3 Men to Take Out the Torah – Peticha in America

An old joke waiting to be told:
How many Jews does it take to open the Ark and take out the Torah? Normally, the answer is one. Ok, I’ve seen in some synagouges two. How about three?

Background:
The synagouge service on days were the Torah includes an honor called “peticha” which litterally means “opening”. The honor is bestowed on a member or guest to go an open the Ark where the Torah scrolls are kept. He then takes out one of the Torahs and hands it to the Chazan (cantor) who brings the Torah to the bimah where it is unwound and read.

Three beats one:
I was visiting a synagogue in Chicago. This is a typical modern-orthodox American model. Here, the ceremony is as important as the actual prayers. Spotted as a guest, I was asked by the gabbai to go and take out the Torah and hand it to the chazan.

I walked up to the Ark and I saw two other men standing there as well. I turned back to the gabbai and asked what gives. He said each of the men would open one of the doors of the Ark and I would then take out the Torah.

Punchline:
I said, “if you need three guys to open the Ark, how many men does it take to do Hagbah (lifting the Torah after the reading)?”

In case it wasn’t already clear, in Israel we are used to brass-tacks prayers. No time for ceremony. Just like the Israeli people. We are an open and warm people, and we don’t stand on ceremony.

Share your experiences
What have you noticed different in your experiences in the Diaspora than what you are used to in Israel? Likewise, if you are from the Diaspora, what do you notice different when you visit the Holy Land?

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