Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
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Aliyot On Tisha B’Av
By Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
A reoccurring concern is whether a person who does not fast on Tisha B’Av may receive an aliya?
An ancient custom was for a Kohen who ate on fast days to leave the synagogue prior to Keri’at HaTorah so that an Israelite may receive an aliya in place of the Kohen. The Bet Yosef derives from this custom the rule that those who break their fast by eating should not receive an aliya on fast days.
The Bach disagrees. He contends that even should a person eat on a fast day, he still is halachicly permitted to receive an aliya. His logic is that the presence of ten Jews who actually fast in the synagogue generates an obligation upon the congregation at large to read the special Keri’at HaTorah for fast days. This obligation is incumbent upon everyone in the synagogue, including those who do not fast. The Bach concludes that the common custom is not to grant an aliya to one who eats on a fast day. Yet, should such a Kohen be called to the Torah (b’d’’iavad) based on the argument expressed, it is permissible (Tur, Orech Chayyim 566; see Bet Tosef and Bach).
Should the fast day occur on Monday or Thursday, then the Mishneh Berurah rules,
a Kohen who ate may receive an aliya for Shacharit. The reason is that on such days there is a communal obligation to read the Torah in the morning. Even though on fast days the portion read is altered to signal the fast, the basic obligation to have a Tora reading in the synagogue is still operational. All Jews in the synagogue have such an obligation, even those who do not fast. Though some Sages do not agree with this logic, there is a consensus that should a Kohen who ate be called to the Tora during Shacharit, he may accept the aliya (Mishna Berura, citing the Magen Avraham, Orech Chayyim 566:19).
What about an aliya for a non-faster at Mincha? The Mishna Berurah notes divergent positions, yet favors the stringent practices. He says that those who contend that a person who ate should not receive an aliya believe that should such a person recite the Birkat HaTora at Mincha, it would be an unwarranted Beracha (beracha levatala). Accordingly, if a Kohen has eaten, on Tisha B’Av, for example, he should leave the synagogue so that he would not be called to the Tora. The Mishna Berura concludes that if the Kohen is a talmid chacham who, due to sickness or error, ate on the fast day and is ashamed to publicly indicate that he is not fasting, such a person may rely on the lenient position and accept an aliya for Mincha (Mishna Berurah, Orech Chayyim 566:21).
The Aruch HaShulchan rules that all the limitations restricting an aliya to a Kohen who ate on a fast day relate to non-official communal fast days. On a day like Tisha B’Av, all may receive an aliya, whether such a person actually fasts or not. The rationale is that on official fast days the community is obligated to hear the Keri’at HaTorah (Orech Chayyim 566:11 – This position appears to be based on the logic of the Bach).
The Chatam Sofer relates that one year, due to illness, he ate on Tisha B’Av. The concern was whether he was permitted to receive an aliya at Mincha. He noteed that, based upon the position of the Bach, he should have no qualms about having an aliya. In addition, the Chatam Sofer presented a logical argument to support his position. He reasoned that even if a person broke his fast, such a person still is required to observe a number of Tisha B’Av customs. He may not shower or bathe. He refrains from anointment with soothing oils. This suggests that even should a person break the fast, such a person observes a variety of other Tisha B’Av stringencies. Accordingly, he may certainly receive an aliya since he is not rejecting all the obligations of the day. He is still observing Tisha B’Av. The Chatam Sofer concluded that he consulted with great decisors of Halacha and they all agreed with his ruling (Responsa Chatam Sofer, Orech Chayyim 157).
As such, rabbis in their senior years or those sick may receive aliyot on Tisha B’Av even should they not fast.