Selling a sefer torah?

May a shul sell one of its sifrei torah assuming it does not use or need it to another shul who needs it? perhaps the funds will come to good use for the first shul. What about if the sefer will not be used in the first shul because its possul and the shul has no interest or money to fix it, yet the second shul is prepared to do so after acquiring it?

Has anyone ever looked into these halachos?


  1. I've done a bit of looking into this in the past. Shulchan Aruch 'sachar mitsvot k'tivat stam' says ואינו רשאי למכרו אפילו יש לו הרבה ספרי תורה but then adds in parenthesis that does say that it can be sold in times of emergency (hagahot Maimoni). It says even selling an old one for a new one isn't permitted. But one can sell it to study torah (supporting students) and to enable a woman to marry (this tends to be in relation to an orphan) but only if there is nothing else to sell. The Rema gloss adds that one can sell to release captives. D'varim Shebichtav's commentary on this seems to suggest this concerns an individual selling rather than an institution and that it isn't allowed generally even if the individual wants to give ts'dakah with the proceeds but also agrees that in times of emergency one can sell and one isn't strict. He notes that l'hatchilah one shouldn't sell to to buy another but that b'dieved this is okay.

    However, he also writes that if an owner had a torah and could either sell it to facilitate the wedding of an orphan or could give it to a shul then the synagogue takes precedence (study comes before action) but this is only the case where the shul has not torah. If it already has one then the wedding takes precedence.

    This suggests that if a shul is blessed with more than one sefer torah then an opportunity to give to another who has none would take precedence. Particularly if they were prepared to fix it and put it back into use and the first community wasn't.

    Practically, shuls I have dealt with who have multiple sifrey have done this and have either given or permanently loaned the smaller community (often overseas) with a torah to use and I've fixed them for this purpose. This seems like a good idea and based on the above seems perfectly right and proper. However I'm sure there are more direct halachic answers that I'm not aware of that others will know.

    I'm certainly going to go back and have a look at the Shulchan Aruch again!

  2. The Oilam is noheg to sell sifre toraת according to SA OC 153:10, Magen Avraham there:22, Mishna Brura ibid:61, Taz ibid:1 - מפני שעל דעת המנהג הקדישו הספר

    1. According to these sources, one may sell a Torah for any shul usages?

    2. lichora - yes. These poskim explain the minhag to sell seforim, not justify it lachatchila.
      Obvious there is a problem of selling a ST at all, kal vachomer for a lesser kedusha.

  3. I spoke to R' Shammai about it. In both cases one could sell the Sefer Torah. He said of course though you'll have a "problem" of what to do with the money and would have to use it for the same kedusha (i.e. a Sefer Torah) or to use it for the other things mentioned in the the poskim -- learning Torah or getting married.

    1. But according to these sources (SA OC 153:10, Magen Avraham there:22, Mishna Brura ibid:61, Taz ibid:1 - מפני שעל דעת המנהג הקדישו הספר)
      It says the minhag is one can sell the Torah and it does not specify that the money must be used for Sefer Torah etc.. purposes specifically. Implying it can be used even for other shul needs.

      What does R"Shammai say about these sources.


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