Saturday, May 31, 2008


One of my responsibilities during our Shabbat morning services is to serve as Gabbai, standing at the side of the reading table during the Torah service.

There are two Gabbaim: Gabbai Aleph and Gabbai Bet. Gabbai Aleph reads the introductory blessings, announces those who are called up to the Torah, reads the Mi Shebeirakh prayer for the sick, and (in our congregation) recites Kaddish after completion of the main Torah reading. Gabbai Bet announces the page and verse numbers for each reading. Both Gabbaim read along in a printed text while the Ba’al Koreh (reader) reads from the Torah scroll, correcting the reader as the occasion demands.

Most Saturdays, I function as Gabbai Bet, a post that was honorably filled for many years by Gravel-Voice Larry before his untimely passing. But I can handle the other side of the reading table as well. On Mondays and Thursdays, I’m generally Gabbai Aleph.

There will often be breaks between each Torah reading on Shabbat. The rabbi may deliver a sermon, or a speaker may give a talk on a particular subject. During these breaks, the Gabbaim sit down and wait for the Torah service to resume.

This morning, at the end of one such break, as I resumed my position on the left side of the reading table, I leaned over and said, sotto voce, to the other Gabbai: “Okay, coffee break’s over - back on your head.”

Good thing we Jews don’t believe in Hell, ’cause I’d be going right there...

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