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Q&A From the Bais HaVaad Halacha Hotline
Rav Aryeh Finkel
January 27, 2022
Q I bought a sefer Torah and plan to keep it at home. Are there any restrictions on where I may place it?
A In a two-story house, in some cases a sefer Torah should not be kept below a bedroom. The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 151:12) writes: “One must refrain from using the area above a bais haknessess for permanent undignified uses, for example, for sleeping.” The Rama, however, limits this prohibition to a building that was originally built as a shul, not a converted home. The Mishnah Brurah (42) says that the area above an aron kodesh demands a higher level of sanctity, so one may not sleep there in any instance. R’ Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:531) writes that this stringency only applies to an aron kodesh in a shul, but in a home, there is no prohibition to sleep in a room above a sefer Torah. If a minyan is held in the house on a constant basis, e.g., on Shabbos mornings, although that room doesn’t have kedushas bais haknessess, the box containing the sefer Torah is treated as an aron kodesh and the area above it must be treated with sanctity (Piskei Teshuvos O.C. 151:26).
Rav Sternbuch says that even in a private house, one must never place the sefer Torah below a bathroom.
The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 282:1) instructs: “It is a mitzvah to designate a place for [a sefer Torah], and to honor that place and beautify it.” This is the source of the universal minhag to construct a beautiful aron kodesh. This mitzvah is not limited to a shul; even in a private home, a sefer Torah should not be kept in an ordinary closet or safe. It should be kept in a dedicated place, which should be somewhat decorated or enhanced (see Mishneh Halachos 18:98).