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A person called for an aliyah LeTorah makes a blessing before and after the reading.

As I recall, the original custom (mentioned in Talmud Megilla 21b) was to have the Cohen make the staring blessing before the 1st reading, and the person for the last aliyah makes the ending blessing after the last aliyah. Then, the custom changed to having each person make both blessings.

Considering that the mute can't recite the blessings, can we rely on the original custom, which would imply that he doesn't need to make the blessings? Or, should someone else make the blessings for him?

Thanks to @Daniel for confirming that according to some, a person who can't read the words in the Torah along with reader may still receive an aliyah. I.e., reading the words is not an absolute requirement according to some. (See this post.)

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    He also can't read the Torah. What exactly is he doing up there at all? – Double AA Feb 11 '16 at 18:50
  • @DoubleAA Is there a requirement that the oleh verbalize what the reader is reading? If there is, then in my shul, we may as well not invite most of the people in shul, because they can barely read or pronounce Hebrew. (That's why we have a card with transliteration for the brachot.) – DanF Feb 11 '16 at 18:54
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    According to the ShA (OC 139:2) you should protest people getting Aliyot if they can't read Hebrew. I'm not sure why you would think he doesn't need to read. What else is he doing up there? Smiling and looking pretty? It's called "The Torah Reading" for a reason. Similarly, the ShA rules (OC 141:2) that someone who doesn't read along with the Chazzan is saying Berakhot Levatala. – Double AA Feb 11 '16 at 18:56
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    @DoubleAA That doesn't seem to be how we practice now. The person who gets the aliyah is definitely supposed to read along if he can, but it seems that he may still have an aliyah if he is not able to. See here – Daniel Feb 11 '16 at 18:58
  • Oh @DoubleAA now I understand your question. If he can't make the berakha and he also can't read along, what is he doing up there? Good question! – Daniel Feb 11 '16 at 19:00
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Peri Megadim (OC 140 MZ 2) writes that perhaps if the mute is an extremely important person ("אדם חשוב גדול הדור") we can be lenient to allow others to say the blessing for him through Shomea' KeOneh, but the matter requires further investigation (צ"ע).

Keren David (OC 27) takes it as obvious that this wouldn't work, and Shevet HaLevi (7:20:3) is inclined that way as well.


A similar issues is discussed practically in Shut MiMa'amakim 3:2. (Shut MiMa'amakim (lit. "from the depths", cf Psalms 130:1) are the responsa of Rabbi Ephraim Oshry written between 1941 and 1945 in the Kovno Ghetto.) He writes how in 1942 he was approached by a long time congregant Reb Moshe ben Aryeh who, at great personal risk, sneaked out to the fields to try and get a few potatoes from the leftovers of the harvest in order to share with his beleaguered companions. Unfortunately, the Nazis caught him and beat him to within an inch of his life to set an example, leaving him permanently deaf and mute. R Oshry describes how Reb Moshe's intellect remained intact, and he would regularly communicate with others via writing. Reb Moshe asked R Oshry if there was any way he could count in a Minyan and get an Aliyah, for he so regretted losing the ability to pray aloud to God.

R Oshry wrote extensively to find a solution, concluding that while Reb Moshe can count for a Minyan, it is too difficult to allow him to get an Aliyah. However, R Oshry recommended that Reb Moshe go up to the Torah and while the Ba'al Keriyah would technically receive the Aliyah, both of them should say the blessings to God in unison: one aloud and one in silence.

Reb Moshe's eyes lit up upon reading the response (which became the responsum) and he wrote back: " ניחמתני וחייתני, כן ינחמך ויחיך ה'‏ You have consoled me and gave me life, so too should God console you and give you life."

While R Oshry's case was about a deaf-mute, seemingly החכם עיניו בראשו and we could apply the same recommendation to your case in situations of great need where the mute feels he needs an Aliyah.

  • I began reading this in Hebrew, yesterday, but got lost after a few pages. Thanks for summarizing. Thanks for this great find! We don't, yet, have any mute in our shul. But, as my son is deaf, I am trying to have my shul become more inclusive to the disabled. BIG general problems with shuls, these days. I may discuss this item with some congregants at Seudah Shlishit, tomorrow, and, eventually, with my rabbi upon his return from a trip. Shabbat Shalom. – DanF Feb 12 '16 at 18:16
  • @DanF I don't see how Aliyot has anything to do with inclusivity. Not everyone is qualified to sing Kol Nidrei and not everyone can get Aliyot. Big deal. Everyone, though, is welcome to come and pray to God. Focus on ensuring that there is handicap accessible ramps, a page number counter in the front, stuff like that, would be useful. – Double AA Feb 12 '16 at 18:17
  • @DoubleAA Of course! But, similar to your story, many in shul want to feel equal, not left out. For many years, a few shuls excluded my son from being chazzan b/c he was deaf. Truth is, I showed them a halchic decision that explained ways to get around problems such as his not knowing how long to pause for cong. responses before continuing. Easy enough - someone gives a hand signal or such. Your item provides a possible heter for these people to be included. Don't dismiss it, until you've been there or dealt with such people. It IS a BIG deal to many of them! – DanF Feb 12 '16 at 18:56
  • @DanF The story took place during the Holocaust, a Shaat HaDechak par excellance, and you are right that in Shaot HaDechak we work around these issues. But in ordinary circumstances you should focus first on explaining to them how it's not actually a big deal. Only when that fails should we resort to other things. I agree that people are irrational sometimes and we have to deal with that. Better to teach them the truth if possible. – Double AA Feb 12 '16 at 18:57
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    @DanF So we should teach them not to feel entitled. Giving in to them is not supportive of their developing healthy Middot. I don't think the case of R Oshry is remotely similar to a stubborn old guy who wants an Aliyah, and to compare them is insulting to Reb Moshe in the story. – Double AA Feb 12 '16 at 19:07

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