With the High Holy Days approaching, I have been working diligently with our cantorial soloist to create outlines for the upcoming sacred services of our calendar. In doing so, I have been reminded of the high importance of service honors during not only these services, but any service which involves Seder Kri’at HaTorah, the service for the reading of Torah. Therefore, this week I am writing to introduce you to a brand-new aspect of Temple Israel: The Yad Squad.
What is The Yad Squad? The word yad, which means “hand” in Hebrew, refers to the Jewish ritual “pointer” that is used to read the Torah so that we don’t risk damaging its delicate pages with the oils from our fingers. Members of The Yad Squad, then, are those who partake in the vital roles necessary for the reading of Torah. The Yad Squad is not a committee; no, it is a select group; a badge of honor; a declaration of accomplishment that you will share with the entire congregation.
How do you get on The Yad Squad? Well, in any Torah service there are seven roles for congregants:
- Reading or chanting verses from the Torah (Torah reading)
- Performing the blessings before and after a Torah reading (Aliyot)
- Lifting the Torah (Hagbah)
- Dressing the Torah (Galilah)
- Taking the Torah around to the congregation (Hakafah)
- Reading or chanting verses from the Haftarah (Haftarah reading)
- Performing the blessings before and after a Haftarah reading (Haftarah blessings)
While as of now there is only one Torah service per month on Saturday mornings, beginning in 2018 I hope to have two Saturday morning services per month, thus giving our congregation more opportunities to hear Torah read. This is where the Yad Squad comes in. If you volunteer to do any of the above honors five times throughout a calendar year, you will be honored with a position on the Yad Squad. You can do five different honors, or five of the same. What matters is that you have dedicated your time to learn, practice, and lead aspects of our Torah services. These aspects are not reserved for just clergy, board members, or committee members, but for anyone in our congregation of any age and ability.
Our weekly newsletters will feature those congregants who have given their time to participate in our upcoming Saturday morning Torah services. Once you have made it onto the Yad Squad, you will receive a special certificate and be honored at a service. You’ll even have the option to proudly wear a special Yad Squad badge.
There are so many honors to be filled this holiday season, and this is a great opportunity to begin your journey to joining the honorable Yad Squad of Temple Israel. If you are interested in learning how to do any of these honors, I will personally devote my time to help you, teach you, and/or train you so that you can perform these rituals with confidence. While chanting Torah can require more time and effort on your part, honors such as Hagbah or Galilah are easy to learn and a great way for those just venturing into service participation to get involved. Never had a Bar or Bat Mitzvah? Not to worry! I’ll be happy to teach you everything you need to know. Been a few decades since you last stepped foot on the bimah? Stop by my office for a refresher!
Once you’re feeling ready and confident, you’ll have the opportunity to perform your honor at the service of your choice. When you do, I hope you will invite your friends and family to see you, thus adding to the minyans on our Saturday mornings. I also hope that as more of you pursue the Yad Squad, you will encourage others who have always wanted to perform an honor to know that it is never too late to start, and that we at Temple Israel are here to help you succeed!