Many (all?) Ashkenazi communities have a different and distinctive tune used for keriat hatorah on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur morning (and in some communities also on Hoshana Rabbah and Simchat Torah).

However, I’ve observed that this tune is not used at mincha of Yom Kippur. Why not?

  • Excellent question!!! I have heard that to understand this, one has to understand why there is a Torah reading during Yom Kippur Mincha in the first place. Is it special for Yom Kippur, or is it because it's a fast day? The answer - because it's a fast day. There is some support to this, as the brachot of the haftarah at mincha end at Magen David as it does with any other fast day. In the same light, the Torah reading tune is the same as on any other fast day, and doesn't get anything special for Yom Kippur. I will see if I can locate a source to back this up.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 19:21
  • @DanF Then why is the laining different than a regular fast day? Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:25
  • @Salmononius2 I'll try to answer that, after Yom Tov, b"n. That's a "sidebar" to OP's question.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 22:02
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    @DanF I’d think the opposite - because YK has a special reason for those readings, it must be that it’s special for YK and not because it’s a fast day.
    – DonielF
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 22:10
  • @Salmononius2 Not all fast days have the same leining - on a fast day for rain it's Bechukosai. But (maybe) the leining still comes midin fast day as opposed to midin Yom Tov (which wouldn't be a reason for leining at mincha).
    – Heshy
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


I've heard two answers from a respectable rabbi, zt"l. Even after death, I'd rather keep his name and location anonymous.

One answer I heard is that the High Holiday tune has a "mode" of "royalty" and "joy". This type of tune is inappropriate when reading about illicit marriages that people should avoid. (I will add in, B"N, as to why this section is read for afternoon of Yom Kippur, later.) As I don't completely understand this mood of "joy" in the tune, I have trouble appreciating or understanding this answer, so, perhaps, accept it (or not) for what it is.

The second answer makes a bit more sense to me. We have to understand the whole reason as to why Yom Kippur afternoon is getting a Torah reading in the first place as well as what was read. According to this article reading the Torah on Yom Kippur afternoon was a much later addition first mentioned in a Braita and later in Bavli Talmud Megila 31a.

We know that the Torah is not read on Mincha of any other Yom Tov. So, this leads to the question - is the reading of Torah on Yom Kippur in imitation of Shabbat or a fast day? Read the rest of the article which cites mainly a debate by Ismar Ellenbogen. Regardless, it is clear that the reading during the afternoon is not particular for the occasion of Yom Kippur. Thus, the tune used is not the Yom Kippur tune but the same tune used for Shabbat and fast days.

Personally, I feel that the reading is more in line with it being a fast day. Support for this is thinking, perhaps, is in the idea that the brachot for the haftarah end in Magen David which is more indicative of a fast day. However, even the article debates the origin and need of any haftarah in the afternoon on Yom Kippur at all.

Anotehr possible idea is in viewing the article, it was common to finish the reading of Devarim on Yom Kippur prior to the advent of Simchat Torah. While I see that you mentioned that some havethe custom of using the High Holiday tune on Simchat Torah, I have found that this is a "less" common minhag. At least, I have seen this done in a minority of roughly 60 various Nusahc Ashkenaz shuls that I have attended throughout about 50 years. I think that one of the reasons places are doing it is to somehow hold on to the "flavor" of the previous month's melodies. However, I don't think this Yamim Nora'im tune is appropriate for Simchat Torah as the spirit of the day has nothing to do with the concepts of awe and royalty, assuming that's the main reason for the special tune, in the first place.

  • Please don't downvote just because you disagree with or don't like the answer. I'm not suggesting that the reasoning is correct. There is much to debate here, so I'd rather get your opinions on it.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 22:30
  • Some things to consider for Simchas Torah: the S"E musafim are the same as R"H and Y"K, and it relates to Rosh Hashanah in the content of the leining (creation of the world) and in its cyclical theme.
    – Heshy
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 23:46
  • "end in Magen David" This is only true in some communities. Others include Al HaTorah like in the morning.
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 13:01
  • @DoubleAA I did not know that. I also haven't seen any machzor with that nusach. What would be interesting is if these communities also use the High Holiday trope tune, is that may indicate a correlation as I mentioned in my answer.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 13:37

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