I have heard that in Yemenite synagogues, when a person is called for aliyah L'Torah, they read their own section. I.e., there is no "Torah reader" as there are in many other synagogues / services.

This makes me speculate that each person needs to know how to read each parsha. Do people know in advance which aliyah they will receive on Shabbat / Yom Tov so that they can study their part in advance? Or, are people called randomly, and they have to be ready for any aliyah?

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    I think they prepare each verse while the previous one is being translated. Add in some chironous signaling and it's really not that hard.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 22:57
  • @DoubleAA Hmmm ... Do you know for a fact that Yemenites still use chironomy? I thought that art disappeared a while ago.
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 23:00
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    Disappeared?? I'm talking about a Gabbai signaling the Trop for the words as the reader is reading. That happens all the time.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 23:01
  • @DoubleAA I haven't seen a Gabbai do this in years. Then again, I know that I haven't been in the "right" shul for it during the past approx. 20 years :-(
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 23:04
  • I see signaling all the time... Some teams are better than others though.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 23:06

1 Answer 1


i have read regarding this question of yours that the Tradition in Yemen was that in every family, on the Friday night preceeding the Sabbath, the father would teach his sons the weekly Parashath with te'amim, and have them read it back to them, teaching them all the melody and the wording. So that way when the child was of Bar Miswah age, he was already proficient with every Parashath and could read without need of a special teacher (although some were still hired if the family wanted to.) And this meant that every person called up was already proficient with every Parashath since he had been reading them with te'amim since childhood. i plan on attempting this custom. Check back with me in 20 years and i'll let you know how it worked out.

For a more detailed accounting, Rabbi Jacob Saphir published his travels to Yemen in 1866 in the book אבן ספיר. Here is an excerpt as given by the blog "On the Main Line":

He began this section noting that the Yemenite Jews all know how to read the Torah most correctly, with its proper syllables and accents and cantillation. He relates that up to the present the holy custom or earlier times, which is really the law in its most proper manner, is that all who are called to the Torah read it themselves - if one cannot read then he is not called to the Torah. For this reason the first thing they teach their small children is to read the Torah in this way, to the point where they literally have it memorized. In addition, they still have the venerable custom of old of publicly translating the Torah as it is read. They employ a 9 or 10 year old boy for this purpose, who translates each verse as it is read from the Torah. They do this also for the haftarah, which is read with a most beautiful tune. He also notices that they are extremely exacting in their reading, whether it is Bible, Targum or their studies in other books - in all these each syllable and accent and jot are read beautifully, as in [what Saphir imagines/ assumes] days of old. At one point Saphir relates something that amazed him, but was apparently perfectly normal. One shabbat (or should I say shabboth?) there was a want of a manuscript to read the haftarah. So the 18 year old cobbler who was serving him recited it (from 2 Kings 7) perfectly by heart.

Source: http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2010/11/saphirs-1850s-account-of-yemenite.html

However, in modern times, Yemenites come in all shapes and sizes and are often separated from their Mesorah. There is a Yemenite man at my synagogue who was raised by his Ashkenazi mother, and so he no longer has a Yemenite pronunciation, and sings with Ashkenazi melody.

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    I was curious about the way you spelled "parashat". I've heard lebanese christians pronounce <ta marbutah / final heh> that way, but never jews. is that a pronunciation you grew up with?
    – paquda
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 18:26
  • i mostly spelled it this way in context because Yemenites pronounce the letters differently than other Jews. My family came from an Arabic land, and so i would hear them converse with each other in Hebrew and Arabic that was often mixed together. When i finally learned the language as an adult, i had ashkenazi teachers at first, and the learning was hard, because the teachers lessons didn't match my memory. Then i started learning with Iraqis and other mizrahim and everything came back to me and it was easy
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 19:43
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    But i've never hear either iraqis or yemenis pronunce that final heh as 't' when not in 'smikhut'/construct state. how would you pronounce the word תורה , torat ?
    – paquda
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 20:05
  • Oooh, i see your point now. It's an issue of usage. A lot of people use the word "Parsha." That ends with a final heh, but other usage is פרשת. Like the following: hebcal.com/sedrot/bereshit
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 20:09

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