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Torah Reading Blessings

Torah Reading Blessings -

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Making Aliyah to the Torah

Great peace have those who love your law;
nothing can make them stumble.
- Psalm 119:165

Each Shabbat a weekly portion from the Torah (called a parashah) is chanted during morning services. This Torah portion itself is further divided into smaller sections called aliyot (literally, "ascents"), and it is customary to call up people from the congregation (called olim) to recite a blessing before and after each section is recited by the cantor or Torah reader.

For Shabbat services each parashah is divided in seven aliyot with a concluding portion (called the Maftir) recited by the person who will also recite the Haftarah blessings. This means that during a given Shabbat Torah Reading service, eight people will be called to recite blessings over the Torah (on weekday morning services (Monday and Thursday), the first three aliyot of the forthcoming Sabbath portion are read).

In order to recall the roles of service in the ancient Jewish Temple, it is customary to offer the first aliyah to a Kohen (i.e., a priestly descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses), the second to a Levi (i.e., a descendant of the tribe of Levi), and the remaining aliyot (from shlishi to shevi'i) to Yisraelim (i.e., Jews who are neither Kohen nor Levi). You will be told in advance what your aliyah number is by the gabbai (synagogue official).

If you have been given the honor of being called up for an aliyah, you will chant the blessings before and after the reading of the Torah (by the cantor). Here is a brief guide to performing this honor:

  1. When your name is announced by the gabbai, walk up to the bimah. Take the shortest route possible.
  2. If you are wearing a prayer shawl (tallit gadol), the Cantor or ba'al keri'ah will point to the word on the scroll where he or she will begin reading. Take the tzitzit (fringes) from a corner of your prayer shawl and touch them to the word; you may bring the tzitzit to your lips as an expression of your love for the Torah.

Being called up for the Torah blessing is considered a great honor in most synagogues...

  1. Stand directly in front of the scroll with both hands on the handles (etz chayim) and recite the following:

The Barekhu Before Torah Recitation:

Bless Adonai, who is to be blessed.

Congregation responds:

Blessed is Adonai, who is to blessed forever and ever.

  1. Now you will recite the following blessing:

The Blessing Before the Torah Reading:

Blessed are You, LORD our God, king of the universe, who chose us from all the peoples and gave to us His Torah. Blessed are You, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Hear it Chanted

Move to the right to allow the cantor to chant the portion from the Sefer Torah
(torah scroll).

  1. At its conclusion, the cantor will point to the final word that was read. Again, touch it with the tzitzit as noted above.
  2. Recite the following blessing:

The Blessing After the Torah Reading:

Blessed are You, LORD our God, king of the universe, who gave us the Torah of truth and set everlasting life in our midst. Blessed are You, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Hear it Chanted

  1. After reciting this blessing, depending on the minhag ha-makom (the custom of the place), you may either return to your seat or remain at the bimah while the next oleh makes his or her aliyah.

    Mazal Tov! - You've just completed making "the Aliyah."

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Aliyah - (f.; pl. "Aliyot"); going up, rising; ascent; in location or in personal qualities; as in "Aliyah l'Eretz Yisrael," "Going up to live in the Land of Israel" or "Aliyah La'Torah," "Going up to make a blessing on the Torah." For a given (Shabbat) Torah reading service there are seven aliyot recited (that is, seven different portions of the weekly parashah that are recited during the Torah Reading service).

Bimah: (n) A platform from which Torah is read (usually in front of the Ark, but in Sephardic synagogues it may be in the center of the room).

Mazal Tov! (inter.) "Congratulations!" An expression of congratulation or heartfelt well-wishes ("Mazel Tov on the new baby!").

Tallit Gadol: (n) A four-cornered prayer shawl worn by adults during the morning prayers. Each corner of the Tallit Gadol has fringes, called tzitzit. Wearing the tallit helps get us in the mood for prayer. The third paragraph of the Shema prayer contains the commandment to wear tzitzit. At the top of a tallit is an atarah, or a band. The purpose of the atarah is to make sure we do not put the tallit on upside down (as well as to list the Hebrew blessing recited upon donning the tallit gadol). The atarah is removed when the tallit is used to bury the dead. Traditional Jews also wear a tallit katan (small tallit). It is also called the arbah kanfot (four corners), which is a special garment like an undershirt. It also has four fringed corners. For Traditional Jews, the tallit gadol and tallit katan are worn only by men.


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