Sunday, July 04, 2010

Like Listening Through A Time Machine

This past Shabbos, the Wolfish family attended a Bar Mitzvah.  It was a very nice simcha and we had a good time.  Going to a different shul for shabbos actually gave me an rare opportunity to listen to someone else lain the entire parsha

The ba'al kriah at the shul we went to was a fifteen year old kid (the bar mitzvah boy didn't lain the parsha).  He had poise and wasn't afraid to be loud enough to be heard -- a common failing of young ba'alei kriah.  One thing he didn't have going for him, however, was experience. 

As a ba'al kriah, I've often found that the hardest portions to lain were those that had repeating passages, but with minor variations in each iteration.  For example, consider the Nesi'im in Parshas Naso.  There, the same set of verses is lained over 12 times, with the only changes being the names of the tribes and the leaders.  Otherwise, they're all identical* in terms of wording and trup.  That makes it fairly easy for a ba'al kirah

However, in Pinchas, there are two sets of parshiyos where there are multiple iterations of a similar theme, but with enough difference between each iteration that, if you're not very careful, you can easily get mixed up.  That, sadly, is what happened to this ba'al kriah this past Shabbos.  He made a fair number of mistakes that would likely not have been made in a straight narrative portion.

As he was struggling his way through the parsha, I understood very well what he was going through.  After all, I was him twenty-five years ago.  When I was his age, I made the very same types of mistakes.  I had similarly disastrous readings.  So, I knew very well what he was going through.  Listening to him was, in some ways, kind of like listening to myself lain many years ago.

Of course, over the years, I've gotten somewhat better at laining.  Thank God, I no longer have weeks like he did.  That's not to say that I never make mistakes -- of course I do -- but I haven't made as many as he did in one week in a loooong time.

After davening, I took some time to talk to the kid.  I told him that I thought he did pretty well but that he could clearly use some improvement.  But I also told him that I'm fairly good at it now and that, at one time, I was at his level of skill (and had weeks like he just had) and that, with hard work, perseverance and experience, he would get much, much better.  I think the kid has a future in the field.

The Wolf

* Yes, I'm aware the first two are *slightly* different.


Yitzchak said...

I'm also a baal kria, and I was also at a bar mitzva this shabbos. The bochur lained himself, and did a pretty good job except for a couple inevitable human sacrifices. (The baalei kria here know what I'm talking about.)

Anonymous said...

Hey Wolf,
I know you're not afraid to share your opinion,I was wondering if you could do a post on the orthoprax rabbi.

A pushiter yid

BrooklynWolf said...

There's really not that much for me to add on the OP rabbi. Most of the other bloggers have already made the points I might have made, and I was never much of a "me too" poster.

The Wolf

Lion of Zion said...

yeah, i was there too at 15

"One thing he didn't have going for him, however, was experience."

(without referring to the baal koreh you write about) lack of experience definately doesn't help, but i don't think this explains a lot of the mistakes novice baale kriah make and difficulties they have.

preparing leining shouldn't be about rote memorization, which is very difficult, but this is often what happens. to follow up on your previous post, more often than not mistakes in ivre can be attributed to poor education rather than to lack of experience. a kid (or anyone) who doesn't know dikduk and only has a superficial understanding of the basic peshat of the text is going to have to spend a few years knocking himself out until he can learn, or rather memorize, the leining. (this is one of my critiques of tikkun simanim. i think it has made a lot of people more cognizant of the minutiae of leining, but they try to memorize it rather understand it.)

same goes for the trop.

(the gabbai of an old shul of mine called me up last night to ask if i could fill in this coming shabbat. yeah, it's just coincidence that the regular BK decided to take his vacation this week :) )

Lion of Zion said...

If anyone is interested in matters pertaining to leining in its widest sense (music, syntax, dikduk, text/masorah, practical minhag/halacha for baal kore/gabbai/oleh, safrut, etc.), please join us at the new and improved Google Leining Group ( We welcome active contributors as well as passive lurkers. Membership is completely free and we offer a 100% money-back guarantee.

Eees said...

@LOZ: How generous of you! ;)

Miranda said...

Great readinng your blog post