Over the last few weeks, we have incorporated two new traditions into our Shabbat morning services. We have begun calling two people to the Torah to share an aliyah under certain circumstances, and we have added the opportunity to bensch gomel (recite the prayer for recovering and/or emerging from a dangerous situation) as a group.
Here is more explanation:
There are four circumstances in which we now will call a couple to the Torah to share an aliyah: a couple celebrating their Auf Ruf (upcoming wedding); a couple celebrating a wedding anniversary; parents of a baby about to be named; and parents of a Bar / Bat Mitzvah. We (an ad-hoc ritual sub-committee) have chosen these specific events because the couple shares the simcha (celebration) on these occasions, and so it makes sense to honor them together, if they wish. If a couple prefers to have separate honors, that is also fine.
While this is a change from Beth David’s previous policy of one person per aliyah, it has been an acceptable practice within the Conservative Movement for well over 25 years. In his 1993 teshuvah (responsum), to the question of whether or not calling couples to the Torah is acceptable in Conservative synagogues, Rabbi Kassel Abelson explains the evolution of the Torah service throughout the centuries. In the conclusion of his teshuvah, he writes the following:
“Aliyot for couples can be justified halakhically by recognizing the readiness of the rabbis of past generations to find good reasons to meet the needs of their changing congregations, by the Baraita found in the Yerushalmi permitting two to read together from the Torah, by the precedent of group aliyot on Simchat Torah, by the contemporary responsum permitting joint aliyot for B’nai Mitzvah and by the custom in many of our congregations of giving couples joint aliyot. Hence though aliyot for individuals remains the norm, the practice in many of our Conservative congregations of giving aliyot to couples is acceptable.”
We are excited to be able to offer couples a joint aliyah if they so desire.
With regard to bensching gomel, we thought it would be a meaningful addition to our service to offer people the opportunity to give thanks for healing from illness, returning safely from travel, and/or emerging from danger on a regular basis. We recite the Misheberach each week on Shabbat, which asks for healing for those in need. The gomel blessing allows those who have recovered to offer gratitude.
On the second Shabbat of each month, we will add a group gomel blessing to the Torah service. Anyone who wishes will be invited to stand (or remain seated) and recite the blessing:
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olam ha-gomel l’hayavim tovot, she-g’malani kol tov.
Praised are You Adonai our God, who rules the universe, showing goodness to us beyond our merits, for bestowing favor upon me.
The congregation will then respond:
Mi she-g’malkhem kol tov, hu yigmol’khem kol tov, selah.
May God who has been gracious to you continue to favor you with all that is good.
There may be times when you wish to recite the gomel blessing individually. If you do, please contact Barbara Biran to let her know, and we will try to accommodate your request.
I hope that these two new traditions will infuse even more meaning into our Shabbat morning experience.