Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A leining note from this past Shabbos

For 12 years I was the regular "baal keriah [Torah reader]" for my shuls, as well as the main Bar Mitzvah teacher. One of the elements I always tried to accentuate for myself and for my students was to place the emphasis on the proper syllable in a word. Putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable in a Hebrew word can change the meaning entirely.

I noticed an example of this in opening sentence of the Haftorah this past Shabbos, Yeshayah 60:1:

קומי אורי כי בא אורך
Kumi ori ki va oraych

If the second word is pronounced with the emphasis on the end (oh-REE, like the first African-American in the NHL), then the translation is, "Rise, my light, for your light has come."

But if the second word is pronounced with the emphasis on the beginning (OH-ree), then the translation is, "Rise, shine, for your light has come."

The latter is correct - and it's up to the baal keriah to get it right.


  1. I've wondered what the halacha is in the case of mispronunciations of the haftarah. I've assumed that the gabbai isn't obligated to correct as he would for Torah laining. In general though, if caught, my experience is that it is corrected.

    The classical case in the Torah often used to show how mispronoucing a word as Mil'ail as Milrah (and vice versa) changes the meaning is in Vayetze. As Rashi points out, at the well the first time Rachel is mentioned "hinai Rachel bito ba-AH im hatzon". The accent is on the second syllable - she is coming. Later "odenu midabeir imam ve'rachel BA-ah" - accent on first syllable - she came.

    Many other similar instances in the Torah that need to be corrected.

  2. Michael-
    Indeed; since Rashi points that out, it gets a lot of play. This one took me by surprise.
    Reminds me, actually, of another Haftorah line a gentleman in Allentown took pleasure in pointing out to me - "Kol korei, bamidbar panu derech HaShem" (see the trop there).