How to Perform an Aliyah

Being Called to the Torah

Before you are called up, you will be asked your Hebrew name to be used in the ceremony of calling you up. Your Hebrew name consists of your Hebrew first name and your father’s Hebrew first name. If you are a Levi or Cohen, this will be noted as well. In our synagogue, your name will first be announced in English, followed by the Hebrew. Immediately upon hearing your name, you should rise and come to the bimah (the table upon which the torah sits) and stand to the right of the torah reader. It is customary to take the most direct path to the bimah.

The First Blessing (before the torah portion)

The Torah Reader will then point to the word or line where he/she will begin to read. Then you take the fringe of your talit (or the belt used to wrap the torah if you are not wearing a talit), touch it to the margin area of the scroll that is closest to where the reading is to begin, and then touch it lightly to your lips. You take hold of the two handles at the bottom of the Torah scroll, keeping the scroll open. Then you start to read or chant the blessing which will be in Hebrew and in English transliteration on a printed card which is kept to the right of the Torah scroll.

Here is what you say:
Borchu et adonai hamevorach

Congregation responds:
Boruch adonai hamevorach le-olam vaed

You repeat:
Boruch adonai hamevorach l’olam va-ed

Then you continue:
Boruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher bachar banu mikol ha-amim, v’natan lanu et torahto. Boruch atah adonai, notein ha-Torah.

You can now let go of the left Torah scroll handle, move slightly to the right while continuing to hold the right Torah scroll handle, and watch as the reader chants from the torah.

The Second Blessing (after the torah portion)

When the reader is finished with the portion, take hold of the left Torah scroll handle again and roll the two scrolls together so that they are closed and recite the second blessing:
Boruch atah adonai, eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher natan lanu Torah emet, v’chayei olam nata b’tocheinu. Baruch atah adonai, notein ha-Torah.

Unless yours is the last aliyah, you should now remain at the bimah until the end of the next aliyah. You will be directed to stand further over to the right as the next person is called up, the torah porion is read, and the next person finishes their aliyah.

Returning to Your Seat

As you go back to your seat people will want to shake your hand. They will say “yasher koach” which means well done (literally, “may your strength remain”). You will respond with “Baruch tihiyeh” (may you be blessed). It is customary to take a less direct path back to your seat so that you can be congratulated. If you leave out any of the details of kissing the scroll or holding the scroll handles, no big deal. A lot of people skip some of these steps. You will get direction from people at the bimah if there is anything important that you are forgetting.

On-Line Resources

There is a page at ORT that is a wonderful guide to the blessings, complete with Hebrew text, English translation, English transliteration and Real Audio links (click on the little speaker icons next to the translations).