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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