Brief Shaimos Guidelines
Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator

It is forbidden by the Torah to discard holy objects by throwing them in the trash. Objects which have been used for a mitzvah, although they have no kedusha, holiness, (of their own) may also not be thrown, as they are, into the garbage. However, one may burn them or wrap them in plastic and put them in the garbage. Included in this category are s’chach of the sukkah, tzitzis, esrogim, lulavim, hadasim, aravos, and a talis bag.

Objects which do have kedusha must be wrapped in plastic and sent to the Beth Genizah. Included in this category are tefilin, tefilin bags, mezuzos, mezuzah covers, and seforim, whether handwritten, printed, or photocopied.

Holy Objects Also Include:

  1. Paper on which a halacha is printed or written with intention to tell the halacha, a commentary of the Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Rishonim, and Acharonim or a medrash of Chazal which is intended to explain a posuk or to teach us how to conduct ourselves in mussar or hashkafa.
  2. A paper on which three consecutive words of a posuk from Tanach have been written in one line with the intention of quoting the Tanach (as opposed to a melitzah which is not shaimos). Invitations from organizations and individuals that contain parts of pesukim are shaimos, however, the sentence Od Yishama, as frequently included in wedding invitations, is a melitzah, not intended to explain the posuk.
  3. Any paper or material on which is written one of the names of HaShem. However, the Hebrew letters IY”H, BE”H, and B”H may be discarded according to the halacha and Jewish custom, however, it is an act of piety to tear off those and put them into shaimos. The Hebrew letters BS”D definitely may be put into the trash.

In the above cases, the shaimos or divrei Torah, may be cut away from the paper and be buried, if so desired. However, pieces of paper that fell off from a sefer, even if there is no writing or print on them, are considered shaimos. Letters, or printed matter, in the Hebrew language are not shaimos if they do not conform with one of these specifications. Letters or printed matter in English, or any other non-Hebrew language, are shaimos if they conform with the above stipulations.

Newspapers and magazines which contain secular information should not be put into shaimos. They degrade the real shaimos that are buried with them, especially if the advertisements and pictures are not within the spirit of the Torah. The pages that have Torah may be removed and put 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.

If a sefer was covered with a book cover, that cover, when taken off, should be put into shaimos. Homework and test papers in Limudei Kodesh may be shaimos depending on whether they fall into the above categories. One may dispose of a yarmulka in the garbage.