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    Two tunes for the Ten Commandments

    Many chumashim have a supplement giving the trope or melody for the chanting of the Decalogue.

    There are two basic tunes, the “upper” (elyon) and the “lower” (tachton), for the Ten Commandments.

    Some people (e.g. those who follow the traditional Sephardi rite) say it would be logical to use the more dramatic “upper” tune for public reading and the less impressive “lower” one for private study, but it didn’t quite work out like this.

    In order to fit the trope into the words some changes are made to the phrasing. For example, the Sabbath commandment is four verses in the “lower” tune but only one in the “upper” system.

    Historically, in Ashkenazi ritual the “upper” system tended to be used on Shavu’ot and the “lower” on Shabbatot Yitro and Va’et’channan. This is the usage in some congregations in Israel.

    In the Diaspora there is a widespread custom to follow the Sephardi method.

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