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I've seen many people shy away when asked to do Hagbaha (‏הגבהה‏), thinking themselves too weak. I know for a fact that it doesn't take that much strength to do it correctly, so I'd love to see a writeup of proper technique.


See also the Sefaradi version of this question.

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I would suggest that fear is a real factor that can limit or prevent success in this. If someone has never done it, a larger/heavier Sefer Torah should not be the first attempt unless the Magbiah is fully comfortable with it. –  Seth J Mar 7 '11 at 13:15
    
Looking around this site and YouTube to help with this question, I found this video which may be useful in answering this question –  Shokhet Jul 15 at 3:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 26 down vote accepted

My Hagbaha Guidelines

  1. Make sure there is an empty chair behind you to sit down on at the end
  2. Roll the torah to a seam in the klaf sections. This is not to aid the one performing it, but helps if one pulls the Torah outward with too much force in the process of lifting it up, that a tear will occur on a seam where it can be repaired instead in the middle of a section of klaf.
  3. Make sure that it's rolled tight, without a lot of slack, so it doesn't start trying to rollout wider than your arms are wide when you lift it up. Being able to show 4 columns is nice but not required.
  4. Make sure your hands are all the way at the top of the handles, in contact with the disks. That way, the torah will rest on your hands, rather than being supported by the friction of your hands on the handles, which is a lot harder on your hands.
  5. Pull the Torah off the shulchan about 4-6 inches (of the actual torah body, not just the Atzei Chaim [handles]) to give you leverage to tilt the Torah up against the edge of the shulchan.
  6. Bend your knees so you do some of the lifting with your knees while you apply downward pressure on the atzei chayim, lifting the torah off the shulchan into a nearly upright position, still leaning against the shulchan.
  7. Now comes the tricky part: This is the moment where strength counts and not just technique. You lift up and away from the shulchan to raise the Torah. It's here where if you're going to stumble it's most likely to happen due to the transfer of weight from the shulchan to your arms/wrists and need to lift it at nearly the same time if you want to look like you know what you're doing. For this I have no magic method to insure success. The more you've bent your knees, the more work your knees can do instead of your arms.
  8. Lift it up, - in terms of how high, I think it probably most comfortable to have your hands at about the same level as your shoulder. (I think it's nice to get it all the way over your head but it's not always easy) Once you have stopped lifting, then it should be fairly easy to steady it and wait for the congregation to say V'zot.... Optionally, you may want to turn from side to side once to make sure everyone can see the Torah too.
  9. If you turn, make sure to start and stop turning slowly. Otherwise, you'll be fighting the angular momentum of the torah, and it will try to tip out of your hands.
  10. Lower just your arms to bring the Torah down to a comfortable height so you can now sit down with it. Once seated, bring your wrists down to your knees to (a) further releive the weight on them, and (b) this usually helps with the gelilah also.
  11. Help roll the Torah in a little as well so the klaf doesn't hang too much, and remember to ease up your grip on the Atzei chayim a little because the golel can't turn them if you're still rigidly gripping them. The disks should mostly still be resting on your hands.
  12. Hold the Torah throughout the Haftorah if this is the minhag of the shul. Don't try to pass it off to a kid or the golel.

As I said in #6, I do feel there is a strength component too, but technique greatly helps. Therefore, as a rightie, I will not do Hagbaha on heavy sifrei torah until we get several parshiot into the book of B'reishit because a combination of the sheer weight on my left side along with the awkward imbalance of it, makes for a shaky hagbaha. This is one area I prefer not to test my limitations. I would advise anyone who has not had a lot of experience with Hagbaha to take the same into account.

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Re: #5: I think I actually pull it out farther, maybe even a foot, while I bend one of my knees almost to kneeling, so that gravity does even more of the work of tipping it up. –  Isaac Moses Dec 12 '09 at 23:17
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Re: #8: I'm not sure that turning is actually optional. See Soferim 14:14: "... he picks it up and shows the written surface to the people who stand on his right and left, and he turns it in front of himself and behind himself. For there is a Mitzva for all the men and women to see the script and to bow and say 'Vezot ...'" –  Isaac Moses Dec 12 '09 at 23:27
    
See also Mishna Berura 147:7, quoting the Sha'arei Efrayim: "The gabbai is not allowed to give the honor of Hagbaha to someone ... weakened. For it's know. that he'll pick it up to sit immediately, for he doesn't have the strength to hold it for a little while opposite the people, so that they can see well. And also, that guy has to hold himself back from this." –  Isaac Moses Dec 12 '09 at 23:27
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+1 Wow, what a great hagbaha handbook! –  Shaul May 11 '11 at 20:49
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Re#8: I was told to do a complete 360, going from Left to Right or Right to Left, depending on which hand you write with. I don't remember the reason though. –  Zvi Jun 15 '11 at 5:01

Practical answer:

  1. Open the Sefer to 3 columns
  2. Hold the Sefer and pull it about half-way off the Bima
  3. Push down until it's vertical and lift it up

Then you can turn slowly around and sit down.

On weekdays, first unwrap the Tefilin from your hand and rewind it around your sleeve.

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12a. Hold the Torah on your right shoulder with the front of the cover (and any breastplates or pointing aids) facing away from your body. --sorry no citation

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josh, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks very much for adding this detail! I look forward to seeing you around. –  Isaac Moses Jul 22 '10 at 13:51

spend more time working out

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That's exactly not the answer I was looking for. I've seen plenty of people who don't work out do it right (me included), indicating that technique can go a long way. –  Isaac Moses Dec 9 '09 at 19:06
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I just tried to down-vote this answer, and then realized that I couldn't, because it was mine. I guess I will have to look harder for other smarmy, sarcastic responses. –  Jeremy Jan 13 '10 at 17:52
    
I think that this advice isn't totally off. It is not just a matter of strength, but hagbah is one of the only "real life" activities which mimic weightlifting, i.e. lifting a relatively heavy item by a bar which sits comfortably in the hand. Also, some sifrei Torah ARE heavy and smaller guys will have difficulty regardless of their style. –  Yirmeyahu May 7 '10 at 6:33
    
I actually gave this a one up. Jews used to be warriors, in fact, that is and should now also be part of being a Jew. It states in Tanakh that Shimshon ripped open a lion as someone would rip open a goat. I don't see many Jews today ripping open animals with their hands nowadays, unfortunately. Jews have a very Christian ideals in their minds now, in how a Jew is supposed to act. I am all for getting rid of galut mentality, and I think anyone who wants to be honest in his daily tefilla - and observance of Torah - should be as well. –  Aman May 24 '12 at 10:14

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