By: Deb Kraus
So what is leyning? Wish I had time to look up why chanting torah is called leyning, because I’ve always wondered. Like many things in this corner of the Jewish world, and very unlike me in general, I haven’t questioned much about why. I’ve focused on the how’s.
This course, which I just decided to call L2L, is designed for people who know Hebrew at least phonetically, and want to learn to chant. Maybe just to know, or to help your kids someday with b’mitzvah. Maybe to participate in a torah service. Maybe even to have an adult bar or bat mitzvah!
So, back to what is leyning. If you look in a chumash or even at some of the prayers in our siddur, you will see funny little symbols that aren’t vowels. For example, check out the shema or the v’havta or ma tovu, or any prayer in the prayerbook that originated as torah. How can you tell a prayer originated as torah? This is getting circular, but you can tell if there are those funny little symbols around the words that aren’t vowels. (and you can always check under the line to see where in Torah this is from).
Those funny little symbols around the words that aren’t vowels are called trops, and they are the most efficient little musical indicators of how to chant that I have ever seen. There are about 24 used regularly (and about 4 that show up quite rarely) and this class is going to teach you what they are and how to sing them.
My plan would be to convene soonish, maybe mid March, and start to learn some of the basic trops, the ones that are used over and over (there are maybe 4-6 trop combos that comprise about 75% of all the torah). I envision us as a group committing to covering a torah service sometime at a fall Shabbat morning (we have some latitude about which month, as long as it’s the second Saturday, so we can choose a torah portion we want to dig into) and all of our learning would be on the few lines that you personally will commit to (I mean, you don’t have to do this, but I think it would be good if at least some people do). Then we will work weekly until we have it learned. If people want to make this a b’nai mitzvah, I think we could make that happen!
I am willing to do this gratis (the hav has given me so much and I am lucky enough to not have money concerns) but do want people who are willing to commit for the full ride. I mean, things always come up that are unanticipated, but short of that, I will assume that you want to do this and have time. I’d also like to do this only if we have 3 or more committed people. I would also love to meet in person (my house?), COVID permitting, since singing on line is such a pain.
In case you don’t know me, my credentials for doing this is teaching over 55 kids (and one adult) for their bar/bat mitzvahs over the last 20 years. I myself learned how in conservative Hebrew School in Florida, but never had a bat mitzvah, first chanting from a tape Rob Dobrusin gave me at my aufruf in 1993. Who knew it would turn into a side gig that would give me so much joy?
If you are interested, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!