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Gelila: a mockery of the shull reject

I posted this several months back- I have reworked it and changed some stuff. Hope you like it.

Gelila is a weird event, according to some sources it is held to a very lofty position and one who gets it is honored. Well I have noticed that over the years Gelila has been cast down as the reject position, it has become the position of single awkward men, the smelly guys, young frummy rebel types, the guy with the only non black velvet yarmulke in shull, and any other folks “you know who you are” that people always feel they “have” to invite them over or they will go postal.

Why has this lofty position of Gelila been cast down so low where the Gabbi feels they must give it to the shull or community rejects. Let us examine this anomaly. Gelila is like trying to teach a kid to walk, we all know he can do it, but he never does it right, always falling all over the place. So to with Gelila, I feel that back in the day the Rabanan declared that all torah gartels be as complicated as possible. Rarely do shulls have a plain Velcro clasp, the Velcro clasp is actually common in Chabbad houses so the person doing Gelila doesn’t look too dumb, because they know that baal teshuva’s may have not been honored with gelila yet. In other shulls round the world they have resorted to the triple button clasp, the often impossible to get it right on the first try clasp is used to mock shull rejects everywhere. On the sidelines of the bima disgruntled Baal Habatim mumble under their breaths as this man clad in his brown corduroy sport coat with the elbow patches struggles against the evil 3 button clasp Torah gartel. We have all seen the event that the Gabbi knowing this inevitability always seeks to give the Gelila guy a play by play and roots him on, kind of like the coach in Rocky movies.

Another problematic Torah gartel clasp is the ever famous bra-clasp, this hook mechanism also makes shull rejects look even more stupid and even has the shadchunim in the balconies taking notes on this persons IQ. This clasp like the 3 button clasp is also quite popular especially in Upper West Side Modern orthodox establishments; since many are singles may have amassed experienced with bra-straps in their years roaming the singles scene there.

The other issue with Gelila’s mockery of all who are appointed this grueling task is putting the actual cover on the Torah. The holes are usually the biggest issue. All onlookers are thinking “jeez just line up the holes, your breaking into my Kiddush club time”, but up there with all that pressure, the Gabbi coaching you, and your tired arms from actually lifting the whole cover up to try and get it on the Torah, then when your lifting the cover up your shirt masy come out of your pants exposing your underwear or maybe you are one of those men who wears a thong- causing double the embarrassment. These pressures lead to further embarrassment especially in shulls with balconies full of onlookers. Imagine all these women and men staring at the lone figure who had trouble with the clasp, trouble with the cover and now it’s on to the clanging, rustling of the silver crowns with awkward holes with which to line up the Torah poles in. The silver also brings more issues to the table and can cause nervous breakdowns up there on the bima. The man finally says to the gabbi and others standing up at the bima that he has had enough and that he knows what he is doing. The baal habatim around the bima- you know the ones who always stand at the front and want to control the services- kind of like shull hockers- they are always the ones who know everyone and tend to greet everyone that comes in.

The Yad, always gets put on different poles and the guest Gelila guy may not know which one, or which way the crown goes etc… Sometimes one of the disgruntled Baal Habatim takes it into their own hands and just does the silver himself. If it’s even a less formal shull someone may even yell encouragement or abuse from the audience.

Remember next time your fellow Jew gets up to do Gelila, to think of the grueling task ahead of them and to have patience- oh and if any Gabbiam are reading this. How bout getting some Velcro gartels eh?

Gelila Update: recently I was in a shull that had one of those plastic backpack latches making the whole process easier, I have also recently seen some seat belt type clasps on gartels- leading to familiarity and also causing the gelila act to once again regain its loftiness as a high honor instead of the reject offering.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Michael February 7, 2008, 1:38 PM

    *Chuckles* In Der Sfardische Velt, this phenomenon isn’t widespread at all.

    The Spanish and Portuguese still use a Sefer Torah similar to the Ashkenazic type, but most Sephardic synagogues have “Eastern” Sifrei Torah that are encased in a tik, a cylindrical housing from which the actual scroll is not removed. Gelilah doesn’t exist.

  • heshman February 7, 2008, 4:24 PM

    Dude I just made a video about this post last night, glad you liked it, I am planning on re-posting a a bunch of stuff which never got the attention it deserved.

  • TRS June 1, 2008, 3:34 PM

    The big honor of Gelila is rolling the Torah. By Chabad, that’s done by the dude doing Hagbah; only by the snags is Gelila worth anything.

  • Rob September 8, 2008, 1:06 PM

    What a shame if what you say is true. Strapping on the Bible Belt should be given more respect.

    But no one at my shul wants to do Glilah either so we usually go up to this guy who mops our floors and say to him “eh- Leroy, it would be really nice if someone decided to roll up the scolls, put that strap around it, put the cover on it, and put the ornaments on top.”

  • Frum Satire September 8, 2008, 6:50 PM

    Good one Rob- I liked the bible belt

  • offthederech September 29, 2008, 2:50 PM

    Excellent post.
    But hagba-that’s almost as bad.
    How many times do people struggle like crazy, or practically drop it! And then everyone starts whispering about how many days they now have to fast for, etc. Traumatizing for the poor guy.

  • shuman April 29, 2009, 10:06 PM

    what about the long roll with the long message on it about whoever donated it that goes around and around and then gets tucked in? where does that one stand

  • Sfardishe Yekke May 1, 2009, 6:45 AM

    shuman, the yekkes have a long gartel with text on it – often made out of the swadling cloth from a bris milah. There are two ways you can mess up the gliloh. One is to start rolling from the end of the message to the beginning (which btw will also be upside down). The other is that as you wind it roud you’re supposed to also go up; if you go down instead the old yekkes will all come up to you after davenning and tell you you did it wrong.

    Michael, the Spanish and Portuguese have a very elegant gartel of lined satin, and the end has TWO strips that are wound in opposite directions and then tied in a bow. However some Ashkenazi guests rebel and refuse to tie the bow on Shabbos,

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