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TOKHEḤAH (Heb. תּוֹכֵחָה; lit. "reproof"), the name given to the two comminatory passages in the Pentateuch (Lev. 26:14–45; Deut. 28:15–68). The Mishnah referred to them as the "chapters of curses" and they were designated as the Torah reading for fast days. These sections must not be divided, but must be read by one person (Meg. 3:6, 31b). In order to begin and end with more favorable sentences (Meg. 31b; tj, Meg. 3:8, 74b), the reading is commenced before the curses and concluded after them (e.g., Lev. 26:10–46; Deut. 28:7–69). The Deuteronomy chapter was considered the more severe since it contains no verses of consolation and is written in the present tense. The public reading of these passages on their appropriate Sabbaths generated fear among the listeners, and it therefore became customary for the reader to recite them quickly in a low voice. People were reluctant to be called to the Torah for these portions. In some communities it became customary to give this aliyah to poor people who could not afford to pledge donations for the more desirable aliyot. The person was not called up by his name, but the sexton simply said "May anyone who wishes rise to the Torah" (Rema to Sh. Ar. 428:6). It later became the general practice for the sexton or the reader of the Torah to accept this aliyah. However, in some communities, the rabbis insisted on receiving these aliyot to demonstrate that the word of the Torah need not be feared.

[Aaron Rothkoff]