Friday, April 27, 2012

TORAH TZIVA LANU MOSHE:  Pretty damn awesome A-hed in today's WSJ on the fears (and consequences) of dropping a heavy Torah, including a discussion of the (yes, it's real) 40-day rule.


  1. Genevieve12:56 PM

    Oh my goodness . . . with a bar mitzvah on the horizon, I was already worrying about holding/passing the Torah honors - would like my mom to pass it if she can handle it, but I better check on the weight of our Torahs.

  2. The Pathetic Earthling1:12 PM

    I love, love, love complex cultural rules like this.  

  3. Joseph J. Finn1:25 PM

    <span>Testosterone Hagbahs is going to be the name of my Beastie-Boys-tribute punk band.</span>

  4. Marsha1:55 PM

    Once again, my rational self should have smacked down my curious self before I went ahead and read the comments on the WSJ piece.

    Yes, the rule is real. (Although some communities view the 40 days a community obligation, not an individual one, so you get 40 people to each fast for one day.) My community has had some near misses and good catches. We do have a few lighter scrolls, but few women do hagbah. I've never heard anyone in my community raise it as an egalitarian issue - any woman who wants to can take the honor, but most of us are happy to lead services or leyn torah or whatever else.

    Keep in mind - it's not as if doing hagbah is the only chance one has to get up close and personal with the torah scroll - you can carry it, fully dressed, during the torah service (as I often have) and on Simchat Torah (when every adult is supposed to). But there's a big difference between taking a closed scroll and hefting it on your shoulder with a firm grip on the bottom poles, and hoisting the thing spread out for the world to see. The latter is much, much harder. (There's also no mention in the article that during certain parts of the year, it's much harder to do hagbah, as the scroll is heavily weighted to one side or the other. Lefties are much in demand for Genesis, righties for Deuteronomy.)

  5. Marsha1:57 PM

    I should clarify - "fully dressed" referred above to the torah, not the carrier. A torah has quite a lot of garmentry - there's a sash around the scroll itself, then the cover (generally heavy cloth, usually with wood on the part that goes around the poles), and then sometimes some heavy silver adornment, such as a breastplate and crowns.

    Obviously, the carriers is always fully dressed, though not so much in breastplates and crowns.

  6. The Pathetic Earthling2:05 PM

    I've never had occassion to catch a Torah.  However, when some women -- who were not strong enough to the task at hand -- got the groom in the air during the Hora, my best friend and I had this great cinematic moment where he and I saw this slow motion crash, set down our drinks and shot over the bannister to get to the groom to catch him just as he toppled over.  The groom still thanks me every time he sees me.

  7. Rebecca2:09 PM

    Thanks for the clarification, Marsha, I have to admit, I'm six years old and imagined people carrying Torahs in their underwear for a minute.

    Also, this article brings back one of my earliest memories, getting really yelled at by my mother for standing on the family Bible to reach something on a high shelf. Interestingly, her problem wasn't so much that I was using the bible as a step stool, but that I had stacked the phone book on top of it.

  8. Marsha2:10 PM

    Such a mensch you are! Well done!

    Our community has developed a set of traditions involving carrying the bride and groom during the hora. Obviously you have to be strong, but if you want to do it, you also have to find three similarly-heighted friends to do it with you. Three over-six-footers and one shrimpy guy lifting a bride is a recipe for disaster.

  9. Adam C.2:13 PM

    I was asked last year if I would be interested in hagbah training as a step toward joining our synagogue's regular hagbah rotation. After visions danced through my head of all the potential ways that could end badly, I politely declined. Happy to continue with an aliyah here and there, carrying the dressed torah, etc. - do NOT want to be the one who drops it or tears it during hagbah.

  10. Eric J.2:25 PM

    Last Shabbos at our Shul, we had a fundraiser for our Israel Quest program, and had people bidding for Aliyot. When it came time for Hagbah, it was assigned to our Hagbah champion, and people pledged a certain amount of money per column he would achieve. (The counting was done by a completely unbiased source - his daughter.)

    12. 12 columns of Torah open to the congregation. Until Shaq converts, I don't expect to see that record broken.

  11. Adam C.2:28 PM

    Wow. Shaq or maybe Stretch Armstrong, but wow. Your dude's got some serious wings.

  12. Marsha2:32 PM

    Holy cow. I've never seen twelve. I think the most I've ever seen is ten. Twelve is insane.

    I'm sure this is complete gibberish to people who have never seen hagbah or tried to do this, but if you'd asked me before I saw Eric's post, I'd have told you that twelve is impossible.

    Eric, how tall is your champion?

  13. Emily2:43 PM

    And is his name The Mountain or The Hound?

  14. The Pathetic Earthling3:31 PM

    This was a disaster from the word go.

  15. Mr. Cosmo5:57 PM

    Been there.  Literally.
    During the hora, Mrs. Cosmo was gracefully lifted by four similarly-heighted, appropriately strong, Jews of long experience.  I ended up with four goyim, with the 6' 3" guys in back and 5' 8" guys in front.  We have a great picture that captures my moment of bailing out, and in the corner you can see the insufficiently-tall-front-leg-guy's face squished entirely to one side by the chair leg.

  16. slowlylu6:58 PM

    Don't forget Hodor

  17. Marsha10:13 PM

    This article was, of course, a major topic of discussion at shul today.