Don’t toss today’s WSJ — it’s holy! (or not)


Jews looking to get in the mood for Shabbat services this week found help in an unlikely place on Friday: the front page of The Wall Street Journal, which featured an article on every synagogue-goer’s greatest fear: dropping the Torah scroll during hagbah, the Torah-lifting ritual.

But some of the paper’s more religious readers may have spent Friday worrying about another problem. The story ran with a photo of a Torah scroll open to the Ten Commandments in the Book of Exodus, and if you look closely at the blurry text, you can make out God’s name.

Throwing God’s name in the trash is a no-no, so does that mean religious Jews must keep Friday’s WSJ forever, bury it, or place it in a genizah?

We interviewed a few rabbis about the issue 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 hey or yod 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.”

So, have your way with Friday’s paper. Crumple it up, use it to clean up your pet’s mess, or wrap some fish in it.

But don’t throw it out! In New York City, where the Journal is published, local law requires all paper to be recycled.

Recommended from JTA