And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which hwhy had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed Yah, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped Yah with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
Traditional Torah reading
In most synagogues today, portions of the Torah are chanted every Sabbath. The markings for the notes were first recorded in the 9th century but were said to have come from Second Temple times. The notes are not actually marked in Torah scrolls but in other copies of the text. Melodies in various Jewish communities throughout the world are no longer the same, but they carry important pronunciation and grammatical information which has helped to preserve our understanding of the text to this day.
In the summer of 2003, I had the opportunity to begin to study Torah cantillation, or 'trope' as it is sometimes called. Because I had grown up hearing these melodies regularly, I found them easy to learn. I continued and was able to learn the basics in a short time. I have continued my studies and am now working through the definitive text "Chanting the Hebrew Bible" by Joshua Jacobson.
Is there value for someone who does not speak Hebrew in listening to Torah chants? I believe there is. First, it recreates the atmosphere of the Temple service similar to that at the times of Yeshua/Jesus and His disciples. Second, the well-studied Bible reader will begin to recognize the names of people and places, pronounced correctly in the original language of the Tanakh (Old Testament).
I have been chanting Torah at my congregation since September, 2003. It is my desire to provide other believers with the experience of listening to the unique sound. If you are interested, please contact me to arrange a time.
What is Torah?
The term Torah carries three different meanings: 1) the five books of Moses, i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy 2) the whole of the Tanakh, also called the Old Testament 3) all of Scripture, i.e. the whole Bible consisting of the Old and New Testaments (Tanakh and Brit Khadashah).
The word Torah is from the root 'yarah' meaning to 'point or show the way'. Other words related to this root are 'horim', meaning 'parents' and 'Moriah' (the name of the mountain where the binding of Isaac occurred) meaning 'Yah is pointing' or 'Yah is teaching'.
Through the centuries...
Why read Torah?
Torah is the word of God.
All scripture [is] given by inspiration of G-d, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16)
Take fast hold of instruction; let [her] not go: keep her; for she [is] thy life. (Proverbs 4:13)
It gives us a larger testimony. The testimony of every believer should include everything that G-d has accomplished as recorded in the Bible.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelations 12:11)
Finally, it shows us the shadow pictures of what will come in the future. All of scripture points to Messiah, from His work during creation, through His first coming, from His rule during the Messianic age through the establishment of His eternal kingdom in heaven. Much of this story has not yet been accomplished. Just as lessons were given to our forefathers in the faith so that their faith might be encouraged and they might be able to discern the times, Torah provides us with the lessons that we might understand the hand of G-d in our lives and in our times.