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Burying a Bible

In Jewish tradition, when a manuscript or item contains God's name and/or passages from the Bible it is treated with the utmost respect. It is never placed on the ground or brought into a bathroom. When it is no longer usable it is buried underground in much the same way a person would be. Although typically this is only done with Hebrew materials, it can be a worthwhile practice for English materials as well.

At First Fruits of Zion, we have written about this practice in our book Hallowed be Thy Name: Sanctifying God's Sacred Name. A few weeks ago a woman named Suzanne contacted me and said that she and her family wanted to observe this custom to show reverence for God's Word. I thought it would be encouraging to share her story. Below is her testimony and some pictures.

Several weeks ago in our class time one of the children said her Bible had missing pages. Upon inspection we noticed from Ephesians to the end of the Bible was missing. I told the children we had to properly dispose of it.

I contacted FFOZ to find out how to do this. The information is located in FFOZ's book, "Hallowed Be Your Name" in chapter 7 pp 45-47.

We have a man in our congregation who is a carpenter, so he made a box for us, placed our damaged Bible in it, and sealed it.

At the end of Shabbat services yesterday our Rabbi let everyone know what we were doing and why. Those who wanted to, braved the pouring rain to participate in the burial service. The children placed the box in the prepared hole and our Rabbi had special prayer and a brief teaching on how precious God's Word is and we should take special care of our Bibles. Then, one by one each child took turns putting shovelfuls of dirt (which was fast turning to mud) on top of the sealed box that contained our damaged Scripture until our little grave was completely covered and filled in.

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It was quite an experience. One I will never forget, nor those who participate. It made us aware of how precious God's Word is and that we must take notice in how we take care of our Bibles.

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I heard many of the adults say they never gave it any thought about where they set their Bibles, and they would more careful from now on.

The children were eager to please God and wanted to right a wrong that had been done. They were excited about doing this from start to finish. It was fun to watch them participate. The rain and cold temperature did not deter their enthusiasm.

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About the Author: Toby Janicki is a teacher, writer, and project manager for First Fruits of Zion and Vine of David. He contributes regularly to Messiah Journal and has written several books including God-Fearers: Gentiles and the God of Israel.

Discussions & Comments

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Archived Comments


Shalom, & thank you for such a moving story.
I think if we remember the ideal, that a Bible/Torah is to be treated like a person's body, it will help form a good response to questions like "do I have to give up my dear old Bible?" and "what about those who will use & cherish a portion?" A human body can do a lot of good if organs are donated to those who need them; but if that isn't feasible, one buries the body. & we cherish our rickety old grandparents, & make allowances for health issues with things like ramps & wheelchairs; surely we can do the same for Gd's "love letters" that we wear thin with re-reading.
Similarly, when I learned the Jewish reverence for Torah scrolls, I began to wrap my Bible(s) in clean, pretty cloth & keep them in a safe case or location. I thought, how can I witness to my dear Jewish friends about the Word-Made-Flesh, if I disregard the Word on paper ? His friends treated His body with care; I can honor Him by treating His words with love.

Shilah Anderson | March 6, 2010 2:36 PM

Shalom Toby
I really appreciated reading this story. It really has me thinking now. My Bible is very precious to me. I've had it for so long now, that its cover is about ready to fall off and looks very tattered. I now have it nestled in a bookcover/case. Some pages are loose and just tucked in the appropriate spots, plus I have written notes on numerous pages, plus a plethora of highlighted verses.
Am I in violation of mistreating the Word of Hashem? If so, should I bury this Bible and get a new one? Or is it okay to keep using it as long as it stays in a bookcover case?
This Bible has been a great study guide for me and I would be very sad to give it up, but I want to be obedient and do the right thing.
Thank you,
carol barton

**Toby's Comment:** I think ti is really up to you whether you want to keep using it or not. For example my siddur is very old and worn in, pages falling out but I still love to use it because I've had it for so long. Hope that helps.

Carol | February 8, 2010 10:00 PM

I have often thought that if the American flag gets such respect and consideration in its disposal, how much more so does the object containing God's Word deserve such treatment.

**Toby's Comment:** Great point!

Ann | February 6, 2010 9:43 PM

I was touched by the story and the Jewish tradition of honoring God's Word, the Bible. I often see christians just leaving their Bibles anywhere after reading it, not even concern about if there ever a torn page or rotten cover. It saddened and angered me. I will share what I have read here to our congregation. It's about time christians respect the Bible. If Muslims kill and die for their Koran, why shouldn't we? It's the Word of God! Thank you for featuring "Burying the Bible".

Maritess Santiago | January 30, 2010 7:35 AM

Thank you for being faithful to pass on such Godly insight! Often times we miss the obvious, which is hidden from us in plain sight!!! May I humbly submit another avenue to respect God's precious word. There are people in third world countries who may possess just one page of the Bible & hold it protected and precious! An entity called: Hands For Christ will take partial Bibles and send them into the hands of people around the world who desperately need the Word of God. I verified with them before writing. An Ex. given: when a group of people have only one Bible they will divide it into books and share what they have. Please lets also consider honoring God's word by keeping it circulating in the hands of those who may receive salvation by just one little page! I see a resurrection coming! (www.handsforChrist.org)

Judy Kincer | January 28, 2010 12:04 PM

Does this mean that all church/synogogue related material such as teaching material needs to be buried? What's the criteria for determining what needs to be buried and what can be thrown away? thanks, Kevin

***Toby's Response:*** Usually it is whether or not it contains God's name in Hebrew. However it is customary for some, if it contains a verse form the Bible not to throw it away. In general I think it's a good idea to do this with our Bible no matter what language they are in. Hope that helps.

Kevin Atwell | January 25, 2010 2:35 PM

Great story. Thanks for sharing it.

Roni | January 24, 2010 5:57 PM

You can't set it on the ground, but you can bury it?

Funny, that.

**Toby's Response:** Steve, you are one in a million! Hope we can hang out again soon.

Steve Petersen | January 22, 2010 6:24 PM

What a great story! I have always considered where I place my Bible but had never considered that it could get 'soiled'. I will certainly take extra care where I lay my Bible from now on. Thank you so much and God richly bless you. Amen.

Min Nick Bower

Minister Nick Bower | January 21, 2010 3:21 AM

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