• Rav Ezra Bick

Introduction to the Study of Talmud

Megilla: 09: 22a


A scan of the classic printed daf can be found at:

Key words and phrases in Hebrew and Aramaic are marked in blue, and their translation/explanation can be seen by placing the cursor over them. 

From time to time, the shiur will include instructions to stop reading and do some task on your own. This will be marked by a

red pause box
It is highly recommended that you follow those instructions.

Last week, we learned a sugya that began by asking how we divide up the reading on Rosh Chodesh among four people without violating one of the rules of reading. Those rules prevent beginning or ending an aliya within three verses of a parsha. The reading of Rosh Chodesh consists of three parshiot - one with 8  verses, one with 2, and one with 5. There is no way for four people to read this reading, even though there are 15 verses altogether.


Review the answer of Rava, based on the dispute between Rav and Shemuel, from last week's shiur, before continuing.

The gemara proposed two answers to this question (well, actually to a different question, but the assumption was that the two cases are parallel). Rav said: doleg; Shemuel said:posek. One can divide 5 verses between two people, either by reading one verse twice (doleg - jump), or by splitting a verse into two, giving half a verse to each one (posek - divide). Each solution presents a problem. Posek contradicts an explicit rule that one is not permitted to divide verses differently than the accepted manner. Shemuel's answer is that here there is no choice and necessity results in the suspension of that rule. Doleg presents a problem for "those who go out and those who come in;" i.e., it raises the possibility that some might think that we read only two verses. The gemara did not give us Rav's answer to this problem. Presumably, since this is a problem only because it might lead to a misconception - in other words, it is not an incorrect reading in itself but only gives a possible impression of something wrong - it is easier to say that in a case of necessity, we have no choice but to ignore the problem.

We now continue in the gemara. We are on 22a, line 20. We are basically in the middle of the sugya. The gemara has presented the two opinions of Rav and Shemuel, and pointed out the problematic of each. It now asks:


We bring a refutation:

  • A parsha of six verses can be read by two;
    And one of five verses is read by one.

  • If the first one read three, the second reads two verses from this parsha and one from the next parsha.
    The other opinion says three (from the next parsha), for we do not start a parsha with less than three verses.

But if it is correct, then according to he who says doleg, let us skip; and according to he who says posek, let us divide!

There it is different, for it is possible in that way (i.e., to read some verses from the next parsha).


  • פרשה של ששה פסוקים קורין אותה בשניים;
    ושל חמישה פסוקין ביחיד.

    קרא ראשון שלשה, השני קורא שניים מפרשה זו ואחד מפרשה אחרת.
    ויש אומרים שלשה, לפי שאין מתחילין בפרשה פחות משלשה פסוקים.

ואם איתא, למאן דאמר דולג נדלוג, ולמאן דאמר פוסק נפסוק!

שאני התם, דאפשר בהכי.

The beraita cited by the gemara gives a rule for reading short parshiot. If there are only two verses left for an oleh, he continues with the next parsha. This beraita includes an opinion - the first one - which is not concerned about reading only one verse from the second parsha, whereas the second opinion, like the gemara we learned last week, does not permit the reading of less than three verses from the new parsha; and hence, you have to read three verses from the second parsha in addition to the two verses from the first.

The gemara asks - why not do either doleg or  posek and have the two olim read the first parsha even though it contains only five verses? The answer is rather simple, especially in light of what we have already learned. Both solutions, posek and doleg, are problematic, and are advised only where there is no better solution. In a regular reading, for instance on Shabbat, you can simply continue reading into the next parsha. But on Rosh Chodesh, you have to squeeze all four olim into these three parshiot, and therefore we utilize one of the two extraordinary solutions of Rav and Shemuel.


This should immediately give rise to an obvious question in your minds, concerning the reading on Rosh Chodesh....

If that is so, you will ask, why can we not continue reading on Rosh Chodesh into the next parsha, so as to have a reading long enough for four olim without any need to squeeze, skip, or divide?

The Ran asks this question, and answers that there must be a rule that prevents reading a section that is not relevant to the particular day. On Shabbat, of course, we are simply reading a chunk of Torah, divided to fit into a yearly cycle. But the reading for a special day, like Rosh Chodesh, has to be about that day. The reading for Rosh Chodesh begins with the daily sacrifice, which of course is offered on Rosh Chodesh as well, and concludes with the sacrifice for Rosh Chodesh. The next section is about Pesach, and the Ran declares that it makes no sense to read it on Rosh Chodesh, even if you need it in order to fit in the four olim.

You may have noticed that I skipped over the short parsha in the middle, between the daily sacrifice and the Rosh Chodesh sacrifice. We also read the musaf sacrifice for Shabbat, which comes between the daily sacrifice and the section dealing with Rosh Chodesh. The Ran answers that Shabbat is relevant, since Rosh Chodesh could fall on Shabbat, even if in this particular case it is not Shabbat. A reading for Pesach though, is simply out of the range of what is relevant for this day.

This is obviously a problematic point for the Ran. One could also simply answer that since the beginning - the daily sacrifice - is relevant, and the end - the Rosh Chodesh musaf - is relevant, the section in the middle is absorbed even if it is not directly relevant on its own.

Let us look now at a Tosafot. The first Tosafot on this page (22a s.v. "ein") points out examples from our custom of reading that appear to defy the rules we have learned. I am citing only the relevant parts of the Tosafot.

We do not begin less than three verses in a parsha.

But our custom is difficult, for we read Va-yechal on fast days, and the first one begins there (from the verse "Va-yechal"), which is two verses from the beginning of the parsha.

And also the one who reads maftir on the intermediate days of Pesach, begins from Vehikravtem, which is at the end of two verses from the beginning of the parsha.

The answer is (literally, "and one can say"), that these readings are different, since they are known always and there is no danger of a mistake. 

אין מתחילין בפרשה פחות מג' פסוקים.


וקשה על מנהג שלנו שאנו קורין בפרשת ויחל בתעניות, והראשון מתחיל שם, והוא לסוף שני פסוקים מפרשה שלמעלה;

וכן המפטיר ביו"ט בחול המועד דפסח, שמתחיל מוהקרבתם שהוא לסוף שני פסוקים מראש הפרשה.

וי"ל דשאני אלו פרשיות, שהרי ידועות הן לעולם וליכא למעוטי.

Tosafot points out that there are readings which begin within three verses of the beginning of a parsha. His answer is not completely clear, although the principle is. The problem with beginning within three verses of the parsha is only because of a possible misconception that would be reached by someone who came in late. In these cases, where the reading is well-known, everybody knows that it begins at this point, and so there is no danger that a late-comer would think that we read only two verses for the previous oleh. I think that the point that is well-known is that this person who begins va-yechal or vehikravtem is the first one, and that there is no  reading before him.

This is another example of the difference between an absolute rule, such as the need to read at least three verses, and a rule based on eliminating misconceptions, which is therefore subject to exceptions.

Back to the gemara

R. Tanchum said in the name of R. Yehoshua b. Levi: The halacha is like the "other opinion".

אמר רבי תנחום אמר ריב"ל: הלכה כיש אומרים.

In other words, one does read less than three verses from the beginning of a parsha.


And R. Tanchum said in the name of R. Yehoshua b. Levi: Just as we do not begin less than three verses in a parsha, so too we do not leave less than three verses in a parsha.

This is obvious! For if the beginning, where the first tanna is lenient, yet the other opinion is strict; leaving (less than three verses to the end), where the first tanna is strict, surely the other opinion is strict.

Answer: You might have thought that people entering late are common, but people leaving early are not common, for they are leaving the sefer Torah and leaving - therefore he told us that.

And the first tanna - what is the difference between leaving, which we do not do, because of those who leave, and beginning - here also we should prevent it because of those entering.

We answer, one who enters asks.

ואמר רבי תנחום אמר ריב"ל: כשם שאין מתחילין בפרשה פחות מג' פסוקים, כך אין משיירין בפרשה פחות משלשה פסוקים.

פשיטא! השתא ומה אתחלתא דקא מקיל תנא קמא מחמירי יש אומרים, שיור דמחמיר תנא קמא לא כל שכן דמחמירי יש אומרים!

מהו דתימא נכנסין שכיחי, יוצאין לא שכיחי, דמנחי ספר תורה ונפקי, קמ"ל.

ותנא קמא, מאי שנא שיורי דלא, משום יוצאין, אתחולי נמי גזירה משום הנכנסין?

אמרי, מאן דעייל שיולי שייל. 

The gemara had previously taken it for granted that one can neither end within three verses of the end of a parsha nor begin within three verses of the beginning, but it turns out that there is a dispute concerning the first point. The first tanna does not think that there is a problem with beginning within three verses of the start of a parsha, although he agrees that one should not stop within three verses of the end.


How does the gemara know this? It is not explicit in the language of the first tanna.

Rashi (s.v. "shiur") explains that the first tanna said that for a parsha of five verses, only one should read. The reason must be that he cannot stop after three verses, which would be only two verses to the end.

R. Tanchum rules that in both cases, we must leave at least three verses to the boundaries of the parsha. The gemara explains that this is not obvious, as the possibility of people leaving early is less than that they would come late. Hence, perhaps we need not worry about ending within three verses of the end of a parsha.

The gemara then asks why in fact the first tanna distinguishes between the two cases. The answer is that the ones entering can ask where the reading began, so he thinks there is no danger of a misconception. They who leave early have no one to ask.

Final part of the gemara.


Rabba the son of Rava sent to Rav Yosef: What is the halacha?

He sent to him: The halacha is doleg, and the middle one is the one who skips.

שלח ליה רבה בריה דרבא לרב יוסף: הלכתא מאי?

שלח ליה: הלכתא דולג, ואמצעי דולג.

The "middle one" is the second oleh. Since the first parsha of the reading for Rosh Chodesh has eight verses, the way to avoid all the problems is to double up a verse in the middle, so that the ends always have a margin of three verses. This is exactly how we read the Torah on Rosh Chodesh today, with the verse "ve-amarta lahem" read twice, once as the last verse of the first oleh, and again as the first verse of the second.


We have, over the last two weeks, learned a number of rules on parsing the reading of the Torah. List all the rules, as well as the priority of each in relation to the others.

That is it for today. See you next week.