Question: May one throw a newspaper that contains divrei Torah into the garbage?

Short Answer: According to many poskim, divrei Torah should not be written in a newspaper because they will not be treated properly. If written, many poskim require that the entire newspaper or the pages of Torah be placed in sheimos. There are some poskim, however, who allow the entire newspaper to be placed next to the garbage or in a separate bag in the garbage.



I. Does Torah Belong in a Newspaper?

As an initial matter, it should be clear that many poskim rule that it is forbidden to write and publish divrei Torah in a newspaper, lest it not be treated properly. See Ginzei HaKodesh (14:1), citing the Zekan Aharon and others. Indeed, the Chazon Ish (cited in Ginzei HaKodesh ibid) noted that the place for divrei Torah is in special journals or other publications/pamphlets that are dedicated only for Torah.

Nevertheless, the Ginzei HaKodesh (ibid) suggests that there is room to be lenient if published in a different format or section of the newspaper, so that it is clear to all that these words must be treated differently than the rest of the newspaper. Clearly, the minhag is to publish these Torah articles, and many great rabbanim do so, presumably on the understanding that people will treat these words/pages properly. Interestingly, when trying to be “m’lameid z’chus” on our custom to write divrei Torah in newspapers, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (1:554) writes that this “sin” is rampant in all sectors of klal Yisrael, even in the most chareidi.


II. How to Treat These Pages

As discussed previously (Article #7), words of a pasuk must be placed in sheimos. Similarly, words of Torah, even if they do not contain an actual pasuk, must be placed into sheimos. See Ginzei HaKodesh (hakdamah to Chap. 10), based on the Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 334:31).

But what about when these words of Torah or halachah are part of a Jewish newspaper? Must you treat the entire newspaper as kodesh? Obviously, if the paper contains the name of Hashem, it must be placed in sheimos. But what if it just contains divrei Torah without Hashem’s name?

Some poskim rule that the entire newspaper must be placed into sheimos. For example, the Sheivet HaLevi (5:162:2), without much discussion, rules that the newspaper must be placed into sheimos and buried properly. Indeed, the Ginzei HaKodesh (14:4:8) notes that the entire newspaper may be placed into sheimos, even though this means that you are combining the non-Torah pages with the Torah pages in the sheimos/burying. This is nevertheless permitted, because the non-Torah pages are no worse than dirt or the bag covering the Torah, which may be buried with the Torah pages. This is the opinion of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l, and the Steipler zt”l. The Steipler apparently remarked that the entire Hamodia should be placed in sheimos.


III. Tear Out the Torah Pages

Other poskim are of the opinion that simply tearing out the Torah pages and placing them into sheimos is sufficient. The rest of the newspaper may then be thrown directly into the garbage. See Ginzei HaKodesh (ibid), citing Rav Nissim Karelitz zt”l. According to Rav Nissim Karelitz, it is preferable to tear out these pages (as opposed to placing the entire paper into sheimos), so that you do not mix non-Torah objects with the Torah pages in the sheimos/burying. Rav Moshe Dovid Lebovitz, in an article on the Kaf-K website, writes that this was the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and Rav Yisroel Belsky zt”l. According to Rav Lebovitz, Rav Belsky noted that “[a]lthough this may seem difficult with some papers whose Torah is spread throughout the newspaper, one will get the hang of it eventually.”


IV. Straight into Garbage

There are some poskim, however, who are lenient and allow for the entire newspaper, including the pages with the divrei Torah, to be placed directly into the garbage. For example, the Ginzei HaKodesh (14:4:9) cites Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l and ybl”ct Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita as allowing the entire newspaper to be placed in a bag next to the garbage. Since the majority of garbagemen in America are non-Jews, you are not violating a direct prohibition by placing the newspapers there.

Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlita (1:553-554) tries to explain the minhag of people discarding entire newspapers that contain divrei Torah. He suggests that there is room to be lenient and place the newspaper in a separate bag next to the garbage, as these words were printed to be temporary. Also, if they are in English, they have less k’dushah. Finally, if we are strict, it will just have the opposite effect: People will not place any divrei Torah in sheimos, even those pages that unanimously need sheimos.

 Next Week’s Topic: May one erase divrei Torah written with chalk or marker on a chalkboard or a markerboard?

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Assistant Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.