As I approach sixty I thought I had better start doing the stuff I always wanted to do.
One of the most heavily invested emotionally for me is learning to leyn. That is learning to chant the Torah… from the Torah scroll.
I had grown up hearing my brothers practising their maftah and haftorah ready for their barmitzvah. I knew the brachot ( blessings) off by heart. Yet, as an Orthodox Jewish girl in the late sixties, it wasn’t even the done thing to mark a girl’s bat mitzvah in any way.

So, here I am, learning to leyn. I have my batmitzvah in four weeks on my sixtieth birthday.

I thought, being arrogant that being able to read music would help.

I am far away from anyone who could help me learn by sitting and practising with me. I am doing it from a CD. Years ago I was given a tape with the cantillation on. It has long since disintegrated through several moves and lots of heat.

I started half heartedly in September, the new year. Sporadic attempts to come to terms with the tropes followed. I then found out like a lot of bar/bat mitzvah people that I had been learning the wrong bit.


Now I am studying hard. I practise the tropes. I can do it with the CD. I do it every time with the CD.

I wrote out the tropes on the musical stave. I wrote out the words underneath in transliteration, trying to match the right bits to emphasise with the accented bit of the trope. More difficult.  I recorded the music playing it on the piano and trying to sing the tropes etc.

Then I found the key I was learning in was a different key from the back of the Chumash. I started to write it all out again. And gave up.

Here I am, four weeks away from my bat mitzvah and every time I start to leyn I am struggling to pitch. I know the tropes but in the middle of the sedra my pitch wanders.

I still have to learn the haftorah! But luckily my husband has recorded that for me with his mistakes and cross words as he gets it wrong and does it again. I am very grateful, really. Really.

Will I get it all done in time? That is the question.

How do I find the right pitch? What will happen if I lose it half way through? How do I get it back? I am muttering the tropes in my sleep already. And still I get them wrong!