By Cantor Lorna Wallach
When was the last time you had an “Aliyah”/honor at CBI services? During the school year, when we celebrate many B’nai Mitzvah and other “s’machot” (joyous occasions) on Shabbat mornings, there aren’t always many opportunities for our Gabbaim (Sheldon Greenholtz, Amy Dantus and Joe Tenenbaum) to give out honors to congregants, and we also maintain the Minhag of reserving the first and second Aliyot for a Kohain/Bat Kohain or a Levi/Bat Levi if they are present. However, in the summer, there are opportunities galore!
In every Jewish community all over the world, it is considered a great merit to receive an honor during the service (Shabbat, Holiday or weekday minyan). These can include leading davenning or doing an English reading, reading Torah or Haftarah, opening the Ark, carrying the Torah, lifting or dressing the Torah, teaching words of Torah, and, of course, being called to the Torah to recite the Aliyah blessings.
“Aliyah,” which means “ascent,” refers to the spiritual elevation which comes with the privilege of receiving an honor. The Zohar tells us, “G-d looked in the Torah and created the world; when humans act for the sake of G-d and the Torah, we sustain the world.”
There are no restrictions for a Jew to receive an honor – one does not have to be learned or observant of Mitzvot, and you don’t even have to know how to read Hebrew! According to Minhag (old customs), there are certain occasions when preference for an honor should be given, such as to a Groom (or Bride in an egalitarian setting) before or right after their wedding, to someone who is marking a Yahrtzeit, to a parent of a newborn, and to a child on the week immediately after his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah!!
If you want to learn or brush up on how to chant an aliyah, or any other synagogue skill, I am happy to make myself available to help you and I also have recordings that you can listen to! So, if it’s been a while since you’ve had a service honor, please let us know and take advantage of the summertime to come and elevate your soul by taking an honor in any of our services!