My car was a traveling Beit Midrash this past Tuesday night How often do I hear not one, not two, but three students chanting Torah as we made our way from Temple Beth Torah to Congregation Beth Emek?
Granted, there was just a hint of panic in the voices of these Confirmation students as we traveled up 680. For nearly a month, they had their allotted portion of the 10 Commandments that each would be chanting for the Shavuot/Confirmation service. But practicing at home alone is very different than chanting in front of your peers which would happen for the first time at Tuesday night’s rehearsal.
I loved hearing the Torah sung according to the ancient melody of our tradition. Students in our Temple’s Hebrew School learn trope, the musical notation for chanting. Many also make use of an online software program like Trope Trainer that assists Bar and Bat Mitzvah students to learn their Torah portions. In the case of my Confirmation students in my carpool on Tuesday, they didn’t have Trope Trainer on a laptop. Instead they had something more convenient: an mp3 file on each of their smart phones.
Listen and repeat, listen and repeat - my students practiced over and over in the car. Later during our evening rehearsal, the students were called-up to the Torah and asked to chant the sacred words of the Torah without any mechanical assistance – no smart phone, no mp3 file, no version of the Torah with the vowels. I stood beside each student, gently pointing out with a yad where the Torah verse began. If a student faltered for a moment with the chanting, I was ready to assist with a soft spoken word of encouragement.
I have no doubt that by the time of our Confirmation/Shavuot service on Saturday night, May 23, the students will be well prepared to chant Torah, as well as lead a meaningful creative service. I am sure I will kvell along with everyone else in attendance that evening. And I will smile inwardly as I think of the night when my car resonated to the sounds of Torah being chanted.