Life in the Fast Lein – Is there a Speed Limit?

Much of Shul Politics revolves around resolving conflicting needs among members. Last week I was one of the conflicted parties, but as it turned out, the resolution lay in my court. Let’s take a look at this week’s issue.

As most of you know, there is a halacha in the Shulchan Orach (Section 285) called Shnayim Mikra V’echad Targum, which requires us to read the weekly parsha twice in Hebrew, and once with a translation or explanation. One is allowed to read the Shenayim Mikra along with the Baal Koreh during Torah reading, word by word, and fulfill one’s obligation. Some say that this is Lechatchila (ideal) (Aruch HaShulchan 285:3), while others hold that this is only for Shas HaDachak (when absolutely necessary).

I usually read along very quietly with the Baal Koreh to fulfill one of my reading obligations. This past week was the parsha of the Tochacha (curses) and there is a custom that the Baal Koreh gets that aliyah and he reads faster than normal. As it happened the very talented Baal Koreh was able to read it so fast, with clarity, that I could not keep up and do my Shanyim Mikra during that long Aliyah. It became clear that this was my problem, and the Baalei Koreh had no obligation to slow it down for my Shanyim Mikra needs.

This week, I asked some friends if there should be a leining speed limit. Some felt that as long as the words were pronounced correctly, with the right trope, there was no speed limit. Others felt that there seemed to be a speed, beyond which the leining was not respectful. Another friend pointed out that since there is an aspect of learning involved in the kriah, it seems a person should be able to process that which he hears, and too fast a speed would make that difficult.

I asked my Rav, and he said there definitely was a speed which was too fast. For one thing, the mispallim (shul members) have to be able to follow the leining. Secondly, the person called up for the Aliyah needs to read along quietly with the Baal Koreh. However, there is no need to slow down for the Shnayim Mikra-niks like myself. As to how fast is too fast, that is a judgment call of the Gabbai and the Rav of the Shul.