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.

7 thoughts on “Life in the Fast Lein – Is there a Speed Limit?”

  1. Thanks for a great and very necessary post, as well as the great site in general.

    I have been to minyanim where a great emphasis was placed on speedy leining. It was considered one of the most desirable traits of a baal koreh – בעל קריאה. One in particular comes to mind. They had some very fast leiners read the Torah (it was especially appreciated for things like Megillos such as Koheles. For Megillas Esther too, in some places a significant emphasis in placed on speed. With megillos, the situation is somewhat different, as the reading is not broken up into a number of aliyos though.), and the ‘speed leining’ (just as with ‘speed reading’, there is no free lunch. Speeding comes at a price of lesser comprehension and appreciation of the text. How can you savor the text, notice alliteration, etc., at high speeds?) bothered me. On the other hand, others loved it, and when it was necessary to switch to a slower reader, were displeased. Some such places also go through the davening at a nice clip,. If so, and they are treating the leining like davening, it may be more understandable, even if incorrect. But if they lein a lot faster than they daven, what is the rationale for that?

    Too fast is definitely a problem, too slow could be as well. The golden mean is the way to go.

    “since there is an aspect of learning involved in the kriah”

    Just an aspect of learning? Isn’t learning the main/basic/only reason for krias haTorah?

    1. Mordechai, thanks for the kind words.

      As you pointed out too fast, is a problem as is too slow. An interesting part of Shul Politics is how to go about deciding what is too fast and what is too slow.

  2. But this much is clear. If a normal, or even slower-than-normal reader is called for an aliyah then even a sicj uber-talented baal kriah must read at a pace at which the oleh can follow along.

    I wonder if there is a pace which too slow? Your cleverly titled post evokes the famous road-rage moshol of Jews’ intolerance with one another; I drive at the optimum speed anyone driving 10 MPH faster is a reckless maniac and anyone driving 10 MPH slower is a roadhog impeding the normal flow of traffic.

    the nimshal need nt be spelled out.

    1. Rabbi Schwartz, I would think that we define a norm and then the Baal Koreh reads within the range for that defined norm. I wouldn’t think that he would have to go super slow if the person called read super slow.

      Most people I’ve talked to think there is a too slow pace.

      I don’t think this is a question of intolerance, but rather of in what situations do we define norms for the greater good and how do we define and enforce those norms.

  3. Kaf HaChayim [Palagi], chapter 17, paragraphs 16 to 18:
    Reciting ketoret [the incense prayer] has the power to ensure that
    your prayer goes directly to G_d, unharmed by prosecuting angels.
    Its recitation can end the deadliest plagues.
    A person who recites it rapidly forfeits its benefits.

    Rabbi Chaim Palagi [or Palachi or Falachi, Sephardi Tahor] was
    born in 1788 CE in Izmir (Turkey), and was appointed Chief Rabbi
    in his native city in 1854 CE (after serving as leader of the Rabbinical
    Court), and wrote Kaf HaChayim in 1858 CE (תריט) and died 1869 CE
    in Smyrna. He wrote at least 26 Torah books, including: practical law,
    responsa, commentaries and ethics.

  4. Why not review the Parsha once witth Rashi during the week, and then read to yourself word by word the Krias Hatorahtogether with the Baal Koreh on Shabbos morning to fulfill the obligation of the second reading?

    1. That is what I do. But the question is what if the Baal Koreh reads too fast.

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