Moroccan Gelila

How is Gelila performed?

Before the Torah is read, it is opened to the current Parasha and raised for all congregants to see.  This is commonly known as Hagba’a (lit. “raising”), but in the Moroccan community it is referred to as Gelila (lit. “rolling”). The Torah scrolls used in Morocco were traditionally those that would have two wooden rods (known as Atze Haim) and were placed in an embroidered covering, such as those used in the Ashkenazic community, and whoever performed Gelila would do so with the writing facing him. Interestingly, it appears that Sifre Torah were made this way even in the Talmudic times [see Magen Avot O.H 147].

TThis has implications when one is reading from a Torah scroll that set in a hard box, which is used in many Sephardic communities. The Rama (O.H. 147:4) writes that when one raises the Torah for Gelila, one should do so in the manner practiced in the Moroccan community, that is, while facing the writing of the Torah. Due to the way that box Torah scrolls open, however, it is difficult to do it in this manner and as a result they are commonly raised such that the writing is facing away from the person lifting it. Nevertheless, Rabbi Yosef Sharbit (Orhot Yosher, vol. II, § 14) says that even with a box Torah, one should raise it so that one is facing the writing. Therefore, if reading from a box Sefer Torah, it is proper to accord the honor of Gelila to someone who has the strength and coordination to raise it this way. It goes without saying that if this is not possible and there is a risk of dropping the Torah, then it may be raised with the writing facing away from the person.  

Summary: The Moroccan custom is that Gelila is done such that the writing is facing the person raising the Torah, even when using a box Sefer Torah.