What should we be doing during the lifting of the Torah (Part 4)

There are three previous blogs posts, (one, two and three), if you’ve read this far. Some of which have generated useful dialogue להגדיל תורה ולהדירה.

I received an email from a good friend and Talmid Chacham in Yerusholayim תִּבּנה ותכונן במהרה בימינו אמן who said that he liked what I had written but felt that I may be accused of seeing it in the Piskei Tshuvos of Rav Ben Tzion Rabinowitz שליט’’א, the son-in-law of the Biala Rebbe. I responded that I hadn’t seen the Piskei Tshuvos, and would take a look next time I walked in the Chabad Kollel. Ironically, I knew I had some Piskei Tshuvos in my library, but it had been such a while that I had looked into this very useful Sefer, that I had forgotten that I had the chapter on these particular Halachos (let alone learnt them)! I had thought I only had the ones on Yomim Tovim and Shabbos. I guess it’s a combination of ageing not so gracefully coupled with too many seforim in my library that I don’t open often enough.

I immediately wrote back, noting sheepishly that I actually owned that Piskei Tshuvos and would look into what was written on the topic.

The Piskei Tshuvos states in Chelek Beis, page 203, אות ד.

The Mishna B’rura סקי’’ט notes that that it seems that that Hagbah is more Mitzvah/important than Gelila, and therefore whoever does the Hagbah gives the Gelila to someone else, and based on this it is written in סעיף קטן ה that the Gemora in Megilla (32a) that the Golel (the roller of the Sefer Torah) takes the reward of all those who preceded him, refers to the person who does Hagba.

And the explanation of this [strange thing, how can the Gemora say Gelila is the higher reward and yet the Mishna Brura seems to contradict this and say that the Gemora (also) means the person who does Hagba, claims R’ Rabinowitz] is there was an original Minhag [among everyone], and that is the Minhag of the Sefardim until this day, that Hagbah is done before we layn, and after layning, another person rolls the Sefer Torah up, and closes/locks it (and they don’t bind it with a belt as we are accustomed to) and [then] it is lifted up and taken back to the Ark, and this second closing, is done by a different person to the first. The Gemora in Megila therefore states בפשיטות that the Golel, that is the last person to handle the Sefer Torah after the layning [as there is no open Hagbah at that point, takes the (final) last reward over everyone else.

However, the custom of the [latter-day] Ashkenazim has two differences from the above original practice. Firstly the open (expanded) Hagbah takes place after the layning, and secondly, the Hagbah is done by one person, and the Gelila is done by a second person, and the main honour in such a scenario is for the person who does Hagbah [because it’s impossible to say that the person who raps the belt and puts on the coat on is really the Golel [my note: they are simply dressing the Sefer Torah and not rolling it up] given that the person who lifts and shows the Torah to everyone and everyone stands to honour it is surely deserving of the greater honour.

However, since the language of the Gemora [in reconciliation with this later Ashkenazic practice] suggests that the person rolling the Torah gets the greater reward, there exists a custom that the person who does the Hagbah lifts the Sefer Torah and then that same person places the Sefer Torah back onto the Bima and rolls it up [so he also does Gelila] and he then sits down, and another person dresses the Torah.

R’ Rabinowitz then seeks the source of this minhag that the person who does Hagba also does Gelila and traces this (in subnote 13) to a Minhag Chabad and then he states

It appears to me that this minhag (of Chabad) must have been something also practiced by others in earlier generations, as noted by the Aruch Hashulchan

This comment surprises me. The Aruch Hashulchan explicitly states that he saw this Minhag himself seemingly for the first time. Now, while the Aruch Hashulchan was a well-known Navardoker, and they were far away from Chassidus, let alone Chassidus Chabad, the first place that the Aruch Hashulchan was Rav was actually in a town largely/mostly populated by Lubavitcher Chassidim. I don’t know how R’ Rabinowitz missed this factoid, and used the Aruch Hashulchan’s observation of Minhag Chabad to assume that it is an older Minhag. It may well be an older Minhag (preceding Chabad), but the sources brought are not conclusive.

Indeed, the Aruch Hashulchan comments that he cannot understand why young children were given Gelila presumably in Navardok  given that Gelila was so important (according to the Gemora). I don’t understand his question. It is clear that in former times, the Golel was considered the one with the biggest honour because Gelila happened before layning. (see the ב’’ח, quoting the שלטי הגבברים) and hence coupled with that, his was the greater honour. Who says then that the person that rolls up the Sefer Torah has the biggest reward in circumstances where that minhag had already ceased! I believe it had ceased by that stage.

Finally, R’ Rabinowitz quotes ארחות רבינו recording practices and views of the Chazon Ish, that the latter held that in our days the reward applied to both the Magbia and the Golel.

Anyway, be it what it may, my original question was why we do not seem to see people bowing when the Hagba takes place. I’m told that some, like the famous Rav Shraya Deblitzki שליט’’א considers it a Davar Pashut that one should bow and it is common in בני ברק.

It seems to be the standard original text as I have noted in previous posts.

My point was and remains that as per the original Minhag (and as followed by Sefardim today) that Hagbah occurred before the layning, and people approached to see the actual words of the Torah from whence the portion would be read, and that the people bowed as they approached the Torah’s shining letters. It seems to me, therefore, irrespective of whether does Hagba+Gelila at once followed by dressing the Torah as per Chabad and other Chassidim after layning, or whether one sees the common Ashkenazic practice of one person doing Hagba after layning followed by a different person doing the Gelila, that if one is close enough to actually see the lettering, one ought to bow.

It remains a mystery to me why this particular practice seems to have dissipated and yet everyone has picked up the curiously less sourced practice of showing a little finger.

One thing is for sure, the Piskei Tshuvos, while interesting and informative as always, certainly didn’t address the topic I was raising or my supposition about why the practice has dissipated, as claimed by my friend in Yerusholayim.

PS. In my opinion, in places where one person does Hagba and Gelila, the second person shouldn’t be called up as a Golel. He is not! He does an important thing: he dresses the Torah, and this can be done by a minor, but it certainly isn’t rolling up the Torah!

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have nought to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

2 thoughts on “What should we be doing during the lifting of the Torah (Part 4)”

  1. “Now, while the Aruch Hashulchan was a well-known Navardoker”

    Your link connected to the word Navardoker leads to a page about the Novhardok mussar Yeshiva movement. The Aruch Hashulchan was not a Novhardoker in that sense. Rather, he was one in the sense of being Rav there. He was not a talmid of the Novhardoker mussar Yeshiva.

    Like

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