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.
My Hagbaha Guidelines
- Make sure there is an empty chair behind you to sit down on at the end
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.