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I recently was asked to be a magbiah. Before I came to the bimah, the chazzan turned the scroll so that the text was facing down (toward the table). So, when I grasped the atzey chaim and lifted it, the text was facing towards the ark and then I needed to turn around so that the text was facing toward the congregation. Is this a minhag in some (ashkenazi) shuls? It seemed a bit odd to me.

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  • 1
    I have never seen this minhag. What kind of shul was it? Oct 19 '14 at 3:48
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    Was this the V'zos hab'racha scroll on Simchas Tora?
    – msh210
    Oct 19 '14 at 4:17
  • It was during Maariv on Simchat Torah. It was an Orthodox Ashkenazi shul. Is this something that happens during Simchat Torah only?
    – eliyahu12
    Oct 19 '14 at 7:17
  • @eliyahu12 We never read the Torah at night, (never from an actual Torah, and even just reading Tanach without learning it is generally prohibited at night.) So why were they doing hagbah at night?
    – user613
    Oct 28 '16 at 8:49
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    @user613 Most Ashkenazi congregations read from the Torah on Simchas Torah night after Maariv. Reading Tanakh is never prohibited (except Tisha B'Av and Shiva).
    – Double AA
    Oct 28 '16 at 15:28
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As indicated by msh210, it is a common custom on Simchas Torah to turn the Sefer Torah outwards when doing Hagbah after reading V'zos habrachah (the very end of the Pentateuch), and some do it for B'reishis Bara (The beginning) and Maftir (the day's offerings) too. Some Ashkenazim do it both by night and by day, some only in the morning, and some not at all.1

As for the reasons:2

  1. Pirkei Avos 5:26: "Turn the Torah over and over for everything is in it."

  2. A symbol of turning back the Torah to the beginning. (The last letter is ל and the first is ב, indicating that the entirety should be held together by the heart, לב.)


Sources:

  1. Experience.

  2. An Encyclopedia of American Synagogue Ritual

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    Although the practice is as you mention, I've never seen anyone flip it upside down first, it is always an akward process of crossing ones arms over each other mid-air.
    – user6591
    Oct 19 '14 at 15:42
  • 1
    @user6591 Indeed flipping it is probably prohibited, YD 277
    – Double AA
    Oct 27 '16 at 19:06
  • @user6591 I saw it done this year. The empty eitz was lifted over the full one and put down on the other side, thus effectively turning the sefer upside down.
    – Adám
    Oct 27 '16 at 20:06
  • @adam Unfortunately, seeing it done doesn't prove it's not asur.
    – Double AA
    Oct 27 '16 at 20:10

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