Sunday, June 25, 2017
"Leaves, branches and trunks of trees return to the earth to enrich the soil which feeds us. We return these pages written on the pulp of trees to earth - where they started their lives as seeds. More trees and more books will be written. We will protect our trees, our earth and our books."
According to the Talmud, the day after Rosh Hashanah was designated to bury all documents in which the name of God appears. When we bury these old books we may feel sad to see them go. We remember what we have learned from these books and from others like them, and how they have influenced our lives. As we read and study new books, we remember how we have grown and been inspired by books we have absorbed in the past.
The Mishneh (Shabbat 115a), says that all sacred writings including the scrolls of Torah, Prophets, and Writings, should be preserved in a place where they cannot be destroyed. This idea was originally designed to prevent anyone from ever erasing G-d’s name.
Anything from a worn-out siddur to a contract written in Hebrew would be put in the Genizah when it was no longer useful. Often ritual objects, such as a tallit or a lulav, were placed there as well. The general rule is that anything dealing with sacred subjects should be placed in a Genizah, rather than thrown out.
Today, most synagogues have a closet or a box where they collect used papers and ritual objects that are considered sacred. A congregation usually cleans out their genizah every few years, by burying the contents in a Jewish cemetery as a sign of reverence and respect. At the FJCC, we have a cemetery plot donated expressly for the purpose of burying the Genizah.
Among these books are siddurim – prayer books that have touched us deeply and given us comfort. Some pages have absorbed our tears in moments of sadness and other pages were there when we appreciated what the pages contained and considered new ideas. With these siddurim, we shared our most private moments.
To these siddurim we now say Shalom.