Should someone make an extra effort to pronounce prayers and blessings clealry? Someone I know commented on how I "pronounced each word very clearly and didn't slur" (to put it in their own words) and I replied that I trained myself to do this years ago as I was told that it is commendable to pronounce each word carefully, making sure to enunciate each syllable and separate each word without slurring.

Obviously, it would be easy to say this would be a good idea, because it aids in kavana, etc. but is there actually any source to this? Please note that I am not speaking of "correct" pronunciation of Hebrew (havara). In all honesty, I use a very Lithuanian accent.

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    More - it's just a simple case of showing respect. How would you feel if someone who owed you a tremendous debt of gratitude came to ask you for more help still and could not even take the trouble to pronounce his request clearly? May 6, 2018 at 8:36
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    If I understand your clarification at the end, this is something that comes up numerous times in Nefesh Hachayim (e.g. 2:13), in which he stresses the importance of saying each word - as opposed to just thinking them or skipping them, but not as opposed to saying them "sloppily" in terms of pronunciation. There may be a source for his disregard for that particular insistence in his work on Pirkei Avos.
    – WAF
    May 7, 2018 at 6:18
  • What is havarah?
    – DanF
    May 7, 2018 at 16:00
  • @DanF See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chavurah Apr 12, 2019 at 4:12
  • @BadAtGeometry No, that is not what I was referring to. "Havarah" means "pronunciation" in Hebrew. See here.
    – ezra
    Apr 12, 2019 at 7:10

3 Answers 3


Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 61:21-22:

צריך בכל אל"ף שאחר מ"ם להפסיק ביניהם כגון ולמדתם אותם וקשרתם אותם ושמתם את ... שלא יהא נראה כקורא מותם מת. אף בפסוקי דזמרה ובתפלה צריך לדקדק בכך

[During Keriat Shema] one must pause before an aleph that follows a mem (e.g. ulmadtem otam, ukshartem otam, vesamtem et) ... so that he doesn't seem to be reading motam or met. One must also be particular about this in Pesukei DeZimrah and Amidah.

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    The first part comes from Berakhot 15b. But what is the source for the psalms and the amidah? May 6, 2018 at 21:16

The Mishnah and subsequent Gemara in Berachos 15a-15b present a tannaitic dispute about the validity of reciting Shema without carefully pronouncing the words. The conclusion there is that it is valid even if the words were not pronounced carefully. However, Rambam rules (Hilchos Kerias Shema 2:8) that lechatchila one should still try to pronounce the words carefully. Thus it would seem to be a worthy idea.

However, the Gemara's discussion is only about Shema which is a Biblical obligation. One could argue that standard prayer, being only rabbinic, would have a lower threshold. Indeed, R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk in his commentary to the aforementioned ruling of Rambam explains how the tanna derived this law from the verse that speaks about Shema. If that is the case then it would seem to be specifically for Shema where there is a Scriptural derivation, but not for general prayer where there is no Scriptural derivation.


According to Rav Ya'akov Emden, yes (but that might not mean you have to do it).

He considers "systematic" pronunciation and "dialectal" pronunciation (havarah?) inextricably linked. At the very beginning of the Sulam Gadol introduction to his sidur, the first chavak "explains the quality of the proper pronunciation". Relevant highlights include

צריך להיות שלם בחיתוך השלון, כל מום לא יהיה בו - באות, בניקוד, בטעם.

[One] must be complete in lingual precision, no blemish should be present - in letter, pointing, or accent. . . Particularly not reading 'ע's as 'א's. . . Unlike we Ashk'nazim do with the weak 'ת' which we shamefully read like a 'ס'. Though we do great with vowels, unlike the S'faradim that don't distinguish between kamatz and patach. . .

He goes on to encourage the prayer to differentiate between the various vowels which have a tendency to be conflated, as well as between the varieties of sh'va, not to join words across phrase breaks, to pause appropriately, and to emphasize the correct syllables. But he concludes with a mitigation, which might explain the disparity between viewpoints in the question's motivating anecdote:

ובמי שאפשר לו ויודע הדברים אמורים

אבל מי שלא הגיע בידי מדה זו בנעורים

א"א להטריחו בהנחת הטעמים שטורחו רב ומייגע דבורו

והפסדו מרובה משכרו

לכן טוב שלא לבלבל הקורא אשר לא נסה באלה

במטבע תפלה

Paraphrasing, one who grew up learning these principles and internalizing them should implement them. But they are too burdensome to be taken on by those who didn't, so they are better off just leaving them alone.

The above quotes, as well as almost the entirety of the massive introduction to this sidur, are in rhyming couplets in the original.

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    Notably R Emden considered himself in the category of "those who grew up mispronouncing things and can't be burdened to change it". He wasn't just referring to laypeople / ignoramuses but even to great Sages. The significance here is twofold: don't feel at all bad about not being able to make certain sounds correctly, and don't perfectly imitate someone's pronounciation just because they are a Talmudic scholar.
    – Double AA
    May 16, 2018 at 21:15
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    "Note that this question is about pronouncing each word clearly not about havarah. (To be quite honest, I have a "less-desirable" Litvish accent.)"
    – ezra
    May 16, 2018 at 22:32
  • @ezra I wasn't sure what that meant, so I made sure to point out that this source considers the two inseparable in my understanding. What do you mean by "havarah"?
    – WAF
    May 16, 2018 at 22:36
  • @WAF I mean pronunication. My question isn't about pronouncing Hebrew words with the most "correct" pronunciation, but rather pronouncing each word clearly, regardless of what pronunciation you use.
    – ezra
    May 16, 2018 at 22:42

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