Jun 15, 2012

What do we do with "Sacred Trash?"

A Note from Rabbi Creditor
What do we do with "Sacred Trash?"
25 Sivan, 5772 - June 15, 2012
Dear Chevreh,
a document from the Cairo Geniza
We have a Geniza at shul, a hidden holding-place for documents inscribed with God's Name. The adding of specific Hebrew names for God onto paper transforms them into something more than they were. The same can be true, I believe, in a person's life. Jewish tradition guides us to collect those changed-things, and to treat them with reverence. We do not throw them away as we would "common" things (though we continue to learn that considering any of our world's resources as "common" invites additional problems, with potentially cosmic implications). 
The sheer volume of Jewish text-learning we do at Netivot Shalom does create the need for
Solomon Schechter exploring the Cairo Geniza
collecting and carefully disposing of these documents, as well as tefillin, tallit-fringes, and o9hter ritual items. So: What do we do with this "Sacred Trash?" 
We bury it. We treat holy objects connected with God's Name similarly to the way we treat people, themselves Images of God. We sometimes even add some holy items to the grave during a funeral for this very reason. This coming week CNS Member Sam Salkin, executive director of Sinai Memorial, will help collect those items from our shul's Geniza for burial. If you yourselves have any holy Jewish items requiring burial, please bring them to shul office by Tuesday Morning.
This practice is one of the lesser-known, but it holds tremendous wisdom. As CNS member Dan Schifrin recently wrote in the New York Jewish Week:
"Ultimately, Sacred Trash - like Judaism's constant engagement with the past - 
asks us to see the messy creation and containment of Jewish text and wisdom as a holy endeavor."
May we treat each other, the earth, and this messy life we share - in moments of birth and in moments of loss - with sacred care.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Creditor


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