I am truly happy this question has come up. I had spoken about this my first few weeks here, but some things are worth repeating, especially as it is time to begin recruiting Torah readers!
Rebbetzin Katrin has been clearly taking the greatest share of leyning since we arrived in July. In case I have not done it enough, let me begin expressing my gratitude for her for chiddur hamitzvah, or taking a sacred responsibility and elevating it via knowledge, skill and intentionality.
There were several reasons that Katrin (and I to a lesser extent) took on the majority of the responsibility for reading the Torah over the last months. First of all, as I expressed my first few weeks, it was in gratitude for the multitudes in the community that stepped up in between rabbinical appointments in the last years and led services, read from the Torah, organized participation, and just generally kept this a viable and vibrant community. While I was interviewing for this position, someone had quoted the number “35” as the amount of different people that had led various services and parts of services. As I said at the time, that is a wealth to not only be honoured, but as well something we need to hold on to. Yet with that amount of effort, Katrin and I decided to give everyone a break until the end of the High Holy Days. Reading from the Torah indeed takes preparation, and as the job fell more and more on a core of people, we wanted to reset and take a deep breath.
The second reason behind our leyning was to subtly advertise a still-to-be-planned Torah Trope class that Katrin and I wish to teach at some point in the months after the High Holy Days. A surprising amount of people came up to me during my interview weekend after I leyned and asked if I would be willing to teach my version if I were to end up choosing to come to Leeds, asked with full respect for those who leyn and have taught leyning in previous years. That stayed with me and become part of the underlying thoughts and plans of what I could offer in the short term.
I believe what is important to know, is that there are many traditions and methods in reading or chanting from the Torah scroll, and that all are to be respected as long as the intentionality is to elevate Torah. Musically, there are Sephardic and Ashkenazi traditions, East and West European traditions, melodies more associated with Reform and those more associated with Chassidic shuls. In addition, there are great traditions of reading for the teferet, the glory or magnificence, of the Hebrew language—speaking the words clearly and conveying the poetry and rhetoric of our tradition without using trope. Then there are those that wish to translate as part of the reading, a tradition we can tie back to the time of Ezra and Nehemia and the building of the second temple. Some wish to read or chant a few verses and some wish to read all the verses that are to be read that week. All are worthy of honour and all have a beautiful place in a shul on the bimah.
- Your Name
- The maximum number of verses you wish to read at any one time (minimum 3.)
- How often you wish to read (e.g. once a quarter, once a year, once a month, etc.)
- Is there a parashah or time of year you prefer to read?
- How much preparation time do you need?
- Do you wish a recording?
- Do you wish to read at some time in the future, but are waiting for Katrin and I to have a leyning class?
And that is it. Once we get names in our list we will begin sending out dates, always with our gratitude to those that volunteer and perform this beautiful mitzvah.