HISTORY OF TORAH READING
The public reading of the Torah is one of the truly honoured traditions of the synagogue. Progressing through the year on a predetermined rhythm, it is one of the prime vehicles, together with Rabbinical sermons and explanations, that enables the lessons of the Torah to be transmitted to the people on an ongoing and consistent basis. The study of Torah is essential to the life of a Jew. It is the basis of Jewish religious life and is therefore an integral part of the synagogue service, combining prayer and study.
Tradition dates the origins of the public reading of the Torah to the very beginnings of the Jewish people, when Moses instituted an ordinance for Israel that they read the Torah.
In the book of Zohar, it states that "when the Torah scroll is removed from the Ark, one should be in a state of awe and reverence. Each person's heart should be focused and directed to the holiness of the moment like those who stood at Mount Sinai and received the Torah from God. The one who reads the Torah should be aware and take to heart that he is God's agent who is making the Torah be heard by the people on his behalf."
Originally, one person , the King or Prophet, would read the entire Torah portion for the day. As time went on, this honour was bestowed upon dignitaries of the community who would each ascend the platform on which the Torah was placed - the term aliyah.
Today, it is the "specialist" or Baal Koreh who performs this honour. He or she is the one who can make the Torah reading come alive, be meaningful and enjoyable by the knowledge of the text, Hebrew grammar and the melody and phrasing of the cantillations. The ancient musical notes give flavor to the Torah reading and helps in the understanding of the true meaning of the text. Can you think of what greater honour exists in the synagogue today? It is the duty and responsibility of the Torah reader to chant the divine word to the congregation.