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Order of Aliyot to the Torah


Rabbi David Sperling

Sivan 11, 5778
Shalom. Please. I think Mishnah Berurah 136 describes who may be called up to the Torah on Shabbat and Holidays, it seems pretty straight forward, one paragraph, one page with explanation, no arguments or other Poskim’s words. Is this still practiced anywhere? If no, why not? How could it be changed? Thank you very much. Yakov
Shalom, Thank you for your question. You refer to chapter 136 of Orach Haim, in the Shulchan Aruch which deals with the order of the Aliyot to the Torah on Shabbat and Yom Tov. The halacha there records that after the call up of a Cohen and then Levi, a Torah scholar of the community is called up, then a Torah scholar who is fitting to be appointed over the community, then the sons of Torah scholars, then the leaders of the community, followed by rest of the congregation. I understand from your question that you are troubled by the fact that this order is not followed in most synagogues. There are two reasons for this – firstly we do not have in our communities Torah scholars on the level that this law is talking about. The law is talking about a Torah scholar that is able to answer any question asked of him from all areas of the Torah. (Even though there is a discussion amongst the modern Torah scholars as to whether this level of scholarship exists today – perhaps in Rabbis of the level of the late Rav Ovadya Yosef zt"l or the previous Rebbe of Chabad zt"l – all agree that this level of sage is not found in regular synagogues to get an Aliyah each Shabbat). Secondly, the commentators point out that in communities where the ayliyot are sold for charity money (as is the custom in most synagogues today where the person getting the Aliyah makes a donation to the synagogue) the custom overrides the order of honors listed above. (See the Aruch HaShulchan 136, 2). In addition to this, the Mishna Brurah writes (see the Biur Halacha ibid) that there is a long list of people who have precedence in getting an Aliyah – starting with a groom, and a Bar Mitzvah boy, and ending with an important guest we want to honor. In most synagogues these honors are also taken into account. Allow me to end with a paraphrase from the Aruch HaShulchan on this issue, "Because of our many sins there are many arguments about who gets which Aliyah, and this is only the work of the Satan" – the arguments that surround who gets an Aliyah, and which Aliyah, are certainly a blight on many congregations. May we all merit to walk in the ways of the Torah, which are paths of peace and pleasantness, and to distance ourselves from all arguments and strife. Blessings.
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