The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that the Shabbos before the great debate in Minsk, the Alter Rebbe served as the chazzan and baal koreh for his minyan. Furthermore, although the Alter Rebbe used Ashkenazi pronunciation, he did differentiate between Ches and Chaf, and Ayin and Aleph, like Sephardim.

Why doesn't Chabad read like this now? Did the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe's baal koreh read like this?

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    When the "war" between the Chassidim and Misnagdim reached Eretz Yisrael, the Ohr HaChayim sent an emissary to meet the Alter Rebbe. He came inside the shul when the A.R. was reading from the Torah and when the emissary heard him read, he left and went back to Israel. The A.R. was a linguist. He even had a mesorah for the trope for Tehillim which he taught to the Mitteler Rebbe.
    – user1292
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 16:00
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    @mochin Fascinating! Where did you see that?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 16:21
  • @mochinrechavim Do you know where he would have gotten that mesorah from? Did he learn it from eg. Teimanim, or was there an Ashkenazi mesorah which was very well hidden?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 15, 2012 at 21:07
  • @user1292 I think there may be something reported incorrectly in that story. The Ohr Hachaim passed away before the Alter Rebbe was even born.
    – Meir
    Commented May 3 at 15:16

2 Answers 2


Another consideration, besides Ariel's point about ability, is that even if an individual Chabad baal korei is capable of making these differentiations, he might not do so in public reading so as not to be too obtrusive and distract the listeners.

[I personally have taken to pronouncing guttural `ayin when it would otherwise be omitted entirely (i.e., at the end of a word, or when it has a sheva nach), but not otherwise, on the theory that in the latter case there's something there to show the presence of the letter.]

  • Alex, I hope you pronounce the 'Ayin as the final sound of the word - Shomea' - rather than as the penultimate sound - Shome'a.
    – Seth J
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 16:36
  • @Seth: I do indeed. That's actually what I started with, and then generalized it to other cases.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 17:53
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    Whew! I know people who try to be Makpid on sounding their 'Ayin as a gutteral sound, but do it in the wrong place.
    – Seth J
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 18:19

I think it's ability, not desire. If those sounds are not in your native language you have a hard time making them. Then you are unable to teach them and a whole generation grows up without those sounds.

  • While a nice theory, I think this is wrong for a few reasons. 1. the Chet and Chaf did not go away completely. If your theory was correct, the person would be asking why Hey and Chet are the same, and why Chaf and Kuf are the same. 2. I'm not aware of any languages that chabad lived in that does not have an O, A, and Ah sound which could be used to differentiate Ayin and Alef. 3. The loss of the "th" sound in hebrew did not happen because of a lack of "th" sound in European languages. (such a sound does exist)
    – avi
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 11:54
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    @avi, I think he's talking more about the ability to make that not-quite-silent 'ayin and to differentiate the gutterals of chet and chaf, rather than being able to make gutterals at all or not. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 14:59
  • @MonicaCellio, exactly. I personally am able to make those sounds (having learned them at a young age from my Syrian grandmother ע"ה), and am teaching them to my children. But most Chabad chassidim - indeed, Ashkenazim in general - would not be able to pronounce guttural "het" and "`ayin."
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 15:49
  • @Alex most Ashkenazim that I've met (they are the vast majority of my social circle) can make the sounds. It's not clear to me why the traditions were lost, because, although it seems tricky to the untrained adult, it's not true that most people can't do it.
    – Seth J
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 16:40
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    I learned those sounds in my 20s and can say them just fine. Doesn't even take much practice. The question is why is it not taught to children, because there is nothing that stops an adult or child from learning sounds in a foreign language. People in their 40s have been able to pick up subtle sounds in Chinese that do not exist in western languages.
    – avi
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 18:13

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