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When we Askenazim read from two Torah scrolls, the one taken out first is returned last and the one taken out second is returned first.

But we say “maalin bekodesh ve’ain moridin” – we go up in holiness and not down. So why do we degrade the first sefer by returning it second.

In case you argue that being out is the holiness of the sefer, then the question becomes why do we reduce the time that the second sefer is out by returning it first?

Not deliberately Purim Torah!

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Is it possible this is just because of how the scrolls fit in the ark? i.e. there is just no room to get the second one in there if the first one is in the way? (Personally I've never noticed any particular order of how they return them, but I'm planning on paying attention.) –  Ariel Feb 24 '13 at 5:49
    
Agree with Ariel. It's a practical custom (as quite a few are). It could also be rationalized as giving equality in status to the Sifrei Torah - the second one isn't "second best" since it goes back first. –  Epicentre Feb 24 '13 at 7:15
    
My guess is that it's the same reason we take tefillin off in the opposite order we put it on. It doesn't degrade the first sefer to stay out longer - it's a kavod to it. –  Charles Koppelman Feb 24 '13 at 18:42
    
I think the correct clall to apply is "Ain MaaVirin Al HaMitzvot" to since we are going to read from the first sefer torah first so that is the one we take hold of first. On the way back since Hagbah was done with the second sefer that is the one we return first as to put it aside in favor of the first sefer which would be embarrassing it. –  eramm Jan 20 at 13:24
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2 Answers

Since we are going to read from the first sefer torah first, that is the one we take hold of first. On the way back since Hagbah was done with the second Sefer that is the one we return first as in theory that is the one currently in the hand.

Source: http://www.torah.org/advanced/weekly-halacha/5770/korach.html note 37

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I think it's to show that both Sifrei Torah are equally Kosher and important.

The Shat"z-for-Shachrit carries the first Sefer to the Bima. One could suspect that the Second Sefer is somewhat less equal.

The Shatz-for-Mussaf therefore carries the second Sefer back to the Aaron HaKodesh. Since it's natural for the Shat"z to lead the parade back, the second Sefer gets put back first.

Since both Seforim now had a chance to be first - we know for sure that they are equal.

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