Summary of laws of Kerias Hatorah

Summary of laws of Kerias Hatorah:[1] 

  1. The Mitzvah of Kerias Hatorah:
  • Moshe Rabbeinu established to read the Torah on Shabbos, Yom Tov, Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, and Monday’s and Thursday’s. Ezra established for the Torah to also be read on Mincha of Shabbos.
  • What to read: The widespread custom dating back many generations is to read one Parsha per week and arrange to finish the entire Chumash annually. The order of the reading for the Yomim Tovim corresponds to that Yom Tov.
  • Who is obligated: It is debated amongst the Poskim if Kerias Hatorah is an obligation upon the congregation or individual. Practically, every man is required to place effort to be present by the Torah reading and hear every single word. Women, however, are not obligated in hearing Kerias Hatorah.
  • When: The Torah reading may take place anytime throughout the day, until sunset. Nevertheless, initially, it is to be read during Davening, as established by the Sages.
  • No Torah available: One who could not hear the Torah reading with the Minyan is to read the Parsha to himself from within a Chumash.

 

  1. A Minyan:
  • Ten men who are paying attention: One may not read from the Torah [with its blessings] with less than ten adult men above the age of Mitzvos. At least ten men must be paying attention to the reading in order for the Minyan to be valid.
  • Lost Minyan: If one began the reading with a Minyan of ten men, and in the middle of the reading some of them left, leaving them without a Minyan, the remaining congregation is to complete the reading of the Torah if at least six people remain. One may continue calling up the remaining Aliyos with the blessings said before and after the reading. The Haftorah is to be read without a blessing before or afterwards. After the Torah reading, one may say half Kaddish.
  • How many people within the Minyan must not have yet heard Kerias Torah to be allowed to perform the reading? It is debated amongst the Poskim as to how many people is required to not have heard Kerias Hatorah, in order to be allowed to read it. Practically, the widespread custom is to require at least six people who have not heard the reading in order to recite Kerias Hatorah.
  • Bringing a Sefer Torah to a private Minyan: One may not bring a Sefer Torah from one area to another unless one of the following apply:
  • There are ten people who are unable to come to Shul due to reasons beyond their will.
  • There is a Gadol Betorah that is unable to come to Shul due to reasons beyond his will.
  • The Sefer Torah is set up in an ark some time prior to the Keria and remains there for one to two days, [and one reads from the Torah at least on three different occasions].

 

  1. Keil Erech Apayim:
  • When: The prayer of Keil Erech Apayim is recited on Mondays and Thursdays prior to taking out the Sefer The widespread custom is not to recite this prayer by Shacharis of fast days if it does not fall on a Monday or Thursday. It is never recited by Mincha of a of Monday or Thursday even if it is a fast day.
  • The prayer is not recited on days that Tachanun is omitted. Customarily, it is omitted if a Chasan is present.
  • Standing: The prayer of Keil Erech Apayim is to be recited standing.

 

  1. Opening the Aron and removing the Sefer Torah:
  • Direction: It makes no difference as to which direction the Paroches is moved to, to the right or to the left. Nonetheless, the widespread Chabad custom today is to open it from right to left.
  • Veyehi Binsoa/Brich Shmei: When the Aron is opened, one recites Vayehi Binsoa Haron, and the Zoharic prayer of Brich Shmei. The opening of the Aron and recital of Brich Shmei is a very auspicious time for prayer from the depths of the heart, and one is guaranteed to have all or at least some of one’s prayers answered. One can continue reciting Brich Shmei until the Sefer Torah is opened. One may not recite the prayer of Vayhei Binsoa Haron or Brich Shmei in the midst of Davening, past Baruch Sheamar.
  • Removing the Sefer Torah: The Sefer Torah is removed by whoever was allocated the honor of Pesicha and is held on one’s right side until it is handed to the Chazan. Alternatively, the Chazan may directly remove the Sefer Torah from the Aron. It is a Segula for one whose wife is pregnant to perform Pesicha. This especially applies during the 9th One is to only endeavor to do so if it can be done without notice.
  • Removed the wrong Sefer Torah: If the wrong Sefer Torah was removed from the Aron [i.e. not rolled to the right Parsha], it is not to be replaced. This applies even if one desires to remove a more Mehudar Sefer Torah, so long as the current one is Kosher. If, however, one did not yet remove the Sefer Torah from the Aron, then even though it is already in his hands, it may be exchanged.
  • Gadlu: After the Chazan receives the scroll he is to holds it on his right side and recite Shema/Gadlu, lifting the Sefer Torah slightly upon reciting it, and turning his face towards the congregation while saying it. The congregation recites Romemu.. as the Torah is being brought.
  • Standing: The congregation is obligated to stand when the Sefer Torah exits the Aron until it rests on the Bima. The custom, however, is to stand starting from when the Aron is opened.
  • Bringing the Sefer Torah to the Bima: The Chazan turns to face the congregation and brings the Sefer Torah to the Bima from his right side. Whoever the Sefer Torah passes in front of, as well as the person who did Pesicha, is to escort it to the Bima. The custom is to kiss the Sefer Torah and to bring children to kiss it. One is to endeavor to kiss it with his mouth rather than simply touch it with his hand and then kiss his hand.
  • The Chazan then Says Visigaleh while the congregation together with the Chazan says “Atem Hadeveikim.”

 

  1. The Bima:
  • The number of people: There is to be a minimum of two people by the Bima during the reading. Practically, the Ashkenazi custom is for there to be three people by the Bima; the Baal Korei, the Oleh, and the Gabaiy.
  • Where to stand: The Oleh is to stand to the right of the Bima, and the Baal Korei to the left. There is a difference in custom amongst communities regarding if the Gabaiy is to stand to the right of the Bima, having the Olah be between him and the Baal Korei, or ro the left of the Bima. Practically, the widespread custom is for the Gabaiy to stand by the right of the Bima. However, the widespread Chabad custom is for the Gabaiy to stand to the left of the Bima.

 

  1. The Baal Korei:
  • Baal Korei in middle of Davening: A Baal Korei who is in the middle of Davening may read the Torah for the congregation if there is no one else available. This applies even if he is in middle of Shema, or Birchas Kerias Shema, although initially he is to try to finish until the end of the paragraph.
  • Child: A child below the age of Bar Mitzvah is not a valid Baal Korei.
  • Review and preparation: The Baal Korei must prepare and review the reading two to three times to himself prior to reading it from the Torah. One who does not know how to read may not go up to read the Torah and is to be protested.
  • No one knows to read: If there is no one in the Minyan who knows to read, then one person is to read the words silently from a Chumash and have another repeat after him while reading from the Torah.
  • Switching Baal Koreis: Initially one person is to read the entire Keria of all the Aliyos. If in middle of an Aliya, the Baal Korei becomes unable to continue the reading, another person is to take over. It is preferable for him to begin from the start of that Aliyah.
  • Switching Ola’s: See Halacha 8!
  • Reading from the Sefer: Every word and letter must be read by the Baal Korei from the Sefer Torah. It is forbidden for the Baal Korei to read even one word or even one letter by heart.
  • Holding onto the Torah: The Baal Korei and Olah is required to hold onto the handle of the Sefer Torah during the reading. The Baal Korei holds onto the left handle, while the Olah holds onto the right handle.
  • Touching the Sefer Torah: It is forbidden for anyone touch the parchment of the Sefer Torah without a cloth. This applies even if one washed his hands.
  • Using a silver Yad: Many communities are accustomed to use a silver Yad for the reading of the Torah. The Chabad custom, however, is not to do so.
  • Standing: The Baal Korei, Olah, and Gabaiy must stand during the reading. It is forbidden for them to even lean on the Bima during the reading unless one is overweight, in which case one may slightly lean in a way that if the Bima were to be removed from under him he would not fall.

 

  1. The Aliyos-General laws:
  • The amount of Aliyos: Moshe established to read seven Aliyos on Shabbos and to read five Aliyos on Yom Tov. Ezra established to read three Aliyos during the week on Mondays and Thursdays.
  • Adding to the Aliyos: It is disputed amongst the Poskim if one may add to the seven Aliyos on Shabbos or to the five Aliyos on Yom Tov, and the Chabad custom is not to add more Aliyos unless it is a time of need. According to all, one may not add more Aliyos to the weekday reading.
  • Refusing an Aliya after being called up: One is not to refuse an Aliyah once he has been called up by name or publicly motioned to go up. If, however, there is a justifiable reason for why he does not want the Aliyah then it may be refused. Justifiable reasons include: a) If there is a Halachic problem with him getting an Aliyah, such as his father/brother received the previous Aliyah; b) He must make a large donation after receiving the Aliyah and does not have the money to do so and will be publicly ashamed. [c) He does not know how to properly say the blessings and is embarrassed to go up. d) He is sick and cannot say the blessing loud enough for others to hear. E) He needs to use the bathroom and cannot wait. f) He is refusing the Aliyah in order to prevent Machlokes and have someone else take it.

 

  1. Who may receive an Aliya?
  • One who is illiterate: Although the Olah is to silently read along together with the Baal Korei, word for word, nevertheless, it is permitted to give an individual an Aliya even if he is unable to read along with the Baal Korei, such as one who is blind or is illiterate, or is in middle of Shema.
  • One who cannot stand: The Olah must stand during the reading. One who cannot stand, such as one who is stuck to a wheel chair, may not receive an Aliyah.
  • Blind: It is permitted for a blind person to receive an Aliya, however, he should not be called up for Maftir of Yom Tov, or the four Parshiyos.
  • Avel/Mourner: It is forbidden for an Avel to receive an Aliyah throughout Shiva. This applies even if the Avel is a Kohen and there is no other Kohen available in the Minyan. [Rather a Yisrael is to be called up in his place.] On Shabbos: It is forbidden for an Avel to receive an Aliyah even on Shabbos. If, however, he is the only Kohen [or Levi] available in the Minyan, then he may receive an Aliyah. Likewise, in any case in which not getting an Aliyah on Shabbos will cause the mourning to be publicized to the Minyan, it is an obligation for him to get an Aliyah. Thus, if the Avel was accidently called up for an Aliyah on Shabbos, he must go up. Likewise, if he is accustomed to always receive a certain Aliyah, then he must go up for that Aliyah even if the Gabaiy does not call him by name.
  • Kohen/Levi: The order of Aliyos is first Kohen, then Levi and then Yisrael. The Chabad custom is to be very particular in this matter. Nonetheless, in mitigating circumstances, the custom is to ask the Kohen to leave the Shul in order to call up a Yisrael in his place. One may not call up Kohen or Levi for any of the Aliyos from Shelishi and onwards, with exception to Maftir. If, however, there are not enough Yisraelim available, then a Kohen or Levi may be called up for the other Aliyos.
  • No Levi: If there is no Levi in Shul, the same Kohen who received the first Aliya is called up in his place for the second Aliya. The Gabai is to recite “Bemakom Levi.”
  • No Kohen: Whenever there is no Kohen present in Shul, or he is in middle of Shemoneh Esrei, a Levi or Yisrael is to go up in his place. Upon calling the Levi or Yisrael instead of the Kohen, the Gabai is to announce “Bemakom Kohen”, in order so they do not mistake him as a Kohen. In all cases, whether or not a Levi was called up in place of a Kohen, a Levi is not to be called up for the 2nd Aliyah of Levi, and it is rather given to a Yisrael.
  • Called up Levi/Yisrael in place of Kohen and a Kohen then entered: If there was no Kohen in Shul and one called up a Levi or Yisrael in place of a Kohen and then a Kohen entered, then if the Levi/Yisrael already said Hashem’s name in the blessing of Asher Bachar Banu, then the Kohen is not called up and one is to continue the remaining Aliyas as if there is no Kohen around. If, however, the Levi/Yisrael did not yet say Hashem’s name in the blessing of Asher Bachar Banu, then even though he has said Barchu, the Kohen is to be called up by name and the Levi/Yisrael is to remain by the Bimah and receive one of the coming Aliyahs [having his named called up again].
  • If there was no Levi in Shul and the Kohen was called up for Kohen and Levi and a Levi then walked in, then this follows the same ruling as above, and hence, if the blessing was not yet begun, the Levi is to take his place. If the blessing of Asher Bachar Banu was already begun, the Kohen is to continue, and the Levi does not receive an Aliyah.
  • Called person up and he is not in Shul: If the Gabaiy called up a Kohen, or Levi, and the person is not in Shul, or is in the midst of Shemoneh Esrei, then another person is to go up in his place. That person is to go up without his name being called, and whoever comes first merits. Some are accustomed apply the same rule if a Yisrael was called up and is not present, that a new Yisrael goes up without his name being called. Others however rule that a new Yisrael may be called up by name.
  • Calling up relatives to Aliya’s: Relatives, such as a father and son or siblings, are not to be called for an Aliyah one after the other. If, however, there was another Aliyah in between, it is permitted to call up the relative. When two Sifrei Torah are removed, it is permitted to call them up for Shevi’i and Maftir. It is disputed amongst the Poskim if this prohibition applies likewise to a grandfather/grandson. It is permitted to call a father and son in-law to the Torah one after the other.
  • Getting an Aliyah in the middle of Davening: Lechatchila: It is initially forbidden for the Gabaiy to call any person up for an Aliyah if he is in the middle of Pesukei Dezimra, or Birchas Shema [past Yotzer Or], unless he is the only Kohen or Levi in Shul, and is within Pesukei Dezimra [and not past Yotzer Or]. [Some Poskim however allow one who is between Yishtabach and Yotzer Or to be called up even initially.] When a Kohen or Levi is past Yotzer Or and thus cannot be called up, he is to leave Shul prior to the Aliyah, if he is the only Kohen or Levi present. Bedieved: If one who is past Baruch Sheamar, but before Goal Yisrael, was called up to the Torah, then according to Ashkenazi custom he is to go up for the Aliyah and say the blessings. This applies even if he is a Yisrael, and even if he was in the midst of reading the Shema. If the person was called up in middle of a paragraph, he should hurry and try to reach the end of the paragraph, or end of that topic, if it will not delay the reading. [If he is past Yotzer Or, he is not to read at all inside the Torah together with the Baal Korei. If, however, he is in the middle of Pesukei Dezimra, he may read along with the Baal Korei.] He certainly may not stop to request the Chazan/Gabaiy to recite a Mi Shebeirach. After one completes the Aliyah, he is to resume his Davening from the place he left off.
  • May one receive an Aliya to the Torah if he has not yet recited Birchas Hatorah? He is to recite the blessing of Asher Bachar Banu and read along inside together with the reader. After the Aliya he is to recite the two blessings of Al Divrei Torah and Viharev Nah [prior to learning Torah].
  • Being called up twice: One is not to be called up twice during the same Torah reading unless there is no one else who is able to be called up. It is, however, permitted for one to get a second Aliyah by a different Torah reading, such as by another Minyan. This applies even to the same portion that he was called up for by the first time.
  1. The order of an Aliya:
  • Wearing a Tallis Gadol for an Aliya: The age-old Chabad custom of many generations is not to require one to wear a Tallis Gadol for an Aliya or to read the Torah. Nevertheless, in a Shul which is particular for the Baal Korei and Olah to wear a Tallis, one is to do so.
  • Calling up the name: The Ashkenazi custom is to call up the person by name. He is called up by his Hebrew name and fathers name. If he does not know his fathers name he is to be called by his grandfather’s name, preferably by the name of his father’s father, although the name of his mother’s father is also valid. If he does not know any of the names, then he is to be called up as Ben Avraham. [Some are accustomed even initially to always call up as Ben Avraham if the name of the father is not known.] A convert is to be called up as Ben Avraham. [A child with a gentile father is to be called up as Ben Avraham. An adopted child is to be called up by his biological father’s name, or as Ben Avraham, and is never to be called up by the name of his stepfather. However, some are lenient in a case of great shame.]
  • Going to the Bimah: One who is called up for an Aliyah is to walk quickly towards the Bimah in the shortest path available, whether it is to one’s right side or left side. If there are two available routes of equal distance, he is to ascend through the path which is towards his right.
  • Being shown the reading and kissing the gartel/Tzitzis: The Olah is to be shown the text that will be read in the Sefer Torah. The custom is to place the gartel of the Sefer Torah, or one’s Tzitzis, on the area of the reading and then kiss it in that area. The Chabad custom is to place the Tzitzis/gartel on the start and concluding area of the reading. The Rebbe was accustomed to place the Tallis on the beginning, end, and then beginning of the reading, and then kiss the Tallis. This is not a directive to the public.
  • Shown wrong text: If one was shown the wrong area of reading, then if the correct area is on the same page and was also open in front of the Olah, it is valid. Nonetheless, in such a case, if he was shown an area lower than the correct reading, the Baal Korei is to continue reading past the shown area, if it is not part of the next Parsha. If the correct area was not at all open before the Olah while he said the before blessing, then he must repeat the blessing from the beginning. If the Chazan already began the reading, then the Olah should start again from Barchu. If they rolled to the correct area during the blessing, it remains valid.
  • The blessing: One recites a blessing before and after the Torah reading.
  • Holding onto the handles: One holds on to the handles of the Sefer Torah while saying the blessing, his right hand on the right handle, and his left hand on the left handle. There is no need to hold it with a Tallis or other intervening substance. After the blessing, one lets go of his left hand, and remains holding onto the right handle.
  • Touching the Sefer Torah: It is forbidden to touch the parchment of the Sefer Torah without a cloth. This applies even if one washed his hands.
  • Closing it: After one kisses the Tzitzis/gartel he is to close the Sefer Torah and say the blessing.  
  • Turning one’s face: While saying the first blessing the custom is to turn one’s face to the left side, so it does not appear as if one is reading the blessings from the Sefer Torah. [The Chabad custom is to turn the face slightly to the right side.]
  • Lifting the Torah: Upon saying the words “Nasan Lanu” one is to slightly shake [i.e. lift] the Torah. The Chabad custom is to do so upon saying Hashem’s name in the blessing. The Rebbe was seen to lift the Torah several times during the before blessing.
  • Saying the blessings out loud: One is to say Barchu and the blessings out loud for the entire congregation to hear, and if one says it quietly, he is mistaken, and it is disputed amongst the Poskim if he fulfilled his obligation. One who says it quietly is considered to be stealing the Mitzvos from the public. Bar Mitzvah boys, and those who are weak or sick are especially to be told to say it aloud and have nine people gather near them to hear the Barchu.
  • If one did not hear the person saying the blessing, he is nevertheless to answer Amen together with the congregation.  Nevertheless, one does not fulfill his obligation of Meiah Brachos with such a blessing unless he heard the blessing from the person saying it.
  • Answering to Barchu: After the Olah recites Barchu, the congregation and Olah repeat and says Baruch Hashem Hamevorach Leolam Vaed. The Olah is to repeats it after the conclusion of the congregation. According to Admur in his Siddur, one is to repeat it at the same time as the congregation. However, the Rebbe was accustomed to repeat it only after the congregation.
  • Mistake in blessing: If one accidently recited the blessing of Asher Nasan Lanu instead of Bachar Banu, then if he did not mention Hashem’s name in the concluding stanza of the blessing, he is to go back and recite the correct words of Asher Bachar Banu. If, however he already said Hashem’s name in the blessing, then he is to conclude “Nosein Hatorah” and he fulfills his obligation. In such a case, by the after blessing he is to recite the blessing of Asher Nasan Lanu.
  • Answering Amen: The congregation, including the Baal Korei, must answer Amen to the blessing of the Olah in close approximation to its conclusion. Nevertheless, the custom is for the Baal Korei to drag out the Amen more than the rest of the congregation, in order to summon their attention to the start of the reading. It is however forbidden for the Baal Korei to delay beginning the Amen until the congregation concludes its Amen, as it must be in approximation to the conclusion of the blessing.
  • Speaking: After the Olah recites the first blessing it is forbidden for him speak from until he says the after blessing. If he spoke after the reading already begun, then he is not required to repeat the blessing.
  • Reading along: The Olah is initially required to read along together with the Chazan word by word in a low tone, unless he is in the middle of Shema or its blessings, in which case he is not to read along. Nevertheless, it is permitted to give an individual an Aliya even if he is unable to read along with the Baal Korei, such as one who is blind or is illiterate, or is in middle of Shema. He should read it in a low enough tone so that others do not hear, however, he may read it loud enough for his own ears to hear.
  • Standing: The Baal Korei, Olah, and Gabaiy must stand during the reading. [One who cannot stand, such as one who is tuck to a wheel chair, may not receive an Aliyah.] It is forbidden for them to even lean on the Bima during the reading unless one is overweight in which case one may slightly lean in a way that if the Bima were to be removed from under him he would not fall.
  • Switching Ola’s: If in middle of an Aliya, the Olah becomes unable to continue the reading, another person is to switch him for that Aliya. The Baal Korei must begin again from the start of that Aliyah. The new Olah is to repeat the first blessing [although not Barchu].
  • The after blessing: After the reading, the Olah recites an after blessing. The Olah is to kiss the gartel/Tztzis prior to the blessing. The Chabad custom is to place the Tzitzis/gartel on the concluding and then beginning area of the reading and then kiss that area. The Rebbe was accustomed to place the Tallis on the end, beginning, and then end of the reading, or beginning, end and then beginning of the reading, and then kiss the Tallis. One is to then close the Sefer Torah, turn to his right side, and say the after blessing of Asher Nasan Lanu. Upon saying the words “Nasan Lanu” one is to slightly shake [i.e. lift] the Torah. The Chabad custom is to do so upon saying Hashem’s name in the blessing. The Rebbe was seen to lift the Torah three times during the after blessing; the opening and closing of Hashem’s name and by “Toras Emes”.
  • Mistake in blessing: If one accidently recited the blessing of Asher Bachar Banu instead of Nasan Lanu, then if he did not mention Hashem’s name in the concluding stanza of the blessing, he is to go back and recite the correct words of Asher Bachar Banu. If, however, he already said Hashem’s name in the blessing [i.e. Baruch Ata Hashem] and remembered right away, then he is to immediately continue “Elokeinu Melech Haolam Asher Nasan Lanu.” If, however, he already concluded the blessing then he is to repeat the after blessing of Asher Nasan Lanu from the beginning.
  • Returning from the Bimah after the Aliyah: At the conclusion of one’s Aliyah, one is to remain by the Bima until after the next Aliya. He is to place his Tallis on the Sefer Torah and kiss it prior to descending. He is to descend from the Bimah and return to his place in a different and longer path than the path used to ascend to the Bimah. If upon ascending there were two available routes of equal distance, and he ascended through the path which is towards his right, he is to descend from the opposite path.
  • Yasher Koach/Chazak: After the Aliyah, the custom is to bless the Olah with the words “Chazak.” The Ashkenazi custom today is to say “Yasher Koach”, while the Seafradi custom is to say Chazak Ubaruch.
  • Chazak Chazak Vischazeik: The custom is that after the completion of each of the five Chumashim, the congregation stands and recites Chazak Chazak Vinischazeik prior to the concluding blessing being said. The Chabad custom is also for the Olah to recite it.

 

  1. Congregation related laws during the reading:
  • Paying attention to the reading: One is to have a Chumash open in front of him and follow the reading during Kerias Hatorah. Some are accustomed to read along silently with the Baal Korei to help them concentrate. Others, however, rule that one is to remain silent, and read along in his mind.
  • In middle of Shemoneh Esrei: It is debated amongst the Poskim as to whether one is to stop and listen to Kerias Hatorah in the midst of Shemoneh Esrei. Practically, it is best to avoid this situation and not begin Shemoneh Esrei at a time that will conflict with Kerias Hatorah. However, Bedieved if one did so, or must do so due to the passing of Zman Tefila, then those who stop and listen have upon whom to rely. This especially applies if one cannot properly concentrate on his Shemoneh Esrei in the midst of Kerias Hatorah. Women are not obligated to hear Kerias Hatorah and hence they may continue Shemoneh Esrei rather than to stop and listen to Keiras Hatorah. Nonetheless, if a woman cannot properly concentrate on her Shemoneh Esrei in the midst of Kerias Hatorah then she may stop and listen, as stated above.
  • Speaking: It is a very severe prohibition to speak during Kerias Hatorah, and it is forbidden to do so even between the Aliyos. See the article on this matter printed as a prelude to the summary.
  • Standing: The congregation is not required to stand during the reading, although some are stringent to stand. Some, however, learn that if the Sefer Torah rests on a table and not on a Bima, then one is required to stand from the letter of the law, and may only sit between the Aliyos. However, those who are weak and cannot concentrate properly on the reading, may sit. Whatever the case, it is best for the congregation to stand when the blessings before and after the Torah reading are recited, although according to Kabalah one may remain sitting also during the blessings. It is forbidden for one who stands for Kerias Hatorah to sit down when the blessings are recited. One is not to sit opposite the Olah.
  • Leaving Shul: It is forbidden to leave the Shul [once] the Sefer Torah is opened [until the completion of the reading, even if there are another ten people in Shul and he already heard the reading]. [In a time of great need, however], one may leave in-between Aliyos.
  • Covering head with Tallis: It is the custom of those particular in Mitzvos, and of all the Chassidim, to cover their head with the Tallis Gadol throughout the entire period of time that they are wearing it, in order so their head is not uncovered for even one moment. Doing so humbles one’s heart and leads to fear of heaven. Seemingly, this applies likewise during Kerias Hatorah. Nonetheless, the Rebbe Rashab was not accustomed to cover his head during the Keriah.

 

  1. Laws of the reading:
  • The order of the Aliyos: While the Talmud and Poskim provide certain rules and guidelines regarding the amount of verses each Aliya must contain and lists certain areas in which one may not end an Aliya, no distribution of Aliyos is recorded anywhere. Nonetheless, the widespread Jewish custom, which is Torah, is to stop by the end points of each Aliyah as written in the Chumash, and so is to initially be followed. Nonetheless, different Chumashim contain different distribution points of Aliyos.
  • Holding onto the Torah: The Baal Korei and Olah is required to hold onto the handle of the Sefer Torah during the reading. The Baal Korei holds onto the left handle, while the Olah holds onto the right handle.
  • Covering the Torah Between Aliyios: The Sefaradi custom is to [leave the Sefer Torah open but to] cover the Sefer Torah between the Aliyos. The Ashkenazi custom is for the Sefer Torah to remain closed between Aliyos [and not covered]. Practically, the widespread Ashkenazi custom today is to both close and cover the Sefer Torah between the Aliyos, even though this is not required.

 

  1. Mistakes in the reading:
  • Mispronunciation: If the Baal Korei mispronounced a letter or word, then the Ashkenazi custom is that if it changes the meaning of the word, he must repeat it. If it does not change the meaning of the word, he is not to repeat it. The same applies if he read the word in the wrong Niggun, he is not required to repeat it. Nonetheless, he is to be reprimanded. [Practically, some are accustomed to go back and repeat it even for a slight mispronunciation or change of Niggun, and so was the custom of the Alter Rebbe.] If the Baal Korei read the Kesiv instead of the Keri he is to be corrected.
  • Skipped a word in Keria: Shabbos Shacharis: If the Baal Korei skipped even one word or letter in the Shabbos Torah reading of Shacharis, he is required to go back and read the verse that contains the skipped part. The next Aliyah is to begin from the skipped area and read onwards until the end of his Aliyah. Even if the Parsha was already completed the congregation needs to go back and read the three verses that contains the skipped part, with a blessing.
  • Weekday, Shabbos Mincha: If the Baal Korei skipped a verse, word, or letter, in the Shabbos reading of Mincha or the weekday reading of Monday/Thursday or fast day, then if he read ten verses in total without the skipped verse, he is not required to go back and read. If, however he did not read ten verses in total [irrelevant of order], or nine straight verses without a mistake, he must go back and read the verse that contains the skipped part.
  • Yom Tov/Rosh Chodesh: The reading of Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh follow the same law as the weekday reading regarding a skipped verse/word/letter. Hence, if a total of three verses per Aliyah were read, then he is not required to go back and call up another Aliyah. However, if one skipped the main reading of that day, such as on the third day of Sukkos he did not read Ubeyom Hashlishi, then he must go back and read the skipped area with a blessing.
  • Read only two verses for one Aliya: Every Aliya is to have at least three Pesukim read. If only two Pesukim were read that reading is invalid and one must repeat that Aliya from the beginning with the blessings.
  • Repeated the same Aliyah: If the Baal Korei repeated the same verses for the next Aliya, that Aliya is invalid unless three new verses were read.
  • Found mistake in the Torah: One is required to read from a Kosher Sefer Torah. If an invalidating mistake was found in the Torah, then it is to be closed and a new Sefer Torah is to be brought. One never continues the reading in the invalid Sefer Torah once the mistake is found, unless there is no other Kosher Sefer Torah available. This applies even in Shevi’i. If they already read three verses in that Aliya and are not within three verses from the start or end of a Parsha Setuma/Pesucha, then the Olah is to say the after blessing prior to closing the invalid Sefer Torah. The next Aliya is then continued from the Kosher Sefer Torah, from the area of the mistake. If they did not yet read three verses, or are within three verse of the start or end of a Parsha Pesucha/Setuma, then the after blessing is not to be said on the invalid scroll, and rather a Kosher Sefer Torah is to be removed and one is to read from there the remainder of that Aliya and then say the after blessing. In all cases, all the previous Aliyos read in the invalid Sefer Torah, remain valid.
  • List of invalidating mistakes: A Pesucha was found in place of a Setuma, or vice versa; A Misspelled word, including if the Kesiv was written as the Keri; A repeated word; A letter that is touching another letter in its entire length, or if it makes it illegible; The leg of a Hei or Kuf is touching its roof; A letter that is touching another letter in its beginning or middle area of writing; A letter that is split in two; Two words written in such close approximation that a child reads it as one word. The letters of a word are so far apart that a child reads it as two words; Mistakes in Chaser and Yasir do not invalidate the Sefer Torah so long as the pronunciation remains the same.

 

  1. Half Kaddish:
  • Half Kaddish: After the completion of the reading, Half Kaddish is recited. The custom is to cover the Sefer Torah while it is recited.
  • When: On Shabbos and Yom Tov, the Kaddish is recited prior to Maftir. On all other days of reading, the Kaddish is said after the completion of all the Aliyos [i.e. Monday, Thursday, Mincha of Shabbos, fast day, Chol Hamoed].
  • Hagomel: Those who desire to recite the blessing of Hagomel after the last Aliya before Kaddish are not to do so until after the half Kaddish is recited.
  • An Avel: The half Kaddish recited after Kerias Hatorah is designated to be recited by Aveilim. This applies even if he did not receive an Aliyah and is not the Baal Korei. Others however rule that it is to be recited only by the Baal Korei. Practically, the Chabad custom is for an Avel, and Baal Yartzite, to endeavor to recite the half Kaddish after the Torah reading. [This applies even on Shabbos and Yom Tov.] If, however, an Avel is not available, then it is to be recited by the Baal Korei. Likewise, in a case of dispute, or when Davening in a Shul with a different custom, the Kaddish is to be recited by the Baal Korei.

 

  1. The order if two or more Torah scrolls are removed:
  • Whenever two scrolls are removed, the weekly Torah portion is read from the first scroll until Shevii. The second scroll is then placed on the Bima which is followed by half Kaddish. Hagba is then done to the first scroll. [The Mi Shebeirach for the ill is recited after Hagba.] One may not open the second scroll until the first scroll is rolled up and placed in its Meil. Maftir is read from the second scroll. One then performs Hagba to the second scroll and reads the Haftorah for Shekalim. [On Shabbos Mevarchim the Chazan for Musaf takes the scroll of Maftir to hold. When the scrolls are being returned to the Aron, the scroll of Maftir is taken first.] 

 

  1. Hagbah:
  • Selling the honor: It is customary to sell the honor of Hagba/Gelila for large sums of money.
  • Sefaradim lift the Sefer Torah prior to the reading, and so is the custom of many Ashkenazim in Eretz Yisrael. The widespread Ashkenazi custom is to lift it after Keiras Hatorah.
  • Touching the Sefer with Tallis/Gartel: The Chabad custom is to touch the Sefer Torah with the Tiztzis, or Gartle and kiss it prior to performing Hagbah.
  • Lifting: The Sefer Torah is lifted while open to show the congregation its writing. [It is not required to specifically see the area of that days reading.]
  • How many pages is one to show congregation: One is to try to show [at least] three columns of the Sefer Torah to the congregation upon performing Hagbah.
  • Turning around with the Torah: One is to turn around with the Sefer Torah to show the entire congregation the writing. Some are accustomed to performing a full circle, turning to one’s right [East to south to west to north]. Others perform a half circle from their right side [east to southwest] and then from their left side [east to northwest]. The Rebbe once instructed the Yeshiva students to perform Hagbah as follows: One performs only a half circle, turning from right to left [east to north to west] and then returns to east, going from left to right.
  • Looking at the Sefer Torah: Every individual man and woman is to endeavor to come close to the Torah scroll and try to read its words during Hagbah. It, however, is not the Chabad custom top point one’s finger at the Torah. The congregation is to then say Zos Hatorah. One may not recite Vezos Hatorah in the midst of Davening, past Baruch Sheamar. Every individual is to stand while the Torah is lifted for Hagbah.
  • Rolling-Gelila: The person doing Hagbah sits down and then rolls the Sefer Torah. The Chabad custom is for the person doing Hagbah to return the scroll to the table and roll it up and only then sit down. When rolling the Sefer Torah, it is to be rolled in a way that the sewed area of the pages is to be in the center. The Sefer Torah is to then be tied in a way that the knot rests on the front side of the Sefer Torah, so when it can be undone without turning over the Sefer Torah. The Chabad custom is to tie the Gartel to the top part of the bottom third of the Sefer Torah.
  • Child holding: One may give a child the Sefer Torah to hold after Hagbah.

 

  1. Maftir/Haftorah:
  • Background: The reading of the Haftorah was instituted by the Anshei Kneses Hagedola. They instituted that one should read from Navi on every holiday from a portion that deals with the holiday events. The Sages of the Mishneh and Gemara chose the exact portion of Navi that is read on each holiday. The person that reads the Maftir from Navi is also required to first read a section from the Torah.
  • Two Torah scrolls on Yom Tov: Being that two different sections of the Torah need to be read on Yom Tov, therefore, one is initially required to remove two Torah scrolls; one for the Holiday reading, and the second for the Maftir. It does not suffice to remove only one Torah scroll and then roll it to the Parsha of Musafim [for Maftir].
  • Leaving the Haftorah open until the concluding blessings are recited: The Sefer Nevim [i.e. Haftorah; Chumash] is not to be removed from before the Maftir until after he completes the recital of the after blessings in order so he sees [the Haftorah] and says the blessing over the [words that he read for] Haftorah.
  • One who does not know to read the Haftorah: Initially, only one who knows to read the Haftorah is to be called up for Maftir. However, Bedieved if he was already called up, he is to say the blessings and have another read the Haftorah.
  • When to begin the Haftorah: One is not to begin the Haftorah until the Sefer Torah is returned back into its Meil. One is not to begin the Haftorah until the correct Haftorah is open before him.
  • Concentrating on the blessings: Every individual is to concentrate on the words of the blessing of the Haftorah in order so it count towards the 100 daily blessings.
  • Reading to oneself: The custom is to read the Haftorah along silently together with the Baal Korei, word by word, in an inaudible voice.
  • Talking: It is forbidden to talk during the Haftorah just as is the rule regarding Kerias Hatorah.
  • Said wrong Haftorah: If one read the wrong weeks Haftorah and remembered his mistake in the middle, prior to saying the concluding blessings, he is to stop and read the correct Haftorah without repeating the initial blessing.
  1. Maftir for Avel & Yartzite:
  • Yartzite: It is customary for one who has a Yartzite of a parent to receive the Aliyah of Maftir on the Shabbos prior to the Yartzite. In the event that the Yartzite falls on Shabbos, he is to receive Maftir on that Shabbos and not on the Shabbos before.
  • Avel: It is customary for the Avel over a parent to recite the Maftir from the Navi [on Shabbos, Yom Tov, and fast days]. [Furthermore, just as some mourners take upon themselves to say the Kaddish for relatives other than a parent, so too they are to endeavor to say Maftir, and so was the custom of the Rebbe in 1988. In the event that there is more than one mourner present, one is to follow the laws of precedence lineated earlier regarding Davening for the Amud. If applicable, one is to make more than one Minyan of Keria for the various Aveilim. There is no obligation for the Avel to Daven in a different Shul for the sake of Maftir, if he is able to Daven with greater concentration in his Shul. In the event that the Avel cannot receive Maftir, he is to endeavor to receive a different Aliyah.]
  • The time period: Ideally, the Maftir is meant to be recited throughout the 12 months, just like the law by Kaddish, however the custom is to only recite it for 11 months from the passing, just as is the custom regarding Kaddish.
  • Must the Gabaiy give Maftir to one who has a Yartzite that week? No. While it is proper and respectful to do so, a person with a Yartzite is not considered an actual Chiyuv that he has to receive the Aliyah of Maftir. Furthermore, even one who has a Yartzite on Shabbos, and is considered a Chiyuv, it is not an obligation to give him Maftir, even though it is proper to do so. It is thus permitted for the Gabaiy to sell the Aliyah.
  • Who receives precedence if both an Avel and a Yartzite want Maftir? A person with a Yartzite that week receives precedence over an Avel within the year, even if he is within Shloshim.
  • Not to quarrel: One is not to quarrel over any Mitzvah, even if it is a Biblical command, and is certainly not to quarrel over the receiving of Maftir. Through avoiding dispute, one will cause a greater Iluiy Neshama than even the Maftir itself.
  1. Yehalelu:
  • The custom of Chassidim and Sefaradim is to return the Sefer Torah to the Aron after Uva Letziyon by Shacharis. The custom of Ashkenazim is to return it before Ashreiy.
  • When is Yehalelu to be recited on Mincha of Shabbos? In general, the verse of Yehalelu is recited by the Chazan when the Sefer Torah is being brought to the Aron. However, according to the Chabad custom to begin the Kaddish towards the end of the Gelila, this forms a problem regarding when it is to be said. Practically, according to the Rebbe’s directives, Yehalelu is to be recited after Gelila, while the Sefer Torah is being returned to the Aron, in the midst of the Kaddish, and not between the Kaaddish and Shemoneh Esrei.
  • The verse of Yehalelu is recited by the Chazan when the Sefer Torah is being returned to the Aron. After the recital of Yehalelu, the congregation responds with the verse of “Hodu Al Eretz Veshamayim.”
  • Returning the Torah to Aron: The Sefer Torah is returned to the ark from one’s right side [south, if the Aron faces Mizrach]. It is not required for the person who did Pesicha to also return the Sefer to the Aron. It is a Mitzvah for the person who did Gelila/Hagbah and whoever the Sefer Torah passes in front of to escort it to the Heichal. The custom is to kiss the Sefer Torah and to bring children to kiss it. One is to endeavor to kiss it with his mouth rather than simply touch it with his hand and then kiss his hand. Some are accustomed to reciting the Psalm of Ledavid Mizmor upon returning the Sefer Torah. This is not the Chabad custom. It is an obligation to stand while the Sefer is being returned.

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[1] For the full articles, which include sources and details, of these Halacha’s, please refer to our website shulchanaruchharav.com or our future publication “The Laws & Customs of Kerias Hatorah.” Various customs and differences of opinion exist regarding many of summarized laws mentioned. In such a case, the rulings and customs of the Chabad Rabbeim have been jotted.

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