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 "Honors" during Torah Reading at the Synagogue
Reform Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

In some families there seems to be no end to the number of people who want and deserve honors at the bar mitzvah. Luckily, there are many parts to give out. Whether some or all the following ideas can be put in place is up to each synagogue. (But it’s worth a shot.)

Aliyot: 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.

Your synagogue may balk at this idea, but an aliyah can be as little as three verses. The number of aliyot can be expanded if each aliyah is shortened or divided. Problem is, the blessings before and after the aliyah and the journey from cushy synagogue seat to bima all take time, lengthening the service and dragging 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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