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Torah Blessings


Oleh: Praise Adonai, Who is to be praised!

Congregation: Praised is Adonai, Who is to be praised, now and forever!

Oleh repeats: Praised is Adonai, Who is to be praised, now and forever!

Oleh continues: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has chosen us from all the peoples by giving us Your Torah. Blessed are You, Adonai, Giver of the Torah.

- Torah selection is read –

Oleh: Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has given us the Torah of truth, thus implanting within us eternal life. Blessed are You, Adonai, Giver of the Torah.
 

The Hebrew Bible is not properly called the “Old Testament,” as that name implies that there is a New (and presumably “improved”) Testament waiting in the wings. Instead, the Hebrew Bible is known as the TaNaKh, an acronym for its three constituent sections:
1. Torah—the Five Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy);
2. Neviim—the Books of the Prophets; and
3. Ketuvim—the Holy Writings (i.e., all the other books of the Hebrew Bible).
Beginning with the Festival of Simchat Torah (“Rejoicing in the Torah”) in the fall, consecutive portions of the Torah are read every Shabbat throughout the year, beginning with the opening words of Genesis and completing—the following Simchat Torah—with the closing words of Deuteronomy.

Each Shabbat, the weekly Torah portion (parashat ha-shavua) is subdivided into seven readings, each to be chanted by a different member of the congregation. Each member honored with the reading of a portion is called an oleh (literally, “one who ascends” to the bima for the reading); the honor itself is known as an aliya (from the root ayin l h “to ascend”).{Interestingly, one who immigrates to Israel is also called an oleh, and his/her immigration is called aliya, i.e., “ascending” to the land of Israel.}

In practice, very few members of the average congregation are skilled enough in Torah-chanting to be capable of performing this arduous task. (The vowel points and the melody must all be committed to memory!) It is the baal korei (“master of reading”) who chants each of the seven sub-divisions. But the oleh commissions the baal korei as his agent by performing the following tasks:
- Holding the Torah-staves (atzei chayim, literally, “trees of life”);
- Touching his zzizzit to the opening and closing words of the section being read; and
- Chanting the above blessings before and after the section is read.

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