What should we be doing during the lifting of the Torah (Part 2)

לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי הכ’’מ ר’ שאול זעליג בן יהודה הכהן

As we stated in the previous post, from the language of Maseches Sofrim, which is quoted by the Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch verbatim, it would seem that the proper action of the congregation would be to bow one’s head during Hagba—לכרוע. Rabbi Moshe Isserles, (1500’s) otherwise known as the Ramoh, doesn’t make any comment and one might ask, if it was not the Minhag in Ashkenaz to bow one’s head during הגבה he may have mentioned this in his addenda to the Mechaber. Perhaps the opposite is true. The Ramo also authored the דרכי משה on the טור and in 147:4 the Ramo is happy to mention the minhag recorded by the Maharil (mid 1300’s) which was not just to bow, but also to prostrate oneself at the time of הגבה (and to follow the Torah back to its Aron). The Maharil was the celebrated and authoritative recorder of Ashkenazi Minhagim. It would seem, possibly, that the Ramo in quoting the Maharil, had no issue with the more sedate suggestion of the Mechaber to simply bow during הגבה. The Ramo begins that section ad loc. by noting that

In the Mordechai, at the end of Hilchos Tefilin, page 98b, he quotes that the Maharam used to lift the Torah in order to show it to all the people, and this was the opinion of the Kol Bo who stated “in Masechta Sofrim, when the Chazan was on on the Bima he opened the Sefer Torah and showed the text to both men and women, and then they said “Vzos HaTorah” etc. And from this is a source for why women would commonly push themselves forward at that time, although they (the women) often didn’t know why they were doing so. And from Maseches Sofrim it appears that this occurred before layning (as per the times of the Gemora and Minhag HaSefardim) but we (the Ashkenazim, notes the Ramo) perform Hagba after layning.

The Ramo in Darkei Moshe goes also notes that a community is entitled to sell the Kavod of passing the Torah cover to the Golel (the one who rolls the Torah back from the unwound Hagba) and the person who was given the honour of Gelila, cannot complain, as he only purchased the right to rewind the Torah. Someone else can purchase the right to pass on the Torah’s clothing to the Golel.

I looked up the Kol Bo and, as quoted by the Darkei Moshe and he is quoted accurately by the Ramo. Importantly, although he purports to be quoting Maseches Sofrim he doesn’t use the word ולכרוע—that the people should bow. Was that intentional?

The “plot” thickens when we examine the language of the קיצור שלחן ערוך. Again, the author, Rav Shlomo Ganzfried, intentionally appears to omit the word ולכרוע—that the people should bow.

לאחר קריאת התורה, אומרים חצי קדיש, ומגביהין את הספר-תורה. המגביה פותח את הספר-תורה שיהיו שלושה עמודיט מן הכתב גלוי, ומראהו לימינו ולשמאלו, לפניו ולאחריו, כי מצווה על כל האנשים לראות את הכתב, ואומרים “וזאת התורה” וכו’.

Why? In his introduction to the קיצור Rav Ganzfried

R’ Shlomo Ganzfried ז’ל (wikipedia)

explains the primary sources upon which he bases his decisions. I haven’t got an edition of the Kitzur with that introduction (nor could I find one), however, R’ Shea Hecht told me that the Kitzur bases himself on three other Seforim and sides with the majority if there is a dispute between. The three are:

  1. Shulchan Aruch HoRav (from the Ba’al HaTanya)
  2. Siddur Derech Hachaim (the Chavas Daas)
  3. Chayei Adam

Sadly, there is no existing Shulchan Aruch HoRav on this section, as it was lost or burnt. Incredibly, the Chayei Adam says absolutely nothing about Hilchos Hagba. That means, the Chayei Adam doesn’t even present a Seif about Hilchos Hagba. This in of itself is very strange.

In the authoritative Siddur Derech Hachaim by R’ Ya’akov MiLissa (late 1700’s) who is well-known as the author of the Chavas Daas on Yoreh Deah and the Nesivos HaMishpat on Choshen Mishpat, writes

When he lifts up the Sefer Torah he should show the lettering to the people and say וזאת התורה …

It could be argued that the Kitzur is therefore just copying the words of the Siddur Derech Hachaim. On the other hand, the directions at that point in the Siddur are for the person lifting the Torah, that is to say, the notes are directed at the person performing Hagba as opposed to the people who are witnessing the Hagba. He doesn’t, for example, say that the people should say וזאת התורה. It is not conclusive, perhaps, then to draw a conclusion from these words of the Chavas Daas. In point of fact, in the Halacha section, the Derech Hachaim explicitly says:

ויש מדקדקים לראות האותיות עד שיוכל לקרותם ולכרוע ולומר וזאת התורה

The Maharikash, R. Ya’akov Kastro (mid 1500’s) in his Tshuvos  אהלי יעקב, 57 states

Whoever doesn’t bow, because he thinks (bowing) is forbidden, should be put in Cherem!

The Siddur of the Shulchan Aruch HoRav makes no comment about the need to bow during Hagba. This point bothered the Ketzos HaShulchan, HaRav Avraham Chaim Naeh ז’ל

Rav Chaim Naeh ז’ל (wikipedia)

who wrote in his בדי השלחן, אות נ’ה in סימן כה

Why didn’t the Admor (Ba’al HaTanya) mention the imperative to bow in his Siddur? Furthermore, it isn’t mentioned in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch either. We (Chabad?) also don’t have a custom to bow …. I haven’t seen anyone raise this issue. Later on, I saw that in R’ Ya’akov Emden’s Siddur (Yaavetz) on the word לכרוע, R’ Emden refers us to the Shyorei Knesses HaGedola, but I (R’ Chaim Naeh) don’t have that Sefer with me to look into the matter.

To be continued.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

3 thoughts on “What should we be doing during the lifting of the Torah (Part 2)”

  1. On a related plane, in some shuls or batei medrash there is a ‘scramble to ‘kiss’ the mantel of the sefer Torah as it is brought from the Aron hakodesh to the bimah and vice-versa.
    The Shulchan Aruch does not mention anything about such a conduct but does suggest that one shoud face the sefer Torah as it is lead around. Nothing is mentioned about bowing, though, for example many do have the minhag that with the chazzan they bow when he announces “Gad’lu l’ashem…u’neramamoh shemo…” prior to its procession to the bimah.
    Incidentily, having spent a while in 770 I never saw the Rebbe kiss the sefer Torah, only face it and touch it as it passed him.


    1. There is no Mitzvah to kiss a Mezuza either. It is not Halacha, neither is it “wrong”.
      Leading around a Sefer Torah, is a questionable practice. Some Acharonim are of the opinion that it should never be led around Anglo style (eg Tzitz Eliezer).
      It certainly does mention bowing! I quote it. I’ll say more about that in my next post. The issue of “bowing” before Gadlu is also interesting. The Torah should be raised at that time. I surmise that this may have been difficult for some so they simulated it by lowering themselves.


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