By Moshe Shor – North Miami Beach, FL
A very familiar occurrence will likely transpire in many Chabad shuls on Shabbos morning when Parshas Pinchas will be read from the Torah (the same happens every morning of Pesach, when the same portion is read).
When the Ba’al Koreh will reach a specific point, a mixture of baritone notes overwhelmed by a semblance of tenor accompanies the Ba’al Koreh’s drowned out rendition of a single word.
The word is “Ka’eileh” (“כאלה”) well into the beginning of the 6th Aliya (Maftir on Pesach), in Posuk 24 (Bamidbar 28:24) which discusses the various sacrifices brought on Pesach.
While it may sound like a cute Minhag that inadvertently got omitted from Sefer HaMinhagim, the recognized book of Chabad-Lubavitch customs, a simple fact check will reveal that leining or humming along with the Ba’al Koreh is actually forbidden.
In the Rebbe Rashab’s written proclamation regarding hearing Krias HaTorah (Igros Kodesh of Rebbe Rashab Volume 1, page 177-181), 2 full pages (179-181) are dedicated to deplore this cute Minhag.
In addition to quoting the Zohar, Poskim and other seforim, the Rebbe Rashab categorizes the practice as a “grave transgression” and implores his readers “Chas veSholom not to assist and read along with the Chazan [Ba’al Koreh].”
The referenced Zohar (Vayakhel page 206) likens the Torah reading to a reenactment of standing at Har Sinai and receiving the Torah from Hashem. Utter silence is required, just like it was so during that momentous occasion. Any other voice in addition to the Ba’al Koreh’s diminishes the portrayal of the solitary Voice of Hashem.
In fact, this cantorial debacle hasn’t been spotted just on Parshas Pinchas and Pesach. Some have the practice to lein/hum along the conclusion of each Aliya. (In one particular Shul which I attended years ago, almost everyone did it per the unofficial Minhag of that Shul).
And if you needed an incentive to give proper attention to Krias HaTorah, allow me to quote the words of the Frierdiker Rebbe (Sefer HaMaamorim Kuntreisim Volume 2, page 790), who’s birthday and day of Geula is today, that scrupulous attention to hearing Krias HaTorah affects “children, health, and livelihood.”