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 "Honors" During Torah Reading Services at the Synagogue
Orthodox Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

Honors to Share
Traditionally, male family members as well as family rabbis and the bar mitzvah boy spiritual mentors are honored during the services at the Synagogue, by participating in the ritual in one form or another, which includes leading the congregation in prayer, getting an Aliyah during the reading of the Torah, and more as described below.

When a family is small, or when only a few of the men are able or willing to participate, and the choices are clear, life is easy. However, in large, elaborate families, with grandparents,
uncles, brothers, choosing the "Honorees" can turn into a monumental challenge. Grandparents, are no-brainers, so to speak. Grandfathers from both sides of the family must be honored, as is the bar mitzvah boy's father and the child's spiritual mentor.

Depending on family dynamics, it may take some effort to remind everyone that the main objective of the day is to joyfully celebrate this wonderful rite of passage.

There are quite the number of "honors" possible at the bar mitzvah. Ask you rabbi whether the following ideas can be incorporated in the services.

Aliya: Calling up family and friends to chant the blessings before and after a part of the Torah is read is a longstanding custom. If they can read Hebrew, they can read part of the portion as well.

Each aliyah can be as short as three verses, and the number of aliyot can be expanded if each aliyah is shortened or divided. Not all rabbis agree to that, since the blessings before and after the aliyah and the journey from synagogue seat to bima take time, and thus lengthens the service and drags out the Torah reading.

P’tichah: Opening the Ark.  P’tichah is a particularly useful honor. On the one hand, it is considered a high honor, and yet it does not require any special knowledge of Hebrew.

Dressing the Torah: Placing the crown, breastplate and other adornments on the Torah is another Hebrew-free honor.

Carrying the Torah: After the Torah is removed from the ark, it is honored with a victory lap around the sanctuary. Congregants will touch the Torah’s mantle with a siddur, tallit fringe or hand, which they will then kiss, as a sign of reverence.

Hagbah: Lifting the Torah Once the Torah portion is completed, it is customary to hoist the Torah scroll high in the air, showing the congregation the parchment and script. Torahs are not light and lifting takes skill.

G’lilah: Tying the Torah A special binder is used to wrap the Torah scroll. In some communities a Torah tie, known as a wimple, was created from a newborn’s swaddling blanket and embroidered with the baby’s name and birth date. The was wimple personalized for the baby, used at the bar mitzvah service, and stored in the synagogue as a sort of membership archive.

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