AHI EZER YESHIVA The Much-Beloved Institution Moves Forward

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By: Y. Dror

Ta’ameem(cantillation notes) are one of the many ancient traditions shared throughout all Jewish communities. They are given over from one generation to the next. But don't be mistaken, ta’ameem are not just a melodic practice that are taught to children learning to recite their Bar Mitzvah parasha. They are more than just that! As some hold, (Ketzot Hachoshen) reading text with the ta’ameem may even be a mitzvah.

Ta’ameem,as we know, do not only apply for reciting Humash, but also apply throughout all of the writings of the Tanach. Tosafot, in Masechet Bava Batra 14b, brings a reason for why the sefer of Eyob is placed between Tehillim and Mishleh in the order of Tanach. “Because they  (Eyob, Tehillim, andMishleh) are all of one style, they are written similar to a song, have short verses, andthe same tune.”  Tosafot continues on to explain,“For in ‘their’ days there was a tune,” Tosafot is referring to the days of Nehemiah and onwards; in the times of the Talmud the notes were certainly known. And some understand from this Tosafot, that by his time it was forgotten, and Ashkenazim lost the tunes for Eyob, Tehillim, and Mishleh.

Keter Aram Tzoba is one of the oldestmedieval bound books of Tanach around today. It was endorsed for its accuracy by the Rambam himself, who used it to write his own Sefer Torah.About sixty years ago Mr. Murad Faham risked his life in order to smuggle the Keter Aram Tzoba from Syria to Israel. Mr. Faham knew it was not just an old Tanach he was carrying, but rather the genealogy and lineage that the Syrian community is known for. One of the many things the Keter helped preserve was the ta’ameem it contains.

The gemara in Megillah 3a explains the pasuk in Nehemiah (8: 8) “And they gave the sense,” these are the divisions of the text into separate verses. “And they caused them to understand thereading,” these are the ta’ameem notes, through which the meaning of the text is further clarified.

We can see clearly from the gemara that ta’ameem help clarify the verses, and may be proved from many more gemarot i.e.: Chagigah 6b.

So, in a generation of when everything is instant, and must work as fast as a click of a button, how can this extremely important legacy of teaching ta’ameem continue to be taught, and at the same time be fun?

Rabbi Yoel Zafrani, a grandson of Mr. Murad Faham and an expert in ta’ameem, keriah, and all Torah-related grammar, studied ta’ameem from when he was a young child. Rabbi Zafrani had the great opportunity to learn from the most preeminent keriah teachers in the community, Rabbi Jack Masalton, a”h, son of Hacham Murad Masalton, Rabbi Joey Dayan, son of Hacham Nuri Dayan, and his father Hacham Moshe Zafrani. All of Rabbi Zafrani’s teachers were steadfast in the Syrian reading tradition and have taught thousands of students.

 Rabbi Zafrani attended Yeshiva Ateret Torah as a child and remembers how his teacher Rabbi Joey Dayan would ask the class to write the symbols of the ta’ameem on a flash card, with its name on the back. With these flash cards the students would test themselves. This helped Rabbi Zafrani memorize all the ta’ameem as a child. For many years now, Rabbi Zafrani proudly continues the legacy he received. Rabbi Zafrani is a rebbe in Yeshivat Or Hachaim, and gives a Shabbat class for boys who want to learn ta’ameem in all parts of Tanach. He uses the same exact method he was taught as a child.   

Rabbi Zafrani has seen that teaching ta’ameem to children gives them more than just a tune they are learning. Rather, learning the ta’ameem gives his students a vehicle that provides them with a tremendous amount of self-confidence. The results are clear. Even a child with difficulties in learning can become a very successful reader through learning ta’ameem

Rabbi Zafrani came up with very well designed, learner friendly, colorful, and fun flashcards for all ages. The cards include Hebrew and English, with bold letters and may be used for self-testing as well. The cards will soon be available for purchase at all fine Judaica stores.

Rabbi Zafrani’s ta’ameem flash cards, although created for children, can be used by adults as well. Fathers may want to learn along with their sons, for a fun learning and bonding activity.