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Why do people lift their pinkies during Hagba?

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Some also drape the front right tzitzit of their tallit over their pinky during hagbah, and then kiss the tzitzit when the Sefer Torah is lowered to the bimah. –  DovidM Jun 27 '13 at 2:01
See "Pointing to the Torah and other Hagbaha Customs" Hakirah Summer 2013. –  Ariel K Jun 27 '13 at 3:13
Video shiur on the minhagim of hagbaha by the author (Rabbi Zvi Ron) of the Hakira article mentioned above: ustream.tv/recorded/16393363 –  emmlinisrael Jun 27 '13 at 11:35
I have see Mori V'rabi Rav Avigdor Nevenzahl shlit"a point with an open hand (akin to the way the queen waves to the public) during hagba. –  Mefaresh Mar 13 at 13:25

7 Answers 7

It is from the Meam Loez (Ki Savo, 27:26) and Rabbi Hayyim Palagei in Lev Chaim, Orach Chaim (167:6) it is Sefardic in practice since it was originally written in Ladino now available in English and Hebrew but it is a translation, but most people do not know it to be a Sefardic custom and just saw others doing it and took it up too not in a mocking way as we know "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".

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Yes, but why the pinky specifically, of all fingers in the Sefardic custom? –  WhoKnows May 26 '13 at 2:48

We say "THIS is the Torah ..."; anytime we use such a language, it implies something specific to which we can point. Okay so we're pointing, but why with the pinky finger?

I'm sure there are other (better?) answers, but here's one I heard: the Hebrew word for pinky finger, zeret, also means a "span", the measure from your thumb to pinky (spread out). That word, "zeret", occurs only about one thing in the Chumash -- the housing for the Urim VeTumim. So we're saying that the Torah is our way of understanding the will of G-d -- just the Urim VeTumim had been.

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Over Shabbos, I saw a recent work entitled Halachically Speaking, by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits (volume II). He discusses there what to do during hagbah.

In the discussion, it is reported there that both Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach z"l, as well as Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv z"l, are not in favor of the pinky/finger pointing.

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Does it say why? –  SimchasTorah Aug 22 '10 at 20:15
reader, if you register your account, you won't show up as a new user every time you come in from a different IP address. –  Isaac Moses Aug 22 '10 at 21:02
YeZ, it's pages 182-183 in Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits's (volume II) –  Chiddushei Torah Nov 9 '14 at 17:53
This comment does not answer the question. –  user6591 Mar 13 at 14:31

I once heard a long time ago that it is a derivation of making the word spelled Shin-Daleth-Yod with your hand. The three fingers that are bent downwards make up the Shin, as I recall the thumb, which is pointed outwards, is the Daleth, and the pinky, which is supposed to be bent partially, is the Yod. However, it seems logical to me that, if this is really the origin of the custom, then either my memory is faulty, or the description was backwards - the fingers bent over are the Shin, the thumb, which is sticking out, is the Yod, and the pinky, which is supposed to be bent partially, is the Daleth.

In any case, ever since hearing that I've made a point of bending my pinky partially.

Also, if memory does serve me correctly (and at this point that's not clear), I heard it in the name of the Meiri. I question that memory as well, though. It may have been the Me'am Lo'ez. If anyone has more information on that origin, I'd welcome it.

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The custom you are talking about is a Sepharadic custom. It is not Ashkenazic minhag. Ashkenazic minhog is, as brought down in the Rama in Shulchan Aruch, to bow toward the sefer Torah during hagbah.

For some reason the pinky pointing has become a fad for some people. Maybe they picked it up in Eretz Yisroel, or in other places where they came in contact with Sepharadim. I guess it seems cute to them, but they should follow the Ashkenazic minhog if they are Ashkenazic Jews, which is more respectful to the holy Torah, instead of giving a finger to the sefer Torah.

In general, this is representative of a larger phenomenon, which is problematic, of people finding some custom which seems cute to them and adopting it, at the expense of their own tradition/mesorah. Not the way to go. Cuteness and style are not supposed to be the determining factors in minhogim.

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It would be great if you (or someone) could point to the particular Sh"A / Rama disagreement on this. Also, while I agree with you on cuteness vs. tradition, it would be great if you could cite a source for your assertion. –  Isaac Moses Apr 26 '10 at 16:27
There is a kabbalistic source to the custom of the pinky. When i get a chance I will ask my local expert to remind me where he saw it and its reason. –  Yahu Apr 26 '10 at 20:25
Do not be quick to call the minhag "giving a finger to the sefer Torah." If it is not your minhag does not make a disrespectful gesture. Of course if one does not have this minhag or does not know the reason behind it, it could appear that way. From what I recollect, it has something to do with forming the name "Shakai". –  Yahu Apr 26 '10 at 20:28
I think also appears in Ben Ish Hai. –  Hacham Gabriel Jan 5 '12 at 16:14
there's a good article about it here: doseofhalacha.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/torah-on-display.html –  Zvi Jul 14 '14 at 16:42

I was having a discussion with my son about the pointing of the pinky at the Torah during Hagbah. At some point someone told me that they heard a reference that this custom was somehow connected to Roman times and was a sign of respect towards Caesar, and for that reason he did not do it. Since that would be an indication of idolatry rather than respect for the Torah and G-d. Once I heard that I stopped doing it, but I cannot remember who told me this and have not been able to find any reference to it. If anyone can track this down or confirm or discredit this I would appreciate it. It is a custom that has been taken on in my conservative egalitarian Shul, which is Ashkenazi for the most part. Even though I understand here, that it is a Sephardi custom. Most members of my congregation when I ask them why they do it, have no idea...

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"this custom was somehow connected to Roman times and was a sign of respect towards Caesar, and for that reason he did not do it. Since that would be an indication of idolatry": why, was Caesar considered a god? –  msh210 Mar 12 '12 at 8:56

It is easier and cuter to point a pinky than to bow.

Also, anything new has an attraction to some people as a fad. Bowing of that nature is done elsewhere in davening (e.g. modim, aleinu), so bowing another time has less attraction to bored people than a new practice of sticking out a finger.

Nevertheless, as stated earlier, the older minhag of bowing should be respected and followed. If the Shulchan Aruch says to do so, that it not a minor matter. It should be be respected. Those that want to see it inside in the Shulchan Aruch are directed to SA Orach Chaim 134:2.

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reader, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for contributing a source! We'd love to have you as a fully-registered member, which you can accomplish by clicking "register" above. –  Isaac Moses Aug 18 '10 at 2:17
By the way, the bowing (or I guess pointing) has to be done when you see the writing on the Sefer Torah (and not the back of the klaf!). –  Avrohom Yitzchok Aug 19 '11 at 17:13

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