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Daily Aliya for Behar-Bechukotai, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

Aliya Summary: And more blessings: An overabundance of crops and G‑d’s presence will be revealed in our midst. This section then describes the severe, terrifying punishments which will be the Jews’ lot if they reject G‑d’s mitzvot. The punishments include disease, famine, enemy occupation of the land, exile, and desolation of the land. The non-observance of the Sabbatical year is singled out as the reason for the desolation of the land. The aliyah concludes with G‑d’s promise never to utterly forsake us even when we are exiled in the lands of our enemies.

Because it is so painful to hear these terrible words – especially realizing how often they have come true – the custom developed to read this portion in a low voice. We are ashamed that G-d needs to threaten us in so graphic a way. There was a time when no one wanted the dubious honor of receiving this Aliya. Today the minhag is to call the Rabbi, Gabbai, or the Baal Korei himself for this portion. (In many congregations, it is the one who gives out the Aliyot who gets the Tochacha, so that no one else will feel slighted by him.) The Tochacha is always contained within one Aliya which begins and ends on “cheerier” notes.