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way to greet the sefer torah

Rabbi David SperlingSivan 14, 5775
452
Question
Dear Rabbi, Could you explain what the correct way to greet the sefer torah when its being taken from the Aron for kriyat htorah?. I have seen different customs. These being: kissing the sefer torah directly, Putting siddur to the sefer torah,Bowing in front of it.
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It is certainly appropriate to show honor to the Sefer Torah – especially as it is taken out of the Aron. The halacha records two different types of honor, firstly accompanying the Torah as it is walked to the bimah, and secondly kissing the Torah by children (see the Rema on Orach Haim 149). As to the details of how to do these, there are many different customs. Firstly let me say that the essence is for the congregation to honor the Torah, and not the other way around. So, if any type of honor causes pushing or shoving – or a lack of decorum, it should be stopped. The Aruch HaShulchan points out for example that the custom to accompany the Torah to the Bimah should be only to walk a few steps – but if one walks all the way to the Bimah after the Torah it looks egotistical, and is not the correct way to act. Rav Segal zt"l of Manchester would point out that although it is a beautiful custom to kiss the Torah, very often people surge forward and push or elbow others out of the way! Rabbi Segal cautioned his students that it's better not to kiss the Torah than to push others in order to kiss the Torah (orh.edu). The Tzizt Eliezer points out that holding up the progress of the Torah in order to kiss it is also a slight to the Torah, all the more so moving the Torah this way and that so that different people can kiss it. Some have the custom to kiss the Torah itself, as the Holy Ari did. Others though disagree with this custom as un-hiygnic and unsightly. Others place their hand on the Torah cover and then kiss their hand. Here too, some Rabbis ridicule this custom as it looks like you are kissing your own hand, and others say it is the correct thing to do (see Piskay Tshuvot 149,2). Still others touch the Torah with their tztitzit or siddur, and then kiss them – again this idea has it's supporters and critics. In general, it is good idea to follow the customs of the Shule you are in – in this way you won’t stand out, but still give the required respect to the Torah. Blessings.
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