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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5784

Ask the Rabbi: Whose Pronunciation Should the Oleh Use?

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: In my shul, the “functionaries” do the havara (custom of pronunciation) as they like. This week, the ba’al korei (=bk) did Sephardi/Israeli, while I did the berachot of my aliya in Ashkenazis. When reading the kri’ah along with him, should I have been using my havara or his?


Answer: First, we must investigate the roles of the oleh and the bk. In the gemara’s time, the oleh read the Torah aloud for the tzibbur. In Tannaic times, only the first aliya had an opening beracha and the last one had an ending beracha (Megilla 21b), and all the middle olim did was read the Torah. The Rambam (Tefilla 12:5) describes kri’at haTorah as the olim doing the laining. Other Rishonim, though, report a minhag that a bk lains, whereas the oleh makes the berachot and reads along quietly (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 141:2).

The consensus is that the bk’s reading is the halachically significant kri’at haTorah, which needs to be done carefully, as the point is for the tzibbur to hear (see Sha’ar Ephrayim 3:1; Mishna Berura 142:3). (The Maharil (Shut 23) considers the possibility that the oleh’s reading can also count for the tzibbur.)

The Rosh (Megilla 3:1), though, requires the oleh to read along with the bk, for if he does not, his berachot are l’vatala, because his beracha cannot connect to the bk’s laining but must relate to his own reading. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 139:2-3) rules that one who is unable to read from the Torah even with the bk’s help (whether due to blindness or ignorance), may not receive an aliya, but the Rama (ad loc.) allows it. The Taz (OC 141:3) argues on the need to read along, as he understands the Yerushalmi (Megilla 4:1) to say that when the one making the beracha listens to the reading, the beracha is connected to the reading. The She’eilat Ya’avetz I:75 rejects the Taz, saying that listening can connect one to a text but cannot make it count as if the listener read that text from a sefer Torah, as is required for kri’at haTorah. We generally pasken, albeit likely because of the great need, to allow even a blind person to get aliyot even though he cannot read along (Mishna Berura 139:12-13). In many, many shuls it is also clear that not everyone reads along, and it is rare for gabbaim to try to enforce it. (The She’eilat Yaavetz considers it conceivable, but probably wrong, that one who follows in the sefer Torah the words he listens to is considered as if he read them with his lips.) Thus, reading along is not a critical need.

However, it is certainly proper to follow the Rosh’s ruling that the oleh read along, which the Rosh says he should do “quietly and precisely.” This desire for preciseness should be tempered by the fact that we make no real effort to ensure such quality. We allow non- proficient readers to get aliyot, and Acharonim point out that we do not trust the oleh to read well enough for the tzibbur to fulfill the mitzva by his reading (see Mishna Berura ad loc. 10). Also, given that an oleh reads quietly, we have no way to correct him if he reads inaccurately.

One can fulfill recitation-based mitzvot in a different havara from his own, which is what one should do when leading a congregation with that havara (see Igrot Moshe, OC III:5; Bemareh Habazak III:1). Therefore, it is not a problem for him to follow the bk. However, there is generally a preference to do things one’s own way for a “private mitzva” when it is not offensive to the public (see ibid.). Since it is most likely the oleh’s reading is a personal matter (the berachot are more complex – see Bemareh Habazak ibid.), one’s own havara is conceptually preferable. However, it is easier for those who do not know dikduk well to “parrot” the bk than to try to make the proper adjustments for his own havara. While his failure in that regard is unlikely to ruin the meaning, which would make it correctable if he were the bk (see Rama, OC 142:1), it is better to avoid mistakes than to use one’s havara (see ibid.). Therefore, except for olim who are proficient enough to make the adjustments consistently, it is better to follow the bk.  

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