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Q&A from the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline

 

Seamus O’Braille

Q May I discard an old siddur written in Braille, or must it be put in sheimos?

A The Torah warns (Devarim 12:4), “Lo sa’asun kein lashem elokeichem” (Do not do so to Hashem your G-d). This pasuk follows the mitzvah of eradicating idols, and it forbids destroying an inscription of Hashem’s name. But the Shach (Y.D. 179:11) writes that the Torah only forbids erasing a Divine name if it’s written in Hebrew. (Even in another language, he says it shouldn’t be erased unnecessarily; see below.) R’ Chaim Ozer Grodzensky (Achiezer 3:32) adopts the Shach’s ruling.

On the other hand, a Hebrew word written in Braille might be viewed as Hebrew. The lettering may be foreign, but the word is lashon hakodesh because the dots represent the letters of the Hebrew aleph-bais.

Yet the poskim debate whether even script Hebrew is considered Hebrew writing, given that the letters have a different form (see the comprehensive discussion in Yabia Omer Vol. 4 Y.D. 20:5). Those with the lenient view would certainly extend it to Braille. But even the stringent opinion may view Braille more leniently: Script letters are accepted universally as a way of writing, so they represent aleph-bais, even if their appearance differs. Braille, however, is undecipherable to most Hebrew readers, so arguably it never evolved into a substitute for Hebrew letters. (If someone were to invent his own new aleph-bais characters and inscribe Hashem’s name, erasing it certainly poses no de’Oreisa violation.) The Chelkas Yaakov (O.C. 124), though, doesn’t follow this reasoning, as he clearly equates Braille with regular aleph-bais letters and forbids erasing a Braille inscription of Hashem’s name.

Still, even in cases where the de’Oreisa prohibition doesn’t apply, poskim say that one must still give proper honor to Hashem’s name and to Torah inscriptions and avoid degrading them. R’ Yitzchak Zilberstein (Chashukei Chemed, Sanhedrin 21b) says that Braille sfarim should be placed in sheimos.

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