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Judaism: Hagbahah and Gelilah

Hagbahah and Gelilah (Heb. הַגְבָּהָה וּגְלִילָה; “lifting and rolling” of the Torah scroll) refers to the elevation and subsequent rolling together of the Scroll of the Law in the synagogue. Hagbahah is the raising of the open Torah scroll, so that the congregation may see the writing and testify: “And this is the Law which Moses set before the children of Israel” (Deut. 4:44); “According to the word of the Lord by Moses” (Num. 9:23). In the Sephardi ritual, Deuteronomy 4:24, 33:4 is immediately followed by Psalms 18:31. In the Reform ritual, “This Torah is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it; and of them that uphold it everyone is rendered happy” (Prov. 3:18) is recited instead. In the Ashkenazi ritual, this rite is performed after the reading from the Pentateuch and before the reading from the Prophets (haftarah). One person lifts up the Torah scroll in such a way that the congregation can see three columns of the writing. He then sits down and another person rolls the scroll, binds it, dresses it with a mantle, and replaces its various ornaments. This part of the rite is called gelilah (“rolling together”). In many hasidic synagogues hagbahah is made with an open scroll before the reading from the Torah and again after the reading, with a closed scroll which is then bound. In the Sephardi ritual, hagbahah is performed before the reading from the Pentateuch. The person who takes the Torah scroll from the ark opens it and carries it open to the reading platform. According to the Talmud, the person who performs the gelilah ceremony is honored even more than those who are called to the actual reading of the Pentateuch (Meg. 32a, see also: Sh. Ar., OḤ 134). In some places, it has become the custom to let the gelilah be performed even by minors (under the age of bar mitzvah) who are not qualified to be called to the Pentateuch reading. In the Western Sephardi rite, however, hagbahah is performed only by an honorary official or members of an honorary brotherhood (levantadores).


ET, S.V., Gelilah and Hagbahah; Eisenstein, Dinim, S.V.; E. Munk, The World of Prayer, 1 (1961), 175.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.