The following is a discussion of the Trope or Cantillation Marks that are used as pronounciation tools as well as chanting tunes when reading from the Torah. The majority of this material comes from the Wikipedia source material as well as an essay from Chabad.org on the question Why Do Torah and Haftarah Have Different Trope? By Yehuda Shurpin. My commentary will emphasize the Kabbalistic aspects of these marks as well.
The masoretic text is a scroll of the Chumash with two additions. Vowels are written around the words that are written in / on the scroll. And there are other marks - not vowels - are also written in / on the scroll also around the words. This scroll is dated early in the common era.
These marks are known in English as accents, notes or trope symbols, and in Hebrew as טעמי המקרא ta`amei ha-mikra or just טעמים te`amim. Some of these signs were also sometimes used in medieval manuscripts of the Mishnah. The musical motifs associated with the signs are known in Hebrew as niggun or neginot (not to be confused with Hasidic nigun) and in Yiddish as טראָפ trop: the word trope is sometimes used in English with the same meaning.
Trope (trop in Yiddish) is the tune used when Torah reading and other texts, based on a cantillation marks. Most communities use six different kinds of trope throughout the year:The common trope used on Shabbat, holiday, and weekday Torah readings - There are parts of the Torah that are read with different tunes such as the song of the sea, as well as the Ten Commandments, which have two sets of cantillations (ta’am eliyon and ta’am tachton).
For this reason it is hard to know how many different versions of chanting were in use historically as well as codifying the number in use today.
Continuing the list - The High Holiday melodies
The three Megillahs of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), Ruth, and Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)
Are They Really Different? chanoch adds: The categorization can be different and that will lead to a different result.
A primary purpose of the cantillation signs is to guide the chanting of the sacred texts during public worship. Very roughly speaking, each word of text has a cantillation mark at its primary accent and associated with that mark is a musical phrase that tells how to sing that word. The reality is more complex, with some words having two or no marks and the musical meaning of some marks dependent upon context. There are different sets of musical phrases associated with different sections of the Bible. The music varies with different Jewish traditions and individual cantorial styles.
chanoch adds: When i learned to chant Trope i was told that every letter has a trope mark yet the majority of the marks are concealed. Thus if a letter within a word does not have a mark than its mark is concealed.
Explanation to text
The cantillation signs also provide information on the syntactical structure of the text and some say they are a commentary on the text itself, highlighting important ideas musically. The tropes are not random strings but follow a set and describable grammar. The very word ta'am, used in Hebrew to refer to the cantillation marks, literally means "taste" or "sense", the point being that the pauses and intonation denoted by the accents (with or without formal musical rendition) bring out the sense of the passage.
Besides for telling us how to sing, the cantillation marks are considered part of the Oral Torah since they give syntax and structure to the verses and actually affect the meaning of the verses read. chanoch adds: i suggest one substitute the word impact for the word affect.
The mystics add that there are many secrets and layers of meaning in the Torah that can only be understood through the cantillations. This is the teaching of Rabbi Cordovero.
Three systems of Hebrew punctuation (including vowels and cantillation symbols) have been used: the Babylonian, the Palestinian and the Tiberian, only the last of which is used today.
Babylonian Biblical manuscripts from the Geonic period contain no cantillation marks in the current sense, but small Hebrew letters are used to mark significant divisions within a verse. Up to eight different letters are found, depending on the importance of the break and where it occurs in the verse: these correspond roughly to the disjunctives of the Tiberian system. For example, in some manuscripts the letter tav, for tevir (break), does duty for both Tiberian tevir and zaqef. In general there are no symbols for the conjunctives, though some late manuscripts use the Tiberian symbols for these. There is also no equivalent for low-grade disjunctives such as telishah gedolah: these are generally replaced by the equivalent of zaqef or revia.
Nothing is known of the musical realization of these marks, but it seems likely that they represent breaks or variations in a set melody applied to each verse. (A somewhat similar system is used in manuscripts of the Qur'an to guide the reader in fitting the chant to the verse: see Qur'an reading.)This system is reflected in the cantillation practices of the Yemenite Jews, who now use the Tiberian symbols, but tend to have musical motifs only for the disjunctives and render the conjunctives in a monotone. It is notable that the Yemenite Jews have only eight disjunctive motifs, thus clearly reflecting the Babylonian notation. The same is true of the Karaite mode for the haftarah; while in the Sephardi haftarah modes different disjunctives often have the same or closely similar motifs, reducing the total number of effective motifs to something like the same number.
The Babylonian system, as mentioned above, is mainly concerned with showing breaks in the verse. Early manuscripts, by contrast, are mainly concerned with showing phrases: for example the tifcha-etnachta, zarqa-segolta and pashta-zaqef sequences, with or without intervening unaccented words. These sequences are generally linked by a series of dots, beginning or ending with a dash or a dot in a different place to show which sequence is meant. Unaccented words (which in the Tiberian system carry conjunctives) are generally shown by a dot following the word, as if to link it to the following word. There are separate symbols for more elaborate tropes like pazer and telisha gedolah.
The manuscripts are extremely fragmentary, no two of them following quite the same conventions, and these marks may represent the individual reader's aide-memoire rather than a formal system of punctuation (for example, vowel signs are often used only where the word would otherwise be ambiguous). In one manuscript, presumably of somewhat later date than the others, there are separate marks for different conjunctives, actually outnumbering those in the Tiberian system (for example, munach before etnachta has a different sign from munach before zaqef), and the overall system approaches the Tiberian in comprehensiveness. In some other manuscripts, in particular those containing Targumim rather than original text, the Tiberian symbols have been added by a later hand. In general, it may be observed that the Palestinian and Tiberian systems are far more closely related to each other than either is to the Babylonian.
This system of phrasing is reflected in the Sephardic cantillation modes, in which the conjunctives (and to some extent the "near companions" such as tifcha, pashta and zarqa) are rendered as flourishes leading into the motif of the following disjunctive rather than as motifs in their own right.
The somewhat inconsistent use of dots above and below the words as disjunctives is closely similar to that found in Syriac texts. Kahle also notes some similarity with the punctuation of Samaritan Hebrew.
By the tenth century C.E., the chant in use in Palestine had clearly become more complex, both because of the existence of pazer, geresh and telisha motifs in longer verses and because the realization of a phrase ending with a given type of break varied according to the number of words and syllables in the phrase. The Tiberian Masoretes therefore decided to invent a comprehensive notation with a symbol on each word, to replace the fragmentary systems previously in use. In particular, it was necessary to invent a range of different conjunctive accents to show how to introduce and elaborate the main motif in longer phrases. (For example, tevir is preceded by mercha, a short flourish, in shorter phrases but by darga, a more elaborate run of notes, in longer phrases.) The system they devised is the one in use today, and is found in Biblical manuscripts such as the Aleppo Codex. A Masoretic treatise called Diqduqe ha-te'amim (precise rules of the accents) by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher survives, though both the names and the classification of the accents differ somewhat from those of the present day.
As the accents were (and are) not shown on a Torah scroll, it was found necessary to have a person making hand signals to the reader to show the tune, as in the Byzantine system of neumes. This system of cheironomy survives in some communities to the present day, notably in Italy. It is speculated that both the shapes and the names of some of the accents (e.g. tifcha, literally "hand-breadth") may refer to the hand signals rather than to the syntactical functions or melodies denoted by them. Today in most communities there is no system of hand signals and the reader learns the melody of each reading in advance.
The Tiberian system spread quickly and was accepted in all communities by the 13th century. Each community re-interpreted its reading tradition so as to allocate one short musical motif to each symbol: this process has gone furthest in the Western Ashkenazi and Ottoman (Jerusalem-Sephardi, Syrian etc.) traditions. Learning the accents and their musical rendition is now an important part of the preparations for a bar mitzvah, as this is the first occasion on which a person reads from the Torah in public.
In the early period of the Reform movement there was a move to abandon the system of cantillation and give Scriptural readings in normal speech (in Hebrew or in the vernacular). In recent decades, however, traditional cantillation has been restored in many communities.
Generally we see that Trope is not recognized as an important aspect of the letter itself; and is also confusing as to the documentation and history. Kabbalistically speaking each letter has 4 components. These relate metaphorically to the 4 letters of the Name of HaShem. The 4 aspects of the letters are: Ta'ami or Crowns - Yood; Vowels - Upper Hai; Sound of the Letter - Vav; Shape of the Letter - Lower Hai. The Trope does not have any connection to these unless you feel that the music of the chant is an integral connection to the sound of the letter. In the opinion and the teachings of my trope teacher this is true. Music of the reading is part of the sound of the letters.
There are two systems of cantillation marks in the Tanakh. One is used in the twenty-one prose books, while the other appears in the three poetical books of Psalms, Proverbs and Job. Except where otherwise stated, this article describes the "prose" system.
The current system of cantillation notes has its historical roots in the Tiberian masorah - Tradition. The cantillation signs are included in Unicode as characters U+0591 through U+05AF in the Hebrew block.
Unicode is a term used in printing. Anything listed in the unicode has a description of size shape location with respect to the letter when printing any of the Hebrew Letters from the Bible.
Different naming according to rites
The names of some of the cantillation signs differ in the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Italian and Yemenite traditions; for example Sephardim use qadma to mean what Ashkenazim call pashta, and azla to mean what Ashkenazim call qadma. In this article, as in almost all Hebrew grammars, the Ashkenazi terminology is used. The names in other traditions are shown in the table below.
Functions of cantillation signs in explanation of text
The cantillation signs serve three functions:
Syntax - They divide biblical verses into smaller units of meaning, a function which also gives them a limited but sometimes important role as a source for exegesis - critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture. This function is accomplished through the use of various conjunctive signs (which indicate that words should be connected in a single phrase) and especially a hierarchy of dividing signs of various strength which divide each verse into smaller phrases. The function of the disjunctive cantillation signs may be roughly compared to modern punctuation signs such as periods, commas, semicolons, etc.
Phonetics - Most of the cantillation signs indicate the specific syllable where the stress (accent) falls in the pronunciation of a word.
Music - The cantillation signs have musical value: reading the Hebrew Bible with cantillation becomes a musical chant, where the music itself serves as a tool to emphasise the proper accentuation and syntax (as mentioned previously).
In general, each word in the Tanach has one cantillation sign. This may be either a disjunctive, showing a division between that and the following word, or a conjunctive, joining the two words (like a slur in music). Thus, disjunctives divide a verse into phrases, and within each phrase all the words except the last carry conjunctives. (There are two types of exception to the rule about words having only one sign. A group of words joined by hyphens is regarded as one word so they only have one accent between them. Conversely, a long word may have two—e.g., a disjunctive on the stressed syllable and the related conjunctive two syllables before in place of meteg - a single stroke mark in biblical Hebrew. It is identical in form to siluq - another mark .)
The disjunctives are traditionally divided into four levels, with lower level disjunctives marking less important breaks.
The first level, known as "Emperors", includes sof pasuq / siluq, marking the end of the verse, and atnach / etnachta, marking the middle.
The second level is known as "Kings". The usual second level disjunctive is zaqef qaton (when on its own, this becomes zaqef gadol). This is replaced by tifcha when in the immediate neighbourhood of sof pasuq or atnach. A stronger second level disjunctive, used in very long verses, is segol: when it occurs on its own, this may be replaced by shalshelet.
The third level is known as "Dukes". The usual third level disjunctive is revia. For musical reasons, this is replaced by zarqa when in the vicinity of segol, by pashta or yetiv when in the vicinity of zakef, and by tevir when in the vicinity of tifcha.
The fourth level is known as "Counts". These are found mainly in longer verses, and tend to cluster near the beginning of a half-verse: for this reason their musical realisation is usually more elaborate than that of higher level disjunctives. They are pazer, geresh, gershayim, telisha gedolah, munach legarmeh and qarne farah.
The general conjunctive is munach. Depending on which disjunctive follows, this may be replaced by mercha, mahpach, darga, qadma, telisha qetannah or yerach ben yomo.
One other symbol is mercha kefulah, double mercha. There is some argument about whether this is another conjunctive or an occasional replacement for tevir.
Disjunctives have a function somewhat similar to punctuation in Western languages. Sof pasuq could be thought of as a full stop, atnach as a semi-colon, second level disjunctives as commas and third level disjunctives as commas or unmarked. Where two words are written in the construct state (for example, pene ha-mayim, "the face of the waters"), the first noun (nomen regens) invariably carries a conjunctive.
The cantillation signs are often an important aid in the interpretation of a passage. For example, the words qol qore bamidbar panu derekh YHWH (Isaiah 40:3) is translated in the Authorised Version as "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD". As the word qore takes the high-level disjunctive zaqef qaton this meaning is discouraged by the cantillation marks. Accordingly, the New Revised Standard Version translates "A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, ...'" while the New Jewish Publication Society Version has "A voice rings out: 'Clear in the desert a road for the LORD'."
Most cantillation signs are written on the consonant of the stressed syllable of a word. This also shows where the most important note of the musical motif should go.
A few signs always go on the first or last consonant of a word. This may have been for musical reasons, or it may be to distinguish them from other accents of similar shape. For example, pashta, which goes on the last consonant, otherwise looks like qadma, which goes on the stressed syllable.
Some signs are written (and sung) differently when the word is not stressed on its last syllable. Pashta on a word of this kind is doubled, one going on the stressed syllable and the other on the last consonant. Geresh is doubled unless it occurs on a non-finally-stressed word or follows qadma (to form the qadma ve-azla phrase).
Cantillation signs guide the reader in applying a chant to Biblical readings. This chant is technically regarded as a ritualized form of speech intonation rather than as a musical exercise like the singing of metrical hymns: for this reason Jews always speak of saying or reading a passage rather than of singing it. (In Yiddish the word is leynen 'read', derived from Latin legere, giving rise to the Jewish English verb "to leyn".)
The musical value of the cantillation signs serves the same function for Jews worldwide, but the specific tunes vary between different communities. The most common tunes today are as follows.
Among Ashkenazi Jews:
The Polish-Lithuanian melody, used by Ashkenazic descendants of eastern European Jews, is the most common tune in the world today, both in Israel and the diaspora. The Ashkenazic melodies from central and western European Jewry are used far less today than before the Holocaust, but still survive in some communities, especially in Great Britain. They are of interest because a very similar melody was notated by Johann Reuchlin as in use in Germany in his day (15th–16th century, C.E.).
Among Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews:
The "Jerusalem Sephardic" (Sepharadi-Yerushalmi) melody is now the most widely used Sephardic melody in Israel, and is also used in some Sephardic communities in the diaspora.
The Greek/Turkish/Balkan, Syrian and Egyptian melodies are related to the Jerusalem Sephardic melody. They are more sparingly used in Israel today, but are still heard in the Diaspora, especially in America.
There are two Iraqi melodies, one close to the Syrian melody and traditionally used in Baghdad (and sometimes in Israel), and another more distinctive melody originating in Mosul and generally used in the Iraqi Jewish diaspora.
The Moroccan melody is used widely by Jews of Moroccan descent, both in Israel and in the diaspora, especially France. It subdivides into a Spanish-Moroccan melody, used in the northern coastal strip, and an Arab-Moroccan melody, used in the interior of the country, with some local variations. The Algerian, Tunisian and Libyan melodies are similar.
The Spanish and Portuguese melody is in common use in the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi communities of Livorno, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, England, Canada, the United States and other places in the Americas. It is closely related to the Spanish-Moroccan melody and has some resemblance to the Iraqi (Mosul and diaspora) melody.
Italian melodies are still used in Italy, as well as in one Italian synagogue in Jerusalem, one in Istanbul, and one in New York City. These vary greatly locally: for example the melody used in Rome resembles the Spanish and Portuguese melody rather than those used in northern Italy.
Romaniote style of cantillation is used today in Greece, New York and Israel and is rooted in the Byzantine tradition
The Yemenite melody can be heard in Israel primarily, but also in some American cities.
i know you are feeling confused by the above list of melodies. Music needs to be heard to be appreciated. Don't let the list bother you. People chant and sing. There are many ways to do so - just enjoy the voices that come from the heart.
There has been an attempted reconstruction of the original melody by Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura, on the basis of the shapes and positions of the marks and without any reference to existing melodies, as described in her book La musique de la Bible révélée and her records. That reconstruction assumes the signs represent the degrees of various musical scales, that is individual notes, which puts it at odds with all existing traditions where the signs invariably represent melodic motives; it also takes no account of the existence of older systems of notation, such as the Babylonian and Palestinian systems. Musicologists have rejected her results as dubious and her methodology as flawed.
In the Ashkenazic musical tradition for cantillation, each of the local geographical customs includes a total of six major and numerous minor separate melodies for cantillation:
Torah and Haftarot (3 melodies)
1. Torah (general melody for the whole year)
2. Torah – special melody for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This tune is also employed on Simhat Torah in various degrees (depending on the specific community). Echoes of it can also be heard for certain verses in the Torah reading for fast days in some communities.
There are a number of variants employed for special sections, such as those for the Aseret haDibrot (Ten Statements), Az Yashir (Song of the Sea), and the list of Masa'ot - Miracles.In all Torah modes, there is a "coda" motif that is used for the last few words of each reading.
There is a special coda used at the end of each of the five books of the Torah that leads to the traditional exclamation of "Hazak Hazak V'Nithazek!" (Be strong be strong so we are strengthened).
In Kabbalistic Minyans there is a third Hazak said. Thus it Becomes "Hazak Hazak Hazak V'Nithazek - Be Strong Be Strong Be Strong so we are strengthened. This connects to the three fathers Abraham Itzak an Jacob which is chesed gevurah tiferet all brought into Malchut with the word V'Nithazek.
In the haftarah mode, there is also a "coda" motif. In the Western Ashkenazic mode, this is applied to the end of every verse. A different coda is used at the end of the haftarah among both Eastern and Western Ashkenazim, modulating from minor to major to introduce the following blessing.
This is also the tune that is applied when reading the non-haftarah portions of the books of the Prophets and the latter Writings (Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles), although this usage is largely theoretical, as these are not subject to public reading as the other sections and books are.
The Five Megillot (3 melodies are employed for these five scrolls)
4. Esther – a mostly light and joyous tune with elements of drama and foreboding used for the Megillat Esther on Purim. The coda at the end of each pasuk (verse) modulates from major to minor to produce a more serious effect. Certain short passages pertaining to the destruction of the temple are customarily read in the tune of Lamentations. There are also additional musical customs, such as saying the word סוס (horse) with a neighing sound, not indicated by the cantillation.
5. Lamentations – a mournful tune. Echoes of it can also be heard for certain verses in Esther and in the Torah reading preceding the Ninth of Av. The Haftarot preceding and during the Ninth of Av also use this melody, when read in nonHasidic shuls.
6. The three remaining scrolls are publicly read within Ashkenazic communities during the three pilgrimage festivals. All are read in the same melody, which may be considered the "general" melody for the megillot: the Song of Songs on Passover; Ruth on Shavuot; Ecclesiastes on Sukkot. The Ashkenazic tradition preserves no melody for the special cantillation notes of Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, which were not publicly read in the synagogue by European Jews. However, the Ashkenazic yeshiva known as Aderet Eliyahu, or (more informally) Zilberman's, in the Old City of Jerusalem, uses an adaptation of the Syrian cantillation-melody for these books, and this is becoming more popular among other Ashkenazim as well.
Sephardic and Eastern melodies
At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a single Ottoman-Sephardic tradition (no doubt with local variations) covering Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Today the Jerusalem-Sephardic, Syrian, Egyptian and Baghdadi melodies recognisably belong to a single family. For example, in these traditions the Torah reading is always or almost always in Maqam Sigah. There are some variations, among individual readers as well as among communities: for example the Egyptian melody is related to the more elaborate and cantorial form of the Syrian melody and was transitioning toward Maqam Huzzam before the mass expulsion in 1950. The Karaite tradition, being based on the Egyptian, also forms part of this group.
Another recognisable family consists of the Iraqi (Mosul and Iraqi diaspora), Spanish-Moroccan and Spanish and Portuguese melodies. The probable reason for the occurrence of similar melodies at opposite ends of the Arab world is that they represent the remains of an old Arab-Jewish tradition not overlaid by the later Ottoman-Sephardic tradition that spread to the countries in between. There may also have been some convergence between the London Spanish and Portuguese and Iraqi melodies during British rule in India and the British Mandate of Mesopotamia.
The Jews of North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Yemen all had local musical traditions for cantillation. When these Jewish communities emigrated (mostly to Israel) during the twentieth century, they brought their musical traditions with them. But as the immigrants themselves grew older, many particular national melodies began to be forgotten, or to become assimilated into the "Jerusalem Sephardic" melting-pot.
As with the Ashkenazim, there is one tune for Torah readings and a different tune for haftarot. Spanish and Portuguese Jews have a special tune for the Ten Commandments when read according to the ta'am elyon, known as "High Na'um", which is also used for some other words and passages which it is desired to emphasize. Other communities, such as the Syrian Jews, observe the differences between the two sets of cantillation marks for the Ten Commandments but have no special melody for ta'am 'elyon. There is no special tune for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in any Sephardic tradition. As with Ashkenazim, the normal musical value of cantillation signs is replaced by a "coda" motif at the end of each Torah reading and of each haftarah verse (though there is no special coda for the end of the haftarah), suggesting a common origin for the Sephardi and Ashkenazi chants.
Eastern Jewish communities have no liturgical tradition of reading Ecclesiastes, and there is no public liturgical reading of Song of Songs on Passover, though brief extracts may be read after the morning service during the first half of Nisan. (Individuals may read it after the Passover Seder, and many communities recite it every Friday night.) There are specialized tunes for Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther and Lamentations. The prose passages at the beginning and end of the book of Job may be read either to the tune of Song of Songs or to that of Ruth, depending on the community. The Ruth tune is generally the "default" tune for any book of the Ketuvim (Hagiographa) that does not have a tune of its own.
Unlike the Ashkenazic tradition, the eastern traditions, in particular that of the Syrian Jews, include melodies for the special cantillation of Psalms, Proverbs and the poetic parts of Job. In many eastern communities, Proverbs is read on the six Sabbaths between Passover and Shavuot, Job on the Ninth of Av, and Psalms are read on a great many occasions. The cantillation melody for Psalms can also vary depending on the occasion. The Spanish and Portuguese Jews have no tradition for the rendering of the Psalms according to the cantillation marks, but the melody used for several psalms in the evening service is noticeably similar to that of Syrian psalm cantillation, and may represent the remnants of such a tradition.
Yemenite cantillation has a total of eight distinctive motifs, falling within four main patterns:
molikh ('moving') used for the conjunctives and some minor disjunctives
mafsiq ('pausing') for most third level disjunctives
ma'amid ('elongating') for most second level disjunctives; and the patterns of etnaḥa and silluq (sof pasuq).
This is true equally of the system used for the Torah and the systems used for the other books. It appears to be a relic of the Babylonian system, which also recognised only eight types of disjunctive and no conjunctives.
Some communities had a simplified melody for the Torah, used in teaching it to children, as distinct from the mode used in synagogue. (This should not be confused with the lernen steiger used for studying the Mishnah and Talmud.) For example, the Yemenite community teaches a simplified melody for children, to be used both in school and when they are called to read the sixth aliyah. The simplified melody is also used for the reading of the Targum, which is generally performed by a young boy.
The sixth Aliyah is always the most energy intensive of the 7 Shabbat readings. Yemenite tradition calls children up to the Torah so that the purity of children can be used to draw the most energy to share with the community.
Conversely, the Syrian community knows two types of Torah cantillation, a simpler one for general use and a more elaborate one used by professional hazzanim. It is probable that the simpler melody was originally a teaching mode. Today however it is the mode in general use, and is also an ancestor of the "Jerusalem-Sephardic" melody.
Some communities had a simplified melody for the Prophets, distinct from that used in reading the Haftarah: the distinction is mentioned in one medieval Sephardic source.
After all of these different customs and traditions as to the chanting of the different books and sections of the Torah there remains two aspects not discussed. One is to learn about the actual shapes of the marks themselves. Two is to ask the question Why the need for these differences?
Besides for telling us how to sing, the cantillation marks are considered part of the Oral Torah since they give syntax and structure to the verses and actually affect the meaning of the verses read. As was said above.
The Kabbalah and mystics add that there are many secrets and layers of meaning in the Torah that can only be understood through the cantillations. This is true when a pause is effected by the Trope. One example is the verse where Jacob lies to his father Isaac about who he is. The pause allows us to insert some of his thoughts as explained in the Midrash.Although the tropes all sound different, the cantillation marks all serve the same function as far as syntax and meaning is concerned. They only differ with regard to the clef and tempo they are sung in.
The Differences Matter
So why are they different? Rabbi Moshe Sofer (known as the Chatam Sofer) writes: “Clefs that the cantillations are sung in are dependent upon the nature or occasion of the reading. Thus, for the reading of Eicha the text is read in a more sorrowful pitch, while Megillat Esther is more joyful.”
But there is more than just mood. Rabbi Judah the Pious (1150-1217) writes that there is an ancient tradition that the Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) are each sung in their own unique pitch, and one may not read Torah in the tune of the Prophets or vice versa.
In fact, the cantillations were held in such reverence that the Talmud says that one should not dirty the right hand in the privy because the right hand is used to show the cantillation notes of the Torah.
The Books of Emet
Although for the most part the cantillations only vary by tempo and pitch, there are three (out of the 24) books of Scripture that do indeed have an almost entirely different cantillation system with separate rules. These are the books of Iyov (Job) Mishlei (Proverbs) and Tehillim (Psalms). In Hebrew, their names form the acronym of “EMeT,” which means “truth,” and they are collectively known as Sifrei Emet, “Books of Truth.”
Why do they have their own system?
Tosafot attributes it to the fact that these books are written in a poetic style with short verses.
Tosafot Hashalem explains that these three books contain the “secret of creation” and therefore share their own unique tune.
Rabbi Judah the Pious explains that the authors of these three books were unique in that each of them experienced great upheavals in their lives. The Book of Job describes how Job was catapulted from extreme privilege to the depths of suffering, and was then restored to his former glory. Kings David and Solomon (authors of Psalms and Proverbs respectively) both experienced periods when their rule was temporarily taken from them.
Understanding the Cantillations
As we mentioned, there are deep secrets hidden in the names and sounds of the cantillations, rooted in the songs of the Holy Temple. Let us hope and pray for the day when the Temple will be rebuilt and the meanings of these songs will be fully understood.
the balance to be completed soonNames and shapes of the te'amim Names in different traditions The following table shows the names of the te'amim in the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Italian traditions together with their Unicode symbols. The following points should be noted. Cantillation marks are rarely supported in many default Hebrew fonts. They should display however on Windows with one of those fonts installed: Times New Roman, Arial, Gisha, Microsoft Sans Serif, Code2000, Courier New, Ezra SIL, SBL BibLit, SBL Hebrew The following default Hebrew fonts do not display these marks : David, Miriam, Rod, FrankRuehl (as well as serif, sans-serif, monospaced unless they are configured manually) The mark for U+05AA (yerach ben yomo or galgal) should not be drawn with the bottom vertical tick used in the mark drawn for U+05A2 (atnach hafukh), however some fonts draw these marks identically. Ashkenazi Sephardi Italian בֽ׃ U+05C3 סוֹף פָּסֽוּק Sof pasuq/ silluq סוֹף פָּסֽוּק Sof pasuq סוֹף פָּסֽוּק Sof pasuq ב֑ U+0591 אֶתְנַחְתָּ֑א Etnaḥta אַתְנָ֑ח Atnaḥ אַתְנָ֑ח Atnaḥ ב֒ U+0592 סֶגּוֹל֒ Segol סְגוֹלְתָּא֒ Segolta שְׁרֵי֒ Shere ב֓ U+0593 שַׁלְשֶׁ֓לֶת Shalshelet שַׁלְשֶׁ֓לֶת Shalshelet שַׁלְשֶׁ֓לֶת Shalshelet ב֔ U+0594 זָקֵף קָטָ֔ן Zaqef qatan זָקֵף קָט֔וֹן Zaqef qaton זָקֵף קָט֔וֹן Zaqef qaton ב֕ U+0595 זָקֵף גָּד֕וֹל Zaqef gadol זָקֵף גָּד֕וֹל Zaqef gadol זָקֵף גָּד֕וֹל Zaqef gadol ב֖ U+0596 טִפְחָ֖א Tifcha טַרְחָ֖א Tarḥa טַרְחָ֖א Tarḥa ב֗ U+0597 רְבִ֗יע Revia/revi’i רְבִ֗יע Revia רְבִ֗יע Revia ב֮ U+05AE זַרְקָא֮ Zarqa זַרְקָא֮ Zarqa זַרְקָא֮ Zarqa ב֙ U+0599 פַּשְׁטָא֙ Pashta קַדְמָא֙ Qadma פַּשְׁטָא֙ Pashta ב֨ב֙ U+0599 U+05A8 שְׁנֵ֨י פַּשְׁטִין֙ Shene pashtin/pashtayim תְּרֵ֨י קַדְמִין֙ Tere qadmin שְׁנֵ֨י פַּשְׁטִין֙ (Shene) pashtin ב֚ U+059A יְ֚תִיב Yetiv יְ֚תִיב Yetiv שׁ֚וֹפָר יְתִיב Shofar yetiv ב֛ U+059B תְּבִ֛יר Tevir תְּבִ֛יר Tevir תְּבִ֛יר Tevir ב֡ U+05A1 פָּזֵ֡ר Pazer פָּזֵר קָטָ֡ן Pazer qatan פָּזֵר קָטָ֡ן Pazer qatan ב֟ U+059F קַרְנֵי פָרָ֟ה Qarne farah/ pazer gadol קַרְנֵי פָרָ֟ה Qarne farah קַרְנֵי פָרָ֟ה Qarne farah ב֠ U+05A0 תְּ֠לִישָא גְדוֹלָה Telisha gedolah תִּ֠רְצָה Tirtzah תַּ֠לְשָׁא Talsha ב֜ U+059C אַזְלָא-גֵּ֜רֵשׁ Azla Geresh גְּרִ֜ישׁ Gerish גֵּ֜רֵשׁ Geresh/azla ב֞ U+059E גֵּרְשַׁ֞יִם Gershayim שְׁנֵי גְרִישִׁ֞ין Shene gerishin שְׁנֵי גְרִישִׁ֞ין Shene gerishin ב֣׀ U+05A3 מֻנַּח לְגַרְמֵ֣הּ׀ Munach legarmeh פָּסֵ֣ק׀ Paseq לְגַרְמֵ֣הּ׀ Legarmeh ב֥ U+05A5 מֵרְכָ֥א Mercha מַאֲרִ֥יךְ Maarich מַאֲרִ֥יךְ Maarich ב֣ U+05A3 מֻנַּ֣ח Munach שׁוֹפָר הוֹלֵ֣ךְ Shofar holech שׁוֹפָר עִלּ֣וּי Shofar illui ב֤ U+05A4 מַהְפַּ֤ך Mahpach (שׁוֹפָר) מְהֻפָּ֤ךְ (Shofar) mehuppach שׁוֹפָר הָפ֤וּךְ Shofar hafuch ב֧ U+05A7 דַּרְגָּ֧א Darga דַּרְגָּ֧א Darga דַּרְגָּ֧א Darga ב֨ U+05A8 קַדְמָ֨א Qadma אַזְלָ֨א or קַדְמָ֨א Azla or Qadma קַדְמָ֨א Qadma ב֩ U+05A9 תְּלִישָא קְטַנָּה֩ Telisha qetannah תַּלְשָׁא֩ Talsha תַּרְסָא֩ Tarsa ב֦ U+05A6 מֵרְכָא כְּפוּלָ֦ה Mercha kefula תְּרֵי טַעֲמֵ֦י Tere ta’ame תְּרֵין חוּטְרִ֦ין Teren ḥutrin ב֪ U+05AA יֵרֶח בֶּן יוֹמ֪וֹ Yerach ben yomo/ galgal יֵרֶח בֶּן יוֹמ֪וֹ Yeraḥ ben yomo יֵרֶח בֶּן יוֹמ֪וֹ Yerach ben yomo The following additional symbols are found in the three poetical books: their names do not differ among the various traditions. Symbol in Unicode Hebrew name in Unicode Anglicized name (Israeli Hebrew) ב֝ U+059D גֵּרֵשׁ מֻקְדָּם֝ geresh muqdam ב֢ U+05A2 אתנח הפוך֢ atnach hafukh ב֫ U+05AB עוֹלֶה֫ ole ב֬ U+05AC עִלּוּי֬ iluy ב֭ U+05AD דחי֭ dehi ב֘ U+0598 צִנּוֹרִת֘ tsinnorit Zarqa tables For learning purposes, the t'amim are arranged in a traditional order of recitation called a "zarqa table", showing both the names and the symbols themselves. These tables are often printed at the end of a Chumash (Hebrew Pentateuch). The order of recitation bears some relation to the groups in which the signs are likely to occur in a typical Biblical verse, but differs in detail between different communities. Below are traditional Ashkenazi and Sephardi orders, though variations are found in both communities. Ashkenazic TAMI MIKRA ASHKENAZ.png Sephardic TAMI MIKRA MIZRAH.png Meanings of the names Azla "Going away", because it is often the end of the phrase 'Qadma ve'Azla'. Darga "Trill" from its sound, or "step" from its shape. Etnachta/Atnach "Pause, rest" because it is the pause in the middle of a verse. Geresh "Expulsion, driving out". So called because it is often "partnered" with the Qadma (as an Azla) but here appears on its own, "separated." Gershayim Double Geresh, from its appearance. Mahpach "Turning round". In old manuscripts, it was written like a U on its side, hence like someone doing a U turn. In printed books, it has a V shape, possibly because that was easier for the early printers to make. In Eastern communities it is called shofar mehuppach, "reversed horn", because it faces the other way from shofar holech (munach) Mercha "Lengthener", because it prolongs the melody of the word that follows. In modern usage it sometimes means "comma", but this usage is taken from the cantillation sign. Mercha-kefulah Kefulah means "double", because it looks like two merchas together. There are only five in the whole Torah: Gen. 27:25, Ex. 5:15, Lev. 10:1, Num. 14:3, Num. 32:42. Munach "Resting", because the shape is a horn lying on its side. (In Eastern communities it is called shofar holech, horn going forward.) Munach legarmeh (munach on its own) is a disjunctive, used mainly before revia, but occasionally before a pazer. It may be distinguished from ordinary munach by the dividing line (pesiq) following the word. Pashta "Stretching out", because its shape is leaning forward (or in reference to a hand signal). Pazer "Lavish" or "strew", because it has so many notes. Qadma "To progress, advance." It always occurs at the beginning of a phrase (often before other conjunctives) and its shape is leaning forward. In particular it is the first member of the Qadma ve-Azla pair. Revia "Quarter" or "fourth", probably because it splits the half verse from the start to etnachta (or etnachta to the end) into quarters (as it ranks below zaqef, the main division within the half verse). Other possibilities are that it came fourth in the zarqa table (in the current Ashkenazi table it comes fifth) or that it was regarded as occupying the fourth level in the hierarchy. Its apparent appropriateness to the square or diamond shape of the symbol is coincidence: in most manuscripts, it is simply a point. Segol "Bunch of grapes" (from its shape, which looks like a bunch of grapes). Shalshelet "Chain", either from its appearance or because it is a long chain of notes. There are only four in the whole Torah: Gen. 19:16, 24:12, 39:8; Lev. 8:23. Sof Pasuq "End of verse": it is the last note of every verse. It is sometimes called silluq (taking leave). Telisha Qetannah/Gedolah "Detached" because they are never linked to the following note as one musical phrase; Qetannah = small (short); Gedolah = big (long). Tevir "Broken", because it represents a break in reading (in some traditions there is a big jump down in pitch between the first and second notes). Tifcha "Diagonal", or "hand-breadth". In old manuscripts, it was written as a straight diagonal line. In printed books, it is curved, apparently to make it a mirror image of Mercha, with which it is usually paired (the two together could be regarded as forming a slur). The name "tifcha" may be an allusion to a hand signal. Yetiv "Resting" or "sitting", because it may be followed by a short pause, or more probably because the shape is like a horn sitting up. (In the Italian tradition, it is called shofar yetiv, sitting horn.) Zaqef Qaton/Gadol "Upright" (from their shape, or in allusion to a hand signal); Qaton = small (short); Gadol = big (long). Zarqa "Scatterer", because it is like a scattering of notes. Numbers 35:5 (in Parshat Mas'ei) has two notes found nowhere else in the Torah: Qarne Farah "Horns of a cow" (from its shape), sometimes called pazer gadol. Yerach ben Yomo "Moon one day old" (because it looks like a crescent moon), sometimes called galgal (circle). Sequences The rules governing the sequence of cantillation marks are as follows. A verse is divided into two half verses, the first ending with, and governed by, etnachta, and the second ending with, and governed by, sof pasuq. A very short verse may have no etnachta and be governed by sof pasuq alone. A half verse may be divided into two or more phrases marked off by second-level disjunctives. A second-level phrase may be divided into two or more sub-phrases marked off by third-level disjunctives. A third-level phrase may be divided into two or more sub-phrases marked off by fourth-level disjunctives. The last subdivision within a phrase must always be constituted by a disjunctive one level down, chosen to fit the disjunctive governing the phrase and called (in the Table below) its "near companion". Thus, a disjunctive may be preceded by a disjunctive of its own or a higher level, or by its near companion, but not by any other disjunctive of a lower level than its own. The other subdivisions within a phrase are constituted by the "default" disjunctive for the next lower level (the "remote companion"). Any disjunctive may or may not be preceded by one or more conjunctives, varying with the disjunctive in question. A disjunctive constituting a phrase on its own (i.e. not preceded by either a near companion or a conjunctive) may be substituted by a stronger disjunctive of the same level, called in the Table the "equivalent isolated disjunctive". Main disjunctive Preceding conjunctive(s) Nearest preceding lower level disjunctive ("near companion") Other lower level disjunctives ("remote companion") Equivalent isolated disjunctive First level disjunctives Sof pasuq Mercha Tifcha Zaqef qaton Etnachta Munach Tifcha Zaqef qaton Second level disjunctives Segol Munach Zarqa Revia Shalshelet Zaqef qaton Munach Pashta Revia Zaqef gadol Tifcha Mercha; Darga Mercha-kefulah Tevir Revia Third level disjunctives Revia Munach; Darga Munach Munach legarmeh Geresh, Telishah gedolah, Pazer Zarqa Munach (occasionally Mercha) Geresh/Azla/Gershayim Telisha gedolah, Pazer Pashta Mahpach; Qadma Mahpach Geresh/Azla/Gershayim Telisha gedolah, Pazer Yetiv Tevir Mercha or Darga; Qadma Mercha or Qadma Darga Geresh/Azla/Gershayim Telisha gedolah, Pazer Fourth level disjunctives Geresh/Azla Qadma; Telishah qetannah Qadma Gershayim Telisha gedolah Munach Pazer Munach Qarne farah Yerach ben yomo Groups The following sequences are commonly found: First level phrases (Mercha) Tifcha (Mercha) Sof-Pasuq (Sephardic Maarikh Tarkha Maarikh Sof Pasuq) The group that occurs at the end of each pasuq (verse), and always includes the Sof-Pasuq at the very minimum. Either or both of the Mercha's may be omitted. (Mercha) Tifcha (Munach) Etnachta (Sephardic Maarikh Tarkha Shofar Holekh Atna) one of the most common groups, but can only appear once in each pasuq. Tifcha can appear without a Mercha, but Mercha cannot appear without a Tifcha (or other following disjunctive). Etnachta can appear without a Munach, but Munach cannot appear without an Etnachta (or other following disjunctive). Munach-Etnachta can appear without a Mercha-Tifcha, but a Mercha-Tifcha cannot appear without a Munach-Etnachta (or Etnachta on its own). Second level phrases (Mahpach) Pashta (Munach) Zaqef Qaton (Sephardic Mehuppakh Qadma Shofar Holekh Zaqef Qaton) one of the most common groups. Pashta can appear without a Mahpach, but a Mahpach cannot appear without a Pashta. Alternatively, Yetiv can appear on its own in place of Pashta. Zaqef Qaton can appear without a Munach, but a Munach cannot appear without a Qaton (or other following disjunctive). Zaqef Gadol Not a part of a group, as it replaces a Zaqef Qaton sequence. (Munach) Zarqa (Munach) Segol (Sephardic Mehuppakh Zarqa Mehuppakh Segolta) Zarqa is only ever found before Segol; a Munach may precede either one. Shalshelet Not a part of a group, as it replaces a Segol sequence. Occurs only four times in the Torah, and always at the beginning of a verse. Third level phrases Munach | Munach Revia (Sephardic Shofar Holekh | Shofar Holekh Revia) The following combinations occur: Revia on its own; Munach Revia; Darga Munach Revia; Munach-with-Pesiq Revia; Munach-with-Pesiq Munach Revia. (Munach with Pesiq is a disjunctive, separate from Munach proper, and also known as Munach legarmeh, munach on its own.) Darga Tevir Tevir is found either alone or preceded by Darga or Mercha. Darga occasionally precedes other combinations (e.g. Darga Munach Revia). Mercha-Kefula (Sephardic Tere ta’ame) Occasionally preceded by Darga, but usually on its own. Occurs only five times in the Torah, and once in Haftarah. Its function appears to be similar to Tevir. Fourth level phrases Qadma v'Azla This pair is known as such when found together, and may precede a Mahpach, a Revia group or a Tevir group. A Qadma can also be found without an Azla before a Mahpach, and an Azla without a Qadma is known as Azla-Geresh or simply Geresh. Gershayim on its own fulfils the same function as Qadma v'Azla, in that it can precede either a Mahpach, a Revia group or a Tevir group. Pazer Not considered part of a group, but usually followed by a Telisha Qetannah or a Telisha Gedolah. It may be preceded by one or more Munachs. Telisha Qetannah/Gedolah (Sephardic Talsha/Tirtsa) Not considered a part of a group, usually appears individually, sometimes after a Pazer. It often precedes Qadma. Yerach ben Yomo Qarnei Farah The rarest group of all. Occurs only once in the whole Torah, in the parashah Masey, on the words alpayim b'ammah (two thousand cubits). It is equivalent to Munach Pazer. Psalms, Proverbs and Job The system of cantillation signs used throughout the Tanakh is replaced by a very different system for these three poetic books. Many of the signs may appear the same or similar at first glance, but most of them serve entirely different functions in these three books. (Only a few signs have functions similar to what they do in the rest of the Tanakh.) The short narratives at the beginning and end of Job use the "regular" system, but the bulk of the book (the poetry) uses the special system. For this reason, these three books are referred to as sifrei emet (Books of Truth), the word emet meaning "truth", but also being an acronym for the first letters of the three books (Iyov, Mishle, Tehillim). A verse may be divided into one, two or three stichs. In a two-stich verse, the first stich ends with atnach. In a three-stich verse, the first stich ends with oleh ve-yored, which looks like mahpach (above the word) followed by tifcha, on either the same word or two consecutive words, and the second stich ends with atnach. Major disjunctives within a stich are revia qaton (immediately before oleh ve-yored), revia gadol (elsewhere) and tzinnor (which looks like zarqa). The first (or only) stich in a verse may be divided by dechi, which looks like tifcha but goes under the first letter of the word to the right of the vowel sign. The last stich in a two- or three-stich verse may be divided by revia megurash, which looks like geresh combined with revia. Minor disjunctives are pazer gadol, shalshelet gedolah, azla legarmeh (looking like qadma) and mehuppach legarmeh (looking like mahpach): all of these except pazer are followed by a pesiq. Mehuppach without a pesiq sometimes occurs at the beginning of a stich. All other accents are conjunctives. Mishnah Some manuscripts of early Rabbinic literature contain marks for partial or systematic cantillation. This is true of the Sifra, and especially of Genizah fragments of the Mishnah. Today, many communities have a special tune for the Mishnaic passage "Bammeh madliqin" in the Friday night service. Otherwise, there is often a customary intonation used in the study of Mishnah or Talmud, somewhat similar to an Arabic mawwal, but this is not reduced to a precise system like that for the Biblical books. Recordings have been made for Israeli national archives, and Frank Alvarez-Pereyre has published a book-length study of the Syrian tradition of Mishnah reading on the basis of these recordings. In Christian missionary uses The Jewish born Christian convert Ezekiel Margoliouth translated the New Testament to Hebrew in 1865 with cantillation marks added. It is the only completely cantillated translation of the New Testament. The translation was published by the London Jews' Society. Notes Jump up ^ In more than one tradition, the melodic outline of darga tevir is similar to that of (mahpach) pashta zaqef qaton, though their syntactical functions are not quite the same. Jump up ^ Segal, J. B., The Diacritical Point and the Accents in Syriac: Oxford 1953, repr. 2003 ISBN 1-59333-032-4, ISBN 978-1-59333-032-3. Jump up ^ Masoreten des Westens. Jump up ^ Specimens of both may be found on http://hazzan.qpon.co.il/Front/Multimedia/albom.asp?mBoundary=11371&aType=3[permanent dead link]. It is possible that the Mosul melody represents the older Iraqi tradition and that the Baghdad melody was imported from Syria following the appointment of Chief Rabbi Sadka Bekhor Hussein in 1743. Jump up ^ Ross, M. S., Europäisches Zentrum für Jüdische Musik, CD-Projekt: „Synagogale Musik der romaniotischen Juden Griechenlands“ -ongoing/2016- Jump up ^ Yemenite Synagogues in America Jump up ^ Dalia Cohen and Daniel Weill. "Progress in Deductive Research on the Original Performance of Tiberian Accents (Te'amim)." Proceedings of the Ninth World Conference of Jewish Studies, Division D, Vol. II (Jerusalem, 1986): 265–80; cf. also, e.g., the review by P.T. Daniels, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 112, No. 3 (Jul.–Sep., 1992), p. 499. Jump up ^ The tables in the 1905 Jewish Encyclopedia article on cantillation sets out a single melody for "Syria and Egypt". Jump up ^ http://www.orahsaddiqim.org/Liturgy/Cantillation.shtml and recordings by Moshe Dabbah on http://pizmonim.org/. Jump up ^ These are listed in Rodrigues Pereira, 'Hochmat Shelomo. Jump up ^ Syrian Jews have a tradition of prolonging tarcha (tifcha) in certain verses, largely coinciding with those which Spanish and Portuguese Jews recite in High Na'um. For details, see the http://www.pizmonim.org website, under the tab "Torah readings". Jump up ^ http://yemenite.org/shishi/shishi.htm Jump up ^ The article on "Cantillation" in the Jewish Encyclopedia shows tunes for "Prophets (other readings)" for both the Western Sephardi and the Baghdadi traditions. ^ Jump up to: a b Zarqa/tsinnor and tsinnorit marks are wrongly named in Unicode. To encode a zarqa/tsinnor, use Unicode "HEBREW ACCENT ZINOR" (U+05AE), and to encode a tsinnorit use "HEBREW ACCENT ZARQA" (U+0598). See Unicode Technical Note #27: "Known Anomalies in Unicode Character Names", and specially Appendix A inside it. Jump up ^ It is called azla before gerish and qadma meḥabber in all other positions. Jump up ^ In the normal grammatical account it is a third-level disjunctive. But it would become fourth level if one regarded etnachta as occupying a separate level from sof pasuq, or segol/shalshelet as on a level of their own intermediate between etnachta and zaqef qaton. Jump up ^ In the Sephardic tradition, both are equally referred to as talsha and the melodies are frequently confused. When it is desired to refer unambiguously to telisha qetannah (the conjunctive), terms such as talsa or tilsa are used, on the analogy with the distinction between the letters shin and sin (the sin has a dot on the left and telisha qetannah appears on the left of the word); another term used for both accents is tirtzah. Which term is used for which accent varies among communities and even among individuals. Jump up ^ In Sephardic and Oriental communities it is called tarḥa, meaning "dragging" or "effort". Hence the proverbial phrase "after tarḥa, atnaḥ", after effort comes rest: see the series of puns in the poem on pp. 99-100, Shir u-Shbaḥah Hallel ve-Zimrah Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine.. Jump up ^ http://www.divreinavon.com/pdf/Shalshelet1.pdf Symbolic Interpretation of the Shalshelet Jump up ^ For a full study see Israel Yeivin, Cantillation of the Oral Law. Leshonenu 24 (1960), pp. 47-231 (Hebrew). Jump up ^ Scanned versions of this translation can be found here  and here "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-19. Retrieved 2011-10-12. References Although these six tropes all sound different, the cantillation marks all serve the same function as far as syntax and meaning is concerned. They only differ with regard to the clef and tempo they are sung in. The Differences Matter A page of a Tikkun printed in Berditchev, which displays the text with cantellation marks alongside the same text with no markings at all, used as an aide to Torah readers (from the private collection of Menachem Posner). A page of a Tikkun printed in Berditchev, which displays the text with cantellation marks alongside the same text with no markings at all, used as an aide to Torah readers (from the private collection of Menachem Posner). So why are they different? Rabbi Moshe Sofer (known as the Chatam Sofer) writes: “Clefs that the cantillations are sung in are dependent upon the nature or occasion of the reading. Thus, for the reading of Eicha the text is read in a more sorrowful pitch, while Megillat Esther is more joyful.”4 But there is more than just mood. Rabbi Judah the Pious (1150-1217) writes that there is an ancient tradition that the Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) are each sung in their own unique pitch, and one may not read Torah in the tune of the Prophets or vice versa.5 Some are of the opinion that the general differences of tune and pitch are in fact remnants of the tunes that the Levites sung in the Holy Temple, which they composed based on the sounds of the cantillations.6 In fact, the cantillations were held in such reverence that the Talmud says that one should not dirty the right hand in the privy because the right hand is used to show the cantillation notes of the Torah.7 The Books of Emet A detail from an edition of the Book of Job, printed in Warsaw in 1861, which displays the text with the cantillation marks unique to the Books of Emet (from the private collection of Menachem Posner). A detail from an edition of the Book of Job, printed in Warsaw in 1861, which displays the text with the cantillation marks unique to the Books of Emet (from the private collection of Menachem Posner). Although for the most part the cantillations only vary by tempo and pitch, there are three (out of the 24) books of Scripture that do indeed have an almost entirely different cantillation system with separate rules. These are the books of Iyov (Job),8 Mishlei (Proverbs) and Tehillim (Psalms). In Hebrew, their names form the acronym of “EMeT,” which means “truth,” and they are collectively known as Sifrei Emet, “Books of Truth.” Why do they have their own system? Tosafot attributes it to the fact that these books are written in a poetic style with short verses.9 Tosafot Hashalem explains that these three books contain the “secret of creation” and therefore share their own unique tune.10 Rabbi Judah the Pious explains that the authors of these three books were unique in that each of them experienced great upheavals in their lives. The Book of Job describes how Job was catapulted from extreme privilege to the depths of suffering, and was then restored to his former glory. Kings David and Solomon (authors of Psalms and Proverbs respectively) both experienced periods when their rule was temporarily taken from them.11 Understanding the Cantillations As we mentioned, there are deep secrets hidden in the names and sounds of the cantillations, rooted in the songs of the Holy Temple. Let us hope and pray for the day when the Temple will be rebuilt and the meanings of these songs will be fully understood.12 FOOTNOTES 1. 2. See Zohar 2:205a; Zohar Chadash, Shir Hashirim 73b. 3. See, for example, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero—Ramak, Shiur Komah 8. 4. See repsonsum Chatam Sofer, 6:86. 5. Sefer Chassidim 302; he refers to their unique tunes as well as the prohibition of not switching tunes as “tradition from Sinai.” See, however, the Chida in his commentary Brit Olam ad loc., where he explains that it does not necessarily mean that the tunes of the Prophets and Writings were literally from Sinai. 6. Rabbi Shimon ben R’ Tzemach Duran; Rashbatz, in Magen Avot 3, “Hameyuchad L’Techiyat Hameisim,” ch. 4 (p. 384 in Haktav edition). 7. Talmud, Berachot 62a and Rashi ad loc. 8. While most of the book of Job has unique cantillation, ch. 1-2 and the end of Job have the regular cantillation. 9. Tosafot, Talmud Bava Batra 14b; see also Mesechet Sofrim 12:11-12. 10. Tosafot Hashalem on Genesis 1:1 no. 74; see there where it explains that the last letters of the first three words of the Torah are an acronym for these three books בראשית ברא אלוקים is an acronym for תהילים איוב משלי 11. Rabbi Yehuda Hachassid in Sodei Chumash, Likutim, Sodei Iyov (p. 111). 12. See Shiltei Hagiborim, Rabbi Avraham Harofeh, Ma’mer Haloshon (p. 602 in Machon Yerushalayim edition).
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