Tag Archives: Tanakh

Kissing the Tanakh if it Falls and the Torah

Main Content:

M: Me, I: Informant

I: Oh so um I don’t know if this is like a codified thing, but you can’t like… so you have like the Tanakh, which is like the mini like it’s like your prayer Bible um and like so if you if you, if the Tanakh touches the floor you have to like kiss it. You are like, it’s like not supposed to touch the floor.

M: Oh, okay

I: Um, yeah. And I think that comes form like so you are not supposed to touch the Torah and that’s not supposed to fall on the floor either, but that’s because it’s like made out of parchment that’s been used for hundreds of years and it’s like you know, brittle and fragile and stuff.

M: Uh-hm (yes)

I: Uh I think that sort uh like thought process has gone into like like, the mini Bibles. Like can’t hurt. It’s also like disrespecting G-d and stuff because it’s on the floor and whatever.

M: yeah

I: um so yeah there’s that

M: Is that like bad luck if let it touch the ground

I: Ehhhhh, it’s just like you know, like a bad thing

M: like a no-no

I: Yeah it’s a no-no cause like

M: It’s disrespectful

I: Yeah disrespectful. Cause like there’s also like, you know, at the bar and bat mitzvahs like they carry the Torah around and people like they touch their Bibles to it and they kiss their Bibles. Like you are supposed to kiss the Torah

M: Uh-huh (yes)

I: So like that’s why you are supposed to kiss it, as a sign of respect

M: Gotcha

I: Yeah

M: And that’s if you drop it, like if it touches the floor

I: Yeah, and when the Torah comes around you kiss it

M: Yeah

I: I guess that’s another thing. I think that’s another folklore thing.

I: I don’t think it’s codified as it walks around in the bat mitzvah ceremony or any of the ceremonies really.

M: yeah

I: It’s not just for bar and bat mitzvahs. Really we do it for like everything 

M: Oh, I did not know that

I: Yeah like a sign of respect and you want to be kissing G-d. You know. Love G-d.

Context: My informant learned to do this as a child watching those around her in the synagogue do it.

Analysis/Thoughts: I can see how these practices, kissing the Tanakh if you drop it on the floor and ‘kissing’ the Torah, flourished. While both of these practices are not codified in the Jewish religion, these are both fairly common practices in the synagogue. I think that these practices are easily considered customary as it supports ideals of Judaism that were already in place: such as respect to G-d, as dropping something on the floor can sometimes indicate a lack of caring and a lack of respect, the kiss corrects any possibility of this as it essentially says, “whoops! I do love and respect G-d.” Also I think there is something to be said about this practice and identity. Kissing the Torah when it comes around and kissing the Tanakh when it is dropped, are now considered what ‘good’ Jewish people do. Nobody is going to want to be the only one not kissing the Torah/ their Tanakh and having others thinking they don’t respect and love G-d. Thus, I think that part of what is keeping this custom alive is a fear of what society would think if you didn’t do it. Now it is so ingrained in the congregations that it is common practice and is done in most temples, as now people grow up doing and watching this from their role models-and it’s normalized. I’ve also marked this as contagious magic in the sense that through kissing the Torah/ the Tanakh which are said to have come from G-d’s ordinances. You are kissing and respecting G-d through his texts and this falls in place with the definition of contagious magic that says that ‘one can carry out an action by something that was once connected to the designated target of the magical act,’ in this case G-d’s words and teachings.