What To Do On The Bimah

How To Take Part in Torah Service Rituals

When you enter the sanctuary, it is customary for men to wear a kippah (skullcap). Many men and women wear a tallit (prayer shawl). Loaners are available in racks at the back of the room, near the entry doors. All persons who are invited up on the bimah must wear a kippah. Those who are “called to the Torah” to offer blessings before and after a Torah reading are expected to wear a tallit.

Presenting a Tallit:

Usually the parent(s), and sometimes a grandparent or other close adult, will present the bar/bat mitzvah with the tallit. While you may use a tallit from the temple collection, it is recommended that you purchase ahead of time one that will belong especially to your son or daughter and hold for them special meaning. You will be called to the bimah to present the tallit with your child. A short speech is appropriate addressing your child with your prayers for continued growth in knowledge and good works.

Opening the Ark:

Come up to the bimah when the rabbi calls you and step up to the Ark on the right hand side. When given the cue, pull the vertical rope to open the curtain and stand by the Ark while the congregation sings. When the song ends or when the Torah scroll has been removed from the ark, and you receive a cue: pull the rope to close the curtain and return to your seat.

Having an Aliyah or Being Called to the Torah to Chant Blessings:

From the congregation walk up to the leftward side of the reading table. Wrap one of the tzitzit (fringes) from your tallit around a finger and touch the fringe to the place in the Torah that the Torah reader points to. Kiss the tzitzit, Then, holding one or both spindle handles for the Torah scroll, recite the blessing in Hebrew,(see Music page for text and recording) then watch and listen to the Torah being chanted or read. When the reading is finished, touch the tzitzit in the same way as before to the place where the reading has ended, kiss the tzitzit again and recite the second blessing. Following this, the Gabbai (an official who will be standing beside you) will offer a blessing for you using your Hebrew name in the blessing. Be prepared to tell him your full Hebrew name, including the Hebrew names of your parents. Shake hands with the people nearby and move to the other side of the reading table so that you can serve as a witness for the next aliyah. Watch in the text until this reading is finished and the blessing after is sung. Then you may return to your seat. It it customary for anyone who has had a bimah honor to shake hands with the people near him or her and to receive congratulations while returning to his or her seat. Note: people having an aliyah will be called to the Torah by their Jewish names if they are Jewish and if the Gabbai has been given the Hebrew name in advance. Otherwise they will be called in sequence as Cohein (first), Levi (second). Shlishi (third), R’vii (fourth), Chamishi (fifth), Shishi (sixth), Sh’vii (seventh), Maftir (concluding).

Hagbahah and G’lilah:

Lifting and dressing the Torah–Come up to the bimah when called by the Gabbai. To lift the scroll, pull it toward you by the wooden spindles. Do a deep knee bend as you tip the scroll toward you, pivoting it on the edge of the reading table. When you have it in a vertical position, rise holding the scroll straight up. Turn so your back is to the congregation and the words of the scroll are visible to the congregants. Walk carefully up to the seat you are being directed toward, turn and sit. Those present will help dress it. Dressing the Torah–Come to the bimah when called by the Gabbai at the same time the Torah lifter is called. “Spot” him as he (usually he, because the scroll is heavy) lifts and carries the Torah so you could help catch the scroll if he should lose his balance. When the lifter is seated, help tighten the roll, by turning the top spindles. Wrap and fasten the Torah binder around the “waist” of the scroll. Gently set the mantle over the “heads” of the two top spindles till it settles like a garment around the scroll. the opening of the mantle should be in the back. Hang the breastplate on the top spindles so it lies against the front of the scroll.

Reading Torah:

Meet with the Rabbi in advance to go over your portion. Rabbi Panitz or Educator Kathryn Morton can help you master the reading, if you would like some help. On the day of the event, go forward as your aliyah is called. If you are doing the blessings, proceed as above. If someone else is doing the blessings, wait till the first blessing is finished, sing the word “Amein” and proceed reading from the scroll with the word that is pointed out to you by the previous reader, or by the rabbi. When you are finished, shake hands and accept congratulations as you return to your seat.