What Is A Gabbai?

Gabbai (pl. gabbaim) is an Aramaic word that means tax collector, but today a gabbai is someone who assists with the reading of the Torah.

Gabbai (pl. gabbaim) is an Aramaic word that means tax collector, but today a gabbai is someone who assists with the reading of the Torah. Typically, when the Torah is taken out to be read before the community, one person reads the Torah, and that person is surrounded on either side with two gabbaim who ensure that the Torah is being read and treated respectfully and accurately. One of the gabbaim also assigns aliyot (plural of aliyah, being called up to the Torah) to the members of the congregation, and calls up the people who are being honored with aliyot.

In many communities the gabbai is charged with making sure that all synagogue services run smoothly, a logistical job that can be a lot of work. In other communities, the gabbai collects money for the synagogue. It is considered an honor and a great responsibility to be the gabbai, or one of the gabbaim, in any community.

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