Learning to Read from the Torah

Leib Tropper is a rabbi who founded the Kol Yaakov Torah Center, a yeshiva in Monsey, New York. Leib Tropper has studied and taught all over the world, including several years in Israel.

Considering that glossophobia, more commonly known as the fear of public speaking, affects more people than the fear of death, it is no wonder that the prospect of reading from an ancient text in front of friends, family, and a general religious congregation might intimidate a young Jewish boy or girl preparing for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. There are a few techniques that can make the process of reading from the Torah more comfortable. Learning the fundamentals of Torah reading is essential, including a number of grammar issues that may present difficulties. For instance, vowels are incorporated into the Hebrew language in a different manner than many children are accustomed to; many words consist primarily of consonants, while the vowels appear as small symbols above or below the words. Learning this new method of reading is vital if a child expects to fluently read from the Torah during his or her ceremony. Additional grammar that must be learned includes how to interpret musical cues, known as Cantillation notes.

Becoming familiar with the text is an equally important step in preparing to read from the Torah. Reading through each section in English and conferring with parents, fellow students, and a rabbi is a good place to begin. After the context and mechanics are fully understood, all that is left to do is practice until the reading is perfect. The first sentence in each section should be especially stressed until the reader can recite each sentence fluently, providing the reader with a comfortable introduction into each segment of the ceremony.

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