Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • The Reading of the Torah
To dedicate this lesson

What Do We Do When No Kohen Is Present for Torah Reading?


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Iyar 2 5782
One of the ways we show honor to a Kohen is by giving him the 1st aliya at Torah readings. The Kohen cannot forgo this honor nor be forced to relinquish it. He may be asked to step out of the room to allow for others to be called, but this may infringe on his honor. If no Kohen is present, there are 3 opinions: 1) The Levi’s status derives from his service & connection to the Kohen, so if the Kohen is absent the Levi should not be called, for some may then erroneously think he is a Kohen. But he should also not be given subsequent aliyot either, because since he does have a certain special kedusha he shouldn’t go after a Yisrael. 2) Once there is no Kohen, anyone can get the 1st aliya, be it a Levi or a Yisrael. 3) A Levi takes precedence, unless there is a greater talmid chacham present. Sefardim follow the first opinion; Ashkenazim follow the second one. In any case, the gabbai announces that this aliya is being given "bim’kom Kohen," so that the oleh is not mistaken for a Kohen.
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