One modern philosophy that might have caught your attention is conscientious living. This concept centers on increasing one’s awareness. In many ways, living according to Jewish law encourages conscientious living. For instance, one needs to be aware of the food one eats, both to insure that it is kosher and in order to make proper blessings. Another example is that awareness of the materials in one’s clothing is necessary in order to avoid wearing shatnez.

This conscientiousness also includes being aware of the inherent holiness of certain items. The holiness of a Torah scroll is fairly obvious, but many other objects used for Jewish rituals also have an elevated status (tzitzit/tallit strings, Torah covers, etc.). Like holy books, these objects, when no longer useable, need to be disposed of appropriately (usually through burial or placement in a genizah). Such items are referred to as shaimot.

Many people do not realize, however, that simple, seemingly mundane, items can also attain a level of holiness that requires extreme respect in handling them.  This does not only refer to questions of disposal, but to the treatment of the items as well. For instance, these holy items should not be placed directly on the ground, have random things piled on top of them or be taken into the bathroom, as that demeans their sanctity.

Any items on which God’s name is written/engraved in Hebrew is considered shaimot. There are, however, different opinions on whether this includes items on which God’s name is written in a different language. Items that contain verses of Torah, or Torah ideas written with the intent of holiness, may also be included in the category of shaimot. Because there are a variety of opinions on the specifics of shaimot, Jewish Treats recommends discussing specific items or questions with a rabbi. 

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