A Personal Shaymos Plot


We have a bunch of shaymos. Can we just dig a pit in our garden and bury them?


Shaymos[1] can be buried anywhere. There is no need to bury them in a cemetery. Technically, one could bury shaymos in one’s own garden. There is no minimum depth as to how deep the genizoh material should be buried in the ground. There are a few things you should remember, however, when preparing to bury your shaymos.

  1. Bury the shaymos in plastic bags. Halochoh requires that items for genizoh be buried in earthenware so that they are not ruined or disgraced. Today, plastic bags or containers will serve the same purpose and are more practical.
  2. Bury them in a place that people will not walk over. Any area where you are relatively certain people will not walk, (for example a gated section of the garden or under a wide fence in a yard) shaymos can be buried.
  3. Shaymos include any written material about Torah which had been read.[2] An ad or invitation containing pesukim should be considered shaymos. Anything written to refer the reader to a pasuk or statement of Chazal, to be inspirational mussar, or to convey a hashkafic message is to be treated as Torah. Sometimes words or phrases borrowed from Chazal or Tanach are not meant as Torah. A common example of this is od yishoma be’orei Yehuda, etc., often found on wedding invitations. It is merely a way of saying that we are happy to announce the wedding of our children. It is used as a borrowed phrase and thus does not require genizoh. Even if it is written as Torah, if the text was printed or photocopied and was never read by anyone, then it never became Torah and can be treated like any other paper. It can be discarded in the garbage or brought into the bathroom. When the printed material is read it becomes Torah and should be treated respectfully.[3]
  4. Acronyms and cryptic notes that remind a person of Torah do not constitute Torah or the name of Hashem.[4]

BookID: 2 Chapter: 276

[1] Shaymos are items that have kedushoh (holiness), such as tefillin, mezuzos, their covers, and seforim, whether printed, photocopied or handwritten. Homework in limudei kodesh is generally shaymos.

Sechach, tzitzis, esrogim, lulavim, hadasim, aravos, and tallis bags have no kedushoh. They may be burned or wrapped in plastic and placed in the trash. Because they were used for mitzvos, they should be treated with more respect than ordinary objects; thus they should not be thrown in with other garbage without being wrapped in plastic. Nevertheless, they do not require genizoh, since they have no inherent holiness.

A yarmulke is simply a garment and is not considered an item used for a mitzvoh. It can be thrown in the trash or used as a shmattoh.

[2] If one wishes to throw out a newspaper that contains Torah, instead of putting the whole paper in shaymos one can remove the Torah and discard the rest of the paper in the garbage.

[3] An anecdote about the Chofetz Chaim illustrates this point. Once, when the Chofetz Chaim needed to reach a high shelf on the bookcase (he was not a particularly tall man), he used the newly printed sets of Mishna Berura that were around the house as a footstool. If this story is true, it is understandable in light of the explanation above. The newly printed books would attain kedushoh only when opened and learned. Before that they could be stepped on or used as any secular book would be.

[4] כגון ב''ה, בע''ה, המע''ה, משיל''מ וכדומה. בסייעתא דשמיא אינו קדוש אף אם נכתב במילואו שאין כאן הזכרת שם השם או דברי תורה. ואפשר דמשו''כ נזהרו לכתוב בס''ד כדי ליזהר זהירות יתירה שלא לזרוק אף בע''ה או ב''ה שיש בו עכ''פ זכר לשם ד'. ולכן אפשר דעדיף לכתוב ד' במקום ה' שאף שאות ה' אין בו איסור לזורקו כיון שאינו שם ד', מ''מ הוא זכר לשם ד', ואיכא עכ''פ מדת חסידות ליזהר בזה, משא''כ ד' שאינו אלא סימן בעלמא ליכא בזה אף מדת חסידות. וצ''ע.

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