How to have an Aliyah to the Torah

It is a great honor to be given an aliyah when the Torah is read in the synagogue, and it is important to fulfill this mitzvah (commandment) with dignity, both out of respect for God and Torah, and out of respect for the congregation, on whose behalf you will be blessing the Torah. Hence it is important to be familiar with the ritual of the aliyah and practice reciting the blessing aloud prior to the occasion, if the blessing is not familiar to you. Here you will find a complete description to help you. Please keep in mind that there are variations in custom in different congregations, and it is appropriate to follow minhag ha-makom (the custom of the place in which you are). Please also note that the term "aliyah" refers not only to the honor of being called to bless the Torah, but to the section of text which is read between the blessings you will recite.

In most congregations, it is customary to wear a tallit when called to the Torah.

1. YOU ARE CALLED TO THE TORAH

You will be told in advance what number your aliyah is. There are generally seven aliyot on Shabbat morning. Come forward to the Torah reading table as soon as you are called, using the shortest route possible.

2. FIND THE PLACE

The reading will open the scroll and show you where s/he will begin reading. Take the tzitzit (corner fringes of the tallit) and touch them to the word the reader points out and kiss the tzitzit. The reader will close the scroll and the gabbaim may or may not cover the scroll.

3. HOLD THE EITZ CHAYIM

When reciting the Torah, it is customary (and your privilege) to hold the bottom ends of the wooden rollers, one in each hand.

4. RECITE THE FIRST BLESSING

Click here to listen to this sung by Cantor Kenneth B. Cohen of Temple Sholom, Greenwich, CT.
Download QuickTime

You say:

BA-RE-CHU ET A-DO-NAI HA-ME-VO-RACH.

Congregation responds:

BA-RUCH A-DO-NAI HA-ME-VO-RACH L'O-LAM VA-ED.

You say:

BA-RUCH A-DO-NAI HA-ME-VO-RACH L'O-LAM VA-ED.

BA-RUCH A-TA A-DO-NAI, E-LO-HAY-NU ME-LECH HA-O-LAM, A-SHER BA-CHAR BA-NU MI-KOL HA-A-MIM V'NA-TAN LA-NU ET TO-RA-TO. BA-RUCH A-TA A-DO-NAI NO-TAYN HA-TO-RA.

Praise the Lord, to whom our praise is due!
Praise be the Lord, to whom our praise is due now and for ever!
Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has chosen us from all peoples by giving us the Torah. Blessed is the Lord, Giver of the Torah.

5. THE READER READS

While the reader reads, you may be asked to hold one of the wooden rollers, to keep the scroll open. You are welcome to look into the scroll while the reader reads. That is your privilege.

6. THE SECOND BLESSING

When the reader finishes reading the aliyah, s/he will point out the last word with the yad (pointer). Take the tzitzit in your hand, touch them to this word, and kiss them. Then recite this blessing:

Click here to listen to this sung by Cantor Kenneth B. Cohen of Temple Sholom, Greenwich, CT.
Download QuickTime

BA-RUCH A-TA A-DO-NAI E-LO-HAY-NU ME-LECH HA-O-LAM, A-SHER NA-TAN LA-NU TO-RAT E-MET V'CHA-YAI O-LAM NA-TA B'TO-CHAY-NU. BA-RUCH A-TA A-DO-NAI NO-TAYN HA-TO-RA.

Blessed is the Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has given us a Torah of truth, implanting within us eternal life. Blessed is the Lord, Giver of the Torah.

7. AFTER THE BLESSINGS

When you have completed the second blessing, move to the other side of the reader to make room for the next person called to the Torah. Having blessed the Torah, you are now honored with being invited to stay at the reading table for the next aliyah. At this time, or perhaps after the next aliyah, or even after all the aliyot, one of the gabbaim (the people at the reading table who assist the reader) will read a prayer called a Mi Shebeirach ("The One Who Blessed..."). If this is done while you are standing at the reading table, you will be asked for your Hebrew name, which may be given in the form: [Your name] ben/bat [your mother's name] and [your father's name]. You may use the name of only one parent if you so choose. When the next aliyah is completed, you may return to your seat. It is customary to take a longer route back to your seat than that which you took to ascend to the bima, signifying your reluctance at leaving the Torah.


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