Why do people lift their pinkies during Hagba?

  • 2
    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
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 2:01
  • 3
    See "Pointing to the Torah and other Hagbaha Customs" Hakirah Summer 2013.
    – Ariel K
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 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 Commented Jun 27, 2013 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. Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 13:25
  • hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=44187&st=&pgnum=67
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 8, 2016 at 3:23

16 Answers 16


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".

  • 8
    Yes, but why the pinky specifically, of all fingers in the Sefardic custom?
    – WhoKnows
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 2:48
  • 3
    As someone Sephardic, I find it funny that my only encounter with this minhag was by Ashkenazi minyanim. I see it as an Ashkenazi custom.
    – user8726
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 6:38
  • chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5386415/jewish/…. According to this article that piece of the Meam Loez was written by an Ashkenazi rabbi in the mid-to-late 1900s, so apparently the belief that it's a Sefardi minhag is a misconception.
    – YSR
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 14:01

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.

  • 1
    Does it say why? Commented Aug 22, 2010 at 20:15
  • 1
    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
    Commented Aug 22, 2010 at 21:02
  • YeZ, it's pages 182-183 in Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits's (volume II) Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 17:53
  • 2
    This comment does not answer the question.
    – user6591
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 14:31
  • 1
    It's interesting that, acc to above comment, Rav Elyashev was not in favor of it, as I recently saw a clip of Hagbo'oh taken after the final letters were written by Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlitoh, Rav Elyashiv's son-in-law, and to my surprise he pointed his pinky!
    – Imanonov
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 10:43

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.

  • The first paragraph would do better with a source-- I know Rashi on Shemot 30:13 (sefaria.org/…) interprets 'Zeh' as 'Ka'Zeh', 'like this (that I am pointing to).'
    – user9907
    Commented Apr 28, 2016 at 1:49

It is stated here in the name of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, that pointing with the pinkie finger, is a symbolism for approaching Torah with humility and a sense of smallness, just like the pinkie which is the smallest of the fingers.


There is no definitive reason as to why specifically the pinky is used to point. In fact, others advocate using the pointer (cf. R. Haim Palagi, Lev Haim vol. 2 §167 3.6)

R. Meir Mazuz suggested a novel theory (Mekor Ne’eman vol. 1 §976) that perhaps the pinky is used to signify the verse (Isa. 40:12) “מִֽי־מָדַ֨ד בְּשָׁעֳל֜וֹ מַ֗יִם וְשָׁמַ֙יִם֙ בַּזֶּ֣רֶת תִּכֵּ֔ן” (Sefaria trans.: Who measured the waters with the hollow of His hand, And gauged the skies with a span *) indicating that we believe that Torah is God-given.

R. David Barda (Kovetz HaMashbir vol. 3 pg. 186), in an extensive article on this issue and its specifics, quoted a journal ‘Asifat Hachamim’ in which the writer of an article there claims he heard the reason is because snuff was distributed during the reading of the Torah and by the time the raising of the Torah came about peoples’ fingers were mostly soiled with snuff and so they would use their pinkies.

*alt. = pinky


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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Apr 26, 2010 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
    Commented Apr 26, 2010 at 20:25
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    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
    Commented Apr 26, 2010 at 20:28
  • I think also appears in Ben Ish Hai. Commented Jan 5, 2012 at 16:14
  • there's a good article about it here: doseofhalacha.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/torah-on-display.html
    – Zvi
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 16:42

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.


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...

  • "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
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 8:56
  • @msh210 emperor worship and deification was common. oxfordbiblicalstudies.com/article/opr/t94/e602 .
    – user6591
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 1:14

According to this article (p. 294)

The earliest mention of pointing during hagbaha is found in Divrei Mordekhai, a book of responsa by R. Moredekhai Krispin, a rabbi in Rhodes in the 1800s. No source for the custom is given, only a justification for why it is not considered inappropriate. In Bamidbar Rabbah (2:3) R. Hanina explains that while it is generally considered insolent and punishable by death to point to the image of a king using a finger, because of His great love for the Jewish People, God allows young children to point to His Name in the house of study. R. Krispin writes that this is what people rely on when they point to the Torah. This justification is quoted by R. Hayyim Palaggi

Based on this, and as mentioned in another answer I would conjecture that pointing with a pinky is less insulting/more respectful manner of pointing.

contra to the implication found in another answer the portion of the Me'am Loez in which this custom is described was not written by R' Yaakov Culi. (ibid p. 298)

the me-Am Lo’ez commentary to Deuteronomy, including the discussion of hagbaha, was written by R. Shmuel Kroizer (1921–1997),52 a fifth-generation Jerusalemite who lived most of his life in the Beit Hakerem neighborhood of Jerusalem. ... Thus, the earliest reference in writing to the custom of pointing to the Torah with the little finger is in fact in the book me-Am Lo’ez, but that particular section dates to 1969

See additional reasons mentioned in the aforecited article.


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.

  • 1
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    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 2:17
  • 1
    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!). Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 17:13

Rabbi Shaul Lieberman discusses pionting with a finger on pages 15-16 of his Hellenism in Jewish Palestine. He does not say so explicitly but I would conjecture, based on what he does say, that because pointing can also be seen as a haughty act that it is done in a diminished capacity ie with the smallest finger. See notes 81-84 therein.

  • @ShmuelBrin that was not part of the question Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 1:17
  • @ShmuelBrin no, it is not. there is no mention in the question of pointing the finger at the torah, just pointing the finger during the performance of hagbah Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 2:09

Many people here are claiming that it is a Sephardic custom on the basis of its appearance in Meam Loez and the contrast to RMA's statement about bowing. However, Ron (https://hakirah.org/Vol15Ron.pdf) points out that this section of the Meam Loez was written by an Ashkenazi and not published until 1969. It is notable, however, that the Jewish Encyclopedia (1912) described "Russian Jews are accustomed to use . . . the little finger for the Scroll of the Law."

  • please see my earlier answer citing this source Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 14:11

The source has already been cited above but without being linked or listing the reason....

I saw in the new Artscroll biography of Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt"l it writes on p.462:

Many people have the custom to point with their pinky at hagbah when the sefer Torah is lifted and shown to the congregation. R' Chaim would point at the Torah with his index finger, not his pinky. He cited that the in Sefer Lev Chaim (2:167:6), R' Chaim Palagi writes that the reason some point specifically with the index finger is based on a series of five-word statements in Tehillim 19 in praise of the Torah, beginning with "[The] Torah [of the] L-rd [is] perfect, restoring [the] soul." In each of these statements, the Name of G-d is the second word. Since the entire Torah itself is considered "the Name of G-d," it is appropriate to use the second finger - which corresponds to the position of G-d's Name in these verses-when we point to the Torah.


From Chabad.org / Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin:

[...] several contemporary explanations have been offered as to why some use the pinky to point.

613 Mitzvahs

The Hebrew word for “the pinky,” hazeret (הזרת), has the numerical value of 613 (if you include the word as a whole as part of the count). Thus, pointing with the pinky indicates the Torah, which has 613 mitzvahs.


Some explain that the smallest finger is used to demonstrate that the Torah is only acquired through humility.


Each of the five fingers is associated with one of the five senses, and the pinky is associated with the sense of hearing. Thus, some explain that the pointing of the finger is meant to reflect the Jews’ statement Na’aseh v’nishma, “We will do and hear,” at the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. With this statement, we declared that we would follow the Torah even before we necessarily understood everything.


Alternatively, some explain that since pointing with the index finger may not be seen as respectful, the pinky is used instead.


The piskei teshuva was Ashkenazi. :פסקי תשובות אורח חיים סימן קלד אות ז

ויש נוהגין להצביע באצבע הזרת לעבר הס"ת כשאומרים וזאת התורה ולנשקה ומקורו קדמון

There are those who point with their pinky. It is an unknown and old minhag.


Oh but really guys...Isn't it obvious?

"This is the Torah" This phrase implies that the Torah is directly pesent in a way in which it could be pointed to. Especially in the sepharadic custom there is an emphasis on acting out the things you read, hence spreading the hands open when reciting "opens your hand" in Ashrei and a host of other little gestures that people do practically without thinking about them. As a matter of fact the common custom today in Israel is when the Hazzan reads the statement near the end of Shaharit "Whoever recites halachot every day is assured of a place in the world to come!" somebody will pull out a book and recite two (hopefully brief) Halachot. At any rate, it makes sense from the "act out what you say" angle to actually point when saying the verse "this is the Torah". Now...which finger to point with? Well, no-one points with their thumb. To point with the index finger (the pointer) isn't polite. It is not considered proper to single out a person out in this way. It is like counting that person. How much more so it would be considered a lack of reverence towards the Torah. Howabout the middle finger? I suspect that the middle finger has always meant what it means today, so one could hardly use that one. Lets try pointing with the next finger...Most people cannot comfortably extend that finger without simultainiously extending the little finger too. Since pointing is done with one finger only that won't do. So the only finger left is the little one. Walla! Mystery solved.

  • 1
    did the middle finger mean what it means now (in the US at least) for hundreds of years? Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 20:56
  • It mans something today because of undeniable physical morphology. Ergo, the current mewaning is probably not new, but as old as te morphology itself.
    – Nathan
    Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 15:16

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