In our previous section we spoke about how one must approach the bimah when called to the Torah and how the opening bracha should be said. Let us proceed this time from that point in understanding the proper conduct of the Oleh La-Torah.
While reciting the Bracha preceding the reading of the torah one should hold the sefer torah. This Halacha is associated to the pasuk “Lo yamush sefer hatorah ha-ze mi-picha”. Lo yamush means one should not be separated from the Torah. Though the pasuk does not mean a physical separation, holding the Torah is indicative of the aspiration not to be separated from Torah.
The Tur (oc\139) found a source for this Halacha in an interesting context. The Gemarah Sucah (41a) tells us that the people of Yerushalayim had a custom to hold their Lulav and Etrog during the entire tefilah. The only time they would put down their Lulavim was during Birkat Cohanim (for the Cohanim) and while reading the Torah. Explains the Tur, that since they needed to put down the Lulav it is clear they needed their hands to hold the sefer torah. When the Torah is read the Oleh should hold one of the handles (eitz chayim) of the sefer while the Baal Koreh holds the other. At the conclusion of the reading the Oleh should take hold of both handles to recite the concluding beracha. [With a Sfardi sefer Torah one would hold the round box containing the scroll of the torah.]
During the reading of the torah portion the Oleh should read quietly along with the Baal Koreh. Yet, he must be careful to keep his voice down so as not to disturb those listening to the reading of the Torah.
After the conclusion of the reading, the Oleh recites the bracha of Asher Natan Lanu Torat Emet. While reciting this bracha, the Sefer Torah should be closed. We distinguish between the first and last beracha [in reference to closing the Torah] as during the first beracha the delay caused by the opening and closing of the sefer constitutes a burden to the tzibur. Since, calling the next Oleh, during which the sefer must be covered, follows the later beracha, closing the sefer constitutes no particular inconvenience to the tzibur.
At the conclusion of the Aliya, the Oleh should take the longer route proceeding without haste in the opposite direction from which he came. This Halacha is meant to show respect for the Torah and a hesitation to part with the Sefer Torah.