We know that 7 people are called for reading torah at shabbat shakharit (and one for the maftir), but we find that the number drops down to 3 at minkha and again on weekdays (Monday & Thursday). But we find it different on yom kippur and festivals.

Where do we find a source for these changes in the number of alyot? Can we not do the same number?


This subject is covered in Mishna and Gemara (an interesting detail, the 3rd Chapter in Gemara is the 4st in the edition of Mishnayot: Chapter Hakore et hamegila omed).

The list of the rules explicitly noted in mishna and gemara, explanation for numbers

  1. Monday, Thusday, Shabbat (and Yom Kipur) afternoon, (3 = Tora, Neviim, Ketuvim; 3 = Cohen, Levy, Israel, first verse of Bircat Kohanim contains 3 words; 3 Guard gates) --> exactly 3
  2. Taanit tsibur & 9 beav --> exactly 3
  3. All the cases above not more than 3 to not prevent from working.
  4. Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed (i. e when they pray Mussaf and there isn't Yom Tov) --> exactly 4
  5. Yom Tov (due to prohibition to make Melacha --> + 1; second verse of Birkat Kohanim contains 5 words; 5 important ministers) --> at least 5
  6. Yom Kipur (due to Chiuv Karet --> + 1; 6 mans to the left and right of Ezra) --> at least 6
  7. Shabbat (due to stoning --> + 1; third verse of Birkat Kohanim contains 7 words; 7 ministers) --> at least 7

The term at least refers to the permission to add aliot: See Gemara Megila 23A:
אמר רבא תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל היא דתנא דבי ר' ישמעאל ביום טוב חמשה ביוה''כ ששה בשבת שבעה אין פוחתין מהן אבל מוסיפין עליהן דברי ר' ישמעאל
and in Soncino's translation:
Raba said: The view is that of a Tanna of the school of R' Ishmael, since in the school of R' Ishmael it was stated: 'On festivals five, on the Day of Atonement six, on Sabbath seven; this number may not be diminished but it may be increased.
See also SA OC 282, 1 in Rema.

  • What does "d/t" mean? Re items 4 and 5, I think you may be incorrect regarding the "at least" claim. IIRC, it is "exactly" otherwise people will confuse it for being Yom Kippur or Shabbat reading.
    – DanF
    Mar 21 '16 at 1:09
  • @DanF I added a Gemara that explain this look at the correction, thanks
    – kouty
    Mar 21 '16 at 1:17
  • Can you edit a bit further to indicate the Masechta and page of the above quote? Offhand, there may be a different explanation to the above, but I can be worng about this, too. I'd like to explore this a bit more.
    – DanF
    Mar 21 '16 at 1:24
  • @DanF see the reference
    – kouty
    Mar 21 '16 at 1:43
  • Thanks - esp. for O.C. ref. Learned something. Par. 2 there explains what I saw them do in a Sefardi minyan I recently attended. They needed several extras in Shabbat, and the Koreh kept repeating the same section several times.
    – DanF
    Mar 21 '16 at 2:21

R Josh Flug comments on this here (but I would note that this is more descriptive than explicative).

The Mishna in Megillah 21a and the Gemara in Megillah 22b provide the formula for determining how many aliyot are called on each occasion:

  • If it is a day that there is no Mussaf offering (or Mussaf prayer), such as an ordinary Monday and Thursday, a fast day, Chanukah, or Purim, only three aliyot are called.

  • If it is a day that there is a Mussaf offering but no prohibited labor, such as Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed, four aliyot are called.

  • If there is prohibited labor, the number of aliyot is determined by the unique features contained in each occasion.

    • Yom Tov's additional feature is that there is prohibited labor. Therefore, there are five aliyot on Yom Tov.

    • Yom Kippur has prohibited labor as well as a punishment of karet (spiritual excommunication) for violating the prohibition against performing labor. Therefore, six aliyot are called on Yom Kippur.

    • Shabbat has prohibited labor as well as karet and sekilah (death by stoning) for violating the prohibition against performing labor. Therefore, there are seven aliyot on Shabbat.

See there for additional details.

  • All this info appears in the preceding answer i think
    – Double AA
    Apr 7 '16 at 18:04
  • @DoubleAA I know but I thought R Flug's presentation would be clearer for many readers. I personally understood it better this way
    – mbloch
    Apr 7 '16 at 18:07

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