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Background

Imagine that you go to a university which has ~55,000 students, including maybe ~1,500 Jewish students.

Imagine, also, that you're male. Therefore, you're required to spend some time studying Torah.

Outside your university's free store, there's a free library. It's much more informal than the school's official library. There are several bookcases. Anyone can donate books or take free books. The books are almost all about secular subjects, such as business, anthropology, environmental science, and others.

When the free library gets too full, you might want to volunteer to weed it. You discard old and/or damaged books. Weeding can make room for newer and better books. (Source.)

All libraries must be weeded, or else they might end up packed full of outdated and unwanted books.

My question

You might volunteer to weed the free library once a year. You might spend a few hours, or more, on the weeding project.

Perhaps this weeding project is a mitzvah of chesed, which helps your fellow students to access recent, undamaged free books. Or perhaps it's a waste of time, which could have been better spent on Torah study. Which view is correct?

If possible, please provide answers from a Modern Orthodox perspective.

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  • I'm guessing that a Modern Orthodox perspective is more likely to be favourable of dedicating time and intellectual effort to weeding books (I suddenly feel like I'm Elmer Fudd...) than, say, a Charedi perspective would.
    – Tamir Evan
    Feb 9 at 13:16
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    Seems pretty unlikely this particular case has been addressed explicitly by anyone.
    – Double AA
    Feb 9 at 16:31
  • @DoubleAA: True. Still, maybe I or someone else will ask a rabbi, and will post their answer below. Alternatively, maybe some vaguely similar, related, or analogous case has been addressed previously. Feb 11 at 9:11

1 Answer 1

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Weeding the library would be an excellent opportunity to remove anti Zionist, anti semitic, queer, and other objectionable material.

But if you're not going for that angle, Weeding it exceptionally properly, however, could produce a small kiddush hashem.

It's not a chesed because the students could just go to the regular, better organized, library. In fact, it takes work away from the paid librarians. If the books are outdated, you could be misleading people by giving the obsolete, and potentially incorrect books, more people exposure.

I"d say it's a waste of time with no spiritual benefit, and if you don't find it enjoyable, it's worse than a spiritually barren activity that you do enjoy.

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  • "But ... however ..." Could you please reread your answer once or twice, and edit it for internal consistency? And maybe also for grammar and clarity. Feb 11 at 9:10
  • No. It's a waste of time with no spiritual benefit. Feb 11 at 13:21

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