My primary (and soon to be only) minyan does full kriyah readings. My (dying) tiny minyan started 15 years ago with full kriyah, but reluctantly went to triennial cycle reading several (~5?) years ago when a few Torah readers left to make Aliyah or take jobs in other areas of the US, and it just became too difficult to keep up full readings. That minyan has only about two dozen regular members of which only about a dozen are Torah readers. And of the Torah readers about half are only comfortable doing shorter readings. My own limit is 10 verses (although I have learned two longer readings) which means that a majority of full kriyah readings are too long for me, but I sometimes read two shorter readings in one service. Some of the other readers in my tiny minyan are only willing to read 5 or fewer verses, which means that there are very few regular readings that are short enough, but they can do most of the triennial cycle readings.
Probably too late, but it is worth remembering that the portion does not NEED to be chanted, and can simply be read, so that it is understood. That's all. Chanting is very nice, of course, but people who can't learn it/don't have time/are tone deaf or whatever, can still get up and simply read (granted, it helps to practice first!)
But if you read from a Torah scroll, there also aren't any vowels, nor indications of where the verses end, which for those of us who are not fluent in Hebrew are still not obvious. In Hebrew, the same word can have different vowels according to the grammar of the sentence, but I don't know enough Hebrew grammar to know for example if "oil" is "shemen" or "shaman", so I have to memorize those vowels when I prepare a Torah reading. I find that the tune of the trope actually helps me to read and remember, so it wouldn't be any easier for me to prepare to read an aliyah without trope than with it.
However, my minyan does have a member who has a PhD in Semitic LInguistics specializing in Neo-Aramaic who knows Hebrew well enough that he doesn't need the vowels and punctuation. When a Torah reader doesn't show up and someone else in attendance doesn't already know that reading from having done it before, Sam can just read the aliyah without trope. He says that when he was younger he used to be able to leyn with trope any random aliyah without any preparation. We also have another member who can fill in like that. M is an Israeli native Hebrew speaker who came as an Israeli "shaliach" to serve as a temporary cantor for a couple of years for the "host shul" where my minyan used to meet. Then he married a "minyan kid" and worked for a few years as a cantor at a Traditional shul (where he read the full kriyah every week, I think) while he was getting a college degree. But I suppose these days he's likely to be dealing with one of his two young children.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago when I was reading Torah, my minyan almost needed Sam's fill-in abilities. It was Sukkot Shabbat Chol Hamoed and I had volunteered to read the maftir because I thought that it was the same as the Sukkot maftir which I was already reading for second day of Sukkot and which I had read in past years. I did check hebcal, but it was unclear what the verses for Shabbat Chol Hamoed were and I forgot to check with someone. I was really lucky that Sam was a gabbai. A few lines in, I could tell that Sam thought there was an issue, but since he didn't correct me, I just kept going. But when I got to what I thought was the end, he quietly informed me that there were six more verses (in fact the part I read wasn't supposed to be read for 3rd day of Sukkot!).
You know the classic nightmare of finding out you have a test that you didn't know about and don't know the material? Well, I was basically in that situation, but it wasn't a dream But Sam suggested encouragingly that he thought I could probably do the verses while also telling me that he would just read it if I preferred. Now it turns out that I have read most of the special festival maftir readings from Pinchas, so I am pretty familiar with a lot of the common phrases from those readings about doing no work and how to do the sacrifices. (In fact, I read the Rosh Chodesh maftir today.) So I took a very quick glance at the verses and noticed parts that were familiar. If Sam had not suggested it, I probably wouldn't have dared, but in part because I knew that Sam would be there to back me up, I decided to try reading the rest of the verses having not read them before at all. I guessed at the trope (missing the two fancy pazer notes) and made a few mistakes in the vowels which Sam corrected, and Sam helpfully and quietly prompted me with select notes of trope which gave me hints for the trope of the rest of the phrase. I even got the whole last verse right with the proper trope because it was like some other verses I knew. It turns out that people who were not close to the bimah didn't know what happened and just figured that I stumbled through the second part because I hadn't prepared well or I had one of those lapses in memory that can happen due to nervousness.
Anyway, I have always loved Torah trope, and Torah reading just isn't be the same to me without the tune. I suppose it's "better" to have someone read from the Torah scroll without trope than to read from a Chumash with trope, but I prefer the latter.
Last Edit: Oct 29, 2011 23:54:48 GMT -5 by Debbie B.
My husband is Israeli and our oldest daughter spent six months at the University at Haifa, and is semi-fluent - both can read unvowelled text without preparation. The 'ideal' is Torah scroll with trope, next is Torah scroll, third and in some opinions, inadequate, is Chumash with trope....
And a bad gabbai can completely mess up a well-prepared Torah reader by over-prompting or reading along audibly and at a different speed! We carefully chose our minyan's best gabbaim for my son's bar mitzvah. Someone had once commented that one of them even uses the Torah reader's particular trope style for prompts.
A response to the "tone deaf" comment: We have a member who is truly tone deaf and I wish he would just read without trope because I find it kind of painful to hear. Luckily, he reads only about once a year---probably on his bar mitzvah parashah. His adult son read Rishon yesterday in celebration of his bar mitzvah (probably about 40 years ago) and he is almost, but not quite as tone deaf as his father.
As for Torah reading without trope, my tiny minyan has increasingly had trouble even getting the ten required adult Jews for a minyan. Most members attend shul every Shabbat, but some like us are members of other minyanim/chavurot and people do go on vacation or occasionally attend other shuls for semachot of friends. Sometimes we know that many members are going to be away for the same simcha. Indications that we will fall short of a minyan are that few people volunteer to read Torah or that the service coordinator has trouble finding enough people to lead services, read Haftarah, and give the D'var Torah. If it is known that we lack a minyan, services will be cancelled, such as yesterday. I was relieved not to have to coordinate services (I was assigned) and happy to be able to go to my other minyan.
Some of the people from my tiny minyan went to the newly-forming once-a-month lay-led egal minyan held at the university Hillel which currently doesn't have non-Orthodox Shabbat morning services. But the Hillel is nearly 4 miles away from the shul where the tiny minyan meets---too far for the members who don't drive on Shabbat. But within easy walking distance of a couple of minyan member families. ...Oh no, I just remembered that I forgot about going to help re-configure the new room that the minyan has to move to an hour ago. Sigh. Well, as a rabbi friend from my other minyan said, the tiny minyan is a "goses", a Hebrew term for a person who is very, very close to death (say probably not more than a day). I've come to the belief that it is no longer helpful to the group to be "supportive" when it only delays having all the members make the hard decision about their second choice for affiliation.
Anyway, without a minyan, you skip the whole Torah service and don't read Torah at all, which is certainly not a preferred option, especially in my area where there are other options for Shabbat services within walking distance.
Also, I wonder if some people think it more proper to read from the Chumash without trope if not from the scroll. Friends of mine who attend he Orthodox women's tefillah group that meets once a month in the same building as my primary minyan mentioned that one week a member who was going to read Torah got sick and didn't show up, so someone read from a Chumash without trope. I would think that most of that group's other Torah readers could sight-read with trope from a Chumash. So I assumed that they thought it more proper to not use trope when doing a public reading from a Chumash. Maybe I'll ask them the next time I see them. I was disappointed not to see them yesterday since they usually meet on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh or the Shabbat immediately preceding Rosh Chodesh, but there was probably a simcha to cause them to change the schedule. My friends usually drop in on my minyan's kiddush since they used to be members and know a lot of people.