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Jewish Practices & Rituals: Kissing Holy Objects

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.