.[41] It is also acceptable to bring the Sefer Torah if one makes it a place where it can be properly stored for one or two days after bringing it for a Kriyat Hatorah.[42] Meaning, it shouldn't be brought for a temporary use and returned; it should be brought and placed in a respectful storage, used, held for a few days, and returned.[43]
  3. Some have the minhag only to bring a Sefer Torah to a new place if they're going to read from it three times and not just to read it once.[44]
  4. Some permit transporting a Sefer Torah if there are ten people to escort it.[45]

For the Honor of the Sefer Torah

  1. It is permitted to take a Sefer Torah out of the shul or the like if the intention is only to honor it and not to fulfill the spiritual needs of any individual.[46]
  2. For example, it is permitted and the practice to take Sifrei Torah outside to dance with them on Simchat Torah.[47]

How to Transport a Sefer Torah

  1. If one needs to transport a Sefer Torah, it should be wrapped[48] and placed in his lap and not put it in a bag. Also it should not be placed on the seat one is sitting on or behind oneself.[49]
  2. When transporting a sefer torah in a car it is permitted to place it in the trunk.[50]
  3. If a Sefer Torah must be transported by airplane it should be placed in a respectful box or Aron and then that box or Aron should be stored on the plane where they store other fragile or important packages.[51]
  4. If the Sefer Torah is going to be brought out in the public ideally it should be transported and escorted by a minyan of Jews. It is even better bring it privately with a car brought door to door.[52]
  5. It is forbidden to carry a Sefer Torah on one's head as though it was a burden or behind one's back unless it is raised 10 tefachim.[53]
  6. It is forbidden to throw a Sefer Torah.[54]
  7. It is forbidden to bring a Sefer Torah into a bathroom, bathhouse, or cemetery even if it is in its case.[55]

Touching the Klaf

  1. It is forbidden to hold the klaf of a Sefer Torah without a cloth or Tallit intervening.[56]

Standing for the Sefer Torah

  1. One must stand for a sefer torah when it is being carried around out of respect for it. [57]
  2. If the aron kodesh is open and the sefer torah inside is at rest, some poskim say that one must still stand up. [58] Others are lenient. [59]
  3. There is a discussion in the poskim if one must stand for a pasul sefer torah. [60]

Disposing of a Sefer Torah

  1. A worn out Sefer Torah must be placed in an earthenware container and buried near a Talmid Chacham.[61]
  2. It is forbidden to burn a Sefer Torah or any holy Sefer even if it is worn out.[62]
  3. The crowns on a Sefer Torah are considered items that service kedusha (Tashmishei Kedusha) and may not be sold for mundane use but can sold to purchase a Sefer Torah.[63]
  4. It is forbidden to benefit from a bag that is used to hold a Sefer Torah. So too, the wrappings and aron for a sefer Torah are restricted from being used for one's personal use. [64]

Selling Holy Books

  1. It is prohibited to sell a Sefer Torah unless it is in order to learn Torah or get married. [65]

Sources

  1. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:1
  2. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:1
  3. Chelkat Yakov YD 165
  4. Chelkat Yakov YD 165
  5. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25. He references Pri Megadim E"A 135:22, Kaf Hachaim 135:83, and Vayivarech Dovid 26
  6. Rambam Tefillin Mezuzah Vsefer Torah 10:10, Tur YD 282, Gra YD 282:1. See also Raah Brachot 23a.
  7. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 153:21 writes that something that was once used for a personal or mundane use may not be used for a kodesh use. Baruch Shnatan Torah p. 376 gives that Aron Kodesh or Bimah as an example. Halacha Brurah 153:66 codifies the ruling of Shulchan Aruch for all tashmishei kedusha.
  8. Taz Y.D. 282:13, Eliya Rabba 147:4, Mishna Brurah 147:12, Halacha Brurah 153:68
  9. Mishna Brurah 147:12, Halacha Brurah 153:68
  10. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 154:6. See Burying_Religious_Articles#Aron_Kodesh for more sources.
  11. Olat Tamid 153:44, Eliya Rabba 147:4, Magen Avraham 147:5, Mishna Brurah 147:13, Yabia Omer OC 3:13, Halacha Brurah 153:67
  12. Mishna Brurah 147:14, Halacha Brurah 153:67
  13. Aliba Dhilchata v. 26 p. 17 by R' Mordechai Perachim elaborates on the minhag of having a parochet for the Aron. It appears that Rashi Megillah 26b holds that the parochet was placed on the inside of the Aron and Tosfot holds it was placed on the outside of the Aron. The Rama 154:4, 559:2 mentions the minhag like Tosfot to place a parochet on the outside of the Aron. As to why we have a parochet on the Aron potentially it is comparable to the Aron that housed the Luchot (as the Rambam Sefer Torah 10:10 writes) and had several layers. Also, with respect to the Bet Hamikdash we find that the items which are holier were put behind more layers of protection and privacy. Therefore, he concludes that either minhag of having two parochot one on the inside and one on the outside, or a parochet on the outside are acceptable, however, it isn't appropriate to have no parochet at all.
  14. Taz Y.D. 282:13, Halacha Brurah 153:66, Yabia Omer OC 3:13. Magen Avraham 147:5 questions the Taz.
  15. Yabia Omer OC 3:13, Halacha Brurah 153:69
  16. Meir Oz v. 5 p. 799
  17. Biur Hagra OC 147:6 writes that there is no reason to make the garment nice on the inside as opposed to the outside since no one sees the inside. His proof is the Mishna Middot 4 that states that they didn't plate the area behind the area since they weren't exposed. Rama 147:1, however, quotes the Mordechai as saying that the nicer side should face the Sefer Torah yet the minag isn't so. Magen Avraham 147:4 questions the Mordechai but upholds it as the halacha. Eliya Rabba 147:3 writes that in order to satisfy both opinions they should make the garment equally nice on the inside and outside. Magen Giborim E"H 147:6 agrees. Mishna Brurah 147:10 also doesn't arbitrate between the Rama and Gra but quotes both and concludes with the Eliya Rabba's solution.
  18. Magen Giborim E"H 147:6 citing the Aguda
  19. Shaar Hatziyun 147:22
  20. Kenaf Rananah OC 6, Minchat Yitzchak 2:117 based on Rama Y.D. 289:6 and Shach 289:9 regarding having a mezuzah leaning. The topic is based on a dispute between Rashi Menachot 33a s.v. pesula and Tosfot s.v. Ha.
  21. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 289:6 rules that a mezuzah should be placed standing straight up. Yalkut Yosef Y.D. 285:70 writes that this the minhag of Sephardim and the same is true for leaving a Sefer Torah in the Aron that it should be standing. Also, Yalkut Yosef 141:3 writes that when the Sefer Torah is read on the Bimah it should also be standing.
  22. Minchat Yitzchak 2:117
  23. Rama 282:5
  24. Rama 282:7
  25. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:7
  26. Shach 282:8
  27. Rama Y.D. 282:7
  28. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:19
  29. Rama Y.D. 282:19
  30. Shulchan Aruch 282:1 writes that it is forbidden to turn one's back on a Sefer Torah unless it is above ten tefachim. The Pitchei Teshuva 282:2 quotes the Chavot Yair 184 who limits this only to if the Torah is ten tefachmi above one's head. However, the Nishmat Adam 3:3 argues that ten tefachim off the ground is sufficient. Rabbi Eliezer Melamed proves from the responsa of Rambam that the Nishmat Adam is correct.
  31. Taz 282:1 explains that it is permitted for a rabbi to give a drasha with his back to the Sefer Torah since it is in another domain. The Avodat Shlomo 282:1 quotes the Bnei Yonah who says that this leniency only applies to a drasha but not a mundane purpose.
  32. Emek Bracha (Kavod Sefer Torah p. 43)
  33. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:1
  34. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:1
  35. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:8
  36. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:1
  37. Rav Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler (Ohel Yakov Kavod Ukedushat Sefarim p. 10)
  38. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 135:14, Mishna Brurah 135:47
  39. Mishna Brurah 135:46
  40. Mishna Brurah 135:47
  41. Rama 135:14
  42. Magen Avraham 135:22, Mishna Brurah 135:49. Piskei Hateshuvot Binyanei Bet Hakeneset Vsefer Torah 10:4 citing Maharitz 11 who explains that it is permitted even if it is brought that day as long as it is will have a respectful place for storage.
  43. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25
  44. Aruch Hashulchan 135:32. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25 adds that even though this practice has no source one should observe it.
  45. Piskei Hateshuvot Binyanei Bet Hakeneset Vsefer Torah 10:5 citing Maharam Brisk 1:63
  46. Piskei Hateshuvot Binyanei Bet Hakeneset Vsefer Torah 10:2 citing Maharam Brisk 1:63
  47. Piskei Hateshuvot Binyanei Bet Hakeneset Vsefer Torah 10:3
  48. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25
  49. The Rosh Brachot 3:7 understands from the Rif 11a that it is forbidden to carry a sefer torah behind oneself or on the same donkey that one is riding unless there is a fear of bandits. The Bach 282:3 and Shach 282:5 accept the opinion of the Rif. The Rambam (Sefer Torah 10:11) writes that when transporting a Sefer Torah one should hold it in one's lap. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:3 accepts the Rambam. Chut Shani (Nosim Shonim p. 262) quotes the Chazon Ish as having instructed Rav Nissim Karelitz to hold the Sefer Torah when they went on a 4 hour trip from Bnei Brak to Tzefat.
  50. Chut Shani (Nosim Shonim p. 262) writes that since the trunk of a car is a separate area there is no prohibition to place the sefer torah there. Torat Haderech 3:10 p. 34 writes that if it is too difficult to hold the sefer torah the whole trip it is permitted to place it in a suitcase within a suitcase and preferably it should be standing upright. Rav Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler (Ohel Yakov Kavod Ukedushat Sefarim p. 10) writes that it is permitted to place a Sefer Torah in a trunk of the car since it is in another domain and not considered behind one's back.
  51. Ohel Yakov Kavod Sefer Torah Vsifrei Kodesh 3:2 5777 quoting Rav Wosner
  52. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25 to be concerned for the Zohar
  53. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:1
  54. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:5
  55. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:4
  56. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:4
  57. Rambam Tefillin Mezuza and Sefer Torah 10:9, Sh"t Rashba 3:281, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:2, Gemara Kiddushin 33b says that just as one must stand for a talmid chacham, one certainly must stand for a sefer torah.
  58. Sh"t Chatam Sofer CM 73
  59. Iggerot Moshe 5:38:4. Taz Y.D. 242:13 writes that if the torah is in the aron kodesh or on the bimah, it is in a different reshut and one doesn't need to stand
  60. While Aruch Hashulchan Y.D. 282:4 is lenient, Noda Biyehuda Y.D. 71 (quoted in Piskei Teshuvot 146) is strict. Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Dirshu Mishna Brura 146:note 19) says that there is no obligation to stand but the minhag is to stand.
  61. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:10
  62. Pitchei Teshuva 282:6
  63. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:16
  64. Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 282:12
  65. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sefer Torah, 10:2; S”A 270:1