Hagbah & Gelilah

Raising and dressing the Torah.

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However, having one person responsible for both holding the Torah and tying the binder around the scroll could be fraught with hazard and presumably led to the decision to share the honor between two people. Although these activities do not require the recitation of a blessing, hagbah and gelilah are considered religiously significant roles. Some Rabbis viewed the honor of gelilah as having the spiritual reward of all the aliyot combined, and thus this task was traditionally reserved for the most distinguished members of the congregation. Over time, hagbah became the more coveted task.

In Western Sephardic congregations there were special groups of individuals--levantadores ("master lifters" of the scroll)--who were exclusively honored with the role of hagbahso as to minimize the danger of dropping the scroll or handling it in a degrading way. In modern Sephardic congregations, gelilahis generally performed by one of the gabbaim standing on either side of the Torah reader.

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Ronald L. Eisenberg

Ronald L. Eisenberg, a radiologist and non-practicing attorney, is the author of numerous books, including The Jewish World in Stamps.