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Simanim 144-146 Skipping in the Torah Reading

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #81: Simanim 144 - 146


by Rav Asher Meir





Most of the halakhot in our siman are found in one passage in Yoma, which discusses the kohen gadol's Torah reading on Yom Kippur.


The chazan [sexton] takes the sefer Torah and gives it to the head of the congregation, and the head of the congregation to the second, and the second gives it to the kohen gadol, and the kohen gadol stands and receives [it] and reads "Acharei Mot" [Vayikra 16] and "Akh BeAsor" [Vayikra 23:27], and he rolls up the sefer Torah and places it in his breast, and says, More is written here than what I have read to you.  "U-ve'asor" in Bamidbar [29:7 - all three portions deal with the Yom Kippur avoda] he reads from memory (Yoma 68b).


            The gemara continues (69b):


"And he reads Acharei Mot and Akh BeAsor."  A conflicting source (Mishna Megilla, 24a): "We may skip in the Prophets, but not in the Torah."  That does not contradict - here [the interruption] requires [even] the translator to wait, here it is such that the translator doesn't need to wait.  But did we not learn on regarding the mishna "We may skip in the Prophets, but not in the Torah; and how much may we skip?  So long that the translator need not wait."  This implies that in the Torah [we may] not [skip] at all!  Abaye said, this is no difficulty.  Here it is one topic [the Yom Kippur avoda, and therefore we may skip], there in two topics [it is forbidden in the Torah even if there is no delay].  And so it is taught: We may skip in the Torah in one topic, and in the Prophets [even] in two topics; and in both cases only if the translator does not need to wait.  And we do not skip from one prophet to another, except in the Twelve [Minor] Prophets - as long as we do not skip from the end of the book to its beginning.


       "U-ve'asor" in Bamidbar he reads from memory - Why?  They should roll the scroll and read it [from the scroll]!  Rav Huna son of Rav Yehoshua said in the name of Rav Sheshet: Because we don't roll the sefer Torah in public, because of the honor of the congregation.  Then let them bring another scroll [already rolled to the correct portion] and read [from there]!  Rav Huna bar Yehuda says, because of the insult to the first [scroll, that people will think it is being replaced because it is defective].  And Reish Lakish said, to avoid an unnecessary berakha.


But do we worry about a seeming defect [in the first scroll]?  Did not R. Yitzchak Nafcha say, on Rosh Chodesh Tevet which falls on Shabbat, we take out three Torah scrolls: in one we read the weekly portion, and in the second the Rosh Chodesh reading, and in the third the Chanukah reading! Three [different] people [reading] from three different scrolls does not give the impression of a defect, but one person [reading] from two scrolls gives the impression of a defect.


From here we learn the halakhot of se'if 1, 3, and 4 of our siman, and we see why the halakha of siman 2 is problematic - MB s.k. 10 explains how we get around the problem.




In last week's shiur, we discussed the rule that the Torah reading may not be read from a single chumash of the Torah scroll because of "kevod ha-tzibbur," and we found differing opinions as to whether this was a practical consideration, and therefore may be waived, or a fundamental one which must apply in all circumstances.


A similar question arises this week.  The gemara above explains that we do not roll up the scroll in public because of "kevod ha-tzibbur."  Rashi explains that we do not want to keep them waiting.  So even though there is a seeming slight to the first Torah scroll when we bring out a second scroll, this is better than keeping the congregation waiting.


What if there is no second scroll?  If "kevod ha-tzibbur" is a PRACTICAL consideration, we would assume that the congregation will waive its honor in order to fulfill the customary Torah reading.  But if it is a FUNDAMENTAL consideration, we will have to compromise on the daily reading.


The Beit Yosef cites the Mordekhai (Gittin 463) and the Ritva (on Yoma) as saying that it is better to compromise on kevod ha-tzibbur than on the customary readings.  But the Rashba in a responsum responds to this very question and replies: In this case it is permissible to read the extra reading from a chumash, since in [Yoma] they permitted reading [even] from memory, even though it is forbidden to read Scripture from memory and forbade rolling up the scroll; certainly here where we read from a written book we may not roll up [the Torah scroll].


The Beit Yosef and Darkhei Moshe write that the custom is according to the first opinion,  and this is indeed the ruling of the SA.






And R. Yirmiya - others say R. Chiya bar Abba: The targum of Torah was said by Onkelos the convert according to [the instructions of the Tannaim] R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua.


The targum of the Prophets was said by [the Tanna] Yonatan ben Uziel acccording to [the last prophets] Chagai, Zekharia, and Malakhi, and Eretz Yisrael quaked a distance of four hundred parsa.  A Bat Kol [heavenly voice] came out and said, "Who is it who has revealed my secrets to men?"  Yonatan ben Uziel stood on his feet and said, "It is I who have revealed your secrets to men.  And it is certainly revealed and known before You that I did not act for my own honor nor for my family's honor, rather I acted only for your honor so that there should not be multiplication of disputes in Israel."


He also sought to reveal the targum of the Writings [Ketuvim], then a Bat Kol came out and said, "Enough for you already."  And why - because the final days, of the Mashiach, are there [in Daniel - Rashi].


The targum of the Torah was said by Onkelos the convert?  But Rav Ika bar Avin said in the name of Rav Chananel in the name Rav, "What is the meaning of the verse (Nechemia 8:8) "And they read in the scroll, in the Torah of God, explicated and elaborated so that they should understand the reading?"  "And they read in the scroll, in the Torah of God" - that is the scripture; "explicated" - that is the targum; "and elaborated" - these are the verse separations; "so that they should understand the reading" - these are the ta'amim [the punctuation and melody marks], and others say - the Masoret [explanations of the exact text and their mnemonics].  [Does not this indicate that the targum dates from the time of Ezra?]  They forgot them and then established them anew (Megilla 3a).


I indicate in my translation that the inference from Nechemia 8:8 is that the targum dates from the time of Ezra.  Another understanding is that the targum dates from the time of Moshe, since all of these properties are attributed to "the Torah of God."  In Nedarim 37b this exact midrash is brought to demonstrate that the verse separations are themselves from the Torah; it would then imply that the targum and ta'amim are from the same source.  Tosafot on Kiddushin 49a also learn from here that the targum is from Sinai.


This passage seems to be the Tur's source (cited in MB s.k. 4) for saying that the targum was written with divine inspiration.  Actually, the gemara does not explicitly say that Onkelos' targum when "established anew" was identical to that of Ezra (or Moshe), but that is evidently how the Tur understood it.


As recently as twelve years ago I recall being in a Teimani congregation which still read the targum, and I understand that this is a common custom in Teimani shuls.  The Teimani Tikkunim also still print the targum together with the verse.


By the way, it seems obvious from this gemara that the targum printed as "Targum Yonatan" in our printed chumashim is not by Yonatan ben Uziel - though parts of it are thought by scholars to be quite ancient.






There are two conflicting sources:


Rava bar Rav Huna said: Once the sefer Torah is opened, it is forbidden to speak even of halakha, as it is said (Nechemia 8:5) "[And Ezra opened the scroll in the eyes of all the people - for he was above all the people - ] and as he opened it, all the people stood."  And "standing" refers to being still, as it is said (Iyov 32:16) "And I started, for they did not speak, for they stood and did not answer any more."  R. Zeira said in the name of Rav Chisda, from this [source] (Nechemia 8:3) "and all ears were unto the sefer Torah (Sota 39a).


From here it seems clear that any speech is forbidden during the Torah reading.  Let us compare the following source:


Rav Huna bar Yehuda said in the name of R. Menachem in the name of R. Ami: What is the meaning of the verse (Yeshayahu 1:28) "[And sins and iniquities will be alike crushed,] and those who abandon HaShem will be consumed" - this refers to someone who leaves the sefer Torah open and leaves.  [But] R. Abahu used to leave between readers.  Rav Pappa asked, what about between verses?  This question was not resolved.  Rav Sheshet used to turn away and review his learning, saying: I'm doing my [business] and they're doing theirs (Berakhot 8a).


The Rishonim suggested several solutions: The following opinions are mentioned in the Beit Yosef; some are mentioned in the SA.


i.  The Tosafot on Berakhot suggest that it is permissible to study, but this must be done silently so as not to disturb others.


ii.  The Bahag writes that it is permissible only as long as there will be ten listeners without him.


iii.  Rabbenu Chananel (Tosafot on Sota) suggests that since Rav Sheshet never paused from his learning, it was permissible for him - this is similar to the exemption from tefilla for one whose learning is his entire occupation (SA OC 106:2)


iv.  Tosafot on Sota weigh the possibility that the leniency is specifically for Rav Sheshet, since he was blind and wasn't personally obligated in the Torah reading (since it is forbidden to read scripture from memory).


v.  Rabbenu Yona says the leniency of Rav Sheshet was merely that he turned away, and that any person who turns away can learn Torah instead of hearing the reading.


vi.  The Kolbo suggests that the problem is only because the person studying could be called up to the Torah.  Since he interrupted hearing the reading by studying, the original blessing on the Torah reading can no longer apply to his aliya.  But this problem doesn't exist anymore, according to our current custom that each person called up to the Torah says his own berakha.


vii.  The Arukh HaShulchan mentions that he heard from one Torah great that Rav Sheshet learned only during the targum.  When he said "I am occupied in my business and they in theirs," this means that he is learning Torah since he already understands the reading, and the congregation is listening intently to the targum since they do not understand Hebrew.


How these solutions bear on our actual behavior is crucially dependent on an additional question:




This is a famous question.  The BH (s.v. Ve-yesh) takes for granted that "Takanat Ezra" (that the weekly Torah readings should be on Monday and Thursday, and additionally that the Torah be read at Mincha on Shabbat) obligates each individual to hear each Torah reading at least once.  That is why he wonders if all of the leniencies refer only to someone who has already heard the reading.


The BH brings a proof from Shibolei HaLeket, though examining the SHL as cited by the Beit Yosef it does not seem that he is referring to Takanat Ezra at all but rather to a GENERAL requirement to pay attention to the Torah reading - in which case having already heard the reading would not help us.


The BH also recognizes that the SA does NOT seem to recognize such an obligation.  We can infer this from the end of se'if 2, where the Beit Yosef distinguishes between the regular Torah readings and the reading of "zakhor," which is an individual obligation.  It also seems to follow from the SA's permission to read "portion twice and targum once" during the Torah reading. 


(This second proof is not quite airtight, since the possibility exists that this means only that one of the portion readings may be made together with the public reading, where the individual is never "out of synch" with the public reading.  This seems to be the understanding of the Prisha at the beginning of OC 285.  Although one might think that there is no novelty in this ruling, actually it has several novel elements.  For one thing, we might be concerned that it would be forbidden because it will disturb others.  Furthermore, we might think that it is permissible, but that it does not count as "portion twice and targum once," (as indeed the Levush rules that reading the portion together with the reader does not count as one of the two required private readings).  However, the Terumat HaDeshen (24) explicitly learned from this ruling  that one who is occupied with the parsha doesn't need to hear the public reading.


It is interesting that the Ra'avan rules that one who hears the public reading does not need to read the portion or targum at all.  He views the portion twice and targum once as a substitute, the two portion readings correspond to the one called to the Torah and the reader, and the targum as against the translator.  So there would be no point in reading the portion-targum during the Torah reading.  But almost all Rishonim rule like the Rambam who says that even one who hears the reading must also review the portion by himself.


The Arukh HaShulchan seems to accept that the ruling of the SA does not obligate the individual to hear the reading, for he says that nowadays all of these leniencies are irrelevant since the ignorant will copy the studier's example and neglect the Torah reading WITHOUT learning - but he makes an exception for someone who has obviously already heard the reading.  (See MB 124:17 for a parallel ruling.)


So in the end he reaches the same practical conclusion as the MB, though for a different reason.