Aliyah LeTorah

What is your shul’s minhag? Can you be called to the Torah if you are not wearing a hat, do you need to have your tallit over your head to say the brachot? Does your character even matter?

Seriously, folks, if someone is a known philanderer how can he be given an aliyah to the Torah? A guy who spent time in prison for selling kidneys or defrauding the government – is that who we should honour with an aliyah? Someone who beats his wife regularly – he can be called up too? So long as he wears a hat, it’s ok? But someone who is known for not keeping Shabbat, well, some RW shuls won’t call him up because he isn’t “frum”. Some may not even count him in a minyan, so I am told. If his kashrut is questionable – not him either. (This is based on what I have heard, not my own personal experiences).

The rabbis say that it is not for us to judge. That we will all be judged when we meet our Maker. But I say that’s baloney. If we are calling people up to the Torah there needs to be some kind of standard. If some can judge the dude who doesn’t keep Shabbat as not minyan worthy, why can’t we judge the wife beating philanderer not aliyah worthy?

What are the halachot concerning this issue? And for that matter, why can I not be called up to the Torah? I keep the mitzvoth. I happen to be a woman. So?

(ETA – I am not a renegade nor a rebel. I really don’t need nor want the kavod of a personal aliyah to the Torah. However, there are occasions when I deeply wish I could share fully in this mitzvah. For example, we have our son’s barmitzvah coming up – and all the important males in his life will be called to the Torah. This is one occasion where I would very much like to be a part of that, after all, it is I who raise him full time. I am not advocating for equality in the prayer services. (Heaven Forfend!!)  Just venting at a situation I cannot control.)

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18 Comments

  1. Mark says:

    In my shul, standards vary (that’s a nice way of saying that they are pretty arbitrary) with regards to dress. Personally I don’t mind only getting an aliyah once or twice a year (on Simchat Torah and perhaps my bar mitzvah parsha) because I am not a macher, and not a shvitzer, and it makes it even more special when I do get one. Besides, I almost always have my kids with me and they are still young enough to need taking care of. I never wear a hat (other than a baseball cap, and not in shul, of course), and I don’t wear a suit, and I don’t wear a tie. I wear pants and a white short sleeve shirt every shabbat and chag.

    As far as honoring those with character flaws, there is always the danger of “proof”. Is knowledge of being a philanderer, common knowledge based on lashon hara, or did a beis din (or secular court) actually convict him and publicize their decision? In most (almost all) places, those with wealth get honored regardless of their character flaws, because in institutions that rely on charitable donations, wealth is one of the main things that garners respect.

  2. Shimbob says:

    In the shul where we daven you do not have to wear a hat or tallis over your head, but you do have to wear a tallis. We do give aliyas to men who are not frum. We don’t have any organ sellers, wife beaters, people who defraud the government, so everyone gets aliyas. Including the guy who finishes the ketchup at the shul kiddushim, GRRRRR! LOL!

  3. Ari says:

    I’m really stepping in it here, but here goes:

    Women can:

    - say kiddush and hamotzi for men (wine/bread blessing)
    - light chanuka and shabbat candles on behalf of their family
    - be a dayan/ judge (devorah)
    - be a mohel (tzipora – moshe’s wife)
    - put on tfillin (rashi’s daughters)
    - perform shechita (kosher slaughter)
    - be a mashgiach (kashrut supervisor)

    And, yes, they can also read the Torah and Megillah.

    Why do they generally not do so in orthodox congregations? Variously, because of “modesty” reasons and and men’s “fear” of having lascivious thoughts (think nees).

    Women can do just about everything men can do, but preference is given to men because they are expected to play a more public role.

    We have no problem with loopholes in Jewish life — pruzbuls, mechirat chometz — but apparently, when it involves women, people get weird. All goes back to hilchot cooties, I’m reasonably sure.

  4. hadassahsabo says:

    Hilchot Cooties – I Love It!! which mesechta is that from?

  5. Chanief says:

    Ari, LOL @hilchos cooties.

    Hadassah well said on the rest of it. I highly doubt there are any satisfactory answers to the issues you’re bringing up. It’s the way it has always and probably will always be.

  6. David says:

    Hold the phone here.

    You are the one instilling Torah values into Squiggy and you’re worried about public acclamation??? Is there not a stronger plaudit then seeing Squiggy grow into a strong Ben Torah???? [If you'd like, I'll supply the Super Jew shirt...]

  7. Ari says:

    Mesechet Nashim, silly!

  8. shorty says:

    there is always the “we can but we don’t NEED to argument”

    we are more spiritually elevated! :)

  9. Mark says:

    In our family, everyone lights Chanukah candles, yes, 7 chanukiyot (plus an electric one or two because the kids like them and my wife found them on sale somewhere) get lit every night of Chanukah.

    When I was single in Yerushalaim, we [very] often had group meals on shabbat (sometimes upwards of 20 people!) and sometimes a girl would make the hamotzei and sometimes a boy would. I think kiddush was almost always done by a boy.

  10. Daniel Schwartz says:

    Ari Says:

    July 31, 2009 at 1:05 pm
    I’m really stepping in it here, but here goes:

    Women can:

    - say kiddush and hamotzi for men (wine/bread blessing)
    HAMOTZI YES, KIDDUSH NO, AS IT’S A MITVAS ASEI SHEHAZMAN GRAMA.
    - light chanuka and shabbat candles on behalf of their family
    YES SINCE THE CANDLES ARE FOR SHALOM BAYIT AND NO OTHER PURPOSE
    - be a dayan/ judge (devorah)
    THEORETICALLY YES.
    - be a mohel (tzipora – moshe’s wife)
    TOSFOT IN CHULIN RECOMENDS AGAINST IT HOWEVER.
    - put on tfillin (rashi’s daughters)
    NOT A CHANCE IT EVER HAPPENED. RASHI PASKENS IN BRACHOT THAT THREE WOMEN WHO EAT TOGETHER CANNOT MAKE A ZIMUN AS THEY HAVE NO OBLIGATION TO DO SO, AND AS SUCH THEY WOULD TRANSGRESS BAL TOSIF, ADDING MITZVOT TO THE TORAH. THE SAME LOGIC WOULD APPLY TO TEFILLIN.
    - perform shechita (kosher slaughter)
    TOSFOT IN CHULIN RECOMENDS AGAINST IT.
    - be a mashgiach (kashrut supervisor)
    INDEED.

  11. hadassahsabo says:

    So Daniel, where do we get the idea then that Rashi’s daughters wore tefillin. everyone seems to KNOW that….

    and why is kiddush time-dependent if hamotzi is not?

  12. Ari says:

    Daniel – of course there are dissenting opinions, as with just about everything in life.

    Tefillin:

    King Shaul’s daughter Michal wore tefillin, as did the wife of Chaim ibn Attar. Sefer Hachinuch says woman can wear tefillin.

    Saying kiddush for a man:

    Women have an obligation to say kiddush even though it is a positive, time-specific commandment. But their obligation, based on “Shamor VeZachor,” is a Torah obligation and therefore they may say kiddush for men.

    Zimum among women:

    Women should answer zimun led by males. Three or more women, on their own, can and should say zimun.

  13. Tzvi Haber says:

    A few women in history wearing tefillin, even if true, does not halacha maketh. there are always exceptions. The Amshinover Rebbe has a mixed up calendar, does that mean we all should? We have to work with the normative halachc process that we have used for centuries, since the time of the Rishonim.

  14. Ari says:

    Tzvi-

    Agreed. But surely you’re not comparing a faulty calendar to the halachic ability for women to do all those things I mentioned. What it comes down to is “community norms,” as you astutely observed.

  15. Tzvi Haber says:

    Ari,
    community norms suggests its cultural, I believe it’s more halachic and rigid in nature, but we agree.

  16. Z! says:

    It always surprises me why women would choose to take on a mitzvah they have no obligation to do, while ignoring their obligations such as taharat hamishpacha, lighting candles and the basics like keeping kosher.
    They would prefer to prance around in shul in pants, wear kippot and tallit, and tefillin.

    Coming from a Conservative background, the answer I have been able to find some peace with is that these women don’t KNOW any better. They have no strong leadership except what they see the men do in Shul, and being that they are dying for more spirituality, but do not know how to attain it. So, they try to emulate the men. It is so sad that the Women’s Role in Judasim (A mainly ‘homebound’ and steadfast role) has been denegrated to the point where “liberated” women no longer want to do it.

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