Mistakes—And When to Correct Them!

What do you do when someone says something incorrectly? If someone called you by the wrong name, would you correct them or let it go? What if they said something that just wasn’t true while you were sitting around the dining room table? The answer is probably that it would depend: it would depend on how bad a mistake it was, and it would depend on how bad it would make them feel to get corrected.
Well, guess what? That’s how it works with Torah reading as well! We have been learning lots of stuff about different notes and letters and accents. What if someone gets them wrong? Sure, everyone should practice really well to make sure they do a good job when reading Torah. But no one is perfect, so what do you do if the reader doesn’t get everything right?
Some sources say you have to be very strict.
טָעָה בֵּין תֵּיבָה לְתֵיבָה מַחֲזִירִין אוֹתוֹ... אֲפִילוֹ טָעָה בִּין "אִם" לִ"וְאִם".
If the reader says the wrong word, you send them back to get it right…Even if the mistake was just one letter!
But a midrash says that God still loves it when people make an honest mistake and mispronounce Hebrew words:
עַם הָאָרֶץ שֶׁקּוֹרֵא לְאַהֲבָה אֵיבָה, כְּגוֹן וְאָהַבְתָּ וְאָיַבְתָּ, אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְדִלּוּגוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה.
If someone isn’t a strong Hebrew reader and they read eivah (hatred) instead of ahavah (love), by saying, for example, ve-ayavta (make an enemy) instead of ve-ahavta (love),
God treats that mistake with love!
That makes it sound like maybe making mistakes isn’t such a big deal. And Sefer Ha-Manhig therefore says that if the reader makes a mistake, it’s better to not correct them than to embarrass them in public!
So which do you do? Correct or not correct?
In the end, there was a kind of compromise. If the mistake really changes the meaning, then you are supposed to send the reader back to fix it. But if the mistake just sounds weird but doesn’t give it a totally different meaning, then you can let it go, and maybe you even should, so as not to make the reader feel bad. But really it also depends on how the reader will react. Someone who has practiced reading for years will probably want to get corrected, just like an experienced actor wants to get their lines perfect. But someone who is newer and more nervous may need a little more space to get used to reading Torah. Like with so many things, it depends!
Hope you can become a great Torah reader and that you can encourage other people to read as well!