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A Tale of Two Armstrongs

September 10, 2012

Being called up to the Torah is considered a great honor, as reflected in the Hebrew word for it: Aliyah – to ascend, to rise up. There are a minimum of seven aliyot every Shabbat and three every Monday, Thursday and Shabbat afternoon. When you throw in the holidays and you add it all up, there comes close to 1,000 times a year when someone can be honored with being called to the Torah. Indeed, being called to the Torah was considered such a great honor that until recent times the honor would be auctioned off in the synagogue … with some aliyot like the last one in the Torah, or the first one, or the Maftir on Mincha on Yom Kippur with the Book of Jonah, being sold for thousands of dollars!

And yet, there were two aliyot that nobody wanted; two aliyot that if offered to you, you would become insulted and sometimes enraged; two aliyot that you couldn’t give away for all the money in the world! One of them is in today’s Torah portion and the other in the concluding Torah portion in the Book of Leviticus; both of them being the tochacha. Tochacha is the word for “rebukes.” In today’s Torah portion and in the Torah portion of the Book of Leviticus, we have a series of verses describing the rebukes God says will come to the Jewish people if they don’t follow in His ways. Nobody wanted the aliyot that covered these verses, because nobody wanted to be associated with these verses. In fact, they are traditionally recited very quickly in an undertone and because no one wants the aliyah, it is usually given to the Torah reader himself. READ MORE

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