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Simchat Torah experience

October 8, 2009

Like most Yemenite Jews, my husband’s family is very careful to safeguard its heritage, especially when it comes to liturgy and Torah learning. In an effort to preserve their unique Hebrew pronunciation (considered by some to be the closest one to the way Hebrew was spoken two thousand years ago), kids are taught to read “in Yemenite” from an early age. My husband has fond childhood memories of learning with his mori (Torah teacher) after school.

Unlike most Ashkenazi and Sephardi synagogues, Yemenite congregations do not have designated Torah readers, which means that every person called up to the Torah reads by himself (and he’d better get it right, or else…). Kids get their first taste of reading from the Torah around the age of 5 or 6, by reading Yaakov’s blessing to Asher on Simchat Torah (Deuteronomy 33:24-26). Once they become fairly proficient at reading, they are asked to read the targum, the Aramaic translation of the Torah, which accompanies the Shabbat Torah reading.

With Simchat Torah just around the corner, my 5-year-old can hardly contain his excitement. This year, he’ll get a chance to read from the Torah just like his dad. The two have been practicing for months and are now holding their final rehearsals.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Nika permalink
    October 8, 2009 2:26 pm

    Yay!!! He looks so excited! What a special time!! Tseluyu!

  2. julia permalink
    October 8, 2009 2:38 pm

    That’s so exciting! I didn’t know about that custom either.
    Chag sameach! ( Feel free to come visit)

  3. Leah permalink*
    October 10, 2009 8:58 pm

    The anticipation of going up to a sefer torah really motivates a kid to learn to read with a funny accent. The next big project – learning “shishi,” which is a whole aliyah.

  4. October 12, 2009 12:19 pm

    Great custom and we imagine an awesome moment for your son.

    • Leah permalink*
      October 12, 2009 5:49 pm

      It was an amazing experience for my son (especially all the candy that was showered on him 🙂 ).

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