Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Aliyot in Jewish Renewal
A new practice for aliyot that emerged in P'nai Or/Aleph/ Jewish renewal circles and has begun to spread more broadly. It works
especially easily in communities that do not have 7 separate aliyot for Shabbat, but it could be used where there are 7, especially for those from #3 on.
To wit: whoever is leading the Torah service looks into each aliyah for one of its deeper themes that will be relevant to people's lives today. (This may be implicit: e'g'., in B'shallach, standing at the edge of Yam Suf might= standing at the brink of a major and frightening life-choice, not sure which way to go; the aliyah where Miriam & Moshe & the people sing might = the joy and relief of a successfullly negotiated life-passage.
The leader explains this choice to the kahal, and invites those who are living in the relevant situation and who want a blessing to deal with it to choose *themselves* to come up for the aliyah. One, two, or 20 people might arise. After the aliyah, the Mi She'berakh is given not from the formula in the Siddur but from the heart and mind with the specific issue in mind.
I have seeen this teach Torah at a profound level, as people get in their kishkes that the Torah is not antiquarian history and not a ritual recitation but is about their own lives: that indeed every passage in it is. People learn this because they make an active choice; they are not just sitting there to be told it by rabbi or baal korey or ba'al tefillah. In a sense this **embodies** Torah; it creates a fusion of the aliyah and the d'var Torah in the life of the olim/ olot. -- If you are into syntheses as acts of tikkun, a very transforming experience.
I think the 1st use of this was by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and Phyllis Berman turned the choices and doing the Mi Shh'berach into a high and deep art-form; now many others have learned how to do this.
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Director, The Shalom Center.