Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reason #301 You Know You're Crazy: You've Got a Crazy Minhag

I apologize if you read this yesterday, but the management had a finals-induced FAIL.

I have a weird minhag that no one else around me has: I don't place religious books where people sit. I hear this isn't an uncommon minhag in chareidi circles. However, modern orthodox Jews generally seem to think I'm crazy with such a silly minhag :)

This minhag leads to awkwardness, but only on my part. The source for my minhag comes from very early in my Jewish career, when I enjoyed some Shabbos hospitality. It was my first "real" Shabbat experience. I was on my best behavior, staying with a family I'd never met before. They had small kids, and I was about 21.

I was minding my own business, holding a siddur. And then I made the mistake of sitting it on the couch next to me. Suddenly, a 5 year old is yelling at me! Thankfully, the mom overheard and came to explain to me.

To this day, I get antsy whenever anyone takes a Jewish book from me. Especially in shul with the Chumash, it is inevitably placed on another seat. And I sit there, awkward, with my mouth hanging open. I don't know how to react, so I just let it go.


  1. I learned that it's halacha not to sit on a chair or sofa that has a sefer on it.
    Some discussion is here:

  2. True, most of the people I know are not quite as meticulous about this as described in that excellent link (thanks Sarah Brodsky!); but I think many are aware at some level that books with Torah content need to be treated with greater respect. It is common knowledge, too, that people should treat printed sheets like emails or weekly hand outs with Torah discussions with greater respect than the old newspaper used to wrap fish.

    This may help round out the picture. Disposing of printed works of Torah is the extension of this topic, in some ways. If something may be discarded, that would imply that it doesn't require the same regard as that accorded to something which requires burial.

  3. Sarah: Cool! I didn't know that.

    I'm really happy that the mom was really nice about it. I've heard people get a little antsy over this sort of thing - it happened to me when I was learning. It's also halacha (overriding some rabbinic prohibitions) to respect someone else's dignity (kavod habriyot), to not embarrass them.

  4. Anonymous: That's what came to mind when I read the post too. For sure, it's not okay to be respect siddurim at the expense of respecting other people.

  5. Thankfully, the mother handled it very well! Kids aren't always so good at avoid embarrassing people :) But that kid still managed to put the fear in me! Of course, I think it's a minhag worth having, but I wouldn't be so anxious about it if it weren't for that kid!