By Deb Silverthorn
Tiferet Israel Congregation is providing burial space for shaimos (religious items or texts) as a gift to the community. While the actual burial will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Sunday, March 12, at Agudas Achim Cemetery, the community is asked to deliver materials to their home congregations or to contact Rabbi Howard Wolk at Jewish Family Service before then.
• writings that have God’s name in Hebrew or other langauges
• other religious items
It is a practice observed worldwide.
“The Agudas Achim Cemetery has been a cherished place in the hearts of the Dallas Jewish community from generation to generation since 1938 and as manager of the Agudas Achim Cemetery since 1970, Tiferet Israel is honored to be able to provide this burial space for the community,” said Ed Jerome, Tiferet Israel president.
As the Torah forbids discarding holy objects by throwing them into the trash, if they are torn or beyond worn, broken or for whatever reason need to be discarded, it should be done with respect. For this shaimos burial, only cardboard box cartons will be accepted; no plastic boxes are allowed.
To avoid a crowd at the burial plot, organizers ask those with items to bury, deliver their cartons to their home congregations. Rabbis throughout the community have been informed of the details.
“We hope people will bring things to their congregations this week, or contact me, so we can plan ahead and know what size hole to dig,” said Rabbi Howard Wolk, Jewish Family Service community chaplain.
“The last time we did this, in December 2021, we had more than 100 cartons so it’s important we don’t start organizing too close or the day of,” he added. Examples of items considered to be shaimos, those which have innate holiness, can include a Torah or a Torah cover, tefillin or bags, mezuzah parchment or its cover. Siddurim, bentchers, books with holy text, God’s name, chumashim, High Holy Day machzors and other ritual books. Pages of a holy book that have become detached, such a book’s cover, Torah portion papers, homework of Torah study and more are among the items that are to be buried with absolute regard.
It is said that if one gives the right respect to something which deserves to be buried then God will have compassion and make sure that the Jewish People is not destroyed. Mishnah 7 says if one honors the Torah, then he will be honored and liked by the world to come.
Anything with the lettering BE”H, B’ezras Hashem, and B”H, Baruch Hashem, may be discarded according to Halacha and Jewish custom, although it is considered an act of piety to tear off those letters and put them into shaimos. Anything with BS”D, B’siyata D’shmaya, may be put into the trash.
There are many items that, while it is not required they be buried, should be given care before being thrown away. Objects which have been used for a mitzvah may not be thrown directly into the garbage. Included in the list of items that can be burned or wrapped in plastic before being placed in the garbage are a tallis, strings of a tzitzit, a tallis bag, tapes and CD’s containing Torah study, an etrog and the parts of the lulav and s’chach from the top of a sukkah.
Items that can directly be discarded are yarmulkes or Hebrew books, newspapers or magazines which contain secular information may be disposed of after they have been double wrapped in plastic.
Some organizations bury materials with due respect on their campuses and some congregations at their “home” cemeteries. When Akiba Yavneh Academy’s Schultz Rosenberg Campus was under construction, nearly 20 years ago, an area near the Beit Midrash was dug and filled with more than 60 boxes of shaimos. It is also appropriate to bury items alongside a deceased Jew when of course, the utmost respect would be shared.
“As we bury our loved ones, with the utmost sanctity, we too bury items of holiness with proper care and attention,” said Wolk. “It’s a great honor, and an incredible mitzvah for those who participate by bringing us their materials and for us to literally conduct the burial. This is community caring.”
There is a $20 charge per carton and checks should be made out to Tiferet Israel and delivered with whatever is being dropped off. For more information, questions, or to let organizers know you are planning to participate, contact your synagogue or Rabbi Wolk at firstname.lastname@example.org.