I have come to the conclusion that one of the hardest ways to judge people, is based on the way they make their bracha when the called up to the torah. There are millions of other ways, but getting called up to the torah and making the brachas is one of those things that everyone does differently. Of course we can try to judge.
There are the regular old nosane hatorah folks who are just run of the mill average Joes. Then you have the notane hatorah folks- and usually they are sphardi, Israeli, or NCSY types. Then you have the folks who rock the chassidish accents up there on the podium- this is the way to tell who “used” to be chassidish. Many a time I have seen some normal dude in jeans and a shirt get called up only to discover that he said nee instead of nu, always exciting and interesting to see the murmurs in the crowd wondering what happened to his beard and peyos.
Of course those are the regulars, BT’s are probably the easiest person to judge based on their actions up at the bima. They usually fumble around for the bracha sheet, flush in face quickly moving away tikuns and chumashim as they try and find the holy grail, and when they don’t find it, suddenly the gabbi produces a siddur to the bracha page in a nick of time. Wacky BT’s tend to take their chumash and siddur up with them for some reason, as if they are planning a pilgrimage to the reading platform. Then of course you have those BT’s that love to be extremely slow in their brachas, pronouncing each word and making sure to get their pronunciations as wrong as possible. BT’s also tend to vary depending on who got to them first with regards to the suf or tuf. If they fell ito the hands of Chabad or Aish they tend to use suf’s, but if somehow they wandered into an NCSY shabbaton or hung out in one of the hippie outposts in Israel they will rock the tuf. These bat ayinicks, or moshav types also try unsuccessfully to say the bracha’s in an Israeli accent- it never works though.
Some folks like to show off their smooth skills and show everyone how clean and thorough their brachas and motions will be. They don the talis effortlessly throwing it on like a superman and then stride p to the torah, before the baal koreh can show them the place, they have tzitzis or gartel in hand and are kissing dabbing the spot. They clench the scroll tightly gently raise it and bow ever so slightly as they make their perfect sweep of the bracha, looking straight ahead to make sure no one even has a thought as to whether this person will cheat and look at the bracha sheet. These folks are otherwise known as bracha machers- they tend to be the folks that pay $5-grand for chassan torah and they are always gettinh aliyahs- so they have had time to practice this amazing feet of smoothness and reliability.
Chabadnicks tend to try to be different and slide the whole tzitzis or gartel up the torah scroll. They have a messy way to them that extends from their crushed hats and shlumpy outfits and half goat beards. They tend not to wear talesim at the torah and sometimes they even leave the scroll open when saying the bracha- the Swiss would be maddened b y their inefficiency and lack of organization when it comes to the aliyah. Though I must say their gelila is much smoother and faster then a normal one and therefore is not solely given to shull rejects as it is in most other shulls.
The frummest of them all actually what to do when called up. They either lain the aliyah hemselves which is mad old school and I have had the privilege to see a couple times- though it is usually painfully slow., and complete with ten people constantly screaming out corrections as if in a recital of some sort. Then you have the few people that called up and lain along with the baal koreh under their breath. These folks are the most knowledgeable of them all and even though they may have busted out their bracha NCSY style they still should receive the highest honor.
The weirdest folks by far are the normal yeshiva looking guys that bust out a normal bracha complete with tuf’s instead of suf’s. In the yeshiva setting they may have problems getting shidduchim and possibly be thrown out of yeshiva. To me they are an anomaly since so much careful thought is put in to make sure they never become anything close to Zionist. They are taught from day one that its better to attend a normal university then go to yeshiva university, and that knit yarmulkes are of the devil. So you must imagine the pain their parents and Rabbis go through every time they hear the tuf instead of the suf- especially when called up to the torah so everyone can see that they are really yeshiva fakers or even worse from modern orthodox homes that tried to infiltrate the yeshiva system.
I know what you are all thinking, where the heck are the sphardim? Well the problem is that sphardim are the one of the Jewish sects I have trouble making fun of, maybe it’s the sincerity maybe the insincerity, maybe it’s the fact that although they sound like Palestinians at morning prayer- I love the way they sing, daven and brachot. I also don’t have the opportunity to daven in their shulls often and when I do go I am to busy staring at the fine ladies over the mechitza and waiting for the pound-yourself-until-you-need-a-vomitorium- Kiddush. With kibbe on your mind its hard to concentrate on the laining.
There are tons more ways that folks rock the birchas hatorah and like always this is a work in progress with the help of you and your input.