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

  1. There is a mitzvah to designate a place for the Sefer Torah.[2]
  2. 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.[3] 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.[4]
  3. 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.[5]
  4. 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.[6]
  5. It is forbidden to place a Sefer Torah on the ground.[7]
  6. It is forbidden to sit on the same area where a Sefer Torah is placed.[8] 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.[9]
  7. A person shouldn't put a Sefer Torah on his lap and rest his elbows on it.[10]
  8. 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[11]. However, Neviim can be placed on top of Ketuvim or vice versa.[12]

Inappropriate Behavior in Front of Sefer Torah

  1. 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.[13]
  2. It is forbidden to spit in front of a Sefer Torah.[14]
  3. It is forbidden to undress in front of a Sefer torah.[15]
  4. It is forbidden to extend one's legs in front of a sefer Torah.[16] 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.[17]
  5. 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.[18]
  6. 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22]
  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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]
  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.[26]

How to Transport a Sefer Torah

  1. If one needs to transport a Sefer Torah, it should be wrappedCite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag
  2. When transporting a sefer torah in a car it is permitted to place it in the trunk.[27]
  3. 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.[28]
  4. 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.[29]
  5. It is forbidden to throw a Sefer Torah.[30]
  6. It is forbidden to bring a Sefer Torah into a bathroom, bathhouse, or cemetery even if it is in its case.[31]

Touching the Klaf

  1. It is forbidden to hold the klaf of a Sefer Torah without a cloth or Tallit intervening.[32]

Standing for the Sefer Torah

  1. One must stand for a sefer torah when it is being carried around out of respect for it. [33]
  2. If the aron kodesh is open and the sefer torah inside is at rest, some poskim say that one must still stand up. [34] Others are lenient. [35]
  3. There is a discussion in the poskim if one must stand for a pasul sefer torah. [36]

Disposing of a Sefer Torah

  1. A worn out Sefer Torah must be placed in an earthenware container and buried near a Talmid Chacham.[37]
  2. It is forbidden to burn a Sefer Torah or any holy Sefer even if it is worn out.[38]
  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.[39]
  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. [40]

Selling Holy Books

  1. It is prohibited to sell a Sefer Torah unless it is in order to learn Torah or get married. [41]

Sources

  1. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:1
  2. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:1
  3. Kenaf Rananah OC 6, Minchat Yitzchak 2:117 based on Rama YD 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.
  4. Shulchan Aruch YD 289:6 rules that a mezuzah should be placed standing straight up. Yalkut Yosef YD 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.
  5. Minchat Yitzchak 2:117
  6. Rama 282:5
  7. Rama 282:7
  8. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:7
  9. Shach 282:8
  10. Rama YD 282:7
  11. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:19
  12. Rama YD 282:19
  13. 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.
  14. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:1
  15. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:1
  16. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:1
  17. Rav Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler (Ohel Yakov Kavod Ukedushat Sefarim p. 10)
  18. 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.
  19. Emek Bracha (Kavod Sefer Torah p. 43)
  20. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 135:14, Mishna Brurah 135:47
  21. Mishna Brurah 135:46
  22. Mishna Brurah 135:47
  23. Rama 135:14
  24. Mishna Brurah 135:49
  25. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25
  26. Aruch Hashulchan 135:32. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25 adds that even though this practice has no source one should observe it.
  27. 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.
  28. Piskei Teshuvot 135:25 to be concerned for the Zohar
  29. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:1
  30. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:5
  31. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:4
  32. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:4
  33. Rambam Tefillin Mezuza and Sefer Torah 10:9, Sh"t Rashba 3:281, Shulchan Aruch YD 282:2, Gemara Kiddushin 33b says that just as one must stand for a talmid chacham, one certainly must stand for a sefer torah.
  34. Sh"t Chatam Sofer CM 73
  35. Iggerot Moshe 5:38:4. Taz YD 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
  36. While Aruch Hashulchan YD 282:4 is lenient, Noda Biyehuda YD 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.
  37. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:10
  38. Pitchei Teshuva 282:6
  39. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:16
  40. Shulchan Aruch YD 282:12
  41. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sefer Torah, 10:2; S”A 270:1