I understand shemos must be buried. Are there any restrictions on the manner or location of burial? (For example — just some ideas off the top of my head — need it be in a container which is then buried? any particular kind of container? Need it be buried somewhere specific, e.g. in a cemetery? Need it be placed rather then dumped into the hole in the ground? And any other details.)


2 Answers 2


Excerpt from Beth Hagenizah:

What is the proper way to perform genizah?

Worn out sifrei torah should be placed in earthenware vessels and then buried (Megillah 26b). Placing them inside these vessels forestalls the decomposition of the sifrei torah for a long time. Indeed it is a tragedy that Hashem’s name becomes obliterated, even in an indirect way, and the mitzvah commands us to delay their decay for as long as possible. They should be buried near a talmid chacham, or at least near someone who studied halacha and other basic Torah.

The Mishnah Berurah (154:22, 24) quotes only the Pri Megadim, accepting that printed seforim, even those bearing Hashem’s name, do not have the full level of sanctity of hand-written seforim; he does not even mention the disputing opinions. My impression is that this is the practice usually followed by those who bury genizah: hand-written Sifrei Torah, mezuzos, tefillin, megillos and naviim are specially packed before burial in earthenware, wood, or glass containers; whereas worn-out, printed seforim are simply placed in bags or cardboard boxes and buried.

I suggest reading the article as it contains some general rules about what is considered shaimos, generally. I know this has been addressed in a several M.Y. questions, but this is a condensed format, worthwhile reading in light of the scandal that the linked web page mentions. Improperly disposed shaimos is, sadly, still a big problem, esp. considering that DEC and towns place dumping restrictions.

Personally, when 2 of my relatives were buried, some of the attendants "dumped" shaimos in the grave next to the coffin, and I have seen people who wait at the cemetery with their shaimos and follow a funeral group as they go to the grave. I think this may be halchically problematic if the family hasn't given permission for anyone to do this, and I'm surprised that this is allowed.

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    Frankly, I would be happy to know that some sefarim, preferably not valuable ones, were interred with my guf, although I'd like to grow old before I have to worry about that. Nov 2, 2014 at 3:03
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt - You and others may be happy about it. Nonetheless, the grave is the personal property of the family, and others cannot, AFIK, just put anything in there w/o your or the family's permission.
    – DanF
    Nov 2, 2014 at 21:29
  • I agree and understand. Nov 3, 2014 at 0:38

A recent article ("Where Do Good Books Go When They Die? ") in Jewish Link of New Jersey provides interesting details

  • The sheimot need to be buried in a way to preserve them as long as possible, which is accomplished by wrapping them up in polyethylene bags and lining the hole
  • There are legal and environmental constraints since ideally large quantities of paper would be recycled
  • They are buried in cheap plots of land, far from cities
  • Surprisingly to me, people get hechsherim for burying sheimot

See the relevant details below and the full article for related details on synagogue policies as it relates to sheimot

All this sheimot must be buried in a way that preserves it as long as possible, since the point is to postpone its disintegration. Rabbi Taplin explains: “When sheimos gets buried, it needs to be done in a way that is the least damaging to the sefarim and other holy objects we bury. We put the sefarim and papers in polyethylene bags because that preserves them the most. We also line the hole in which the burial takes place.”

“People think, ‘Oh what’s the big deal? You just open up a hole, put in the sheimos and you’re done,’” says Rabbi Taplin, “but it is not that simple.” Besides for the halachic aspects, sheimot burial must be done legally, which is made complicated by the Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP is not enthusiastic about the burial of large quantities of paper because they want to recycle it, and therefore they require special permits that are difficult to access. In fact, there have been a number of scandals by other sheimot companies in the past where sheimot was dumped in landfills and other illegal areas. Rabbi Taplin explains that 1866shaimos “has worked for 23 years with the DEP to bury sheimos according to law.”

Purchasing land to bury sheimot is also expensive, which is why Rabbi Taplin does not want to mention exactly where the sheimot is buried. He worries that it would invite trespassers who would try to bury their sheimot on his plots. The DEP does not allow burial in heavily populated areas, and the land is cheaper away from population, so the plots are not nearby.

Just as Jews confirm meat is kosher through a hechsher, people also use hechsheirim to sanction halachic sheimot burial. 1866shaimos has two hechsherim, one from a local rav in Lakewood, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Friedman, the other from the Satmar beis din. Rabbi Taplin explains: “We live in Lakewood so we used a local rav, who knows us. Regarding Satmar, we are not officially affiliated with Satmar. However, the Satmar community in Williamsburg is one of our biggest customers; they give us four or five trailer loads of sheimos a year. Even though we have our own local hashgacha, they wanted their own beis din to also give a hashgacha; they are exacting and have very high standards.” Rabbi Taplin says that they have also gone in front of other communities’ batei din (rabbinic courts) to prove their kosher sheimot practices, although those communities don’t all officially give out hechsherim as Satmar did.

  • 2
    There was a scandal recently in Israel of people stealing invalid Mezuzot out of Sheimot "drop boxes" rolling them up again and reselling them. Just another reason you may want a Hekhsher on the operation.
    – Double AA
    Aug 19, 2018 at 12:27
  • @DoubleAA also a reason to be careful about who you buy Mezuzot from...
    – Esther
    May 21 at 19:20

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