To Correct Or Not To Correct The Baal Koreh


sto[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman]

“Er Zogt!”

“No he didn’t. I was listening!”

“Whaddya talking about? It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine. Why are constantly butting your nose into..”

Most of us have heard this conversation countless times in Shuls across the country. The conversation deals with the Shabbos morning reading of the Torah and addresses the issue of whether it is necessary to correct the reader of the Torah or not.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim 142:1) writes, “If he read and erred, we make him go back.” The Ramah adds the qualification that it is only if it changes the meaning of the matter. If there is no change in meaning, however, we do not make the correction.

What is an example of changing the meaning? If the error was changing Yaaseh to Ye=awe-she, or vice versa, we do correct it.


What about if the error was in the Trop – the cantillation marks? Believe it or not, quite often the cantillation marks do convey meaning and when one word is connected to the next word and the reader stops improperly disconnecting the words – the error must be corrected according to the Mishna Brurah (142:4) who cites the Sefer Atzei Shittim. The Kaf HaChaim concurs with this ruling (142:8).


What is not generally known is that the issue of correcting may be vastly different when the reading of the Torah is during a weekday or on a Shabbos Mincha. In such cases, the author of the Mishna Brurah in his Biur Halacha (142 “Machzirin Oso”) seems to indicate that we do not correct him, even if the error actually changes the meaning. He does add the qualification that this is only if the reader had read ten verses from the Torah otherwise.

The careful reader will have noted that we used the term “seems to indicate.” Well does he or doesn’t he? This is a good question. In the beginning of the piece, the Chofetz Chaim clearly writes that the correction is not made. Let us note that the rationale for leniency is predicated upon the idea that these “extra” verses did not actually have to be read, since one fulfills the obligation by reading ten verses. Therefore, if one erred in reading them it makes sense to say that there is no need to correct it. However, toward the end of the piece, the Chofetz Chaim is unsure as to whether a mistaken reading of the verse may be worse than no reading of the verse. All this leaves us with a question as to what we should do if the reader makes an error during the weekday.

It would seem that we have to weigh both sides carefully. Correcting the reader can often be rather embarrassing to the reader, and it should not be done unless halacha expressly requires it of us. When Chazal tell us that embarrassing a human being is likened to killing him, a very very deep message is conveyed by their words.

All this is reminiscent of a fascinating debate between my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Henoch Leibowitz zatzal and Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zatzal in regard to Pnina. The Gemorah in bava Basra 16a states that Pnina acted for the sake of Heaven when she made Chana cry on her lack of children. How so? Pnina was well aware of Chana’s lofty spiritual status and knew quite well that the reason Hashem was holding back from granting her children was because she was not as close as she could be to Hashem. Hashem wanted her prayers and that she should come ever closer to Hashem. Pnina saw this – Chana did not. Pnina took it upon herself to assist Chana in coming closer to Hashem.

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz writes that we see here the power of Midah k’neged Midah – how the idea of measure for measure works. It is like a law of nature, no matter how innocent Shimon is, if Reuvain was pained on account of Shimon, Shimon will get punished.

Rav Henoch Leibowitz disagreed. He reasoned that Hashem would not punish a completely innocent person. There must have been a tiny infinitesimal degree of antipathy on the part of Pnina toward Chana. It would be undetectable by today’s standards or by the standards which anyone else would be judged, but nonetheless it was there. It was this subtle negative thought which brought such consequences upon the Tzadaikes that Pnina was.

Getting back to our issue of correcting the reader, we should be able to learn from the views of both of these great Gedolim. From Rav Henoch Leibowitz we should learn to try to completely purify the intent behind oreading_torahur action. Why are we correcting the reader? Should we really be doing so? If so, shouldn’t we leave it to the appointed Gabbai?

From the words of Rav Chaim Shmulevitz we should be thinking, “It may not be such a good idea for the reader to receive pain and embarrassment because of me, even if the halacha does warrant it. Let someone else do it.”

If it is a Shabbos morning and it is a Bar Mitzvah bochur who is reading, the shul should make every effort that on the Gabbaiim in the front standing next to the Bar Mitzvah bochur should be correcting. Young men are usually quite embarrassed when they are the recipients of corrections.

So what should we do during the weekday? The issue, of course, should be presented to the Rav of each respective Minyan. However, here are some suggested guidelines: If the reader is a person who will not be embarrassed, and he is not just saying this but really means it, then he should be corrected in order to fulfill the latter part of the Biur halacha. If there is any question whatsoever, however, then we should not do so. If there are not ten verses otherwise, then we should make the correction.

The author can be reached at [email protected]



  1. The Rav of our “pre-aliyah” shul in chu”l made an announcement before every bar mitzvah boy leined, stating that only the gabboim were to make corrections.

  2. This reminds of the time when I was a guest in a prominent shul in Monsey. There was a fellow in the minyan who was shouting out trop corrections every few psukim. At one moment during the kriah, the bal koreh just lost it and turns around at the guy and shouts “Would you shut up already?”. After this, the rest of the kriah was smooth sailing without any corrections. While this is extreme, this incident and other similar embarrassments can be easily avoided by designating gabboim for all corrections.

  3. Excellent article – As a baal koreh I can say one must have a thick skin but it took me a while to develop it. To not want to lein without mistakes is like l’chatchila buying an ugly esrog.

    Regarding the trop – there is a wonderful bulletin that goes out from Eretz Yisroel called Toras Hakoreh – see this link

    I particular like when he shows how emphasizing the “tvir” more than the “tipcha” (I used to do it – naturally) changes the mashmoas of the passuk – interesting one can be found in the above link page 4 – 3rd bolded line “Vayomer Eylav”

  4. Well written article by y hoffman. I have a hunch if any of these ideas were actually implemented, nobody would pay attention to laining anymore. A lot of people follow, davka so they can scream out corrections. Sad but true. Before the ywn haters attack and say I’m projecting, and in the interest of full disclosure, I am a shul gabbai charged with correcting the ba’al koreh.

  5. The Rav in my shul frequently tries to get people to give up this “sport” known as correcting the ba’al koreh, especially if a Bar Mitzvah boy is involved. The gabbaim should be the only ones making corrections.

    As a gabbai and ba’al koreh, I can tell you that very often people will call out a correction simply b/c they have no knowledge of what needs to be corrected and what does not. For example, if the ba’al koreh reads “shemesh” instead of “shumesh”, no poseik would say it should be corrected. It is a purely technical dikduk issue that a segol becomes a kumatz when the trope is an esnachta or sof pasuk (and occasionaly a tipcha i.e. “V’ya’asu bnei Yisrael es haPUsach b’moado” vs haPEsach).

  6. After the word “baal” should come a noun. “Koreh” means read and is a verb. The correct term in Baal Kriah, unless you are building a sukkah and you are the person with the wood beams OR you are the one who is in charge of the hearts of palm.

  7. Actually, MDG, the term can be a noun as well as in Boreh – which is either a verb or the creator. The term Baal Koreh and Baal Kriah is used inter-changeably by the Gedolei HaPoskim, but most overwhelmingly use Baal Koreh. Rav Moshe used both but also mostly Baal Koreh. Your note would thus qualify as a correction that was un-neccessary and may have embarrassed the writer.

  8. As a Koreh I made great efforts to be fluent in dikduk and accurate in trop. I also worked on the midah of humility that corrections did not faze me, and I also would slow down from my generally slow place if errors were cropping up. On the other hand, when I was right and the corrector wrong I could throw a “hush” in the direction of the corrector, or bang the table with the yad. In case of safek, the rav knew what to do when I gave him the nod for his opinion. And a correct corrector would always get a yasher koach from me after the reading. This fostered mutual respect and ahavas yisroel, and the elevation of emes to it’s proper place.

  9. I like this article. I like the comments even more. I’m a Baal Kriah myself and I don’t mind people correcting me. Not that I lain without any mistakes, the opposite is true. I would actually prefer people listening and correcting. Sometimes I feel I can read the wrong pasha and no one will notice.

  10. when I first started laining as a teenager I decided if someone corrects me even if I said it right I will just say it again. I no longer lain regularly but I daven in a minyan where people are afraid to correct even when there is a real mistake. I therefore correct on real mistakes but try to use a tone of helping rather than gotcha.Perhaps more people can try to be gentle.