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Torah Trope Part 2

04/18/2023 03:10:35 PM

Apr18

     Who created the system of trope? Ezra the Scribe led a group of Jews back to the land of Israel from Babylonian exile. Ezra found the Jews had neglected the regular study of Torah and he instituted the public readings on Mondays, Thursdays, Shabbat and Festivals that we still follow to this day. Mondays and Thursdays were chosen because they were the days Jews gathered in public squares to buy and sell their wares. This was a great opportunity to gather people to hear the Torah, however, it was a noisy environment. In order to be heard above the din of socializing, bartering and the sounds of the livestock, the reader had to employ chanting with high and low pitches which could be heard and would also emphasize the phrasing and cadences of the text. This system developed and took form over the centuries. However, it was purely an oral art not committed to writing. As well, the correct vocalization of the text was not committed to writing at this time. The Torah had letters, but the reader had to have grammatical and linguistic expertise to properly pronounce the words. 

     By the second century, it was Rabbi Akiva who insisted that the Torah be publically chanted with melody on a regular basis . Yet, the tradition of chanting remained an oral tradition until the middle of the 5th century. The Torah reader did not have printed tikkun as we have today with the correct punctuation and trope symbols. He relied on someone who  indicated the various melodies (as the reader read) by using hand motions. This was called "chironomy".  It wasn't until the 5th century when a group of scribe/scholars finally codified the correct pronounciation including the melodic motifs in what we now refer to as the "masoretic text." They notated the letters, vowels, accentuation  and cantillation symbols for  the entire TANACH including the prophets and writings. This is the basis of the text we have in our printed chumashim and tikkuns to this very day.  

 

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784