[b-hebrew] Unpointed

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Tue Jun 15 12:16:23 EDT 2010

The short answer is "yes". The public ritual reading from the Torah is done
from an unpointed text, using a hand-written parchment scroll. However the
reader is expected to be well prepared, to have practiced in advance using a
printed and pointed mesoretic text. There is usually someone standing next
to the reader with a printed, pointed text in order to correct mistakes (or
the help the reader along if he's not well-enough prepared), and the
congregation will also follow along and correct mistakes, although the
strict rule is that only mistakes which may lead to misunderstanding should
be corrected. 

In general, the public ritual reading of the Torah on the appointed
occasions is considered a "mitzvah", a divine commandment, a ritual
instigated by Moses himself. To fulfill the commandment, one must hear the
appropriate portion read from a "kosher" scroll. In rabbinic tradition, the
scrolls as we have them today are exact copies of the original Torah written
by Moses (the shift from the old Hebrew script to the "square" Aramaic
script was authorized by Ezra), and the mesoretic vocalization represents
the precise way that Moses himself would have read the text. As with many
issues of faith, the past century's discoveries in the area of textual
knowledge, such as the Cairo Geniza, the DDS and so on, have no significance
to the truly faithful. And even people who are more critical usually have no
problem with following the tradition within the synagogue. This is even true
of many non-Orthodox synagogues (which is Israel are a small minority, in
the western world much more common). 

By the way, since the Prophets and the Writings are not from Moses, there is
no obligation to read them from scrolls, and most synagogues read them from
printed texts. The exception of this is the reading of Esther on Purim,
again from a handwritten parchment scroll, although it is permitted to
lightly write in the nikkud. 

Yigal Levin

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of
davedonnelly1 at juno.com
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 1:59 PM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Unpointed

Hi Karl
The following text was found at
The article was titled:
Level: Basic
The Torah scrolls that we read from in synagogue are unpointed text, with
no vowels or musical notes, so the ability to read a passage from a
scroll is a valuable skill, and usually requires substantial advance
preparation (reviewing the passage in a text with points). See Hebrew
Alphabet for more on pointed and unpointed texts.
In 2010 in both synagogues in Israel as well as synagogues in the United
States, would the Torah scrolls be likely to be unpointed?
Dave Donnelly
K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com 
Tue Jun 15 02:37:18 EDT 2010 
Let's use the example of Proverbs 1:19.

The first step, strip away the points. The points were not original are
sometimes wrong. Even if they are wrong as few as 1% of the time, that is
too often for me. From a seat of the pants impression, the points are
2-5% of the time. If one tries to keep to the points when they are wrong,
can lead to some real mental gymnastics. It's no problem if the points
correct, but we can't assume that. 
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