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Writing the Wrong Way

Question #1: Writing in the Air

“May I communicate with someone on Shabbos by making the motions of writing the letters?”

Question #2: Frosty Writing

“May I write my initials on a frosty window on Shabbos?”

Question #3: Asking a Gentile to Write.

Elisheva plans to attend a seminar related to the latest advances in her profession as a speech therapist. Part of the seminar will be given on Shabbos. May she ask one of the non-Jews attending the class to take notes for her?

Writing and erasing are two of the thirty-nine melachos of Shabbos that were performed in the building of the Mishkan. Each board used in constructing the Mishkan was marked so that it would be returned to its correct place when the Mishkan was reassembled (Rashi, Shabbos 73a; Gemara, Shabbos 103b). (The Talmud Yerushalmi [Shabbos 12:3] emphasizes the importance of each board being kept in the same place.) The numbers written on the boards were also sometimes erased, if a mistake was made. Thus, both writing and erasing are included among the melachos, since any important activity performed while constructing the Mishkan defines a category of work prohibited on Shabbos (Bava Kama 2a).

It is important to note that the erasing performed in the Mishkan was done specifically with the intention of rewriting. For this reason, erasing is a violation min haTorah only if one intends to rewrite or intends to effect some other direct, positive result (Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 11:9; however, cf. Tosafos, Shabbos 73a s.v. hakosheir.)

Other writing was performed in the Mishkan when the names of the shevatim were engraved on the choshen, and also when calculating the donations and where they were used (Shu’t Avnei Nezer, Orach Chayim 199:10). Since our parsha discusses the donations and the construction of the Mishkan and also discusses the writing on Luchos, we will avail ourselves of this opportunity to discuss some of the halachos that pertain to writing and erasing.

Writing, when it is written with a permanent ink or dye on a surface that will hold the writing permanently is prohibited on Shabbos min haTorah. If the writing will not last permanently, the prohibition to write or to erase is only miderabbanan.

WHAT IS CONSIDERED PERMANENT WRITING?

Some poskim contend that writing is permanent if it will last until after Shabbos (Rambam and Magid Mishnah, Hilchos Shabbos 9:13). Others contend that it is considered permanent if it lasts the length of time people usually write notes (Rashba, Shabbos 115b, cited by Bi’ur Halacha 340:4, s.v. Bemashkin). According to both opinions, writing that disappears after a few hours is prohibited only miderabbanan.

Writing on one’s hand is prohibited min haTorah, even though it eventually disappears (Mishnah, Shabbos 104b). This is because the writing, itself, would be permanent, if it were not for the body’s warmth dissolving the ink. It is therefore treated as if it has been written permanently and then subsequently erased by body temperature.

IS IT PERMITTED TO WRITE ON A FROSTY WINDOW?

Although the Torah’s prohibition is violated only with permanent writing, Chazal prohibited temporary writing. Therefore, it is prohibited to write in spilled liquid that is lying on the table, in sand, or in the frost on a window (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 340:4 and commentaries).

IS IT PROHIBITED TO WRITE LETTERS IN THE AIR?

This is permitted, since no letters are being formed at all, even temporarily (Rama 340:4).

DISAPPEARING INK

Question: I was once told that there is no Torah violation in writing a message on Shabbos with ink that appears now, but will disappear shortly. Is this true?

As we mentioned above, there is no Torah violation in writing with ink that will disappear within a few hours. This halacha has major ramifications when dealing with the needs of a Jewish hospital. Recording data is necessary, but if disappearing ink is used until after Shabbos, the prohibition is only miderabbanan. Poskim rely on this, if a hospital cannot employ sufficient non-Jewish staff.

INVISIBLE INK

Does writing with an ink that cannot be read violate Shabbos?

Although it would seem that this is a modern shailah and a modern invention, we will be surprised to discover that this shailah is at least 1,800 years old. The Gemara tells us the following story, “Rabbi Chiyah bar Abba said ‘The people who live in the East are very clever. When they want to send a secret, they write the message with “Mei milin” (an ink that is not automatically legible). Subsequently, they pour a specially formulated ink on the paper, and presto! The message becomes legible!’” (Yerushalmi, Shabbos, Chapter 12).

The Gemara then asks, “If someone wrote this way on Shabbos, has he violated a Torah prohibition?” The Gemara concludes that pouring the ink violates a Torah prohibition on Shabbos because this makes the writing legible. Whether the first step violates Shabbos is disputed by the poskim. Shu’t Har Tzvi (Yoreh Deah 230) rules that it is prohibited min haTorah, whereas Pri Megadim (340:3 in Mishbetzos Zahav) rules that it is prohibited only miderabbanan.

This dispute has an interesting ramification. If this writing is prohibited only miderabbanan, writing that cannot be read immediately does not violate a Torah violation. Therefore, taking a photograph on film or recording information on a computer disk does not violate Shabbos min haTorah (Har Tzvi).

PHOTOGRAPHY ON CHOL HAMOED

Another difference in halacha between these poskim would be whether taking photographs is permitted on Chol HaMoed. In general, one is prohibited on Chol HaMoed from doing activities considered melacha unless they fulfill some Yom Tov or Chol HaMoed need, or they will avert financial loss. These rules notwithstanding, it would appear that according to Pri Megadim, one would be permitted to take photos on Chol HaMoed, since there is no melacha being performed. It would seem that this leniency would not exist according to Har Tzvi, and photography would be permitted on Chol HaMoed only if it somehow enhances the Yom Tov. According to both opinions, developing the photographs would not be permitted on Chol HaMoed, unless Yom Tov was thereby enhanced.

LET THEM EAT CAKE

Is it permitted on Shabbos to eat cake that has icing in the form of letters on top, since I am erasing the letters when I eat it?

Again, a seemingly very contemporary shailah goes back hundreds of years. The rishonim record a Shavuos celebration, for which cakes were decorated with the letters of the alef-beis and certain tefillos and words of bracha. In a special Shavuos ceremony, these cakes were served to the young children who were just beginning to learn Torah. The children would read the letters and the brachos, and then they would be rewarded by being served the special cake (Rokei’ach #296). The question was why eating the letters does not violate erasing on Yom Tov, since writing and erasing is prohibited on Yom Tov, just as it is on Shabbos (Mordechai, Shabbos #369).

Various reasons are suggested why this minhag does not violate the halacha. Some contend that eating is not considered an act of erasing (Taz 340:2), whereas others contend that the melacha of erasing does not apply to food (Shu’t Maharshag 2:41).

Others permit eating the cake for a more complicated reason that requires an introduction. Although eating the cake must result in the erasure of the letters, the person eating did not have intention of erasing. This is halachically categorized as a situation of a “psik reisha,” meaning that a prohibited consequence will definitely result from an act that is otherwise permitted. A psik reisha is usually prohibited; thus, in this case, although eating the cake would otherwise be permitted, its consequence, the erasing, is problematic.

Although a psik reisha is usually prohibited, when combined with other mitigating factors it is sometimes permitted. In this instance, there are several different reasons why no melacha min haTorah applies. Although the activity should still be prohibited miderabbanan, when several such mitigating factors combine, we are lenient.

The rationale behind this “heter” is that Chazal forbade certain activities to prevent one from violating, chas veshalom, a Torah law. However, when there are several different reasons why the Torah law is not violated, there is no need to prohibit this activity.

When someone eats letters, there are three different mitigating factors, each of which, on its own, removes the erasing from being a Torah violation.

First, the Torah law of erasing on Shabbos is violated only when one intends to write on the erasure, as mentioned above. Obviously, someone who eats letters cannot subsequently write on the “erasure.”

Second, Torah laws are violated only when the melacha has a positive result. In the case of erasing, a positive result would be that one can now write on the erasure, or that a mezuzah is rendered valid by the erasure. However, eating the cake does not result in any positive results from the erasure.

Third, this is not the way one usually erases. The halacha is that doing any melacha in an atypical way lessens the prohibition from a Torah violation to a Rabbinic injunction.

Therefore, since the erasing is unintentional, performed not in order to write, destructive, and an unusual way to erase, the resultant indirect erasing is permitted. This is the rationale applied by many poskim to explain the Shavuos custom cited above. According to this approach, it is permitted to eat the icing on a cake that includes lettering, without concern over whether one is changing or rendering the letters illegible in the process.

However, others rule that, although one should not eat these pieces of cake, it is permitted to serve the cake to the children and allow them to eat it themselves (Mordechai, Shabbos #369). Halachically, I need not prevent a young child from doing a prohibited activity for his own benefit (Yevamos 114a). According to this approach, only a child would be permitted to eat the letters on the cake, but not an adult (Rama 340:3).

Mishnah Berurah follows a compromise position between these two opinions, permitting someone to eat the cake while disregarding where the letters are, but suggesting that, when slicing the cake, one should cut between the letters and not through a letter. As we will explain, cutting between the letters is not considered erasing according to most opinions.

MAKING AN IMPRINT IN LIFE

Most shoes and boots have a manufacturer’s trademark or name engraved on the heel. Is it permitted to traverse snow or mud on Shabbos, knowing that I am making an imprint while I walk? Isn’t this writing on Shabbos?

The contemporary poskim discuss this shailah, and permit it for the same reasons that one was permitted to eat the lettering on the cake. For one thing, I am not intending to write; and for a second, it is not the normal way of writing letters; and for a third, most people consider the imprint in the mud or snow to be “damaging.” There is another mitigating factor here, in that the writing is temporary. Since walking is more of a necessity than eating cake, the poskim rule that one is permitted to walk on snow or mud and ignore the imprint made by the shoe or boot.

WHAT AN EXQUISITE MOUTH-WRITING YOU HAVE!

The following tshuvah shows up in early sixteenth century halachic literature. A scribe was writing exquisitely beautiful sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos. Unfortunately, this scribe had lost his hand in an accident and had taught himself how to write beautiful graphics with his quill in his mouth. Certainly, the he was an incredibly talented individual, and many people were using sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos written by this scribe. However, the shailah was raised as to whether these were kosher.

A great posek of the era, Rav Menachem Azaryah of Fanu (Shu’t # 38) ruled that all the sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos written by this scribe were invalid. His reasoning is that halacha recognizes only items written with one’s stronger hand. For this reason, someone who places a quill in his mouth on Shabbos and writes has not violated a Torah prohibition, since this is not the way people usually write (Mishnah Shabbos 104b). (It is prohibited miderabbanan to write this way on Shabbos.) Thus, even if someone has taught himself how to write beautifully by holding the pen in his mouth, it is not considered writing by the Torah, and does not fulfill the mitzvah of “writing” sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos.

Similarly, writing done by a right-handed person who writes with his left hand is not considered writing. For this reason, the Gemara rules that someone who writes with his left hand has not violated a Torah prohibition of writing on Shabbos (Shabbos 103a). (Again, this is prohibited miderabbanan.)

A WRITING COURSE

At this point, I would like to address the last of our opening questions: Elisheva plans to attend a seminar related to the latest advances in her profession as a speech therapist. Part of the seminar will be given on Shabbos. May she ask one of the non-Jews attending the class to take notes for her?

According to most poskim, this is prohibited on Shabbos or Yom Tov, since a Jew may not ask a non-Jew to do work for him that would be prohibited min haTorah for a Jew. This is because the non-Jew becomes your agent, and you are not permitted to have an agent work for you on Shabbos, even if the agent is not Jewish. Thus, it appears that Elisheva will not be able to have notes taken for her by her non-Jewish colleague.

However, according to the Minchas Yitzchak, there is a very simple solution to this problem. If Elisheva pays the non-Jew to do the work and specifies that it makes no difference whether the non-Jew performs the work on Shabbos or a weekday, then there is no halachic problem at all, even if the non-Jew did the work on Shabbos or Yom Tov. The reason is that once you pay the non-Jew, he is no longer working as your agent, because he has his own interest in doing the work. I am still not permitted to ask him to do the work specifically on Shabbos, but as long as he has the option to do the work on a different day, there is no problem if he actually does it on Shabbos (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 5:36).

CONCLUSION

Creating a beautiful Shabbos entails much planning and organization. The melachos of writing are a prime example of how a person must be fluent in all the halachos of Shabbos in order to understand its far reaching ramifications. Studying all the melachos of Shabbos helps us appreciate Shabbos more, and to get the maximum joy out of this special day.




What May I Not Write? On a Wedding Invitation?—Halachos of Sheimos

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“I was told that I should not include quotations from pasukim on my daughter’s wedding invitation. Yet I see that ‘everyone’ does! Could you please explain the halacha?”

“Someone told me that sukkah decorations should not include any pasukim. Is this true? My children bring home decorations like this from school.”

“Does a newspaper containing divrei Torah need to be placed in Sheimos?”

To answer these questions, we need to explain several halachic issues, including:

1. The original prohibition against writing Torah She’ba’al Peh, and the later “heter” to write and publish it.

2. The concern about producing divrei Torah that will not be treated appropriately.

3. What items must be placed in sheimos?

THE ORIGINAL PROHIBITION AGAINST WRITING TORAH SHE’BA’AL PEH

Originally, it was prohibited to write down any Torah She’ba’al Peh at all (Gemara Gittin 60b), except for an individual’s personal notes he recorded for his own review (Rambam, introduction to Yad HaChazakah; see also Rashi, Shabbos 6b s.v. Megilas). The Oral Torah was not permitted to be taught from a written format. Torah she’ba’al peh was meant to be just that – Torah taught completely without any written text. Thus, Moshe Rabbeinu taught us the halachos of the Torah orally and Klal Yisroel memorized them. Although each student wrote private notes for the sake of review, the Oral Torah was never taught from these notes.

The prohibition against writing Torah She’ba’al Peh included writing midrashim, prayers and brachos, as well as translations and commentaries of the Written Torah, since all these are considered Torah She’ba’al Peh. In those times, all these devarim she’b’kedusha were memorized and the only part of the Torah written were the pasukim themselves.

The Gemara (Gittin 60b) records this halacha as follows: “Devarim she’ba’al peh, iy atah reshayai li’omram bi’ksav,” “You are not permitted to transmit the Oral Torah in writing.” The Ritva (ad loc.) explains that this is because divrei Torah taught verbally are understood more precisely, whereas text learning is often misunderstood.

Another prohibition forbade writing the books of Tanach except when writing a complete sefer (Gemara Gittin 60a). Thus one could not write out Parshas Tolados (or any other parsha) or a few pasukim for learning, although it was permitted to write an entire Chumash such as Shemos. Similarly, one could not write out part of a sefer of Navi to study or to read the haftarah. In order to recite the haftarahs regularly, every shul needed to own all of the eight Nevi’im (Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel, Melachim, Yeshaya, Yechezkel, Yirmiyahu, and Trei Asar) to read the haftarah from the appropriate sefer. Similarly, a person who wished to study Shiras Devorah or the prayer of Channah had to write the entire Sefer Shoftim or Sefer Shmuel.

WHY DO WE NO LONGER ABIDE BY THIS PROHIBITION?

Chazal realized that it was becoming increasingly difficult for people to learn Torah and to observe related mitzvos. Therefore, they ruled that the prohibition against writing Torah must be superseded by the more vital need of keeping Torah alive among the Jews. This takanah was based on the pasuk, “Eis laasos laShem hefeiru torasecha,” which is understood to mean “It is the time to act for Hashem since Your Torah is being uprooted,” (Tehillim 119:126). In order to facilitate Torah study, they permitted writing individual verses and teaching Oral Torah from written texts. (We will refer to this takanah or heter as “eis laasos.”)

The first part of the Oral Torah to be formally written for structured teaching was the Mishnah, edited by Rebbe (Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi) at the end of the period of the Tannayim (circa 3960/200 c.e.). To quote the Rambam, “Rebbe gathered all the laws and explanations that had been studied and interpreted by every beis din since the days of Moshe Rabbeinu and organized the Mishnah from them. He (Rebbe) proceeded to teach publicly the scholars of his generation from this text so that the Oral Torah would not be forgotten from the Jewish people. Why did Rebbe change the method that had been used previously? Because he saw that the numbers of Torah students were decreasing, the difficulties facing the Jewish people were increasing, the Roman Empire was becoming stronger, and the Jews were becoming increasingly scattered. He therefore authored one work that would be in the hands of all the students to make it easier to study and remember the Oral Torah” (Introduction to Mishneh Torah).

We see that Rebbe instituted the first formalized use of a text to teach the Oral Torah because of the new circumstances confronting Klal Yisroel. After Rebbe’s days, Chazal gradually permitted writing down other texts, first Agadah (ethical teachings of the Gemara), later the entire Gemara, and still later the explanations and commentaries on the Gemara.

As a very important aside, we see from the end of the quoted Rambam who writes, “to make it easier to study and remember the Oral Torah,” that even though it is now permitted to write down the Mishnah, it is still important to know the entire Oral Torah by heart.

In the context of the rule of eis laasos, the Gemara tells us the following story:

Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakeish (Amoraim in Eretz Yisroel shortly after the time of Rebbe) were studying from a Talmudic anthology of ethical teachings, a “sefer Agadah.”

The Gemara asks, “How could they study from such a book, since it is prohibited to learn Torah from a written text?” The Gemara replies, “Since it is now impossible (to retain all the knowledge of the Torah without a written text), ‘it is the time to act for Hashem since Your Torah is being uprooted,’” (Gittin 60a). We see that the Gemara initially assumed that it was still prohibited to study Torah from a written text, except for the study of Mishnah. The Gemara responded that the prohibition was relaxed more because it had become even more difficult to learn Torah than it was in the days of Rebbe.

The Gemara relates a similar episode concerning the recital of the haftarah. As mentioned above, it was originally forbidden to write part of a book of Tanach and therefore every shul needed to own scrolls of all the Nevi’im in order to read the haftarah. However, as this became increasingly difficult as communities became more scattered, the Gemara permitted the writing of special haftarah books that contained only the haftarahs but not the entire text. This too was permitted because of eis la’asos (Gemara Gittin 60a).

WHAT IS PERMITTED BECAUSE OF EIS LA’ASOS?

We see that in order to facilitate Torah learning, Chazal permitted the writing of the Oral Torah and parts of the books of the Written Torah. To what extent did they override the original prohibition?

This is a dispute among early poskim, some contending that it is permitted to write only as much as is necessary to prevent Torah from being forgotten. According to this opinion, it is prohibited to write or print even tefillos that include pasukim that are not intended for learning Torah (Rif and Milchemes Hashem, Shabbos Chapter 16). This opinion also prohibits translating Tanach into any language other than the original Aramaic Targum because proper translations constitute Torah She’ba’al Peh. In addition, this opinion prohibits the printing of a parsha of Chumash in order to teach Torah, since one could write or print the entire sefer (Rambam, Hilchos Sefer Torah 7:14; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 283:2). Other poskim permit the writing of any Torah that one uses to learn. Thus, they permit writing a single parsha in order to teach Torah (Taz 283:1; Shach 283:3) and the translating of Tanach into any language. These poskim rally support to their opinion from the fact that Rav Saadya Gaon wrote sefarim in Arabic, including commentaries on Tanach (Ran, Shabbos Chapter 16).

Both opinions agree that it is prohibited to publish translations of Tanach that will not be used to spread Torah knowledge (Ran, Shabbos Chapter 16).

HOW DOES THIS PROHIBITION AFFECT US?

All of the opinions quoted above prohibit writing disparate parts of the Written Torah and any of the Oral Torah in situations where there is no Torah benefit. For this reason, early poskim note that one may not embroider pasukim or a bracha on a tallis, since writing this pasuk does not serve to teach Torah (Rabbeinu Yerucham, quoted by Beis Yosef, and Taz, Yoreh Deah 283:3. It should be noted that the L’vush is more lenient, see Shach 283:6.).

ANOTHER CONCERN

There is an additional reason why one should not embroider pasukim on a tallis. Since the tallis might be brought into an unclean place, the pasuk could also end up in an unclean place.

A THIRD CONCERN – CAUSING THE WORDS OF TORAH TO BE DESTROYED

To explain this concept, we must first introduce a surprising statement of the Gemara: “Kosavei brachos kisorfei Torah,” “Those who write brachos (to enable people to recite them) are considered as if they burnt the Torah” (Shabbos 115b). What does this Gemara mean? We would think that these individuals have performed a tremendous mitzvah, since they have enabled people to recite brachos correctly!

This statement was authored at the time when it was still prohibited to write down the Oral Torah. At that time it was forbidden to teach any halachos in written form, even the correct text of a bracha. Everything had to be taught orally. Therefore, the Gemara states that by writing a bracha, even without the name of Hashem (Shu”t Tashbeitz #2), one is violating the halacha by teaching Torah She’ba’al Peh in writing.

BUT WHY IS IT CONSIDERED LIKE “BURNING THE TORAH?”

This Gemara introduces a new prohibition. Someone who writes prohibited Torah works is considered culpable afterwards if those divrei Torah become consumed by a fire!

We know that it is prohibited to erase or destroy the name of Hashem (Shabbos 120b) or words of Torah (Shu”t Tashbeitz #2). This prohibition applies to all holy writings, including notes of Torah classes, stories of chazal, sefarim for learning, “benschers,” etc., even if they do not include Hashem’s name (Shu”t Tashbeitz #2). Therefore, even small benchers, tefillos haderech and similar items published with abbreviated names of Hashem are still considered divrei Torah imbued with kedusha. For the above reason, one must treat these items with proper care and dignity and place them in sheimos when they become unusable.

It is also prohibited to cause an indirect destruction of words of the Torah or to produce divrei Torah that might subsequently be destroyed. This prohibition exists whenever there is insufficient reason to write and publish the divrei Torah. For this reason, the Gemara states that someone who wrote brachos when it was prohibited to do so is held responsible if the words of Torah are subsequently destroyed.

Although we are nowadays permitted to write and print brachos and siddurim to enable people to recite them properly, it is forbidden to produce these items unnecessarily. It is certainly prohibited to put pasukim, parts of pasukim, or divrei Torah in places where it is likely that they will be treated improperly. Both of these reasons preclude writing pasukim on Sukkah decorations unless one can assume that they will be properly cared for.

HOW MUCH OF A PASUK IS CONSIDERED TO BE DIVREI TORAH?

Even three words in a row are considered a pasuk (see Gemara Gittin 6b). However, if the letters are improperly or incompletely formed or spelled it is permitted (Tashbeitz #2). This is the reason why printers sometimes abbreviate pasukim or combine letters like “alef” and “lamed” to form a single letter. (Although most usages of these abbreviations have nothing to do with this halacha.)

For this reason, some people print on invitations the following, “Naaleh es Yerushalayim al rosh simchaseinu,” “We will place our memories of Yerushalayim above our celebrations,” because it is not a quotation of a pasuk, although it is similar to one (Tehillim 137:5). Therefore, this is permitted.

There is another solution that may be used, which is to rearrange the words of the pasuk so it is not in its correct order. When doing this, one must be certain that one does not have three words in proper order.

I once received an invitation which stated on the cover, “Yom zeh asah Hashem nismecha v’nagila bo,” “This day was made by Hashem. We shall rejoice and celebrate on it.” The person who prepared this quotation had done his halachic research. Although very similar to the pasuk, “Zeh hayom asah Hashem nagilah v’nismecha bo” (Tehillim 118:24) the words of the original pasuk were transposed in a way that there are no longer three consecutive words together!

Some authorities permit printing unnecessary pasukim if marks are placed between the words or if the words are not in a straight line. They feel that these arrangements of words are not considered pasukim (cf. Shu”t Tashbeitz #2 who disagrees). Similarly, some poskim allow printing invitations that quote words from pasukim, so long as the pasukim are broken up so that no three words are printed together. (However, it should be noted that many poskim prohibit this.)

Some producers of “lulav bags” are meticulously careful not to quote three words of the pasuk in order. Thus, they write, “Ulikachtem lachem…kapos temarim…visimachtem” avoiding writing three consecutive words of a pasuk. This is permitted.

Any written dvar torah has sanctity and must be treated with appropriate dignity. When it will no longer be used, one must be careful to treat it respectfully, including eventually placing it in sheimos. Reference notes that are incomprehensible on their own are not considered divrei Torah and may be placed in the regular garbage (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:75).

WHEN IS SOMETHING PLACED IN SHEIMOS?

Placing Hashem’s name or words of Torah into sheimos to bury them is considered a tragedy. Putting  sefarim in genizah is permitted only when they are worn out and no longer usable.

The Gemara rules that sifrei Torah that are unusable should be placed in earthenware vessels before burial to forestall their destruction as long as possible (Gemara Megilah 26b). This teaches us that burying holy things is only permitted after they become unusable. Other sefarim do not require being placed in earthenware before burial. It is sufficient to wrap them adequately before burying them.

QUOTING PASUKIM AS A WRITING STYLE

The Ramban and other authors sometimes use the words of pasukim or Chazal out of the original context as part of their poetic style. If someone wrote a letter using a pasuk this way, must it be treated with appropriate respect like holy writings?

This question is disputed by the early poskim. Shulchan Aruch rules that such correspondence is not considered divrei Torah, whereas Shach rules that it is (Yoreh Deah 284:2).

THE WRITER’S INTENT

Some poskim contend that if a printer or writer did not intend to make sefarim or divrei kedusha, then the item produced does not have kedusha (Shu”t Ayn Yitzchak 5:7; Shu”t Masas Binyamin #100; Magen Avraham 334:24). On this basis, Rav Moshe ruled that if the name of Hashem was printed in a secular newspaper, the name has no kedusha at all. However, Rav Moshe ruled that it is preferable to cut the name out of the paper and place it in sheimos (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:172). Similarly, Rav Elyashiv ruled that one is not required to put a newspaper containing divrei Torah into sheimos. However, one should still not treat the dvar Torah with disrespect, such as by putting it directly into the garbage (quoted in Ginzei HaKodesh pg. 236). This is based on the assumption that it should not be treated with less dignity than worn-out tzitzis (see Mishnah Berurah 21:7). Rav Vozner rules that one may place the newspaper inside a bag and place it in the garbage. However, he contends that a regular Torah column or Torah section should be placed in sheimos (quoted in Ginzei HaKodesh pg. 253). Apparently he feels that when there is a regular column or section, the printer knows that he is producing divrei Torah and not just a newspaper.
Others are less strict, requiring only that the paper be wrapped up before being discarded. Others rule that any divrei Torah printed in a newspaper should be placed in sheimos (quoted in Ginzei HaKodesh pg. 154).

INVITATIONS

Perhaps people who print pasukim on invitations rely on the fact that this is considered mere poetic writing style or that the printer has no intent to produce divrei kedusha. However, contemporary poskim prohibit this practice since the invitations end up being treated with lack of dignity, which is worse than being destroyed. In Sivan 5750/June ’90 an open letter signed by the poskei hador warned that advertisements, invitations, receipts, signs, and raffle tickets should not include pasukim or parts of pasukim, except when the pasuk is written as part of literary style with no connection to its context.

We live in an age of proliferation of written material. Many pamphlets have the positive value of spreading Torah. We must be careful to show our honor or Hashem by treating pasukim and divrei Torah with proper respect. We should always merit to demonstrate Hashem’s honor in the appropriate way!