Kissing Holy Objects

Israel Drazin



A significant number of people are unable to identify a religious practice as
being nothing other than superstition, especially when the practice has existed
for generations, they feel good about doing it, it gives them a spiritual
uplift, and their religious leaders are performing the act. One example of many
is the widespread custom of kissing holy objects such as the tzitzit,
tephillin, mezuzah, and the Torah scroll. The rabbis criticized these
well-meaning behaviors when they first began. They are not Jewish in origin and
were most likely copied from the Muslim. It is far better to use these items as
they were intended to be used rather than showing adoration by kissing them.
For example, the tzitzit, tephillin, and mezuzah should inspire the study of
the Torah and the Torah itself should be studied to acquire some true ideas and
to improve oneself and society, the three goals of the Torah identified by


The codifier Joseph Caro (1488-1575) criticized the custom of kissing the tzitzit
during prayer in his Bet Yosef, Orach Chayim 24. He says that this was also the
opinion of the eighth century Natronai Gaon and of the ninth century Moses
Gaon. The Gaonim (plural of Gaon) were Babylonian leaders of Jewry from around
the late sixth century to 1038. Ironically, Caro states that he fears that this
practice of kissing the tzitzit may lead to kissing the tephillin and the
mezuzah, which it did.