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January 11, 2018


[I don't normally comment, but had to step out from the shadows on this one.] A few years ago I took up a hobby that I had no talent for. I knew I would never master it. (Imagine playing the piano if you are tone deaf, or chanting the Torah if you have a hard time reading the scroll....) It has been several years and I still can't do even basic stuff. But I keep at it, unsteadily, because (a) in most of my life, I've stuck to things I'm good at, and it is a good humbling experience to remember that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and (b) I'm told that practicing new skills can open up new neural networks that are beneficial in and of themselves, though I base this on hearsay. Especially as a teacher I think it's important to have the experience of not being good despite trying hard. I don't know whether this is helpful but it is a good reminder to me.....

I think it's important to chant Torah, mostly because it is, indeed, part of a long and wonderful tradition, and because preparing makes you think a lot about a section of verse, and that, too, is part of a long and wonderful tradition. But also, it's important to engage with the world, do things that aren't easy or comfortable, to participate in community, to do less than perfectly and then do again, also less than perfectly.

I'm really enjoying reading about your experiences chanting Torah and going to services and classes.

I am glad that your rabbi and D were so great to help you figure out your feelings and your reaction. I think you're on the right track!

My rabbi has been taking piano lessons for years. He practices daily but apparently still isn't that good, and he told me that he tries to school himself not to invest too much in trying to impress his teacher at his weekly lesson. He reminds himself regularly that the daily practice, not the performance, is the point. He told me this story again on Saturday when I was grumbling about how my practice had been for naught because I had not done well in the performance. He and I agreed that it's hard to be not good at something. I have taken on various practices over the years -- mostly music -- to let myself be not good at things, but I tend to give them up when I don't get better fairly quickly ... thereby missing the point, I know!

Welcome, notmyrealname! You're welcome here any time!

You've got the tikkun korim, right? It helps a LOT with practice.

Nothing else to say that I haven't said before. You're doing the right thing!

Servetus, I actually do NOT have the tikkun korim, although I've had it recommended to me. Which publication would you recommend? I want one that includes English as well as the two columns of Hebrew and that has large enough printing. The Artscroll looks good.

I'd really get one if you want to keep doing this (for one thing, it lowers the boundary to practicing IMO). I have the old Ktav one from the 1960s, so it's just a picture of the sefer in parallel with the Hebrew text with points and cantillation, etc., and I just used to keep my chumash open next to that. (I wasn't so worried about what it meant, frankly, as in just getting the trop right; my biblical childhood meant that I had read all those texts a lot as a teen.) If Artscroll has one with an English column, all the better. I'd get one with the size of the sefer script reproduction close to what it is on the actual sefer, so you don't get thrown off by that. Maybe your rabbi has a favorite one?

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

    Email me at whatnowblogger at yahoo dot com.

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