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Some people in shul mark it as a sign of respect, as the Torah makes its way to/from the Aron Kodesh, to kiss it, and rush to get as close as possible. Others, given the cold season, think that this is unhygienic and disrespectful to the sefer (scroll). Still others make a kissing motion to the sefer as it passes.

What is the basis for any of these behaviors/minhagim?

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While we call this "kissing the sefer torah", I was taught to touch something to the scroll and then kiss that, not to kiss something and then touch the sefer. In other words, the "transmission" is from the sefer torah to me, not from me to the sefer torah. ("Something" being a tallit for those who wear one and a siddur otherwise.) Do others do the opposite -- kiss something and then touch? –  Monica Cellio Feb 11 '14 at 18:34
You're right, although I've also seen some s'fardi people actually lean in and kiss the Torah covering directly. –  cmose Feb 11 '14 at 18:45
related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/12016/759 –  Double AA Feb 16 '14 at 1:28
@cmose Yes. I have seen some Ashkenazim kiss the Torah cover (and the curtain) too. –  Mike Feb 16 '14 at 14:48

2 Answers 2

Rabbi Moshe Isserlis (OC 149) writes:

ובמקומות שמצניעין אותו בהיכל, שהוא הארון בבהכ"נ, מצוה לכל מי שעוברת לפניו ללוותה עד לפני הארון שמכניסין אותה שם (ד"ע ומהרי"ל). וכן הגולל ילך אחר הס"ת עד לפני הארון, ועומד שם עד שיחזירו הספר תורה למקומה (הגה' מיימוני פ' י"ב מה"ת) וכן נוהגין במגביה הס"ת, כי הוא עיקר הגולל וכמו שנתבאר; ויש שכתבו שמביאים התינוקות לנשק התורה, כדי לחנכם ולזרזם במצות, וכן נוהגין. (אור זרוע).‏
And in the places where they store the Torah in the [...] ark in the synagogue, it is a Mitzva for everyone that [the Torah] passes in front of to accompany it until before the ark in which they will place it. Similarly, the one who wrapped the Torah should walk after it until before the ark and stand there until it they put the Torah scroll back to its place. And such is practiced also by the one who raised the Torah, for that is the main part of the wrapping. And some have written that we bring the young children to kiss the Torah in order to educate them and excite them about Mitzvot, and such is the custom.

Kissing a Torah doesn't seem to have anything to do with respecting it. If you would like to show respect to the Torah as it is being transferred you should accompany it, like an honor guard.

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Please don't push and shove other people to do this. Something tells me the Torah won't appreciate that very much. –  Double AA Feb 11 '14 at 19:02

The halacha book Ben Ish Chay (year 2, Tol'dos, 16) says the Ari would kiss the Tora after it was taken from the aron before it was read.

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Does it say why he did that? –  Double AA Feb 16 '14 at 1:04
Also, does it indicate if this was done as it passed him on the way? Was it something for the entire synagogue to do? –  Double AA Feb 16 '14 at 1:28

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