After the Chazzan/Shaliyach Tzibur concludes the Ashrei, he takes hold of the Torah that was just read, clutches it to his right shoulder and chants, “Yehallelu Et Shem Hashem Ki Nisgav Shemo Levado…They shall praise the name of G-d because His name ALONE is exalted,” (Psalm 148:13). The congregation then joins in unison and sings, “Hodo Al Eretz Veshamayim Vayarem….His glory is over the heavens and the earth.”
This is a unique section of our prayers unlike any other in that the Chazzan chants out loud the first part of a verse and the congregation chants the latter part of the same verse. This is an anomaly because it is normative practice to recite full Biblical verses and not partial ones. The Iyun Tefillah explains that since the Chazzan is truly an emissary of his congregation and not simply a voice of leadership, it is actually considered that the entire congregation DOES recite the entire verse.
The commentaries also explain why this verse from Psalms is chanted specifically after the Torah reading has concluded. Seeing the awe and pageantry of the Torah service is a spiritual experience, as the congregation gathers to kiss the Torah, as it passes through the congregation. It is read from the Bimah, located in the center of the synagogue, recreating the Sinaitic Revelation. When one ascends the Bimah for an Aliyah, the individual kisses the Torah with the talit and even bows when reciting the blessing beginning with Barchu. At the conclusion of the reading of the Torah portion of the week, the Torah is raised for all to see, taken around the synagogue again, and returned to the Ark.
Therefore there is a concern of the possibility that one would focus only on the holiness of the Torah and lose sight of from Whom it comes. We read what the Torah says, we quote the verses of the Torah, we adhere to the commandments of the Torah but we can lose focus that the Torah is the Living Word of G-d. Therefore, immediately following the Torah reading, we chant, “Yehallelu Et Shem Hashem Ki Nisgav Shemo Levado… They shall praise the name of G-d because His name ALONE is exalted,” – that without God, there would be no Torah, Mitzvoth or life itself.
As the Torah is returned to the Ark, the congregation recites, “Uvenuchu Yomar Shuva Hashem Rivevot Alfey Yisrael-And when it rested, Moshe would say May Hashem return to the multitude of thousands of Israel.”
We literally reenact Sinai every time we read the Torah. How we take out the Torah, where and how we read the Torah and when we return the Torah to the Ark emphasizes the experiences with reflections and verses of the historic moments of Sinai and beyond.
Take Home Tips:
A. The Chazzan and the congregation are inextricably linked as one entity.
B. We must remember and not lose sight that the Torah, Mitzvoth, and customs derive from God.
C. Our services are arranged with prophetic genius to enable us to reconnect our lives with the past and our destiny.
D. Every day we have the opportunity to renew and elevate our relationship with our Creator and our fellow man, as individuals and as a community, through the teachings of the Torah, which encompasses every aspect of our existence.