Monday, May 30, 2011

The Various Meanings of Aliyah

It's annoying that so many Hebrew words have multiple meanings in English. Most of the time, this is because multiple Hebrew spellings could have the same sound. Today, let's talk about the English word "aliyah," which literally means "ascent."

A. You "receive an aliyah" when you are called up to the Torah to chant the blessings before and after a section of the Torah is read. For example, there are 7 aliyahs on Shabbat morning, but only 3 on Mondays and Thursdays.

B. You "make aliyah" when you move to Israel to dwell in the land, which is a mitzvah.

C. After death, someone's soul "should have an aliyah." Our actions and tzedakah in the name of a deceased individual can help that soul ascend higher and higher in heaven. My understanding is that, as a principle, this is based on the idea that when you inspire someone to do a mitzvah (or become observant in general), part of that mitzvah is "credited" to you. Therefore, because this deceased person has inspired you to do mitzvot, their soul receives some of the reward for those mitzvot. Apparently there is a book about this: The Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah by Rabbi Tzvi Hebel.

1 comment:

  1. All three words do refer to an "ascent"
    1 you are ascending to the Bimah- the elevated area or platform- to say the blessings and read the Torah
    2 You are Ascending to the holiest country on earth-traveling to the Land of Israel is an ascent, both geographically and metaphysically.
    3 the soul is ascending to the next "level"

    That is why we use the same word in all these cases.