The Rambam, in Hilchos Tefilah, writes that reading the תוכחה of Parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah is a תקנת עזרא. The reason is כדי שתכלה שנה וקללותיה – that the year together with all the bad things that happened should come to an end. Before the תוכחה reading, הג”ר שריה דבליצקי זצ”ל would say “לקיים תקנת עזרא”. After the end of the brocha he would say “תכלה שנה וקללותיה, תחל שנה וברכותיה.
There is a minhag that people wish each other תכלה שנה וקללותיה. Reb Shlomo Zalman zt”l says that one has to be careful not to be a כפוי טובה. Even during times of הסתר פנים many great miracles are revealed. At the end of the year one should give thanks to Hashem for all the good and kindness that was bestowed upon him throughout the year.
The מחבר (סימן תכ”ח סעיף ו’) says that according to halacha the קללות in Parshas Ki Savo do not have to be read at one time. However the accepted minhag is that it is read together in one aliya. Also the aliya should not start and end with the תוכחה, rather start a few pesukim before it and one passuk after it.
There is a minhag in some places to say before the תוכחה the pesukim from Mishlei (3,11-12) מוסר ה’ בני אל תמאס ואל תקוץ בתוכחתו, כי את אשר יאהב ה’ יוכיח וכאב את בן ירצה”. This passuk speaks about how one should not be disgusted with the rebuke from Hashem, for Hashem only rebukes those whom He loves. The מנהג העולם is to stand during the תוכחה.
The Steipler says that the one who receives the תוכחה, should be מהרהר בתשובה beforehand, so his מעשים should not arouse דין onto himself.
In some places the name of the oleh is not called out, rather they announce whoever would like to come up to the Torah can do so. Others say that you have to call up the person by his name. The one who is being called up should agree beforehand.
If one was called up for the תוכחה by mistake, he should take it. He has nothing to fear as the passuk says שמר מצוה לא ידע דבר רע. Nothing bad will come from doing a מצוה.
לכתחילה the בעל קורא should be beloved by the ציבור. If someone knows that the בעל קורא has something against him he should avoid getting called up to the Torah for the תוכחה. He should leave בין גברא לגברא – in between the aliyos. If he was called up before he has a chance to leave he should take the aliya. Since he is doing so for כבוד התורה we apply the concept of שמר מצוה לא ידע דבר רע – no bad comes about to someone who is doing a mitzvah. This obviously applies only where the minhag is that anyone can get the aliya.
Today the accepted minhag is that the בעל קורא receives the aliya. It is prohibited for him to have in mind that the קללות should befall a certain person. His intention should only be לשם שמים. Some have the minhag not to stand opposite the בעל קורא. The מקור for this is a Gemara in מסכת שבועות (לו.).הג”ר שריה דבליצקי זצ”ל was careful not to stand even on the side of the בעל קורא. It is similar to ברכת כהנים that the sides are included in the brocha – (עי’ משנה ברורה סימן קכ”ח סקצ”ה). This קפידא does not only apply to קריאת התורה. הג”ר שריה was careful that no one should be standing in front or the sides of him, even when reading שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום and the תיקון ליל הושענא רבה which includes the תוכחה.
The תוכחה is read quickly in a low voice. The בעל קורא should still make sure that everyone can hear all the words. Many poskim question this minhag of lowering the voice. The Midrash seems to say that reading the תוכחה in an unusual manner shows that one is disgusted by the rebuke of Hashem and the passuk says “מוסר ה’ בני אל תמאס”. In some minyanim the תוכחה is read in the regular way.
The קיצור שו”ע says that the words בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרב כל as well as the words ליראה את השם הנכבד, and the last passuk, should be said in a loud voice.1
Prepared by R’ Avrohom Yehoshua Ziskind
1Sources:האלולים קודש לה’,דרך ישרה-הנהגות ודקדוקי הלכה של רבינו הגאון החסיד רבי שריה דבליצקי זצוק”ל