Will Jewish readers of the Wall Street journal have to keep last Friday's edition forever? That was the question raised by the JTA news agency after the front page of The Wall Street Journal featured an article on the perils of dropping the Torah scroll during "hagbah", the Torah-lifting ritual.
The problem arose because of the fact that the story included a photo of a Torah scroll open to the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus, the blurry text includes God’s name.
Throwing God’s name in the trash is a no-no, so what does that mean for the Wall Street journal's religious readers? Must they keep it forever, bury it, or place it in a "genizah"?
The JTA decided to ask rabbis what they thought and the consensus is – no.
“It was not put there for any purpose of kedusha, of holiness,” said Rabbi Allen Schwartz of New York’s Orthodox Congregation Ohab Zedek. Schwartz explained that in order to require placement in a genizah, God’s name “has to be four clear letters” - meaning that blurriness disqualifies the Journal picture.
He added that variations on the four-letter Tetragrammaton such as a single letter also don’t require burial.
In a rare case of Jewish interdenominational agreement, Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, the director of the rabbinical school at the Reform Hebrew Union College, seconded Schwartz’s opinion.
“We see pages of Torah or other sacred books reproduced in so many ways on TV or in the print media,” he said. “Jewish law would urge us to treat Torah scrolls with respect. Sometimes they are reproduced upside-down, which is certainly for me a bigger problem.”
Yet while religious leaders agree it is entirely permissible to throw the newspaper out, it might also be important to stress – recycling is not a religious matter.