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While answering another M.Y. question, I read O.C. 134:2 that mentions the proper way to do hagbah (Torah lifting). It says to show first the congregation on the right (meaning you turn to your left), then the congregation on your left (meaning, you turn to your right) then those in front and finally, those in back.

In most shuls, and, I assume O.C. is mentioning this arrangement, the bimah is in the middle of the shul. Most hagbah lifters open the Torah just prior to their lifting it. Thus, the people in the back of the shul (behind him) are getting the first look.

Maybe, I am missing something in O.C.'s phrasing, here. But, the only way I can see avoiding showing the people in the back first is that the lifter would have to lift a closed scroll, turn to his left, and then open the scroll in the air. There are very few people that I have seen who can do this. It's quite difficult. Practically speaking, if one were to strictly follow O.C.'s order, what other way could hagbah be done?

  • I don't see the word "then" anywhere in the source you cite. – Double AA Dec 18 '17 at 21:40
  • It's very uncommon for a frum shul to have the bimah anywhere but the middle of the sanctuary. I'm sure you understand this. – ezra Dec 18 '17 at 21:41
  • @ezra Not true. The middle is common for Ashkenaz.i Although. my shul is Ashkenazi (Conservadox) and has the bimah in the back. (Not sure why.) I've seen many Ahskenazi shuls have the bimah in front. Sefardi shuls commonly have the bimah in the back. – DanF Dec 18 '17 at 21:44
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    @ezra I’ve seen several Shuls, both Ashkenazi and Sefardi, with the Bimah in the front. None of these layouts mitigate the problem, unless the Bimah was all the way to the right and back. – DonielF Dec 18 '17 at 21:51
  • @DoubleAA True, it doesn't say, "then", however, I'm not sure if "Umachaziro* (he returns it) implies some order. "Returning it" implies that it was somewhere else. I also see this answer judaism.stackexchange.com/a/45631/5275, which would certainly allow another viable option. It seems that I think Beur Halacha also mentions compass directions, which would preclude this problem, anyway. – DanF Dec 18 '17 at 22:15
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A simple answer to your final question would be to simply rotate the Sefer Torah on the Bimah by 90 degrees counterclockwise (where the face is the surface that the Torah is resting on), and then unroll and lift it from the right side of the Bima (where a Gabbai usually stands), directly showing those on the right, and then turning around.

Another possibility is that "showing" a particular side of the room could mean holding it open for them to look at, rather than quickly moving it through their sightlines.

In regards to the entire order of the Shulchan Aruch (which is based on Maseches Sofrim 14:14), אנציקלופדיה תלמודית כרך ח, הגבהה ב notes 2 approaches to Hagbah, as discussed in the Sheyarei Kenesses Hagedolah (OC 134:7, Hagahos Beis Yosef). One opinion is that the Magbiah should simply lift and turn around with the Sefer Torah, thus not taking the specific order of the Shulchan Aruch literally. The other opinion (if I understand it correctly) is that he essentially lifts and flips the Sefer Torah around to show the side with the writing on it to those 4 sides of the room, in order. This sort of solves the issue because he is simply flipping the side of the Sefer Torah with writing on it, as opposed to turning around. (Presumably the Magbiah would do this by originally pulling the left wooden support of the sefer up in the air, and only once that had been lifted would he lift the right side upright. Following this, he would be required to awkwardly twist his arms in order to show the Sefer Torah to the other sides of the room.) This sounds very complex, and at least as problematic as opening and closing it in the air.

Here is the text of the אנציקלופדיה תלמודית, mainly quoting the Sheyarei Kenesses Hagedolah:

כשמראה פני הכתב לעם יש סוברים שהמגביה עצמו נשאר עומד במקומו, אלא שהוא מסובב ומחזיר את הס"ת כדי שפני הכתב יהיו לעם העומדים בצד ימינו, ואחר כך הופכו ומראה פני הכתב לעם שבצד שמאלו, ומחזיר לפניו והופך אחורי הכתב נגד פניו כדי שהעומדים לצד מזרח יראו הכתב, ואחר כך הוא מחזיר הכתב נגד פניו שיראו העומדים לצד מערב, ויש סוברים שהמגביה עצמו הוא סובב לכל הצדדים, וכן המנהג.

See also Rav Menashe Klein (Mishneh Halachos 11:103), who asks a related question and discusses this at length.

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  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Thanks for the thorough answer. I did a scan for now, but B"N, I'll read it more thoroughly, tomorrow. Chag Same'ach. – DanF Dec 19 '17 at 2:24
  • Thanks for the welcome, and Chanukah Sameach to you too! – רבות מחשבות Dec 19 '17 at 4:02
  • I see that you have a lot of thoughts on your mind :-) Thanks for sharing some of them! You're right. The Sheyarei Kenesset mentions a rather complex technique. I have some sense that Sifrei Torah must have been much lighter at the time. I also gather that atzei chayim were a later invention. I think this warrants some research as well as a few additional questions on this forum. – DanF Dec 19 '17 at 16:52

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