Hagbah: Lifting the Sefer
Follow The JC on Twitter
Hagbah is one of the most dramatic and potentially heart-stopping moments in the synagogue service. After the Torah reading, the heavy scrolls are raised high in the air for all to see. All too often, a neophyte hagbaist will stumble backwards, alarmingly eliciting gasps of horror that he is about to drop the Torah and subject the community to a 40-day fast - the traditional penalty for such an outrage (though commuted to one day in practice).
A successful hagbah is all about technique. Slide the Torah towards you then push down, pivoting on the table edge, bend your knees and push sharply upwards with your hands right under the centre of gravity of the scrolls. This minimises the torque forces.
The Talmud (Megillah 32a) writes that this role is the most honoured of all in the Torah service. Through it, the whole community is enabled to see the words of the Torah with their own eyes.