The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
RETURNING THE SEFER TORAH
At the conclusion of Kerias ha-Torah, the Sefer Torah is returned to the
aron, there to remain until the next time it will be used. Returning the
Torah to the aron, however, is a procedure into itself involving the
After the keriah is over, a half kaddish is recited. Whenever there is a
maftir aliyah the kaddish is recited before maftir; when there is no maftir
the kaddish is recited after the last aliyah(1). While most often the
kaddish is recited by the ba'al koreh(2), the kaddish may also be recited by
a mourner or by anyone else who is obligated to recite kaddish(3).
If, by mistake, the kaddish was omitted before maftir, it is recited after
the final blessing after the haftarah(4). If, on a day that three seforim
are used, the kaddish was mistakenly recited after the keriah of the first
sefer, the kaddish is repeated before maftir(5).
When the keriah is over, the Torah is raised so that it can be viewed by
the entire congregation. Since the entire congregation must be able to see
the writing, the Torah should be slowly rotated to face both sides of the
shul, first to the right and then to the left. One who merely raises the
Torah but does not display it to the entire shul commits a grave sin(6).
Even though receiving hagbahah is considered a greater honor than
gelilah(7), one who is honored with hagbahah but feels that he does not have
the strength to lift the Torah and hold it up long enough for the entire
congregation to see, should decline the honor(8).
The magbiah should maneuver the Torah so that the connecting stitches show
in the center. This is done in case the Torah tears during the gelilah
process - the stitches will tear and not the yerios themselves(9).
Before the Torah is lifted it is unrolled open(10) so that at least three
columns(11) are visible when it is raised.
As the Torah is lifted up high, it is a mitzvah for all of the men and
women(12) in shul to direct their gaze(13) at the "face" of the written
parchment(14) and to recite the pasuk(15) of V'zos ha-Torah(16). One who is
not facing the Torah as it is lifted, is not allowed to recite V'zos
The Torah is rolled up by a person chosen for this honor; often, a minor.
This is considered proper chinuch for mitzvos(18).
It is common practice to set the Bereishis side of the Torah above the
The Torah is bound with its special sash (the gartel) around the upper half
of the Torah. The knot should be tied on the "face" side of the Torah so
that when it is used next, it is ready to be opened without turning it over.
When the Torah is rolled up, care should be taken that the parchment is not
touched with one's bare hands. Similarly, if the yerios need to be adjusted
or tightened, they may not be touched with bare hands even if one washed his
hands before. If any adjustment needs to be made, a tallis or the mantle
should be used(19). [Other scrolls, such as Megilas Esther or a scroll used
for the haftarah, may be touched with bare hands only if one previously
washed his hands(20).]
Some poskim(21) rule that it is prohibited to make a single knot and a bow
[or a single knot with the ends tucked in under the sash] when putting away
the Sefer Torah on Shabbos at Minchah. Since this knot will remain intact
for over twenty-four hours, it should not be made on Shabbos. The custom in
most places, however, is to be lenient, and many poskim accept the
leniency(22). Another option is to wind the sash around the Sefer Torah
without making any knot at all, and then tuck the ends underneath(23). Those
congregations that use a band with metal clasps or a special band called a
wimple(24) avoid this potential problem altogether.
The one reciting the haftarah should not begin until after gelilah is
finished. But on Monday and Thursday when yehi ratzon is recited, there is
no need to wait for gelilah to be over before beginning the yehi ratzon(25).
RETURNING THE TORAH
When returning the Torah to the aron, one must approach the aron from the
right side of the shul facing the aron. The magbiah and the gollel, as well
as those whom the Torah passes by, should follow along as the Torah makes
its way through the shul towards the aron(26). On Shabbos the congregation
recites Mizmor l'Dovid, as the Torah is carried to the aron, while during
the week [even on Yom Tov] l'Dovid Mizmor is recited(27).
Once the Torah is back in the aron, it is prohibited to remove it for any
other purpose(28) except for kerias ha-Torah in the same shul(29). According
to some poskim(30) it is even prohibited to take it to another room in the
same building, even for kerias ha-Torah. The custom, however, seems to
follow the lenient opinions who allow transferring a Torah to another room
in the same building(31).
It is permitted to temporarily move a Torah to another location(32), such
as a house of a mourner or a chasan, if the Torah is brought to the other
location in advance, placed in a spot prepared for it especially, and will
be returned to that spot after the keriah is over. It has become common
practice to transfer a Torah to another place only if it will be used at
least three times at the temporary location(33). While this is a proper
custom that should be upheld, it is not mandatory and can be disregarded
when difficult to fulfill(34).
There are some exceptions to the above rule about transferring a Torah to a
temporary location even if a place for it was not prepared in advance:
If an important Torah sage needs a Torah for kerias ha-Torah, it is
permitted to bring the Torah to him.
If ten or more people are unable to come to where the Torah is housed, e.g.,
they are in a hospital or in captivity, it is permitted to bring the Torah
For the reading of Parshas Zachor it is permitted to bring a Torah to a sick
or elderly person or to anyone who cannot make it shul(36).
A privately-owned Torah may be taken from the owner's home to shul even for
one time and then returned(37).
1 Whenever a keriah takes place before Shemoneh Esrei, the kaddish is
delayed until after the Torah is returned to the aron.
2 According to Harav S.Z. Auerbach, this kaddish was specifically reserved
for those who recite kaddish for people who pass away and do not have a
relative to say kaddish for them; Ishei Yisrael, pg. 412.
3 Elef ha-Magen (Mateh Efrayim, Kaddish 3:3). See also S'dei Chemed (aveilus
163) and Shevet ha-Levei 8:163.
4 Mishnah Berurah 282:29.
5 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:101.
6 See Ramban, Devarim 27:26 based on Yerushalmi Sotah 7:4.
7 Mishnah Berurah 147:19.
8 Mishnah Berurah 147:7.
9 O.C. 147:3. See Sha'arei Efrayim 10:17.
10 It is also permitted to raise the Torah while closed and then unroll it
while raising it, but this should only be attempted by one who is strong
enough to do so; Sha'arei Efrayim 10:14.
11 A stronger person should unroll the Torah more widely than three column's
width; Mishnah Berurah 134:8.
12 When a woman is a nidah, however, she should gaze upon the Torah during
hagbahah; Mishnah Berurah 88:7.
13 Although not recorded in any of the classical sources, it has become
customary to point at the Torah during hagbahah; see Teshuvos Lev Chayim
2:167. Conversely, while Shulchan Aruch rules that one ought to bow during
hagbahah, it is not customary to do so; see Har Tzvi O.C 64
14 The Kabbalists recommend that one place himself close enough to the Torah
so that he can actually make out the letters; Mishnah Berurah 134:11. But
this should be done only by one who is recognized as a person whose actions
are l'shem shamayim; Sha'arei Efrayim 10:13
15 In most siddurim the wording is: V'zos ha-Torah asher tzivah Moshe lifnei
Bnei Yisrael al pi Hashem b'yad Moshe. Several poskim, however, note that
such a pasuk does not exist; see Siddur ha-Gra and Aruch ha-Shulchan 134:3.
16 Although some poskim consider the recital of V'zos ha-Torah to be so
vital that an individual interrupts his Birchos Kerias Shema in order to
recite it (Birkei Yosef 134:4; Sha'arei Teshuvah 134:2), many other poskim
disagree and hold that it should not be recited even during Pesukei d'Zimarh
(See Chaim Sha'al 68; Tehillah l'Dovid 66:8; Kaf ha-Chayim 134:20).
17 Mishnah Berurah 134:12.
18 Mishnah Berurah 147:7.
19 Mishnah Berurah 147:2.
20 Rama O.C. 147:1 and Beiur Halachah (s.v. v'tov).
21 Minchas Shabbos 80:155. According to this view, it is also prohibited to
tie a knot on a sash of a Sefer Torah in this fashion on Thursday, since it
has be untied on Shabbos morning.
23 See explanation in The Weekly Halachah Discussion, vol. 1, pg. 173.
24 Used mainly in German congregations. According to Harav S. Schwab (quoted
in Knots on Shabbos), this type of band was introduced in order to avoid the
issue of knotting on Shabbos.
25 O.C. 147:7.
26 Rama O.C. 149:1.
27 Mishnah Berurah 147:8.
28 It is permitted, though, to remove a Torah from its place for repairs or
to air it out. According to some opinions, it is even permitted to remove a
Torah in order to display its beauty, as this is considered an honor to the
Torah; see Kaf ha-Chayim 135:79.
29 It is also permitted to read Shnayim mikra from a Sefer Torah; Mishnah
30 Ma'asei Rav 129; Sha'arei Rachamim quoting several opinions.
31 Da'as Kedoshim Y.D. 282; Beis Shelomo O.C. 34
32 It is customary that when a Torah is moved it is wrapped in a tallis. The
source for this custom is unknown; Tzedakah u'Mishpat 16, note 3. It is
strongly recommended that when a Torah is temporarily relocated, ten people
should accompany it (Kaf ha-Chayim 135:74) but this does not seem to be
33 Aruch ha-Shulchan 135:32.
34 Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:61-13. See Sha'arei Rachamim 22 who refers to this as
"minhag ta'us." See also Kinyan Torah 4:18.