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If a Kohen Was Mistakenly Called for the Second Aliya; Calling Kohanim for Later Aliyot

The Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 135:7; listen to audio recording for precise citation) addresses a case where a Kohen, after completing the first Aliya, was called for the second Aliya, as the Mesader assumed there was no Levi in the synagogue. Just as the Kohen began, the Mesader was notified that there was, in fact, a Levi in attendance. The Shulhan Aruch rules that if the Kohen had already begun reciting the Beracha, then he continues and finishes the Aliya. If, however, the Mesader realized his mistake before the Kohen began reciting the Beracha, such as if he had only recited, "Rabanan Barechu Et Hashem," then the Levi is called in place of the Kohen.

The Shulhan Aruch then writes if there indeed is no Levi in the synagogue, then the Kohen who received the first Aliya is called for the second Aliya, in place of a Levi. The reason for this Halacha, as the Shulhan Aruch explains, is that if a different Kohen is called, people might conclude that the first Kohen is not truly a Kohen. In order to avoid such suspicions, the Kohen who received the first Aliya receives the second Aliya when no Levi is present.

Different customs exist regarding the issue of calling Kohanim for Aliyot after the third Aliya. Many Ashkenazim have the practice of never giving Kohanim and Leviyim Aliyot beyond the first two Aliyot. According to this custom, all Aliyot after the first two Aliyot are given to Yisraelim. Others allow calling up Kohanim and Leviyim beyond the third Aliya, but only in the sequence of Kohen, Levi, Yisrael. Sepharadim, however, allow calling up Kohanim and Leviyim for the later Aliyot, provided that two Kohanim or two Leviyim do not receive successive Aliyot. Meaning, if a Kohen receives the fourth Aliya, another Kohen may not receive the fifth. A Yisrael should receive the fifth Aliya, and then a Kohen can be called for the sixth. The same applies to Leviyim.

There are, however, situations when Sephardic practice allows two Kohanim or Leviyim to receive successive Aliyot. For instance, two Kohanim can receive the Aliyot of "Mashlim" (the final Aliya before Kaddish) and "Maftir." Since Kaddish is recited in between these Aliyot, they may both be given to Kohanim or to Leviyim. This is a practical solution in situations where two Kohanim in the congregation have a Yartzheit on the same Shabbat – one can receive "Mashlim," and the other "Maftir." Another situation where Kohanim or Leviyim can receive successive Aliyot is when the Aliyot are read from different Sifreh Torah. Even if Kaddish is not recited in between the two Aliyot, they may nevertheless be given to Kohanim or Leviyim. On Simhat Torah, for example, we read from three Sifreh Torah, and thus three Kohanim or three Leviyim may be given the final three Aliyot. This applies as well when Rosh Hodesh Tevet – which is during Hanukah – falls on Shabbat, and thus three Sifreh Torah are read. The congregation may call a Kohen for the final Aliya in the weekly Torah portion, another Kohen for the Rosh Hodesh reading, and another Kohen for the Maftir reading, since all these are read from different Sifreh Torah.

Hacham Ovadia Yosef, in Kol Sinai, cites an extension of this Halacha from Rav Haim Palachi (Izmir, Turkey, 1788-1869). Many congregations have the custom of selling the third Aliya during Minha on Yom Kippur, which is the Aliya of Yona and considered a great honor. Hacham Ovadia ruled that a Kohen who purchases this Aliya may be called, even though it is the third Aliya, which ordinarily must be given to a Yisrael. The reason, he explains, is that this Aliya is a "Maftir," and not an ordinary third Aliya. Moreover, the reason why a Kohen ordinarily may not receive the third Aliya is because people might suspect that he is not really a Kohen. In a case where a Kohen pledged a large sum of money to purchase the privilege of receiving the Aliya of Yona, it is clear that he is receiving this Aliya as a privilege, and not because he is not really a Kohen. Since there is no reason for concern that people will doubt the Kohen’s status, he may receive this Aliya. For the same reason, this Aliya may be given to a distinguished Torah scholar who is a Kohen, as it is clear that he receives the Aliya due to his stature of distinction, and not because he is a Yisrael.

Hacham Ovadia expressed opposition to the practice of some congregations to ask the Kohanim to leave the synagogue when they want to give all three Aliyot (on a weekday, for example) to a Yisrael. Sometimes there are three Yisraelim at a Minyan who need Aliyot, and so the Kohanim are asked to leave in order to make all three Aliyot available for Yisraelim. Hacham Ovadia discouraged this practice, as it infringes upon the honor due to the Kohanim. He notes that this practice was accepted in one particular instance, as documented by the Maharik (Rav Yosef Kolon, 15th century). There was a custom among some communities to sell the first Aliya on Shabbat Parashat Bereshit to the one who pledged to supply all the oil for the synagogue throughout the coming year, which involved a great deal of money. These communities would then ask the Kohanim to leave so that the person who made the pledge could receive the first Aliya. The Kohanim agreed to leave, and this custom was accepted for the sake of honoring the Torah and securing vital funds for the synagogues. Hacham Ovadia maintains that we cannot extend this custom, which was a well-established tradition at one time among certain communities, to allow asking Kohanim to leave whenever a congregation feels it wants to make all three Aliyot available for Yisraelim. Since we have no such established custom, we should not utilize this "solution" when we want to give three Aliyot to Yisraelim.

Summary: If no Levi is present in the synagogue, the second Aliya is given to the Kohen who received the first Aliya. If he was mistakenly called for the second Aliya when a Levi was present, the Levi is called in his place, unless the Kohen had already begun reciting the Beracha. Sephardic practice allows giving Kohanim and Leviyim Aliyot after the third Aliya, as long as two Kohanim or two Leviyim do not receive successive Aliyot. Kohanim or Leviyim may receive successive Aliyot only if the Aliyot are separated by a Kaddish or are read from different Sifreh Torah. A Kohen may be called for the third Aliya at Minha on Yom Kippur. It is improper to ask the Kohanim to leave the synagogue to make all three Aliyot available for Yisraelim.


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