A new book by Rabbi Levi Lipinski, the ‘Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer’ is a gorgeously designed textbook to be used by pre-bar mitzvah boys to learn their Torah reading in an engaging and innovative way.
By Yakir Havin
Rabbi Levi Lipinski, founder of The Mitzvah Club, is proud to announce the launch of a new product for pre-bar mitzvah boys: the Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer. The Torah Trainer is a gorgeously designed textbook to be used by pre-bar mitzvah boys to learn their Torah reading in an engaging and innovative way.
The Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer is a new product of The Mitzvah Club, which Rabbi Lipinski set up in order to provide Chabad Houses, rabbis, parents, and teachers with access to bar mitzvah tutoring lessons, Torah classes, and bar mitzvah Judaica. The Torah Trainer textbook is the product of over three years of research and testing, and employs a patented method called the Layered Tikkun that redefines the way kriah is learned.
“When I set out to develop the Torah Trainer, my main focus was to alleviate the overwhelming feelings bar mitzvah boys experience when preparing for their Torah reading,” remarked Rabbi Lipinski. “In my 10 years as a bar mitzvah tutor, this has been the biggest obstacle that my students have faced. They had to read the Torah in public, in front of a crowd, for the first time. They were scared to make mistakes.
“I realised that students did not have a clear grasp of what they were meant to be doing, and together with the high expectations of family and friends, they began to see their Torah reading as a burden. As a Ba’al Koreh, I knew this wasn’t the way, and something had to change.”
The Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer is specifically built to counteract such an experience, as it gives bar mitzvah boys a deep understanding of what Torah reading means in a fun and beautifully-designed way. This learning approach gives students more confidence in their ability and frees them from the confusing feelings surrounding their aliyah. The Torah Trainer takes them step-by-step through the learning process, always explaining the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’. This approach also supports learning the tools of kriah so that they can be applied forever, rather than memorising the Torah portion by rote.
“Torah reading is a useful skill for any Jewish person,” said Rabbi Lipinski. “The quality of leining by a boy who really understands the trop (cantillations) is much greater than that of a student who learned his aliyah by heart. You can really hear the confidence in their voice.”
The most revolutionary feature of the Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer is the Layered Tikkun. The Layered Tikkun contrasts against the traditional side-by-side tikkun format, by introducing a three-layered version of the Torah portion which cleverly employs plastic transparency films. The top layer shows the Torah portion with all cantillations and nekudos (vowels). Once a student is comfortable, they move to the second layer which only shows cantillations. Finally, when a student is ready, they progress to the base layer and read the text the way it is in the Torah scroll.
“From my students’ experience, using a traditional tikkun and moving from one column to the other was a daunting task. I decided to split this up to give the students more confidence as they progress from layer to layer. And there is a tzuras hadaf (replica of the Torah page) at the back of the book for when students are really comfortable in their reading.”
The Torah Trainer is designed to be learned in conjunction with a bar mitzvah tutor, or a parent or sibling who is knowledgeable in Torah reading. “Weekly tutor sessions can be expensive, but with the Torah Trainer, the students can do most of the studying on their own, with a tutor checking on their progress every few weeks.” Optionally, Rabbi Lipinski himself is available as a bar mitzvah tutor in conjunction with the Torah Trainer.
QR codes have been included in the textbook which point directly to audio recordings of the cantillations and the Torah portion, together with the brochos and an answering choir that give the bar mitzvah students a true taste of their upcoming aliyah. The recordings are done by Rabbi Lipinski, and include the Chabad and Ashkenaz (Yekishe) trop for both the Torah and the Haftorah. If a student is musically inclined, the Torah Trainer also has musical notes from which to learn the cantillations.
“Something else I’m excited about in this textbook is the custom Alter Rebbe k’sav. I know there are some people who will really appreciate that.” Rabbi Lipinski designed the Alter Rebbe font himself, which is used for all the Torah text in the book.
Besides for learning trop and the Torah reading itself, bar mitzvah boys can gain insight into their parsha by exploring the Speech Starters and Halachic Pointers sections of the textbook. These sections offer discussion points that teach the students about what they will be reading, and how it relates to daily life and Jewish law. “Having an understanding of what the parsha means is something many people unfortunately neglect when they read the Torah. I wanted to give all students a chance to know what they’re reading.”
Rabbi Nochem Kaplan, the director of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch’s Education Office, recently remarked about the Torah Trainer: “It is a great, practical idea which will make learning Kriat HaTorah so much more enjoyable for many boys. Parents will love it. Congratulations! It is a great thing you have done, and I hope it finds its way into many, many pre-bar mitzvah boys’ hands!”
The Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer is not mass produced. Rather, each Torah Trainer is personalized with the name of the student in Hebrew and English, and is designed to be kept as a valuable tool and memento for life. Parents or tutors can order a Torah Trainer on the Mitzvah Club website (themitzvahclub.com), run by Rabbi Lipinski, with a typical lead time of two weeks for customization. Each Torah Trainer is packaged inside a beautifully designed box, along with a silver plated yad (Torah pointer) to give a realistic feel in preparation for the aliyah.
The guides and instructions of the Torah Trainer are written in English, with Russian and Spanish currently in development. “I wanted to make Torah reading an accessible skill for all bar mitzvah boys around the world, and to change the experience from overwhelming and burdensome to truly life changing and enjoyable.”
Reviews for the Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer
“Recently, Levi introduced me to his latest work, the Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer. It’s a must have for anyone who wants to learn how to lain — it fills a gap in the traditional learning to lain routine that most bar mitzvah boys go through. Besides streamlining and making the learning process easier and less monotonous, it also teaches the student how to lain — not just their parsha, but any parsha!”
— Rabbi Moshe Brennan, Chabad of Penn Wynne and parent
“It’s a spectacular trainer book that helps bar mitzvah boys practice with greater ease.”
— Rabbi Shneur Wolf, Chabad of Kalispell and customer
“The Bar Mitzvah Torah Trainer makes Torah reading so much easier. Each Torah portion can be viewed in different modes: with or without the nikud and ta’amim. This modularity makes a great difference — genius!”
— Avihu Yonna, student