Learning to sing Torah

Learning to sing Torah

We read with interest the article about the JOFA conference (“The unorthodox Orthodoxy of JOFA,” December 6).

The article included a photo of a Ben Porat Yosef student reading from the Torah, but as it did not describe the special event at which the photo was taken, we would like to take this opportunity to fill in the details of an important chumash program of which we are extremely proud.

At BPY our students begin the study of chumash in first grade, since they are already able to manage and understand learning in Hebrew. A highlight for the students, is that they study the text concurrent with learning to “sing” it with the “ta’amei hamikra” (cantillation). We believe this is an invaluable skill for the children to attain because it not only gives them a strong personal connection with and appreciation for the ancient tradition of Torah reading, but also provides them with a deeper understanding of the text through learning its phrasing, and an enhanced learning experience – vital goals of an effective yeshiva education. We further broaden the students’ understanding of the traditions and customs of klal Yisrael by having them learn both the Sephardic ta’amim, in first grade, and the Ashkenazic ta’amim, in fifth grade. Each year, as new first-graders are introduced to the study of chumash, we see their delight in learning the “song.” They become motivated to learn passuk after passuk and look forward to their chumash classes. This approach, learning through experience and joy, is a reflection of BPY’s unique pedagogy, and is evident in both general and Judaic studies.

In the second grade, the students participate in their “mesibat chumash,” when each student receives his or her own chumash. At this time, as part of the event, each child, having diligently practiced, reads a passuk directly from a Torah scroll. It is a moment of great pride for both the children and the audience of parents and special visitors. It is a deeply meaningful experience and a lifelong memory for each child.

The pictures shows a sixth-grader reading her passuk at the special “mesibat chumash” program in which she participated four years ago, when she was a second grade. She is flanked on the right of the photo by Rav Shachar Shalom, her chumash “rebbe,” and a shalich (teaching emissary from Israel), and on the left by Rav Tomer Ronen, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ben Porat Yosef.