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This article will help you to become more familiar and comfortable when honored with an Aliyah (an ascending) to the Torah. The procedure is the same on Shabbat or a weekday. We want you to appreciate the traditions and make the very most of this sacred experience.
Before you go up for an Aliyah:
Your head must be covered when you go up for an Aliyah. Men are required to cover their heads in the sanctuary, and expected to wear a Tallit, so no special care is needed when called for an Aliyah. Women are not required to cover their heads in the sanctuary, so if you are to be called for an Aliyah, make sure you have a kipah or a lace covering. Put on the covering before you are called. (Coverings and bobby pins are available outside the sanctuary.)
All who are being honored with an Aliyah
must be prepared to fluently read the blessings. According to tradition, the congregation should be able to hear clearly the recitation of these blessings. Please refer to the section above
to listen to the blessings. A copy of the blessings in Hebrew and in English transliteration will be on the Amud
When you are called, approach the Amud from either side with alacrity. You will stand to the right of the Torah reader, facing the congregation. The Gabbai will call you by name to the Torah, but may not know your Hebrew name in advance, so you should be prepared to give your name in Hebrew, in the form of (your Hebrew name ___________, Ben/Bat (son/daughter) your father’s Hebrew name ___________and your mother’s Hebrew name___________). You should also end your name with Ha-Kohen or Ha-Levi if you are a Kohen or Levi. If you are called as part of a group, generally three or more persons, (for instance, a family, or all people observing a Yahrzeit, or several celebrating a birthday or wedding anniversary in the coming week), you may be called as a group instead of individually.
Touch and Kiss:
Once called, if you are wearing a Tallit, loosely wrap some of the fringes (Tzitzit) on your finger or just hold a corner of your Tallit; if you are not wearing a Tallit, hold the sash that is used to tie the Torah that you will find on the reader’s table or that the Gabbai will hand to you. The Torah reader will then point the Yad to where the reading begins. You should then touch near that spot with the Tallit, Tzitzit, or sash. When you “touch” the Torah, you should never actually touch it with your fingers since the oils from your fingers can physically degrade the written letters of the Torah. In fact, you don’t want to actually touch the letters even with the Tallit or the sash. It’s best to touch the white space between columns just next to where the Torah reader has pointed. After touching the Torah, you then kiss the Tallit or the sash. Sometimes if there is a large group, one person will touch the Torah and then offer theTallit or the sash for others to kiss.
The Blessing Before the Reading:
First, you roll the Torah scrolls together and then stand directly behind the Torah. Hold both Aitzei Chaiyim (Torah “handles”) while chanting the blessings, which are provided on a large laminated sheet on the reader’s table. The Aitzei Chaiyim may also be slightly lifted on the last two words of the blessing (“notayn ha-Torah”). The holding and lifting traditions symbolize taking possession—that we are willingly accepting the Torah that God gives us. Remember, also, that you repeat Baruch Adonai Ha’Mevorach Le-Olam Va’ed after the congregation responds with these same words. After that, you complete the remainder of the blessing.
The Reading of the Torah:
You then move a step or two to the right to make room for the Torah reader. The scrolls will then be slightly unrolled. As the Torah is read, you follow the words as they are pointed to with the Yad. You should hold onto the Aitz Chaiyim (Torah“handle”) closest to you throughout the reading to keep the scroll unrolled.
Blessing After the Torah Reading:
When the reader finishes reading the verse, he/she will point out the last word with the Yad. Again, take the Tallit, Tzitzit, or sash and touch in the column adjacent to where the reader points. Then kiss the Tallit or sash, roll the scrolls together, hold both Aitzei Chaiyim, and recite the blessing (on the laminated sheet on the reader’s table). Again, you may gently lift the Aitzim on the last two words (“notayn ha-Torah”), as explained earlier.
Historically, the person having an Aliyah was actually responsible for reading the Torah. In gratitude for the person reading “for them”, following the concluding blessing the person having the Aliyah is encouraged to say “Yasher Koach” to, and shake the hand of, the Torah reader.
The Next Aliyah:
If your Aliyah is not the very last one, you then move around to the right side of the Amud and stand next to the Gabbai for the next Torah reading. You remain as a symbol of your reluctance to leave the Torah. Now, you follow the Torah reading in the Chumash. If you were originally part of a large group, it may be more practical for just one or two of you to stay while the others return to their seats. When you are finished on the Amud, or if your Aliyah is the last one, you exit from the side where you were standing. It is customary to exchange short greetings with the Rabbi, the Gabbai, and/or other officers and then to walk to the back of the synagogue along the outer wall and then to approach your seat from the back of the sanctuary. This longer route back to your seat is another act of expressing your desire to prolong the experience and reluctance to leave the Torah.
Congratulations from Congregants:
Having completed an Aliyah, some congregants will congratulate you by saying Yasher Koach, which means “may your strength be firm” or “more power to you.” The proper reply to a man is Barukh Tihiyeh and to a women Berukhah Tehi (which means “may it be for a blessing”).
The Last Step:
It is customary to express appreciation for an Aliyah
by sending a donation to the synagogue, to a fund of your choice. Donations can be made here
. Such donations are customarily $18 (the numeric value of the Hebrew letters for Chai
) or some multiple of that (for instance, $36 or $54). These donations are an important part of sustaining the synagogue as a Beit K’nesset
(a house of gathering), a Beit Midrash
(a house of study), a Beit Tef’illah
(a house of prayer), and finally, as a place to celebrate sacred moments and Simchas
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