From the Desk - Hagbah
Shalom Friends and a very Happy Chanukah to everyone! I hope you are enjoying the holiday. You can find the Beth Ora guide to lighting the candles here. For those of you who have young children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, it's important to make sure that our kids don't get spoiled amidst all the presents and delicious foods. Being grateful is an important value in Judaism! You can find ideas and guidance on this in my Aish.com article 5 Ways to Stop Your Kids Getting Spoiled this Chanukah. We are very excited for our Chanukah celebrations this weekend! We have a wonderful and joyous Friday night program planned, beginning with an uplifting Shabbat service and culminating in a beautiful catered meal! You can find details of the timing for Friday night activities here. And if you have a child, grandchild or great grandchild in Montreal, aged between 4 and 12, be sure to join us for the Menorah lighting, pizza and movie after Shabbat, at 6:15 pm. In addition to Chanukah, the seasonal development on everyone's mind (those of us not in Florida) is the snow! This inspiring video brings both themes together in discussing Chanukah and the Amazing Miracle of Snow.
Wishing you all Chnaukah Sameach and Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Hagbah? Hagbah is the term we use to refer to the opening and lifting of the Sefer Torah at the end of the Torah reading. In preparing this piece, I benefited from an article written by Rabbi Dr Ari Zivotofsky. The first thing to note is that, whilst the lifting and dressing of the Torah are sometimes seen to be less important honors than the reading of blessings over the Torah, our classical sources indicate otherwise. Authorities in Jewish law cite a Talmudic statement that hagbah is given to the most distinguished member of the congregation! In earlier times, the dressing of the Torah was either given to the most prominent synagogue members or to the most important rabbi in the city! The earliest detailed description of hagbah is found in an 8th century text called Masechet Sofrim. It states that the Torah scroll is rolled open until three columns are visible and then lifted and shown to people on all sides. It is a mitzvah for all of the men and women to see the text and bow. The second interesting hagbah fact is that the original practice was to do hagbah before the Torah reading. This is how Sephardim and some chassidim do it today but Beth Ora follows the predominant Ashkenazi practice of doing it after the Torah reading. The reason why Ashkenazim do it at the end of the service is that some ignorant people thought that seeing the Torah text was more important than hearing it and would therefore leave the synagogue after hagbah and miss the Torah reading. Hagbah was moved to the end of the Torah reading to make sure people stayed to hear the reading of the Torah portion! Why do we do hagbah? The source may well be a story in the Book of Nechemiah. Many Jews had returned from the Babylonian exile. Ezra and Nechemiah were the leaders of the Jewish community and they sought to inspire a religious revival. Ezra read from the Torah and, after the reading was completed, Ezra opened the book of the Torah so all the people could see, and all the people stood. In order to ensure that everyone sees the words in the Torah, Masechet Sofrim states that the Torah should be shown in all directions and this is stipulated in Jewish law. How many columns should be opened during hagbah? As mentioned above, Masechet Sofrim says the Sefer Torah is to be opened until three columns are revealed, which implies three, and no more. Indeed, the important 17th century authority, Magen Avraham, suggests that three is the precise number of columns that need to be shown, not just a minimum. Many authorities of Jewish law concur. On the other hand, one of the most influential texts of Jewish law, the Mishnah Berurah, maintains that three may be the minimum and the maximum depends on the strength of the person who is lifting the Torah. The most important consideration is that all this is to honor the Sefer Torah and shouldn't distract from or overshadow the importance of the Torah reading itself!