This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page #ukraine #yizkorbooks


Bruce Drake
 

I have learned a lot from doing these weekly explorations of Yizkor books over several years, but I occasionally come across stories that stump me, due no doubt because I don’t pretend any expertise in the complex traditions and laws better understood by devout Jews and scholars. In this case, the subject is the awarding of aliyahs — Torah readings — on Sabbath and festival days.

“Calling up 4th to the Torah” is a chapter from the Yizkor book of Lanowce (Lanivsti) in Ukraine. Yitzak Meir Weitzman recounts the travail of the town’s Gabbai, the good-hearted Shaya Nathans, who had the task of selecting congregants for the readings of the Torah. (One reason for those travails may be that Nathans had returned to his home town from the U.S. and “adopted the American approach”). He encountered this challenge: “Offering the 4th Aliyah to a congregant is a form of contempt. It was a way to make light of him.” Weitzman never spells out exactly why this is, and the only explanations I could find are that it was the custom never give a Kohen or a Levi any Aliyah after the first two, and that this Aliyah fell on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of every month on the Jewish calendar which was considered a minor holiday.

The chapter recounts how this issue was resolved, although not without its tense moments. If a reader can she more light on this, I invite you to add your comments.

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Bruce Drake
Silver Spring, MD

Researching: DRACH, EBERT, KIMMEL, ZLOTNICK
Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel

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