All you need to know is that Bima Hockers are the dudes standing around the bima that orchestrate everything. How they came to be Bima Hockers is another story, they may have first been the signal guy signing to the lainer and telling him how to sing the trup and quietly telling him how to pronounce certain things. They may have been thrown out of the Kiddush club for bringing brandy or some sort of flavored whiskey. Maybe it’s the past president who didn’t get the reelect, usually the gabbi is one of them- the chief bima hocker really.
Then of course you have the Bima Slumpers. The guys whose only makom kavua is slumped over the bima or the posts surrounding the bima platform. These guys also tend to be the victims of involuntary talis hijacks by the bima hockers who’s chief job is to make sure everything goes smoothly during laining.
Sometimes these bima hockers will also act as the cool guys who feel that every time someone does hagba they have to put their arms up in defense of the torah in case it shall fall. It seems that no matter how strong the hagba doer is- someone will throw their hands up and make believe like an accident is imminent. Maybe they just have to keep hogging all the bima spotlight and act like they actually needed- since they usually just crowd up the precious space on the bima- and waste the few tikuns that may be available. The bima hockers also tend to be the guys that control the flow of the gelila supplies as they are passed to the shull reject who is making a fool of himself while trying to figure out how to close the bra-like clasp on the gartel. The few left over bima slumpers on the sidelines who never made it up to the actual platform stand and mumble under their breaths about the poor job the gelila guy is doing- all the while dictating instructions as to how to put the cover on the torah and at the same time keeping the gelila persons talis from falling to the floor.
Then you have those shulls that have the chains to bind the torah securely to the bima as the second torah is whipped out. Usually one of the folks standing on the side of the bima slumping over it will start playing with these chains, making a racket and causing one of the cool guys surrounding the bima to hush him up. Then of course its always interesting to see how far up the garbage is inside the hollow area where the torah stems go. The two little holes for the torah scroll provide the right amount of light to glimpse a couple old bazooka wrappers and left over Sunkist candy from the last candy throwing event.
Candy throwing is also one of those events where the bima hocker and others standing at point blank can make themselves feel important even though the bima hockers tend to be the folks of the class that is too nerdy and torah knowledgable to be invited to the kiddish clubs and hence had to shoot for the next best thing- catching the baal koreh thirty times in a row is almost as good as speaking loshon horah over a a few shots of scotch during the haftorah.
Two bima hockers are always needed to push down the head of the bar mitzvah boy as well as to put up the talis as a candy blocking barrier. As the projectiles of candy land mostly short of the bima since the women tend to get more candy to compensate for the meager existence in the shull- little kids scamper around with the occasional fat kid that looks ten years older then his age- this is the chance for the bima hockers to yell at kids who may have taken too much candy and they then tell them some bull shit Marxist doctrine on why every child deserves equal amounts of Sunkist fruit gems and those pasty sesame seed things.
By far the most important and coolest job of the bima personnel is that of the laining conductor. The guy who gets to use all the gang signs in existence to try and help the lainer who can see the thumb dippings with clarity through their peripheral vision. I always felt that someone should have a convention and help generalize the signs made so that every baal koreh and signer guy could interact freely without messing up because the thump dip meant to stop the laining instead of speeding it up. Its kind of like when all the states had their own mints and banks wouldn’t honor other states paper currency- well what do you do when you have a guest baal koreh?
Another job of the bima hocker is to talis hijack this one of the folks being called to the torah is not wearing a talis, usually the victim of the talis snatching is standing up at the bima or one of the bima slumpers themselves. Its always funny when some unsuspecting bima slumper looks up to notice his talis flying up to the bima. They also tend to make it clear that they don’t think the person called to the torah would actually know the brachos by heart and therefore they make it clear by removing the multiple layers of stuff that block the bracha sheet from human eyes. All of the sudden a pile of tikuns, suddurim and gabbi handbooks are strewn about to make way for the aliyah guy who tries to show the gabbi who’s boss by saying the brachos by heart and proving him and his bracha sheet removal tactic wrong.
There are also those situations when the talis is not used and there fore the gartel must be produced from under yet another pile of bima stuff that piles on top of everything that gets caught in its path. Old yads, perocheses and misheberach sheets lay about as the gabbi or bima hocker- depending on who is quicker can give the gartel or other device to kiss the torah. Gabbis and bima hockers are in constant competition as to see who is faster and cooler. Gabbis till this day retain the job of passing out the little plastic aliyah cards and calling the person up- while the random jobs go to the bima hockers.
Bima slumpers have different statuses in different shulls. In some they are the holy guys who try to shuckel the whole davening. In some shulls bima slumpers are the talkers with their own little club up at the bima distributing snuff and tax evasion secrets. In other shulls the bima slumpers are the folks trying to evade the talking going on in the pews.
Of course all of this is majorly dependant on the type of bima situation in the first place. The stand alone bima without a platform like that found in many shteebles- can be tricky- since the bima slumpers must be systematically removed when laining time comes- some may linger in the area acting as mistake catchers so they keep their prime makom kavua for later prayers. Others go solemnly to their seats only to lose their spots right after laining to a new crowd of bima slumpers. The stand alone bima is usually the site of hocking and chatter in shteebles. The real estate guys and nursing home hockers discuss trade secrets as they shuckel and daven between talking.
Enter the platform bima and all of this changes, the bima slumper is welcome as long as there are actual rails on which they can slump, and put their siddurim or seforim. Children also love the platform bima, because it gives them a good vantage point to find their mothers in the women’s section- as well as a great thing to run around when its time to disturb davening usually right before the torah comes out of the ark. The platform bima is usually complemented by the frontal bima at which much of the actual davening takes place, or it creates the switch-aroo seen in many shulls between kabalas shabbos and maariv.
In the weekdays bima hockers morph into clopping maniacs. They tend to try and beat each other out as to who can clop and mumble the shmona esray insertion under their breath the loudest when they come to it during davening. Next time you hear ten vsane-tal-umuter’s you’ll know it was the work of a bima hocker. They love to clop the bima, that is when the platform bima excels- causing much louder and more echo in the clop then if it were a normal ground bima.
Always remember to tip your bima hocker who gave you an aliyah, on shabbos you must give a bunch of yasher koachs to a bunch of folks who you noticed wipe their noses with those same hands. I always wondered how they actually decide who gets an aliyah other then cohens and dignitaries like the Rabbi and the hatzolah dudes which of course are fellow hockers. I think it may have swomething to do with tipping but who really knows what goes through the mind of a hocker. I mean they do for some reason like to turn their walki-talki’s on high to try and disturb everyone during shmona esray- so they can show how cool EMT folks are- so maybe the giving of aliyahs is another whacked out hocker process that does not go by any theory at all.
Bima hockers also have an uncanny ability to get back at anyone who ever wronged them. No they will not appoint someone who is a known drug abuser to hagba- letting you see their track marks and fearing for your life as he goes into shock and drops the torah. Nope, they will do it undercover, just to make you think they have nothing against you and everything happened by chance. For instance they can give pesicha to a Kiddush club member- knowing that he will hobble in drunk to do the putting away portion. They can give someone who hates to stand up during kadish a very long aliyah like the fourth one from parshas nasso. Or perhaps they will give the man with terretz syndrome the task of gelila. Maybe they will give someone who is a known ADD sufferer the task of holding the torah during one of those double header weeks, or maybe you have been showing off your esrog like the guy in ushpizim and you get stuck with holding the torah for hoshanos- the best time to show your shiznit and rock your esrog on those spinning rims.
You see the bima hocker might be scoffed at for making those damned misheberachs take forever by letting the last minute name rememberers who also seem to be making up names anyway get their names in before the gates close. He might even be laughed at by the current president who took his cushy seat up next to the Israeli flag, and he may even be ignored by all the shull talkers when he stops laining to quiet down everyone. But no one really can mess with you quite like the bima hocker, they are sneaky ones I tell ya.