Torah Reading is like Target Competition?

Tradition holds that when one makes a mistake, no matter how small, when reading the Torah aloud, the reader should start over at the beginning of the passage. Some say this tradition holds for any prayer as well.

I used to think the reason for this was the obvious, i.e. respect for the Torah or prayer. But through target shooting, I’ve come to think that perhaps the reason is a bit more involved. The reason may not be so much that failing to correct the error might be a sign of disrespect to the passage. Rather, the error suggests that the reader was not fully engrossed and concentrated on the passage. After all, if he had really been engrossed in the meaning and significance of the words, and not just reciting them (a.k.a. “going through the motions”), he would not have made a mistake. And so, the significance of the mistake is not so much an issue for those who hear it, but rather for the one who made it. Its not that he wasn’t reading properly, so much as the mistake suggests he was not praying properly. Praying and reading are not synonyms.

And this related to shooting how exactly? One way to think about shooting is that prior to releasing a shot, the shooter has consciously or subconsciously reviewed a checklist of requirements. Are the sights aligned? Does my grip feel right? Does my trigger finger seem correctly placed? Am I balanced? Is the gun relatively steady? Are my eyes focused? Am I thinking positively? These are just some of the questions, and the better the shooter, the longer the list.

Even though the shooter might be deciding all these thing subconsciously, the subconscious will signal the conscious when something is off, and we’ll get that feeling that “something just ain’t right.” In that instant, the conscious mind shifts from its positive expectation of shooting an X, to trying to figure out why the gun feels like its being gripped too loosely, the eyes are not focused, or whatever else doesn’t feel right. Sometimes, we can still let go the shot and get away with it, but more often, taking the shot while we have this feeling leads to disappointment and even disaster. The champion shooters often say, the most important shots are the ones you didn’t take. Something didn’t feel right, so you put the gun down, cleared your head, and began your shot routine from square one.

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