What’s considered holy and shaimos and what can simply be thrown away? This is the Star K’s Guide to Shaimos.
The Torah forbids discarding holy objects by throwing them into the trash. Some objects always have kedusha and must be placed in Shaimos. Other objects gain kedusha once they are used for a mitzvah and need to be treated with special care. See the chart below to determine whether the object you have needs to be put into shaimos or not.
- Seforim, whether handwritten, printed, photocopied, or downloaded and printed (e.g., Chumashim, Siddurim, Machzorim, Gemara, etc.).
- Three consecutive words of a posuk from Tanach that have been written in one line, with the intention of quoting the Tanach* (as opposed to a melitzah – an incidental use of a common expression, which is not shaimos).
- Quote from Mishna, Midrash, Gemara, Rishonim, Achronim, (or their commentaries), that has been printed or written with the intention of explaining Torah.
- Halachic Material (example- this poster)
- Homework and test papers in Limudei Kodesh subjects are shaimos when containing any of the above.
- Invitations from organizations and individuals that contain parts of pesukim.* (The sentence Od Yishama, frequently included in wedding invitations is an exception. It is NOT Shaimos as it is a melitzah and is not intended to explain the posuk.) *The Shaimos or Divrei Torah may be cut away from the paper and buried if so desired.
- Mezuzos & Mezuzah Covers
- Fragment of a sefer that got detached, even if there is no writing or print on it.
- Sefer Torah & Sefer Torah Cover, Tefillin & Tefillin Bag
- Any of the Names of HaShem
- Book Cover used for a Sefer
- Material written or printed in English or any other language if they conform with the above rules.
The following items should be burned or wrapped in plastic and thrown out in the garbage:
- Talis, Talis Bag, Tzitzis (ideally the strings of a Talis and of Tzitzis should be removed and placed in shaimos)
- Esrogim, Lulavim, Hadasim, and Aravos
- Jewish Newspapers, Magazines, Novels, and Biographies which contain secular information. The pages that do contain Torah may be removed and placed into shaimos, or the whole paper may be wrapped in paper and then placed in a plastic cover, kli besoch kli, and placed into the garbage or recycle bin.
- The Hebrew letters- אי״ה (Im Yirtzah Hashem), בעז״ה (B’ezras Hashem), and ב״ה (Baruch Hashem) may be discarded although it is considered an act of piety to tear off those letters and put them into shaimos. The Hebrew letters בס״ד (B’siyata D’shmaya) may definitely be put into the trash.
The following item can be thrown directly in the garbage:
- Hebrew language books, newspapers, etc. that are not Torah