[Note: "leining" refers to singing the Torah’s text according to the "trop" (the traditional cantillation).]
I must admit that I am biased in this matter; my mother was the one who would listen to me practice leining on many Friday nights, and correct both my pronunciation and my trop. Nonetheless, I am dismayed by the modern practice of teaching boys to lein, and not teaching girls likewise.
A commenter here does mention one Bais Yaakov that teaches girls to lein, but that’s it – and this is a mistake. Women should learn to lein.
I attribute this omission in Orthodox women’s education to three factors:
1) The relegation of “leining” to Bar Mitzvah training;
2) A general lack of appreciation for the way that leining affects the meaning of a pasuk, and the way it helps children learn;
3) The lack of time afforded to chumash education in schools, in general.
To address the former two factors (because the last needs its own essay!): Leining is supposed to be fundamental to the way anyone reads chumash, and it is supposed to be taught when we first train our children to read chumash.
This is hardly my own thought; it’s an explicit gemara:
A mishnah in Nedarim (35b in the Vilna Shas) discusses whether a man may teach another man’s children if an outstanding oath currently prohibits him from “benefiting” that person. The mishnah says, ומלמד הוא את בניו ואת בנותיו מקרא, that this man may teach the other one’s “sons and daughters” chumash.
In the course of that discussion (36b), the gemara discusses teaching those children פיסוק טעמים, the use of music to read words and phrases, and the gemara makes it clear that both boys and girls classically studied this, as part of learning how to read chumash.
This teaches us two points:
1) Leining was taught as part of basic reading (and for more on this see a brief essay by Dr. Daniel Lasker here), and
2) Girls classically learned it, too.
Which brings me to an old article I happened across today, at the amusingly titled What’s Bothering Artscroll? blog. The article notes that the Artscroll Women’s Siddur does not include the trop notes for Shema, and wonders why the notes were omitted.
In truth, I did not know until very recently that there was an Artscroll Women’s Siddur. My wife, the grand Rebbetzin, wonders whether there should not also be an Artscroll Men’s Siddur. I think this would be an excellent idea. Perhaps it might contain an expanded Halachah section on how to deal with conflicts between the Super Bowl and night seder, how to send regards to your chavrusa’s wife without violating Shulchan Aruch Even haEzer, how often a tallit katan must be washed, and the like.
But to return to the matter at hand: If there must be a separate, women’s edition, why omit the trop? Women are supposed to know it, too!
I do not consider myself an innovator, but the restoration of leining education for women would be no innovation – it would be a return to the path laid down by the chachamim for educating our children.