Tuesday, January 24, 2006

261. Frogs

Taking a small break from ruminating about Israel to return to the subject at hand. This coming Shabbat, Parashat Vaera, I'm chanting a short section all about hatzefard'im: frogs, as in Pharoah's plea to make then disappear. (They did, but not before dying in heaps and rotting in the fields, which we don't talk about while eating matzah ball soup at the Passover seder.) Say the word hatzefard'im five times fast and you'll either master a tongue-twister or chant my portion. Whomever coined the word captured the very essence of jumping up, down and sideways at the same time.

When I first started learning these verses, I read the word as hatzefar'dim--emphasis on the "r" sound. Then I consulted my second, fancier tikkun, which helpfully placed an oversized letter dalet (the "d" sound") in the middle of the word, meaning this was the letter to stress. But I couldn't; my vocal apparatus was insufficiently gymnastic, and I kept tripping over my tongue. I guess I could have called my old chanting teacher, or (horrors) the cantor himself for pronunciation advice, but they have much better things to do than ponder errant letters. I checked, instead, with the infinitely patient Internet Cantor, the mellifluous voice at bible.ort.org. He added a slight "ah" vowel under the dalet--a syllabic WD40, barely noticeable, to help one sound maneuver to the next.

(Sometimes it's such a relief to be immersed in these fascinating but relatively useless details instead of drowning in plain old daily life.)

I'm sure I'll know my section well by Shabbat, when I'll discover if reading a few weeks ago at the most awesome spot in the world to do such things managed to cure me of last November's paralyzing nerves.


~Jan said...

This just made me laugh--in the nicest possible way.

Lori said...

me too and now I own't be able to eat a bowl of mb soup without thinking of the frogs.