Affirming its centrality in Jewish tradition, one member of Temple Emanuel, in Beverly Hills, lifts up the Torah scroll. Other congregants grip the corner of their prayer shawls and point to it. Traditionally, when the Torah is held up, at least three columns of text must be visible. This ritual, called Hagbah (Hebrew for “lifting up”), concludes the weekly reading of the Torah. Over the course of the year, the whole scroll is read aloud from start to finish.
The Hagbah is a particularly difficult feat around the time of Simhat Torah, the fall holiday celebrating the completion of the yearly cycle of Torah readings and the start of the next cycle, because at this time of year almost all the of bulky scroll’s weight is on one side.