Burying Books

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Here’s a cool and poignant little short film about going to a genizah, a sort of cemetery for books. A Torah scroll has been damaged in a flood, and the young rabbi of an elderly community packs up his congregation and takes them to the genizah section of their local cemetery. It’s a little bit touching and a little funny.

The commentary is simple, but profound: “It doesn’t happen a lot, that a Torah has to be buried,” to which another child says: “It’s good that it doesn’t happen a lot!” Death, in general, is really hard to understand. The death of a Torah is sometimes even harder — if only because we don’t really know what to make of it in the first place. We know we’re not supposed to touch a Torah or sit down while it’s in the air or curse in front of it. But what is the physical object of a Torah? What does it mean?

And the truth is: we don’t know. Like anything else death-related, theories and hopes are all we really have. That’s why, when I hear rabbis with fluffily empowering sermons or young kids with no background analyzing stuff like this, I listen more closely: because they’re probably closer to knowing what’s actually going on than I ever will be.

Posted on November 9, 2009

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2 thoughts on “Burying Books

  1. dlevy

    I think it’s helpful to be extra-vigilant about distinguishing (in our language) the sefer Torah (ie, the scroll) from the Torah (the words). We tread a difficult line between sanctification of an object and idolatry with the sefer Torah; talking about “burying a Torah” only complicates this.

  2. Eve Goldberg

    I did find this touching, but nothing about it did I find to be even “a little funny.” Who would find this even remotely funny? I felt so sad, near tears! Someting good did come out of it, though, Jews feeling more proud of their heritage, maybe that’s why Hashem allowed this to happen? But this is about as funny as a funeral for a greatly loved and respected person would be! I also like dlevy’s comment above. btw.

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