Genizah (Sheimos) – Burial Procedure

I have some printouts with Torah content which I don’t have use for. Do I have to bury them? I don’t live near a synagogue so I would have to do it myself.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The most proper is to bury all worn out Torah material, including printouts. The process is not difficult. You should first place it in an earthenware (or glass) jar and cover it tightly, so that water and creatures do not ruin it quickly, and then bury it underground. If this is not feasible, it should be wrapped or covered in some form, such as placing it in a plastic bag or cardboard box, before burial. However, items such as Tefillin and Mezuzah’s must always first be placed in containers. In fact, preferably, they should be given to the local burial society (chevra kadisha), to be buried together with a Torah scholar.

There are no further customs or liturgy associated with the occasion. It’s really just a practical expediency, not a religious ceremony.

Note that “genizah” comes from the Hebrew verb “lig’noz” – to hide or store away. The common Yiddish term – “sheimos” = “names” – stems from the fact that one common type of item which must be buried is something containing any of the names of God on it.

See this response for other opinions regarding dealing with printouts.

(Sources: Talmud Megillah 26b, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 154:5, Aruch HaShulchan 5, Mishna Berurah 22, Piskei Teshuvot 154:10.)

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