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!

What should we be doing during the lifting of the Torah (Part 3)

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

There is a Gemora in Kiddushin 33B, after discussing the laws of standing up for an Talmid Chacham asks whether one needs to stand up for a Sefer Torah. The Gemora answers (with incredulity) that it’s obvious one stands for a Sefer Torah, a fortiori. If one stands for those who learn Torah, surely one must stand for the Torah itself!

The Shiltei Hagiborim (1500’s) has a commentary on the Rif (14B) on this Gemora where he quotes the Riaz, ריא’’ז, a Rishon from the (1200’s). The Riaz states that the Gemora is giving license to stand before a Sefer Torah, but not to prostrate oneself (להשתחוות) in front of the Sefer Torah. He goes onto further state that we have not seen anywhere in Torah that we prostrate ourselves, except in front of the Aron HaKodesh. Prostrating is the act of going down completely and extending one’s feet and hands (as we do on Yom Kippur during certain parts of Musaf) as opposed to לכרוע to bow (eg one’s head or head and back)

The Riaz, seeing that he is a Rishon, could also possibly be interpreted to imply that is not be comfortable with bowing either. If so, then this might be a source to prohibit bowing during Hagbah and perhaps explains why we don’t seem to see bowing at Hagbah much.

The Riaz is discussed at length in the Chida’s (1700’s) Birkei Yosef, Orach Chaim 144:3 who quotes the Knesses Hagedola in Yoreh Deah רפ’’ב. One implication from that discussion is that we don’t follow the Riaz, and people do prostrate themselves (I mentioned the Maharil in the earlier post, as an example). The Birkei Yosef states that it’s impossible: even if we follow the Riaz, that the Halacha should be interpreted as also forbidding mere bowing, this contradicts the Gemora in Sofrim (as quoted in Shulchan Aruch) where it clearly states that we do bow.

Normally, we don’t pay halachic attention to the Ramban on Chumash (as this is his Drush) and defer to his Sifrei Halacha (eg תורת האדם) for Halacha, but on Parshas Ki Savo on the words “אשר לא יקום” the Ramban explicitly quotes Sofrim that one does a bow to a Sefer Torah during Hagba and says וכן נוהגין … and this is the Minhag. Accordingly, the Chida states that the Riaz is not at all discussing the issue of bowing during Hagba when the Sefer Torah is open, rather, the Riaz refers to a situation where the Torah is closed and clothed and someone wishes to fully prostrate themselves.

In his own Sefer לדוד עבדו on Hilchos Krias Shma, the Chida states 4:3 this clearly להלכה

אין לכרוע ולומר וזאת התורה אלא כשהספר תורה פתוח נגדו ואז יכרע נגד הכתב ויאמר וזאת התורה

One should not bow and say Vezos HaTorah until the Sefer Torah has been opened up in front of him and then he should bow towards the lettering and say Vzos HaTorah

In the Sefer Chesed Loalofim (135:4) the author, R’ Eliezer Papo, (late 1700’s) who is famous for his Sefer Pele Yoetz, states that the Mitzvah to bow as per the Chida, is for both men and women, and

ומצווה לנשק הספר תורה

It’s a Mitzvah to kiss the Sefer Torah.

So where are we? Most communities that I have seen rush to the Sefer Torah and kiss it when it is brought out, and yet, despite all the evidence and opinions, I haven’t seen anyone bow during Hagba.

Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank also wrote in his commentary on the Tur (134)

I have seen many people are not careful about this (bowing during Hagba) and I do not know on what basis they are not bowing until I saw the Shiltei Hagiborim (ad loc) This, however, contradicts the Shulchan Aruch as stated, and isn’t how others have understood the Riaz. Furthermore, based on the Zohar, those who say Brich Shmei explicitly say דסגידנא קמיה which means that we definitely do bow to the Torah.

Now, I haven’t done a comprehensive search on the Bar Ilan CD and there may be much more to this. After all, it seems that in Ashkenazi Shules people don’t bow. If people don’t do something there is likely to be a good reason. Jews have a habit of doing the right thing. There are at least two possibilities to explain this conundrum:

  • the halacha is like the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, as I mentioned in the earlier post, where he would Pasken like the Siddur Derech HaChaim from the Chavas Daas or
  • the halacha remains that one does need to bow, but people have become lax

I’d like to suggest, though, a different reason why this practice isn’t seen much now. I believe that it centers on how one reads the words of the authoritative Siddur Derech Hachaim who writes in 134

שמצווה על כל האנשים לראות הכתב, ויש מדקדקים לראות האותיות עד שיכול לקרותם ולכרוע

It is a mitzvah to see the lettering (of the Sefer Torah during Hagbah) and there are those who are careful to see the letters to the extent that they can (actually) read the words and bow

In my opinion, the simple meaning is that it’s not those who are careful who bow (period), rather it’s those who are careful to get close enough to read the letters who should bow. I believe that this was natural at the time of the Gemora when they did Hagba before Layning, and like the Sephardim either carried an open Sefer Torah around the Shule pointing to the spot where they were going to begin the layning, or stood up close to the people in front of the Aron with the Sefer Torah open as everyone filed past and approached. I certainly saw this happening in Sephardi shules where I davened. I didn’t notice the bowing, but I did notice the better accessibility that everyone had to actually seeing the lettering of the Sefer Torah, and as per my reading of the Siddur Derech Chaim, would be obliged to bow as per the Shulchan Aruch based on Maseches Sofrim.

Ashkenazim, however, do Hagbah now differently. The Torah is lifted up in a fairly brisk manner and rotated 360 degrees after leyning. Unless you are on the Bima, or very close, it’s nigh on impossible to make out the actual lettering from one’s seat, and perhaps in such a situation one does not bow. My understanding is that bowing is intrinsically linked to seeing the words, which Holy Seforim tell us emit their own special light.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, however, perhaps read the Siddur Derech Chaim differently. I assume that he held that מדקדקין was a general statement that the concept of bowing was only for the punctilious, and his Kitzur Shulchan Aruch wasn’t in the business of noting down anything other than the mainstream. For this reason, he perhaps omitted the need to bow.

That’s my understanding. I’d be interested in hearing other opinions, or practices in other Shules around the world. I’m told that R’ Chaim Kanievsky and others treat it as a דבר פשוט that one should bow. When I asked R’ Schachter, he also said that it’s a דין in Shulchan Aruch and should be kept, and people simply aren’t aware.

PS. Related to Hagbah, if you perform it in a Chabad Shule, where you are meant to lift, rotate and then place the Torah back on the Bima and roll it up before sitting down, the person who dresses the Torah is not doing Gelila, and in my opinion shouldn’t be described as such in the Misheberach. Using the Chabad method, the person who does Hagba also does Gelila! The second honour, is “dressing the Torah”. Does anyone know the source for this variation of Hagba, by the way?

PPS. While looking at the Shiltei Hagiborim, I noticed that he suggests that an Avel should not write (הריני כפרת משכבו (הכ’’מ after their father and instead should write ז’ל because one’s writing lasts longer than a year of Aveylus. Instead, one should only say it in speech. Ce la vie. I’ve written it now three times for this post.

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.

What should we be doing during the lifting of the Torah (Part 1)

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

The lifting of the Torah is known as Hagba, הגבהת התורה. It has become quite accepted, in Ashkenzi circles to point one’s little finger at the sight of the Torah’s lettering; some kiss their little finger afterward. This custom of pointing at the lettering of the Torah, is of Sephardic origin (Meam Loez (Ki Savo, 27:26)). Lifting the Torah is different to rolling the Torah גלילה. The rolling occurs twice: once when the Torah is rolled open to at least three columns, before it is swung around for all to see by the מגביה, and then rolled closed, when the Torah is re-dressed, with its covering mantle and any other adorning silverware.

An early source describing this process is found in Maseches Sofrim. This tractate forms one of the minor tractates of the Talmud (another Minor Tractate is Avos D’ Rabi Noson) and is considered to contain the laws as per the Yerushalmi (as opposed to Babylonian) tradition. Although it is a minor tractate, some Halachos, such as making a Bracha before reading the Megilla, are only found there, and are considered accepted Halacha. It is widely held that this tractate was written between the 6th and 8th centuries by the Geonim, that is, prior to the period of the Rishonim. An example of an early Rishon, is Dunash Ben Labrat, who apparently studied under R’ Saadya Gaon and who is quoted by Rashi (himself a Rishon). In other words, these minor tractates were edited based on practical halachos following soon after the time of the Amoraim and Savoraim. Savoraim are mentioned in the Talmud Bavli (for example Rav Achai) and some contend that the Savoraim put together the final touches of the Talmud, as we know it today. Either way, Minor Tractates such as Sofrim were compiled very soon after and are therefore re-printed at the back of many editions of the Talmud. They have a more halachic feel to them, and are more “ordered” than a standard Masechta of the Bavli.

There is another smaller minor tractate dealing with the same laws of a Sefer Torah, known as Masechta Sefer Torah. The Gaon R’ Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim Kanievski (nephew of the Chazon Ish, son of the Steipler Gaon, and son-in-law of R’ Elyashiv) completes a siyum on the entire Torah, including Tanach, Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi, Midrash, Shulchan Aruch, and Rambam each year on Erev Pesach, claims that the Minor Masechta of Sefer Torah preceded Maseches Sofrim, and the latter is simply an expanded version of the former.

In general, Sefardim and the original Chassidim of Israel, perform Hagbah before the reading of the Torah. The Torah is, in the case of Sefardim, a type of enclosing box, and is opened up and sometimes taken around the entire Shule. Everyone approached to see the letters of the Torah. The Aruch Hashulchan claims that there is a special light that emanates from the letters of the Torah (for those who are worthy of receiving such light). Often a Yad, a pointer is used to show the start point from which the Baal Koreh will read the portion of the week. The Aruch Hashulchan claimed ad loc. that in the times of the Gemora this was also the prevalent custom: to perform Hagba before Layning. Ashkenazim, who have a different enclosure for the Sefer Torah, two Amudim/Atzei Chaim (wooden rollers) and a material “coat”, now perform the Hagbah after layning. Some sephardim do another Hagba after layning, but the Sefer Torah is not taken around at that time and is merely lifted and rotated. I saw this practice in the Sefardi Shule in Singapore, for example.

The description of Maseches Sofrim )14:7 (the edited version from Kisvei Yad by Dr Michael Higer) for Hagba is as follows:

 מיד גולל ספר תורה עד שלשה תפין, ומגביהו ומראה פני כתיבתו לעם העומדים לימינו ולשמאלו, ומחזירו לפניו ולאחריו. שמצוה על כל אנשים ונשים לראות הכתב ולכרוע

Immediately he rolls open the Sefer Torah until three columns are visible, and he reveals/shows the lettering to the people who stand to his left and right, and then he swivels to show it to those behind and in front of him, because there is a Mitzvah for both men and women to see the lettering and to bow.

The wording in the Maseches Sofrim is repeated almost verbatim by the Mechaber (R’ Yosef Karo) in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 137.

מראה פני כתיבת ספר תורה לעם העומדים לימינו ולשמאלו ומחזירו לפניו ולאחריו שמצוה על כל אנשים ונשים לראות הכתב ולכרוע ולומר וזאת התורה וגו’ תורת ה’ תמימה וגו’.
הגה: ונהגו לעשות כן אחר שקראו בתורה אבל כשמוציאין אותו אומר השליח ציבור גדלו והקהל אומרים רוממו כו’ אב הרחמים הוא ירחם עם עמוסים וכו’ ויש אומרים לומר על הכל יתגדל (מסכת סופרים פרק י”ג וטור ומהרי”ל) וכן נוהגים ביום טוב ובשבת ויש להחזיק התורה בימין (מהרי”ל). וכשעולה הראשון לקרות אומרים ברוך שנתן תורה כו’ (כל בו)
הלכות קריאת ספר תורה

Now, I don’t recall seeing anybody bow during Hagba, whether they be Sefardim or Ashkenazim. Have you? The Ramo on the spot, does not mention, for example, “and it is not our custom to bow” or anything of that sort.

The question is now obvious: what has happened to the custom of bowing, as recorded in the earliest source of Maseches Sofrim and brought LeHalacha in Shulchan Aruch by the Mechaber?

To be continued in Part 2.

or in Chabad Style (where the person dressing the Torah is described as performing Gelila (which I believe is incorrect, but more on that later)