Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Not my favorite minhag (custom)

I learned as a child that it's customary to turn to face the sefer Torah (scroll of the Bible's Five Books of Moses) as it's being carried around the room at the beginning and end of Hotzaat HaTorah (roughly, the Torah service). I think it's unfortunate that, in some synagogues, it's also customary for congregants to shake the hands of those circling the room with the sefer Torah. Speaking of skewed priorities, I find that custom a bit disrespectful. Since the sefer Torah is always carried at the head of the procession, shaking the hands of those escorting it requires one to turn one's back to the Torah! It seems to me that the escort is being honored only secondarily--in my opinion, the primary function of those escorting the Torah is to serve as an honor guard for the Torah. One can always shake the hand of an escort after the Torah procession.

I won't turn my back on the sefer Torah to shake the hands of the people walking behind it (unless I know that the "escort" is a person who's likely to be insulted). As it says in the siddur (prayer book), ". . . t'nu chavod laTorah, . . . give honor to the Torah."

On the other hand, I'm occasionally guilty of using the Torah processional as an opportunity to talk to my neighbors in the surrounding seats, seventh-inning-stretch style. Perfect, I'm not.


Blogger Unknown said...

We shake when they come back down off the bema...whenever that is. Not when they're walking around.

Wed May 07, 11:59:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that the talking when the Torah is coming around is irritating. I do make an effort to be quiet and of course I am guilty of a little chit chatting but in general I prefer to sing and watch.

One thing that bugs the heck out of me though is when it's time to kiss the torah as it comes around and people don't move into the aisles to let you get by.

Wed May 07, 03:19:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Z, I agree that the right time to shake the honorees' hands is after the honorees come down from the bima.

Wed May 07, 03:27:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Tamaraeden, I, too, generally try to behave and sing instead of yakking, not always successfully.

We try to make room so that everyone can kiss the Torah. But I'll admit that it's easier now that we're in a smaller building with a smaller sanctuary, and the rows don't have so many seats. Given my preference, I'd rather have a congregation large enough to support a larger building. So, on the plus side, the fact that people are blocking your way to the Torah is a sign that there are enough people to block your way.

Wed May 07, 04:09:00 PM 2008  

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