From the Desk - Pointing the Pinky Finger at the Torah
Shalom Friends! I hope you and your families are well. Sadly, our week began with the terrible terrorist attack in Israel in which four young people were murdered. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed and with those who were injured. We pray that there should be an end to these tragedies and that Hashem will bless the Jewish People and all humanity with peace. Every human being is a world, each with his or her unique qualities and contributions to the world. I found this article about Erez Orbach, one of the young men who was murdered, to be very moving. Last Shabbat, in synagogue, I talked about the importance of feeling a kinship with the Jewish People, both those who are alive and those of previous and future generations. Click here to read an article by actor Kirk Douglas on how his Jewish identity was deepened when he developed a sense of connection to his ancestors. We wish our condolences, this week, to Denise Siegman on the loss of her sister, Renée Sasportas. May Denise and her family be comforted and may she and we only know happy times in the future. Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with...Pointing the Pinky Finger at the Torah This week’s question is from Marvin Braude from Florida, USA. This is an interesting question. We have seen that, in synagogues around the world, congregants point their pinky toward the Torah scroll during hagbah, when the Sefer Torah is opened and lifted for all to see. It is remarkable, given the widespread nature of this practice, that there is virtually no source for the custom. It seems that the earliest source for this is the 18th century Sephardic authority, Rabbi Yaakov Culi in his book, Me’am Lo’ez. Whilst Rabbi Culi does cite the custom, he does not provide any explanation or background. Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg, a leading rabbi of the last generation, did suggest an explanation for the custom. Rabbi Sheinberg explained that the pinky represents humility. Reaching out to the Torah with our pinkie indicates that we should try to understand the Torah with the utmost humility. Although there seems to be very few sources specifying that one should point one’s pinky toward the Torah during hagbah, there are sources here and there which state that pointing at the Torah during hagbah is a good practice. Some of these sources specify that one should use the index finger of the right hand. This pointing is linked with the idea of the Torah pointer, the yad (literally hand), which has an extended finger indicating the place in the scroll. So if pointing with the pinky is a largely unexplained custom, what are the more important things to be concerned with during hagbah? The Code of Jewish Law stipulates that it is a mitzvah for all men and women to see the written text of the Torah, to bow, and to say the verse, ‘Vezot haTorah…’ (‘This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Children of Israel, according to Hashem, through the hand of Moses’). Interestingly, the halakhic authorities explain that this verse is only to be said upon seeing the actual text of the Sefer Torah. Kaballistic sources teach that reading the words of the Torah from the scroll during hagbah can be spiritually beneficial.