Monday, August 04, 2008

The Too-Many-Leviyim Lament, round 2 & counting

Let's start with a definition of terms, for latecomers who are trying to catch up--I'll highlight the beginning of rest of this post in green, for those who wish to skip this part:

Cohen (plural--Cohanim) = descendant of the priests of the Tent of Meeting in the Wilderness and, later Temple priests, with other duties in other parts of the ancient Land of Israel; entitled to only the first aliyah in traditional synagogues

Levi/Levite (plural--Leviyim, Leviim) = descendant of a Cohen's assistant in the Tent of Meeting in the Wilderness, assigned to carry the parts of the Tent of Meeting from one location to another; later, assistants in the Temple (best known as Temple singers), with other duties in other parts of the ancient Land of Israel; entitled to only the second aliyah in traditional synagogues

Yisrael (Israel) = everyone who's neither a Cohen nor a Levi

Designation as Cohen, Levi, or Yisrael is passed down by one's father.

Aliyah = (plural--aliyot)=honor of reading a section from the sefer Torah or having it read to him).

Mafir ("additional") = an unofficial aliyah given to honor the person chanting the haftarah/Prophetic reading)

Magbia= person who ceremonially lifts the sefer Torah

Golel = person who rolls closed, ties, and, in Ashkenazi and other synagogues that use a simla/"dress"/cloth cover, as opposed to a hard case as a cover, "dresses" the scroll

Darn, I should have thought to try Wikipedia before I did all this yakking--they explain the Torah reading quite nicely.

As I mentioned previously, our local synagogue is a bit heavy on Leviyim.

Under the circumstances, my husband would get gray hair from trying to assign aliyot if he weren't gray-haired already. Here's the line-up from this past Shabbat/Sabbath, as best I recollect:

The local Leviyim (including a father and his two teenaged sons) ended up, for lack of an alternative, with three aliyot, Maftir, and magbia for the first sefer Torah. The Yisrael who had the seventh aliyah was also magbia for the second sefer Torah, and the Yisrael who had the third aliyah was also magbia for the second sefer Torah.

The line-up wasn't nearly as upsetting as hearing someone's cell phone ring while he was on the bima (pulpit, prayer "stage," whatever). Yes, this was on Shabbat. I would say that there are some drawbacks to attending a shul in which not all the congregants are particularly observant, but since I, myself, take the subway to my favorite synagogue on Shabbat, which is also forbidden, I suppose I can't talk.


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