Kissing Holy Objects
By Ariel Scheib
Although kissing holy objects is not a religious obligation,
it is a widespread practice among Jews. In the Torah,
a kiss was deemed more than a welcoming. To kiss a holy object displays
veneration. This symbolically represents one’s devotion to Judaism
and loyalty to God. Examples
of kissing holy objects include:
• The two ends of
the atarah of the tallit
are kissed just before putting on the prayer shawl.
• The tefillin are kissed when taken out and
returned to their bag.
• The tzitzit (fringes) are kissed at the end
of Baruch she-Amar and during the recitation of the Shema.
• The curtain of the ark (parochet) is kissed
before opening and after closing (when the Torah
is taken out and then returned).
• The Torah mantle is kissed when it passes by
in procession in the synagogue.
• The Torah scroll is kissed before one recites
the blessings over it, either with the intermediary
of the edge of the tallit or the sash used to tie the
scroll together, but never with the bare hand.
• A siddur (prayer book) and Chumash
are kissed before putting them away; they also are kissed if accidentally
dropped on the floor.
• The mezuzah
on the doorpost is kissed when entering or leaving a house.
Sources: Eisenberg, Ronald L. The
JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. PA:
Jewish Publication Society, 2004; Kolatch,
Alfred J. The
Jewish Book of Why/The Second Jewish Book
of Why. NY: Jonathan
David Publishers, 1989.