Common Misconceptions: Kissing A Sefer Torah

In Shul it seems that whenever the sefer Torah is brought from the ahron to the bima, or the reverse, many people make it their business to kiss the sefer Torah. And then they turn their back to it and return to their seats.

Not only is there no clear source for the practice of kissing the sefer Torah, but it’s actually wrong to kiss it and then return to your seat.

As follows: There is a law (R”MA OC 149) that one must follow, or escort, a sefer Torah on the move if you are within 4 amos of said sefer Torah. Perhaps you don’t have to walk with it all the way back to the ahron, but you certainly have to escort it for at least a few steps. The kissing part? That is nice, but not necessary. (“NBNN” for short, as one of my rebbeim says.)

But what is specifically not nice, and in fact, completely incorrect and in violation of the law, is to kiss the sefer Torah and then turn and head right back to your seat. If you want to kiss it, that’s fine. But then you must walk behind it for a few steps.

The fact of the matter is that, considering it would be mightily inconvenient and unrealistic to have the entire shul follow behind the sefer Torah, it’s probably just best to remain by your seat, and not specifically move to be so close to the Torah so as to be required to follow it. If you are amongst those that sit where the Torah passes anyway, you should follow it for a few steps. Everyone else; best just stay where you are.

In short: There’s no need to kiss a sefer Torah, and very often, in so doing, people put themselves into a situation in which they violate the requirement to escort a passing sefer Torah.

(It seems that I have a couple more of these “Everyone Is Wrong” posts, so maybe we’ll make a series out of it. Of course, the title is not meant to be haughty, so much as a joke. But the fact of the matter is that, in my limited knowledge, I’ve seen quite a few things that almost everyone does, but that, with just a minimal amount of time studying the sources, is actually incorrect or improper. So, figured it would be worth writing about. We’ll see how it goes…)

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