Peninei Halakha

06. The “Ḥatanim

There are four especially prestigious aliyot on Simḥat Torah, and the most important of all is the one that concludes the Torah. The person honored with this aliya is called the “Ḥatan Torah.” The penultimate aliya is Kol Ha-ne’arim, discussed above, and it, too, is prestigious. The person called up for this aliyah is sometimes called the “Ḥatan Me’ona,” as “me’ona” is the first word of this aliya.

Immediately after the Torah is concluded, another Torah scroll is brought out. Another person is called up, and the first verses of Bereishit are read. It is a great honor to receive this aliya, and the person who receives it is called the “Ḥatan Bereishit.” This aliya expresses our devotion to Torah. When we finish reading the Torah, we do not bid it farewell, not even for a moment. Rather, we immediately begin it again (MB 668:10).

After the Ḥatan Bereishit, a third Torah scroll is brought out, and the aliya of maftir is read. This reading is about the offerings of the festival as described in Parashat Pinḥas (SA 668:2).

It is customary to read the beginning of Yehoshua as the haftara. Since the entire objective of the Torah is for it to be fulfilled in Eretz Yisrael, after completing the Torah it is appropriate to begin Yehoshua, which is about “the value of Eretz Yisrael” (see Nedarim 22b). Another reason to read Yehoshua at this point is because of its important verses about the value of Torah:

But you must be very strong and resolute to observe faithfully all the Torah that My servant Moses enjoined upon you. Do not deviate from it to the right or to the left, so that you will be successful wherever you go. Let not this book of the Torah cease from your mouth, but recite it day and night, so that you will observe faithfully all that is written in it. (Yehoshua 1:7-8)

It is also appropriate to begin studying the Prophets right after completing the Torah.

In many places, it is customary to sell these four prestigious aliyot to the largest donors to the synagogue and financial supporters of Torah scholars. Elsewhere, these aliyot are given to Torah scholars or community leaders. If choosing honorees is likely to cause conflict, because it is difficult to determine who is most deserving, it is better to sell the aliyot to the highest bidder. It is an added bonus if a buyer is also a Torah scholar or community leader (Kenesset Ha-gedola; Bikurei Yaakov 669:3). In some places, the wealthy buy these aliyot and then give them to Torah scholars. Their merit is great, as they both make a donation and honor the Torah.

Some have a custom that each person who receives an aliya pledges to make a donation to synagogue upkeep and Torah study (MB 669:7).

If one already had an aliya and then finds out that the congregation wishes to honor him as Ḥatan Torah, Ḥatan Me’ona, Ḥatan Bereishit, or maftir, he may accept this additional aliya, and there is no concern that he is making an unnecessary berakha. However, if one is honored as Ḥatan Torah, he should not receive the aliya of Ḥatan Bereishit as well, as it would be disrespectful toward the first Torah scroll; it would look as though he had to come back for an extra aliya because the first Torah scroll was found to be invalid (Eliya Rabba; Pri Megadim; Bikurei Yaakov 669:4; MB ad loc. 2). A kohen or Levite can be Ḥatan Torah or Ḥatan Bereishit (Maharil; Bikurei Yaakov 669:4).

Ashkenazic custom is to read three aliyot from Parashat Vezot Haberakha on the night of Simḥat Torah, after the hakafot. Those who are called up recite the berakhot (MB 669:15).

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman