Instructions for Aliyot Sheet

Your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah is an important milestone in your family and in the life of the Congregation. We wish to make the experience as meaningful as possible for your family without changing the warm, welcoming, participatory, and traditional environment that characterizes our Congregation. There is a balance that needs to be made between a family’s desire to honor as many people as possible and the Congregation’s need to have services as usual even when there is a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

In recognition of the tensions that may occur as a result of maintaining this balance, we ask that you carefully follow the instructions on the attached aliyah sheet. This sheet should be discussed with your Gabbai several weeks before the Bar or Bat Mitzvah date (even before calling your relatives to give them the honors) so that any questions and issues can be fully discussed and resolved well before you go into “high gear” with all the last-minute preparations that are an inevitable part of the simcha.

All people who are given honors on the bimah must be Jewish. All children must wear a kipa on the Bimah, and all adults on the bimah must wear a tallit and kipa. Please try to give each person only one honor (excluding the children who will be carrying crowns). If you have a friend or relative reading Torah, please do not give them an aliyah as well. We like to honor as many people as possible on a given Shabbat.

The abbreviated instructions on the sheet are expanded here, including the rationale behind them.

Ark Openings: There are two doors to the Ark. We ask that you assign no more than two people per door, largely because the Bimah gets too crowded otherwise.

Carrying the Sefer Torah: One Sefer Torah is removed from the Ark on most Shabbatot. Our Sifrei Torah generally weigh about 25 pounds. There are two processions, allowing you the opportunity to assign two different people to carry the Sefer Torah. It is acceptable for the Sefer Torah to be carried by either a woman or a man, as long as he/she is capable of carrying the weight comfortably and in a manner that suitably honors the importance of the Sefer Torah

Two or three Sifrei Torah are removed from the Ark on some Shabbatot, when required by the liturgy. Your Gabbai will let you know if this is the case for your simcha. If so, you may assign carriers for each Sefer Torah for each procession.

Carrying Crowns: The Congregation has 5 silver crowns that are carried behind the Sefer Torah in both processions. We usually ask young children (between the ages of 5 and 11) to carry the crowns. If you have young children in your circle of family and friends that you would like to honor in this fashion, you may assign them accordingly.

Torah Aliyot: The Acharon aliyah is reserved for those observing Yahrzeit in the following week, and the Maftir aliyah is reserved for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah. You may choose people (including yourselves) for up to four of the other aliyot. The reason for limiting the number of aliyot to four is so that three aliyot remain open to the congregation at large. There are often other congregants who are entitled to aliyot on the day of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah for many different reasons:  have an aufruf prior to a wedding, to name a baby, celebrate a special anniversary or birthday, bentsh gomel, be sent off to Israel with an appropriate blessing, and the like. Reserving three aliyot for the Congregation allows us to accommodate everyone.

We also ask that you limit each Torah aliyah to no more than two people, and that the two people be closely related to each other. The reason for this is halachic in nature. Traditionally, an aliyah is an honor assigned to one person. In recent years, the practice in many Conservative shuls has become for married couples to share an aliyah. This congregation has gone beyond that by allowing other groups of two related people to share an aliyah, such as: a parent and child; two siblings; a grandparent and grandchild; first cousins, same-sex couple. As such, our definition of “closely related” is fairly broad. We maintain this limit of two people per aliyah when there is not a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and we respectfully ask that you also honor this limit when assigning aliyot for your simcha.

The Kohen and Levi aliyot are special in this congregation, as it is our tradition to honor the patrilineal descendants of the priestly tribe by reserving the first aliyah for a Kohen or bat-Kohen and the second aliyah for a Levi or bat-Levi.   We usually restrict these to one person per aliyah, but relax this restriction on a Bar or Bat Mitzvah to allow families containing Kohanim and Leviim the same opportunities as those who do not have Kohanim or Leviim in their families.   Therefore, for the Kohen aliyah, at least one of the people must be a Kohen; for the Levi aliyah, at least one of the people must be a Levi. If you choose to assign one or both of these aliyot to friends or family members, please remember that these count as part of the four aliyot that you may assign.

It is not appropriate to assign a Kohen or a Levi to aliyot three through seven. Therefore, in some cases, your Gabbai may suggest the addition of an extra aliyah (called Hosafah, and placed between the seventh aliyah and the Acharon Yahrzeit aliyah) to accommodate a family desiring to honor an additional Kohen or Levi. Should this be the case, the Hosafah aliyah counts as one of the four that the family may assign.

Hagbah:  This is the honor of lifting the Sefer Torah, showing several columns to the Congregation. Due to the weight of our Sifrei Torah, this requires considerable strength. If the person you assign has never done this before, or has only lifted a small Sefer Torah, please contact your Gabbai and arrange an opportunity for the person to practice at the Synagogue before Shabbat. It is acceptable for a woman to serve in this capacity, as long as she is strong enough to lift the Sefer Torah. If your simcha happens to fall on a date when two or three Sifrei Torah are used, then you may assign the appropriate number of people for this honor. Your Gabbai will tell you if this is the case.

G’lilah: This is the honor of rolling, tying up and covering the Sefer Torah after hagbah. The Bimah Gabbaim will help with the process. If your simcha happens to fall on a date when two or three Sifrei Torah are used, then you may assign the appropriate number of people for this honor. Your Gabbai will tell you if this is the case.

Please do not hesitate to ask questions of your assigned Gabbai as you are working on these forms. If you are working on them before you have been assigned a Gabbai, any of the regular Gabbaim would be happy to answer your questions.   Please do not hesitate to call any of us:  Stuart Bear (651-686-4888), Arielle Ehrlich (651-686-5140) or Eric Pasternack (651-994-9793).

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