Chanting Torah

By Linda Lingle

We always feel a great sense of accomplishment when we achieve something we doubted we could—learning to surf, speak a foreign language, fly an airplane, or master a musical instrument. I decided to learn to chant Torah for the same reason you would learn to do one of the skills listed above—to prove that I could achieve something difficult. For a whole year, I had seen others, week after week, walk to the bimah, stand as the Torah was opened, and chant Hebrew words that matched the English I had read for the parshah that week. Some readers had beautiful voices and great articulation. The better they were, the more I doubted it was something I could ever do because I am nearly tone deaf. And, for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how they knew how to pronounce each word since there are no vowels in the Torah. And what was “trope,” anyway? It all became clear during trope class with Temple President Sandy Armstrong and my fellow students. With support from all of them, what had seemed unknowable just months earlier became another notch on my achievement belt. But this skill gave me so much more than bragging rights—it gave me a connection to my fellow Jews, at Sof Ma’arav, around the world, and throughout all time. The tradition of reading Torah out loud dates back to the time of Moses, who would read the Torah publicly on Shabbat, festivals, and Rosh Chodesh. Being able to chant Torah is more than a mere skill. It is a chance to connect to who you are, where you came from, and what your obligation is in the world.