In my area there are (secular) library boxes like these.

The idea is a simple variation on the honor system: Take a book, return a book.

Someone, generally a volunteer, puts out a roofed box in a public area and stocks it with books, generally paperbacks or older hardcovers. If you see a book you like, borrow it and bring it back later. You can also leave behind old books you don't want so more people can enjoy them

I'd like to put some books on Science and Torah (which contain Torah verses in Hebrew etc) into those boxes. That way, people can learn about those topics. However, I fear that prejudiced people might not treat such books properly.

Is there a ruling on giving such books to libraries that addresses this concern?


My local orthodox Chabad Rabbi said: "I wouldn't put books of kedusha there. But English books on Torah and science, I think, would be fine.

  • I help to manage a Little Free Library on my street. ❧ People sometimes donate books which are unlikely to circulate. They might be damaged, very old, self-published, or just unpopular. Once the library is more than two-thirds full, I may eventually dump them in the recycling bin. Apr 21 at 19:37
  • In a Little Free Library, Hebrew seforim can be quite unpopular, even in a neighborhood where 5% of the residents are frum Jews. Non-fiction seems generally unpopular. Non-English books (e.g. Hebrew) are even more unpopular. ❧ I fear that you may be wasting your time and money. Your books may sit in the box, silently ignored, until the library steward sees and discards them. Apr 21 at 19:39

1 Answer 1


You should ask a qualified rav. A few ideas which might be useful to you or him are

  • a Jew is prohibited from throwing away holy writings containing Hashem's name (from Devarim 12:2-4, "you shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations that you are driving away worshipped their gods … and you shall obliterate their names from that place. You shall not do this to Hashem"
  • it is unclear if the prohibition applies to non-Jews as well (I don't believe so but don't know for sure) - assuming the majority of people who would take your books are non-Jews might make it easier to do so
  • the mechanism you describe (and for sure a library) implies most people will read/keep the books or return them to the exchange boxes. Throwing away the books doesn't appear the normal practice
  • geniza is clear for books containing the seven primary names of God (sheimot hakodesh) in any language; however there are many leniencies regarding printed books which do not have the full name of Hashem (e.g., the word God and similar terms in any language do not require geniza)

R Ari Henkin writes R Moshe Feinstein was of the view that sefarim that have worn out and are no longer usable may be placed in a recycling bin (meaning to be destroyed). In your case the books can still be used but are not meant to be destroyed.

Bottom line is that you are not throwing away the books, instead you are giving them away to people who in all likelihood will not throw them away either. In addition to the points above this creates a number of sfeikot (doubts).

On the other side safek d'oraita l'chumra (one judges strigently when dealing with Torah prohibitions). So we are back at CYLOR.

See here and here for more sources. See also pp. 237-239 in R Ari Enkin's Da'at V'din

  • 2
    A couple more data points: (1.) A person may not give a non-Jew a m'zuza (Bava M'tzi'a 102a) because of the possibility that he will not treat it respectfully (Sh'eilas Ya'beitz II, 121; see also this answer). For the same reason, a Jew must try to purchase sifrei Torah (likely also including other books of Tanach), t'fillin, and m'zuzos if he finds them in a non-Jew's possession (Mishna B'rura 39:17). (2.) A ספק ספיקא may be judged leniently even in Biblical matters.
    – Fred
    Jan 4, 2016 at 8:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .