Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rambam Yisodei HaTorah Perek 6 Halacha 8: Holy Writings

כתבי הקדש כולן ופירושיהן וביאוריהן אסור לשורפם או לאבדם ביד והמאבדן ביד מכין אותו מכת מרדות. במה דברים אמורים בכתבי הקדש שכתבם ישראל בקדושה אבל (אפיקורוס)מין ישראלי שכתב ספר תורה שורפין אותו עם האזכרות שבו. מפני שאינו מאמין בקדושת השם ולא כתבו (לשמו) אלא שהוא מעלה בדעתו שזה כשאר הדברים והואיל ודעתו כן לא נתקדש השם. ומצוה לשורפו כדי שלא להניח שם (לאפיקורוסים)למינים ולא למעשיהם. אבל (עובד כוכבים)גוי שכתב את השם גונזין אותו. וכן כתבי הקדש שבלו או שכתבן (עובד כוכבים)גוי יגנזו:

All holy writings, their commentaries and their explanations are forbidden to be burned or destroyed with the hand (directly). One who destroys them with his or her hand receives Rabbinic lashes. What types of [holy writings] are we speaking of? Holy writings that a Jew wrote with holiness (holy intentions). However, if a heretical Jew writes a Sefer Torah, [that Sefer Torah] is burnt along with the divine names [written] in it. [The reason the Sefer Torah is burnt] is because [the heretical Jew] does not believe in the holiness of G-D's name and only writes [the Sefer Torah] with the thought that [the Sefer Torah] is like any other thing (e.g. like the Odessy). Since his or her thinking is like this (that the name of G-D and the Sefer Torah have no special holiness) G-D's name is not [considered] holy [in this situation] and it is a commandment to burn it (the Sefer Torah written by the heretical Jew) in order that we not leave G-D's name to heretics and their deeds. However, a non-Jew who writes G-D's name, that [name] must be buried. Also, holy writings that they own or that were written by a non-Jew must be buried.     

(All corrections were made based on the text of the Rambam Frankel)

This halacha can tell us something that I hinted at in the last halacha. If a believing Jew writes any holy writings: commentaries, Chumash (five books of Moses), or any name of G-D, it is considered holy merely with their intentions. However, if a Jew who does not believe in G-D writes any of these things then it is impossible for him or her to use their intentions to infuse that object with holiness.

On the other hand, if a non-Jew writes the name of G-D it seems like we are worried that they can infuse their writings with holiness. Why? Because non-Jews can believe in G-D. If a non-Jew believes in G-D, then if he or she writes the name it has the same amount of holiness that a name written by a Jew has. The reason we must bury these writings has nothing to do with the reason we burn a heretics writings. The only reason we bury a non-Jew's writings is because we are in doubt if he or she actually believes in G-D. Therefore, we must treat their writings as we treat a Jews writings and bury them and not burn them.     

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