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A young Jewish boy is blessed after reading from the Torah scroll during his Bar Mitzvah celebration at the Western Wall.

(JNi.media) According to a reasoned ruling by Rabbi Jonathan Raziel from Ma’ale Adumim, Israel, it is forbidden to correct mistakes made by the reader of the Torah during the reading, even if he mispronounces a word or a phrase, because “reading the Torah on Shabbat and during the week is a rabbinic law,” while the ban on shaming the reader is a Torah prohibition.

The mitzvot (commandments) are divided into those that are delineated directly from the Torah text, and those imposed by the rabbis over the generations. Both are considered part of the Oral Torah, and both are taught through the interpretation of the rabbis, however the mitzvot that are spelled out by the Torah have a higher value, and in cases of a conflict between a Torah-level mitzvah and a rabbinic one, the Torah-level mitzvah supersedes.

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The process of reading from the Torah scroll in most synagogues is monitored strictly by the worshipers, because the mitzvah is, literally, to hear the Torah—reading the text silently doesn’t do the trick, and neither does reading it aloud from a printed book. When the reader makes a mistake in pronunciation, skips a word or adds one, it is customary to correct him immediately, and loudly, at which point the reader may go back to the beginning of the verse and read it aloud once more, in the correct way.

Rabbi Raziel, writing in the latest volume of the prestigious halachic journal Techumin, published by the modern-Orthodox Tzomet Institute, presented a view that offered to give up the tradition of correcting the reader.

“This article was born as a result of an unfortunate event that took place a few years ago,” Rabbi Raziel wrote in the introduction to his piece, “when a secular, fatherless boy who had come closer to the Torah and the mitzvot, went up to the Torah at age 15 and read from it. The corrections emanated from the crowd, some tried to silence them, and as a result of the turmoil and confusion, the boy’s feelings were hurt and he left halfway through the reading, with tears in his eyes. He wouldn’t come back to read and eventually left religious practice altogether.”

Rabbi Raziel noted that “in our generation there are often cases of children who do not observe the Torah and mitzvot, who come to the synagogue on their Bar Mitzvah to read from the Torah, even though they don’t always know how to read properly. Such a seminal and emotional event in the life of the child can be harmed by loud corrections from the audience, and therefore we should discuss the question of whether or not there is a need to correct the reader.”

Rabbi Raziel argues that “most authorities believe that the reading of the Torah, even on a Saturday morning, is a rabbinic commandment, and even those who believe it is a Torah-level commandment, concede that it refers to the minimal reading obligation and not the entire weekly portion. Also, all the authorities that the mitzvah or Torah reading on weekday mornings and Shabbat afternoon is rabbinic.”

In any event, even in a synagogue where the public insists on correcting Torah reading errors, Rabbi Raziel believes that “It is absolutely forbidden for individuals from the audience to howl at the reader, so as not to shame him, but they should instead appoint one official to do it.”

He also stressed that “extra care must be taken when the reader is a young person, who is more vulnerable than an adult, because of the possible consequences of a perceived insult.”

Rabbi Nahum Eliezer Rabinowitz, dean of Birkat Moshe Yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim, supported Rabbi Raziel’s opinion, saying, “the prohibition against shaming a person, which is Torah-level, supersedes the obligation to read the Torah aloud, which is rabbinic.”

Rabbi Rabinowitz conceded that, according to Maimonides, “the worshipers might not fulfill the commandment of hearing the Torah” if there is a mistake in the reading, but believes it is “better that the worshipers not fulfill their obligation of hearing the reading, than transgress the Prohibition against shaming an individual.”

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65 COMMENTS

  1. Being politely corrected should not offend anyone’s ego, nor should it shame anyone. With no vowels, or even “dots” to help differentiate a shin from a sin, I am just aghast with admiration that people can, in front of an “audience”, read the Torah at all!

  2. as a seasoned baal koreh i am never offended if anyone corrects me.I would rather be corrected and have the congregation fulfill its obligation to hear the proper kriya than worry about my feelings.I dont feel one ounce of shame when corrected.Just the opposite,it shows me people are actually listening and paying attention that I pronounce every word correctly.

  3. it's a fine balance between perpetuating ignorance and condoning boorish behavior

    a proper synagogue assigns the responsibility to one expert who stands at the bimah next to the reader and quietly corrects those errors which need to be repeated.

    but then, a proper synagogue is as rare as a singing watermelon

  4. the incident referenced in the article where a boy was allowed to read when he was unprepared and hadn’t been previously tested by the gabbai is indefensible. Let’s fix that problem, which is prevalent, first.

  5. I would say as long as it is done with respect there should be no problem, I had an experience where I was the one appointed to correct the reader and I corrected a skip;ped word the problem was that he didnt skip a word, it was missing, making that Torah Scroll pasul, so the corrections have a place. In all of the shuls here on bar mitzvahs they have the kids teacher standing there with him and he is the only one that corrects the bar mitzvah boy

  6. TRUTH supersedes everything. TRUTH is the most important to God as well as to man…There is no IMJUNCTION from God's Word that correction must not be given when mistake is being made while reading it…Joshua 1:8….

  7. A) The Vilna Gaon wrote about this centuries ago. B) A wuiet, respectful correction by a qualified person standing at the Bimah should not be a problem, and C) that person should know the difference between a mistake which is M'Akev and one which is not. Obviously, shaming someone is Assur…

  8. "however the mitzvot that are spelled out by the Torah have a higher value, and in cases of a conflict between a Torah-level mitzvah and a rabbinic one, the Torah-level mitzvah supersedes" — Is that why we celebrate 2 days of Rosh Hashanah in Israel??

  9. Mitchell Keiter Given that the whole idea of reading from the Torah on shabbat is a rabbinic ruling, maybe not reading would be the best way to prevent any shaming. As for the 2 days not transgressing the Torah, I beg your pardon!!! It most certainly does! We are cleary instructed not to add to the mitzvot. Adding a day is a transgression, a Torah transgression.

  10. I was shamed in front of the whole class at school for wearing tefillin that there was something wrong with. I don't suppose the other boys in the class even cared, but it was a humiliating experience – I was new at the school – and I swore never to wear any tefillin ever again. And I never did.

  11. Am I the only one who sees a person who permits himself to feel shamed for being corrected, for a mistake he makes in the performance of a public mitzva he has taken upon himself, has an ego issue that should preclude his being ba`al qore in the first place?

  12. Truth certainly does not supersede everything. This is stated directly by the rabbis who stated that peace is greater than truth. ("Bar Kappara said: Great is peace for even Torah twisted the truth in order to preserve peace between Abraham and Sarah" Genesis Rabbah 48:18). Keeping the peace of the community and not shaming the Torah reader is greater than a perfect reading of the Torah.

  13. idk Lisa Liel, it's the kahal that's doing the hearing, not just the gabbai. If the reader doesn't have the humility to accept correction, he shouldn't be at the teba in the first place. If the kahal is judging the ba`al qore negatively for making a mistake, that's a shortcoming of the congregation, but I don't see permitting substantive errors in the reading as an appropriate remedy. If the Torah reading is in error and left uncorrected, then what's the point of hearing it in the first place? It seems me obscene that the proliferation of error is proffered as preferable to chosing a humble reader and/or a stern dvar Torah about why we hear, and why we correct.

  14. I literally feel like crying to read this story, for the pain you suffered and the life long damage it caused. Kids can be so damn mean. I have two sons that have suffered from ridicule in school for different reasons. Some times, I felt like going into the school and handing out a little "personal justice".

    I hope some day you come to a place where you feel comfortable annuling your vow. Tefillin is a wonderful experience and a beautiful Mitzva and you deserve to enjoy it without those brats ruining it for you. All the best.

  15. Whether the baal koreh has ego or not you don't have a right to embarrass him… If you insist on doing it you probably have ego. Lastly, why is being embarrassed from being corrected ego while being made fun of in other situations is not? However, the torah still assured embarrassing someone. Therefore, if you are correcting someone who will be embarrassed you are doing an issur.

  16. I like that this rabbi makes the distinction between the rabbinic ruling to read the Torah in public as opposed to the Torah law not to shame someone. I wouldn't give up correcting a reader — but certainly it should always be done quietly — only by the gabbai (not members of the shul from the pews/seats).

  17. I do agree with my dear friend cantor Judy- However, one should not embarrass someone in front of many which the rabbis in the talmud determine to be more than one. So, in such cases,when there seems to be two different points of view the Talmud says Teiku- which is an acronym for the messiah will explain difficulties and questions when the Messiah comes.

  18. It's about time. Good decision. A joke is told of a woman who used to shout correction every time the reader made a mistake. He decided to teach her a lesson so when he read the verse that had the words "shichvah imi" שכבה עמי "lie with me" (have sex with me) purposefully he read it with a mistake. A lone voice was heard loudly from the women's gallery in correct Hebrew: "have sex with me".

  19. Perhaps the baal koreh felt shamed that he had made an error while leyning rather than being shamed that he was corrected . Correction should be done quietly so that the reader alone, or perhaps others at the bimah, hear the correction and then he can reread the word or phrase correctly.

  20. the Vilna Gaon didn't have to impress his next-door neighbor by being the first to catch a mistake by the baal koreh; it was before shuls started playing kriah jeapordy, where points go to the first to spot the error

  21. No, Paul. Synagogues have Torah readers due to the rabbinical assumption, mostly correct, that members of the congregation can't read the Torah themselves. The purpose is to spare the members from shame. The least the congregation should do is reciprocate. The best it should do is master the Torah text themselves.

  22. "The mitzvot (commandments) are divided into those that are delineated directly from the Torah text, and those imposed by the rabbis over the generations. Both are considered part of the Oral Torah, and both are taught through the interpretation of the rabbis, however…"

    This is poorly worded. There are s the mitzvot delineated directly from the Torah text and those delineated from mesorah (oral tradition) which began with Moshe Rabbeinu – both are considered equally as authoritative. Additionally, there are mitzvot and laws imposed by the rabbis throughout different generations – these ones are relatively less authoritative.

  23. It seems the suggested method of having an appointed person who will correct any mistakes calmly, and preparing the reader to know that this will be the method used, is a good compromise that can maintain both mitzvot has ( reading the Torah and not shing a person publicly.) it would of course require the cooperation of the kehilla and that they use self restraint if they already have a habit to call out corrections with less tact.

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