Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan| 5763
Ask the Rabbi
Question: In some shuls, the Torah is covered after the kriya, before the oleh (one who has the aliya) makes his second beracha.
Doesn’t covering the Torah make it considered as if it is not there, as it does with challot during kiddush? If so, can you make a beracha like this?
Answer: Let us explain a few concepts, which we often take for granted, and then things should become clearer.
The beracha which we make before the Torah reading is primarily a Bircat Hatorah, a beracha related to Torah study. The Tur (Orach Chayim 139) brings a doubt raised by his brother, R. Yechiel, in a case where one arrived late to shul and, as soon as he finished making his own, personal Bircot Hatorah, was called to the Torah. Could he make two consecutive Bircot Hatorah without a break? Their father, the Rosh, said that the oleh could make the beracha, because there was a takana (an institution) to honor the Torah by making a blessing before and after reading.
The Rosh, though, agrees that the nature of the berachot of the oleh is of Bircat Hatorah. One doesn’t need an open text upon which to make a Bircat Hatorah. Rather, it relates to the performance of the mitzva of Torah study, whether written or oral (see Berachot 11b), not to the physical text. The reason we open up and point to the place of the Torah reading before the beracha is so the oleh will know what he will be reading (Sha’ar Ephraim 4:3; Mishna Berura 139:16). After finishing the aliya, he knows what he is making the beracha on, namely, what he has just read.
The Torah is covered between aliyot primarily out of respect for the Torah when it is, temporarily, not in use (Levush 139:5). There are two ways to cover the important part of the Torah, its words. One way is to roll it up; the other is to cover it with something external. The implication of the Rama (OC 139:21) is that rolling is a better covering than placing a cloth (see Mishna Berura 139:21). Long breaks require both coverings (ibid.).
As far as we know, all sources and minhagim agree that the words of the Torah are covered in one form or another before the second beracha (Sha’ar Ephraim 4:21; Mishna Berura ibid.:20). An additional covering doesn’t do any harm to the beracha. Whether or not we put on the cloth depends on the following. Are two coverings (rolling and cloth) necessary between aliyot? On this, there are different opinions (Sha’ar Ephraim, ibid.).
Regarding your comparison to challot, it isinteresting that there are those who specifically prefer them to be covered even during the beracha (Mishna Berura 271:44; Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 55:21). In both cases, we preferably hold the object to which the beracha relates. Among other things, this connects us to the objects. In both cases, the beracha is valid even if we neither see nor touch the object at the time of the beracha.
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