Question: May one erase divrei Torah written with chalk or marker on a blackboard?
Short Answer: Divrei Torah written with chalk or marker on a blackboard may be erased.
I. The Tashbeitz
The Tashbeitz (d. 1444) (1:2) was asked whether a rebbe may write p’sukim on a blackboard for his talmidim. The p’sukim will be erased at the end of each week, after the students finish learning those p’sukim, in order that the rebbe can write new p’sukim for them to learn the following week. The questioner made clear that the only reason why the rebbe needs to write the p’sukim on the board is because the students do not possess their own Chumashim. The Tashbeitz responded that it is permitted to write and erase these p’sukim. First, the name of Hashem will not be written and thus will not be erased. Second, it is an “eis la’asos” and thus permitted to erase, just as it is permitted to write Torah SheB’al Peh nowadays.
This Tashbeitz is cited approvingly in the Pischei T’shuvah (Yoreh Dei’ah 283:2). However, both the Tashbeitz and Pischei T’shuvah are clear that if Hashem’s name is written on the board, it may not be erased.
II. Limitation on the Leniency
The Ginzei HaKodesh (11:11:16) notes that, based on the Tashbeitz, it would appear to be prohibited to erase p’sukim or divrei Torah from a blackboard in order to write secular subjects. Since the leniency of the Tashbeitz assumed that the p’sukim were being erased in order to write new p’sukim, there is no basis to assume that it is likewise permissible to erase p’sukim for other purposes.
However, the Ginzei HaKodesh (ibid) cites the Ein Yitzchak who provides a different reason for the leniency. Since the divrei Torah were only written on the blackboard with the assumption that they would be erased, they never were infused with k’dushah. They thus may be erased, even in order to write secular subjects on the blackboard.
III. Practically Speaking
Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l (cited in Ginzei HaKodesh, ibid) was asked whether divrei Torah may be erased from a blackboard? He responded, “Go see what the custom is.” Presumably, this is a lenient ruling, as this author believes that the common custom is to erase p’sukim written on a blackboard. The Ginzei HaKodesh appears to agree that it is permitted to erase divrei Torah. Additionally, Rav Ovadia Yosef (Mei’ein Omer 6, p.216) rules that one may erase divrei Torah from a backboard, as really the entire prohibition is erasing the name of Hashem.
However, poskim are stricter with respect to erasing Hashem’s name. Specifically, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l (cited in Divrei Chachamim, p. 216) rules that it is prohibited to erase Hashem’s name from a blackboard.
IV. Throwing Out The Dust
The Ginzei HaKodesh (ibid) writes that even though the erased ink of a sefer Torah needs to be buried, the dust of the erased divrei Torah on the blackboard does not need to be buried. Notably, Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l was asked whether the erased divrei Torah written with a pencil needs to be buried. He responded that “it is possible.”
Next Week’s Topic: May one delete divrei Torah or the name of Hashem on a computer screen?