A genizah (or geniza; Hebrew: unicode|hbrgimelhbrnunhbryudhbrzayinhbrhe "storage"; plural: genizot) is the store-room or depository in a synagogue (or cemetery), usually specifically for worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics that were stored there before they could receive a proper cemetery burial, it being forbidden to throw away writings containing the name of God (even personal letters and legal contracts could open with an invocation of God). In practice, genizot also contained writings of a secular nature, with or without the customary opening invocation, and also contained writings in other languages that use the Hebrew alphabet (Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Ladino, Yiddish).

This custom also included the periodic solemn gathering of the contents of the geniza, which were then buried in the cemetery or "bet ḥayyim." Synagogues in Jerusalem buried the contents of their genizot every seventh year, as well as during a year of drought, believing that this would bring rain. This custom is associated with the far older practice of burying a great or good man with a "sefer" which has become "pasul" (unfit for use through illegibility or old age). In Morocco, in Algiers, in Turkey, and even in Egypt, such paper-interments had been practiced.

By far, the best-known genizah, which is famous for both its size and spectacular contents, is the Cairo Geniza, discovered in 1864 by Jacob Saphir, and chiefly studied by Solomon Schechter.

References to genizah in the Talmud

The Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 115a) directs that holy writings in other than the Hebrew language require "genizah," that is, preservation. In Pesachim 118b, "bet genizah" = "treasury." In Pesachim 56a Hezekiah hides ("ganaz") a medical work; in Shabbat 115a R. Gamaliel orders that the Targum to the Book of Job should be hidden ("yigganez") under the "nidbak" (layer of stones). In Shabbat 30b, there is a reference to those rabbis who sought to categorize the books of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs as heretical; this occurred before the canonization of the Hebrew Bible, when disputes flared over which books should be considered Biblical. The same thing occurs in Shabbat 13b in regard to the Book of Ezekiel, and in Pesachim 62 in regard to the Book of Genealogies.

In the medieval era

In medieval times, Hebrew scraps and papers that were relegated to the genizah were known as "shemot" or "names," because their sanctity and consequent claim to preservation were held to depend on their containing the "names" of God. In addition to papers, articles connected with the ritual, such as tzitzit, lulavim, and sprigs of myrtle, are similarly stored.

According to folklore, these scraps were used to hide the famed Golem of Prague, whose body is claimed to lie in the genizah of the Altneushul in Prague.

In the 21st century

In their book "The Jesus Family Tomb", Charles Pellegrino and Simcha Jacobovici report that the Talpiot Tomb (which they claim is the real burying place of Jesus and his family), has been transformed into a genizah by the Jerusalem rabbinical authorities.



ee also

*Cairo Geniza

External links

* [ Jewish Encyclopedia entry]

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  • GENIZAH — (Heb. גְּנִיזָה; literally storing ), a place for storing books or ritual objects which have become unusable. The genizah was usually a room attached to the synagogue where books and ritual objects containing the name of God – which cannot be… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • genizah — ▪ Judaism also spelled  Geniza (Hebrew: “hiding place”),  plural  Genizot, Genizoth, or Genizahs,         in Judaism, a repository for timeworn sacred manuscripts and ritual objects, generally located in the attic or cellar of a synagogue. In the …   Universalium

  • Genizah — Geniza (hebr. גניזה gənīzā; aus pers.: gonj Schatzkammer; Plural: Genizoth) ist ein vermauerter Hohlraum zur Aufbewahrung ausgedienter hebräischer liturgischer Schriften. Hier wurden nicht mehr lesbare Torarollen oder andere Texte, die man nicht… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • genizah — noun A storeroom located in or by a synagogue where are kept sacred Hebrew books that cannot be used (through damage or heretical teachings), but which cannot be discarded because they contain Gods name. The Cairo Genizah was discovered in 1896 …   Wiktionary

  • Genizah — [gɛ ni:zə] noun a room attached to a synagogue and housing damaged, discarded, or heretical texts and sacred relics. Origin from Heb. gĕnīzāh, lit. hiding place …   English new terms dictionary

  • genizah — n. a room attached to a synagogue and housing damaged, discarded, or heretical books etc., and sacred relics. Etymology: Heb. genizah, lit. hiding place f. ganaz hide, set aside …   Useful english dictionary

  • GENIZAH DU CAIRE — Le terme araméen genizah (de GNZ, «cacher», «être précieux») désigne une salle, attenante à la synagogue, destinée à recevoir les manuscrits de la Loi devenus inutilisables par l’usure de l’âge ou la manipulation cultuelle: tenus pour sacrés, car …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • GENIZAH, CAIRO — Introduction The term genizah is a word shortened from the rabbinical Hebrew phrase bet genizah (see also genizah ). Its counterpart in late biblical Hebrew is genez (pl. genazim, ginzei) which in Esther evidently means a treasury, as well as the …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Genizah du Caire — Guenizah du Caire Une lettre autographe d Avraham, le fils de Moïse Maïmonide, l un des nombreux documents conservés dans la Gueniza La Gueniza du Caire (hébreu : גניזת קהיר Guenizat Qahir) est un dépôt d environ 200 000 manuscrits… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Genizah — Gueniza Une gueniza ou guenizah (héb. : גניזה « [endroit de mise en] dépôt »; plur. guenizot) est la pièce d une synagogue servant d entrepôt, principalement pour des ouvrages traitant de sujets religieux rédigés en hébreu, devenus …   Wikipédia en Français

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