Ethics

For the week ending 11 December 2004 / 28 Kislev 5765

Honoring the Old Books

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: As the gabbai of my synagogue it is my responsibility to see that there are siddurim and chumashim for the use of the congregants. After a while these holy books become very worn and must be rebound. The problem is that it is cheaper to buy new ones than to bind the old ones so that it is common practice in synagogues to discard the old ones by placing them in the geniza collection box for proper burial. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: In response to such a question Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, the rabbi of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak, ruled that it is preferable to bind the worn books even at a greater cost than purchasing new ones. This was based on the obligation to honor sacred books in the manner that we honor a Sefer Torah.

The problems which you and other synagogue trustees face is that congregants are eager to donate new books in memory of deceased relatives but will not pay for binding old ones. This inevitably creates a crisis of sufficient space for both the old and new. Nevertheless, an attempt should be made to create a "Tikun Sefarim" fund in your synagogue to restore these books which have provided so much service, and to offer the rebound ones to a synagogue or yeshiva in need of them before giving up and putting them into the geniza.

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