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About Torah Trope

Trope is the term for the system of notation for chanting Torah. They are symbols that indicate when to pause and when to stop in the Torah reading. There are 27 actual tropes and 14 of those are for ending phrases. The rest are used within a phrase.

 

The practice of using Trope was developed by a sect known as the Masoretes, who lived around the 6th-10th centuries CE in Tiberius, Israel. This system of “notes” lets us know where our earlier ancestors thought the punctuation in Torah belongs since traditionally there are no vowels written in Torah scrolls. Even works like the Talmud and Mishneh seem to have been chanted to trope in the past.

 

For a given Torah portion, there is a set of associated notes, which when strung together become the chant or melody of the reading. The Hebrew term for trope is Ta’amei Hamikra, “the flavor of the reading.”

 

The notes which go with the trope vary in sound for different works. For Megillat Esther, trope creates a different melody to that of Haftorah (readings generally taken from the prophetic writings). Still, the notes always look the same and teach us the same idea, about where to pause and when to stop. Trope can also call attention to an event. For example, one pair of trope, kadmah v’azlah, sound like a trumpet being heralded to ask for everyone’s attention.

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