The Matzav Rant: To Lain Or Not To Lain

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lainingBy Shmuel Miskin

I was recently at a meeting with some rabbonim and others, and in the course of conversation, an individual brought up an interesting point to me and I figured I’ll mention it here in our regular column.

The issue is the prevalence of bar mitzvah bochurim laining their bar mitzvah parsha on the Shabbos of their bar mitzvah. I want to first make it perfectly clear that in those distinct cases where a bar mitzvah boy lains the parsha loudly and clearly, it is a joy to listen to and provides a tremendous nachas to all those in attendance, not to mention the parents, grandparents and family.

However, unfortunately, in many, many cases, bar mitzvah boys don’t lain loud enough, don’t pronounce the words clearly, swallow parts of words, or are unfamiliar with the basic laws of dikduk and trop.

This problem is compounded by the fact that for bar mitzvah boys, laining their parsha has become almost obligatory to the point that there is such immense peer pressure. Consequently, boys who should not be laining their parsha are doing so anyway because they don’t want to be left out from the rest of their class.

Someone also brought up an interesting question: What is the mekor for the custom of a bar mitzvah boy laining his bar mitzvah parsha? Years ago, in Europe and elsewhere, there was no such minhag. The bar mitzvah boy would get his aliyah, and that was it. Perhaps, he lained the maftir or haftorah, but not more than that.

If we are going to have bar mitvah boys laining their parshiyos, let us make sure that the boy is up to it and that he will be able to lain the parsha with clarity.

{Dovid Miskin-Matzav.com Newscenter}

34 COMMENTS

  1. Where I daven, Bar Mitzva boys don’t lain. Period. If he can pass an exam, then he can lain his haftara (we have klafs with the neviim).

  2. The source is found in the Orchos Chaim – a French Rishon. He mention s that Rav Yehudai Gaon made a Baruch Shepotrani after his son leined by his Bar Mitzvah. He also mentions that this is done to show that the Bar mitzvah boy is a Gadol & can be a Shliach Zibbur. My father O”bm leined his aliyah at his Bar Mitzvah.

  3. “This problem is compounded by the fact that for bar mitzvah boys, laining their parsha has become almost obligatory to the point that there is such immense peer pressure. Consequently, boys who should not be laining their parsha are doing so anyway because they don’t want to be left out from the rest of their class.”

    THAT is the problem.

    So the article identified the problem but proposed no way to alleviate the issue other than say to simply stop it.

    Yet as long as the issue (peer pressure) exists, people who shouldn’t lain will lain.

  4. My son is of bar mitzvah age and don’t see this immense peer pressure that you’re describing. There are a number of boys in my son’s class that are doing the haftorah or laining one aliyah or some variation there of. My question for you is, when exactly should one learn how to lain? It cost money and dedication to learn this skill. Without the bar mitzvah boy’s enthusiasm and family’s willingness to shell out the money, we’re not going to have anybody that can lain.

  5. The “Minhag” of Bar Mitzva boys Laining comes from the Reform and Conservative movements. I asked many Old European Yidden about this “Minhag” and they never heard of it. Many non frum Jews that I spoke with tell me that they were “Bar Mitzvad” meaning they Lained, put on Tefilin for the one and only time, said a surmon and then drove home from synagogue on Shabbos.

  6. I’m not sure you are right about this peer pressue idea. It has now become out-of-style to lain. My parents were begging my brother to lain and he refused because none of his friends are laining these days.

  7. I’d love it that adults knew basic laws of dikduk. Most of us don’t.

    I agree with all the points here, though. I think the pressure is unnecessary. Let them enjoy it. Since when should something done in shul be “a good job!” It’s avodas Hakodesh. Their heart should be in it and they should have a sipuk from doing it. If not, what are we doing to them? What are we teaching them?

  8. #5, any person who wants to lain can learn it very quickly later on in life. 95% of the boys never lain again and are just doing so for either their parents peer pressure or friends.This custom comes from the reformed and conservative its absolouley terrible.
    The answer is for shuls to have a policy not allowing it then it will stop.

  9. the reason kids read at their bar mitzvah is to teach them the practice of torah reading ,It clearly says that a minor shouldn’t get the maftir on zachor and definitly not lead zachor b/c he,s not a full fledged man.

  10. In our shul it is rare that a bar mitzva boy didn’t lain. Most of them do an ok job. As a baal korei for 48 years, I think it would be most appreciated by the tzibur, that a boy should be taught the fundamentals of laining and say the haftorah in the morning and lain at mincha. He should also be taught how to daven at the omud at least one of the tefillos.

  11. It mostly depends on the shul. Where I daven the Bar Mitzva boy can lain Maftir and the Haftora if he wants (most do) but not the parsha.

  12. B”H after one or two disasters in our shul (where some men kept asking the bar mitzvah to repeat some psukim) it was decided not to allow the boys to lein. If they very much want to, they have to lein in a different room with their own minyan while the regular baal korah lains in the bais medrash. However, I would like to point out that this is pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity for most boys to get the skill of laining.

  13. I know that when our shul opened up 30+ years, our Rav asked Reb Yaakov Kaminetzsky zt”l this very question. And Reb Yaakov said that unless the Bar Mitzva boy is tested before hand, he should not lain. The Rav said that he is not willing to tell a boy after he prepared for half a year that he cannot lain, and therefore in our shul it is only Maftir and Haftorah (w/ a klaf).

  14. I’m glad to see that we are focusing on the serious problems facing our community. Not the peer pressure to make fancy bar mitzvahs. Not the peer pressure to spend 20+ thousand dollars to send a teenage girl to Israel to spend a year studying more torah than the boys her age learn in three years. But the serious problem of the peer pressure of bar mitzvah boys leining.

  15. Hmmm..how about the yeshivos actually teach proper dikduk?

    Also, if a “Bar Mitzvah Teacher” is found to be doing a lossy job, then the shul shouldn’t allow him to continue to teach.. Good Balai Krieah, should teach and the problem will disappear.

    This is oh so typical…no need to fix a problem….just make something else “assur”

  16. Boys should begin learning trop and proper pronunciation long before their Bar Mitzva year. 3th Grade is where I started with a music teacher who was a cantor. Then in the Bar mitzva year they can hone their skills further provided they have a good Bar mitzva teacher. To do a good job most boys are going to need a lot of prodding to practice and lessons for at least 3 times a week for 6 months.

  17. I thought this was a Frum website? What are your sons learning in Yeshiva? Why are you paying tens of thousands in tuition? They cannot lain? They are not taught by their Rebbes? What is going on here?

  18. if you dont teach them at theyre bar mitzvah, theyll never learn. i had kids in my grade that couldnt lain a blasted word because they didnt lain at theyre bar mitzvah…on the other hand, i did the entire parsha, and i now lain every week. and yes, when i first lained at my bar mitzvah im sure i didnt do a perfect job, but only practice and skill can make a professional baal koreh

  19. WHEN I WAS GROWING UP. THERE WAS A PIRCHEI MINYAN TO GIVE BAR MITHVAH BIOCHURIM AND TEEN AGERS A CHANCE TO LEARBN HOW TO LAIN. I PICKED UP DIKDUK ON THE JOB AS I MADE MY MISTAKES.
    I KNOW THAT YESHIAS DON’T LIKE WHEN A BAR MITZVAH BOY LAINS BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID HE KNWOS IT BY HEART. HOWEVR A TEENAGER SHOULD NO HOW TO LAIN. IT COMES IN VERY HANDY. ESPECIALLY IN SUMMER TIME, YOU CANT FUD A BAL KOREH BECAUSE NOBODY GOT A CHANCE TO LEARN HOW TO LAIN. WE NEED BAALAI KRIAH FOR THE FUTURE GENERATIONS. WE NEED TO TRAIN THE YOUNG ONES.

    I AM LAINING SINCE MY BAR MITZVAH AND BH IT TAKES ME 20 MINUTES TO PREPARE. I FIRT TO 2X MIKRA AND 1X TARGUM AND IS HALF OF THE PREPARATION.

  20. As someone who teaches “bar mitzvah lessons” i agree with both sides of the argument. There are some bochurim who can and some who can’t. I listen to the bochur and make my determination. in the last year i have taught 7 bochurim, 4 who leined the whole parsha and 3 who didn’t. Not all of my own sons leined the whole parsha.

  21. To all those commentors who claim this to be a nonfrum minhag… Plase stop! Preparing for my sedra and leyning was a huge milestone in my life. All my friends did it as well. The stupidity of even considdering stoping this well established minhag will do nothing more than encourage metiocrity in our midst. We need to be the best we can be. The only way to get there is thru hard work. And that’s OK. What kind of sillyness is this, expecting less from our children? Are we just supposed to resign ourselves to nismattito hadoros. A little preassure is fine for the developement of our children, and to guaranteeing there success as adults.

  22. A serious problem might arise if boys stop laining for their bar mitzvah, in 25 years, we might not have many people who know how to lain! If kids dont learn for their bar mitzvah, there is very little chance they will pick it up later on.

  23. Who’s the idiot who thinks this comes from reform and conservative? You think a reform boy can lein an entire parsha? They don’t lein the entire parsha in reform temples. My father leined his parsha way before there even was a conservative movement. It’s a wonderful minhag that has created problems with kavod hatzibur when a kid just “doesn’t have it”. But to diparage it based on reformophobia? Moronic.

  24. And add, the pressure to support children, even at the expense of paying more than one’s share of tuition for the younger, dependent children.

  25. In Israel most elementary yeshivos teach trop to the boys as soon as they begin learning chumash. it makes it much easier to remember the pesukim when it has “music” and by the time they are bar mitzvah age they can lein with 3 months preparation at most.

  26. The Torah is truly a song when the trop are sung properly — especially when making the distinction between Kadma and Pashta. Music has rhythm, and the trop actually has built in rhythm. Perfection is the key here. Unless done perfectly, the rhythm and hence the song will be lost. My suggestion is to just do an amount of psukim that can be done to perfection; perhaps even just Maftir, or Shvii. This will cut down on the pressure, produce an excellent laining, and give the boy a gishmak for laining — all excellent goals in and of themselves.

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