QUESTION: The congregation wishes to have a ceremony for the burial of old books and a worn Sefer Torah. What kind of ritual would be appropriate? Is there anything in tradition about the burial of these objects? (Morris Teitelman, Toronto Ontario)
ANSWER: Traditionally a Torah or books which contain the name of God and were no longer fit for use were buried or set aside in a safe place (Rashi to Ket 19b; Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayim 154.5). Those sources indicated that they were frequently buried with a scholar. This was done in order to prevent the desecration or erasure of the name of God (Deut 12.3 Sifrei (ed Friedman p 87b; Sefer Hahinukh #437). In glancing through the literature I have not found any ceremony connected with the burial of books or their placement in a genizah.
We may wish to stimulate reverence for sacred texts through such a ceremony. It might begin with an explanation of the nature of the sacred in Judaism and the special place which the Torah and Hebrew books have had for us. This could be accompanied by readings or some form of study, perhaps utilizing the texts now to be buried. We might conclude with the qaddish de rabanan normally recited at the conclusion of study. There are, of course, many other possibilities and the nature of the group with whom this is done should determine the form of the ceremony.