Keeping My Feet Together

Many articles on various Rosh Hashanah topics are available for reading or downloading under the headings “Rosh Hashanah,” “Shofar” or “Tashlich.”

Keeping My Feet Together

Question #1: Proper posture

“The Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah is very long. Is it sufficient that I stand with my heels touching, or must my feet be side-by-side touching their entire length?”

Question #2: Standing straight

“Why do we keep our feet together during kedushah but not when responding to kaddish?”

Question #3: Kaddish together

“Is it required to have one’s feet together when reciting kaddish?”

Answer:

Fulfilling the mitzvah of davening requires that we observe many halachic details. The Rambam organizes these laws under two headings: essential and non-essential components. In Chapter 4 of Hilchos Tefillah, he lists five essential components of prayer, meaning the Shemoneh Esrei. These are:

1) Cleansing one’s hands before prayer

2) Having one’s body properly covered

3) Praying must be in a place that is clean and without inappropriate odor

4) Not davening when one senses bodily needs

5) Having basic, proper intent and focus

The Rambam calls these five requirements “essential,” which means that a prayer missing any of these qualities does not fulfill the mitzvah and one is required to recite it again. Someone who cannot meet these requirements is exempt from praying until he can meet them. Therefore, it is preferred that someone unable to fulfill the basics of these requirements miss the prayer rather than recite a tefillah that violates these laws. Many of these topics are available for reading or downloading on RabbiKaganoff.com

Non-essentials

In Chapter 5 of Hilchos Tefillah, the Rambam lists eight non-essential components of prayer, meaning that these are important aspects, but one fulfills the mitzvah to pray even if they are entirely missing. These eight aspects are:

  1. Standing during prayer
  2. Facing the Beis Hamikdash
  3. Correct positioning
  4. Appropriate attire
  5. Proper location
  6. Volume
  7. Bowing
  8. Prostrating

The Rambam notes that these requirements are not essential, and that, therefore, someone who failed or was unable to do them has fulfilled the mitzvah to daven. Furthermore, one who is unable to fulfill any of these aspects should daven anyway. Therefore, although davening while properly attired is very important, one who will be unable to dress appropriately should daven and observes this law only to the extent that he can under the circumstances.

Correct positioning

One article cannot cover all the laws of these rules, so here we will discuss one aspect of the requirement to position one’s body in a certain way. The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 5:4) states the following aspects of positioning one’s body:

When standing to daven shemoneh esrei, one’s feet should be together and alongside one another.

One’s eyes should be facing downward, yet his heart should be directed upward, as if he is standing in heaven.

One’s hands should be resting on one’s heart, with the right hand atop the left, standing in fear and awe like a servant before his master.

One should not place his hands on his hips.

As I mentioned above, although these factors are important components of proper prayer, they are not essential, and one who neglected to do them has fulfilled the requirement to pray (see Mishnah Berurah 95:1; Kaf Hachayim 95:2). Therefore, someone who cannot put his feet together should daven without his feet together, rather than not daven at all (Kaf Hachayim 95:3).

Feet together

The Rambam states: “When standing to daven shemoneh esrei, one’s feet should be together and alongside one another.” The basis for this ruling is the Gemara (Brachos 10b) which mentions this requirement based on the following. In Yechezkel’s opening prophecy, he shares with us a vision of the heavenly courts, describing the feet of the angels as veragleihem regel yesharah, literally, “their feet were a straight foot” (Yechezkel 1:7). According to Targum and one interpretation of Rashi, the verse means that the angels stood in a way that their feet lay one alongside the other. The Gemara explains that when we daven we should also have our feet aligned, which Rashi explains to mean that one foot should be alongside the other so that they appear as one “foot.”

This passage of Gemara leaves one puzzled. Indeed, Yechezkel reports to us that the angels stood with their feet together. But why is a person who is praying required to emulate the position of the angels? Are we also required to pray while flying, as the angels sometimes do?

A simple approach

On a simple level, one could explain that standing with one’s feet together makes one feel somewhat vulnerable and therefore humble, and that this position allows one to fulfill davening with trepidation and humility (Levush, Orach Chayim 95:1). However, although this approach seems to supply a good reason for us to have our feet together when we pray, it does not seem to explain what the Gemara was saying since this has nothing to do with the fact that the angels stand this way.

The latter question is discussed by an early commentator, the Rashba (in his commentary to the Gemara Brachos), who writes the following:

“I was asked by someone who is an enemy of our people [probably someone trying to proselytize among the Jewish people]: Why do we keep our feet together when we pray, and what proof is being brought from the holy bearers of the divine chariot to someone praying?

“I responded as follows: ‘There are two major reasons for this. The first reason is that man’s body was created with limbs — his hands and legs — whose purpose is to enable him to reach and acquire what he wants and to distance himself from harm. The hands bring him items of pleasure, push away from him harmful items, and are what he uses against his enemy in warfare. His feet move him great distances in a very short time, and enable him to escape from harm.

“It is essential to prayer that a person realize that none of these abilities are man’s own activities and they will not save him without G-d’s help. Everything is dependent on G-d’s will. In order to entrench this idea in one’s soul, one must place one’s feet together when praying, to symbolize that his feet are completely bound and paralyzed. They are without any ability to flee from danger. This forces man to realize that all his abilities of locomotion are only because G-d helps him.” This reason is quoted by the Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 95 in the name of a much later authority, the Mahari Abohav.

The Rashba continues: “The same is true with one’s hands. The Gemara teaches that in times of difficulty, Rava would fold his arms when he prayed… This position demonstrates that it is as if one’s arms are bound and one is without help except for Hashem.”

The Rashba then adds: “There is another reason why we assume the position of the angels when we pray: The human species, whose purpose is to recognize the Creator and to praise He who created man from nothing, has a specific responsibility to serve G-d and to keep His commandments. Man is an angel, an emissary, placed on earth, just as the celestial angels serve and recognize their Creator. Mankind can therefore be called malach” (as he is in Malachi 2:7), which means G-d’s messenger. Thus, the Rashba explains that placing one’s feet together, whether performed by man or by angels, demonstrates a lack of ability, thereby recognizing that all our strength at all times comes from Hashem. We are also showing that we are, indeed, comparable to angels, since we are fulfilling G-d’s mission on Earth. To quote the Zohar (parshas Pinchas #229), “The Holy One, blessed is He, said: Those who pray with their feet together like the angels, I will open the gates of the Sanctuary for them to enter.”

There is yet another reason why we pray with our feet touching, side-by-side, which is that when we are talking to Hashem, it is essential that we be fully and exclusively focused. This places us on the levels of the angels who are always focused exclusively on their Divine mission.

Is regel a foot?

After explaining why we pray in a position similar to that of the angels, the Rashba adds: “You should realize that the word regel has a double meaning, for it means not only the foot but it also means cause (as in Bereishis 33:14 and 30:30). According to this interpretation, the verse in Yechezkel 1:7, veragleihem regel yesharah, should be translated as their cause is a straight cause, meaning that the angels consistently follow the path of truth.

“In this manner, someone standing and praying before Hashem must abandon thoughts of himself, and focus completely on the prayer he is reciting. Concentrating all his energies on this goal develops him such that everything he does, all the time, should be only for the purpose of strengthening his body in order to serve Hashem. Placing his legs together demonstrates having a straightforward cause directed toward the purpose for which he was created — to serve G-d. For this reason, man can be compared to the chariot that bears Hashem’s presence into the world.”

Should the front of the toes be separated?

Having established the basis for the practice that one’s feet should be together when reciting shemoneh esrei, we find a discussion in the rishonim whether the feet should be slightly separated in front. Rabbeinu Yonah quotes some who hold that the tips of both feet should not touch, so that it appears like a calf’s foot with its split hooves. Rabbeinu Yonah disputes this, saying that the requirement is only that the feet be together like one foot — there is no mention of making one’s feet look like a split hoof.

Nevertheless, we still find a dispute among early acharonim whether one should lechatchilah stand with a slight split at the front of one’s toes or not. The Olas Tamid writes that this is preferred. However, the Yeshuos Yaakov disagrees, contending that one should not have one’s feet slightly separate. He notes that the angels cover their feet that look like those of a calf so as not to be reminiscent of the eigel hazahav, the Golden Calf. Therefore, we should deliberately not have our feet look like this, reasons the Yeshuos Yaakov.

The Yerushalmi

Having quoted the passage of the Talmud Bavli that explains how we should stand when we pray, we should be aware that there is also a passage of Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachos 1:1) regarding this issue. There, the Yerushalmi quotes a dispute between Rabbi Levi and Rabbi Simon, one of whom held the same opinion as the Bavli that one should daven with one’s feet pressed together and the other holding that, when davening, one should assume the position that the kohanim did when walking in the Beis Hamikdash. There, the kohanim took very small steps such that the big toe of one foot was next to the heel of the other when they walked.

Since in a dispute between the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi we rule according to the Bavli, it would appear that the dispute recorded by the Yerushalmi is halachically irrelevant. The commentaries are thus surprised to note that the Tur quotes the Yerushalmi, leading the Beis Yosef and the other commentaries to question why the Tur does so. Many answers are proposed to explain the Tur’s position. I will quote here two of them, whose answers yield halachic ramifications.

The Bach explains as follows: In his opinion, halachah requires that one daven with one’s feet in one of the two positions advocated by the Yerushalmi. The Bach contends that if one’s feet are in neither of these positions one has not fulfilled the requirements of prayer. The Tur agrees that it is preferable to place one’s feet alongside one another, since we rule as the Bavli does. However, he quotes the Yerushalmi because someone who failed to position his feet in either of these positions is required to daven again. Furthermore, someone who cannot align his feet alongside one another should position them so that the toe of one foot is alongside the heel of the other. Thus, although we follow the ruling of the Bavli that one should daven with the two feet alongside one another, it is also important to know the conclusion of the Yerushalmi, which is why the Tur included this information.

Several authorities note that, according to this approach, the Tur’s interpretation of the topic has him in dispute with the Rambam’s ruling, quoted above, that positioning is never essential to prayer, and that one fulfills the mitzvah of davening with one’s feet in any position. Since they see no evidence that such a dispute exists, they are reticent to create one on this basis and instead suggest other approaches to resolve why the Tur quoted the Yerushalmi. Notwithstanding this conclusion, some authorities opine that someone who davened with his feet apart should daven a voluntary prayer (called a tefilas nedavah), to make certain that he fulfilled the mitzvah (Olas Tamid). Later authorities reject this approach and rule that one should assume that he fulfilled the mitzvah (Kaf Hachayim).

Another approach

The Aruch Hashulchan suggests a different explanation why the Tur presented the Yerushalmi’s discussion. He explains that the Tur wants us to realize that someone who is unable to have his feet together for whatever reason, but who can assume the alternative position of having his toe touching his heel, should daven in the latter position. According to this approach, everyone accepts that these rules are all only lechatchilah and that one who davened with his feet in a completely different position has fulfilled the mitzvah, bedi’evid, after the fact.

Sitting with your feet together?

Is someone who must pray from a sitting position, either because of health reasons or because of travel, required to daven with his feet together? The Pri Megadim rules that he should still keep his feet together while davening. He further explains that someone who must daven while sitting should not lean backwards or to the sides while praying, and should also be careful not to stretch or cross his legs while davening, because these positions all convey an air of conceit.

All or nothing?

At this point, let us refer to the first question with which I opened our article: “The Shemoneh Esrei on Rosh Hashanah is very long. Is it sufficient that I stand with my heels touching, or must my feet be side-by-side touching their entire length?”

From what we have seen, it is clear that the proper position for davening is to have one’s feet side-by-side and touching their entire length.

Kedushah

At this point, let us address the remaining of our opening questions:

“Why do we stand with our feet together during kedushah but not when responding to kaddish?”

“Is it required to have one’s feet together when reciting kaddish?”

By way of introduction, let me quote a discussion from a late rishon, the Terumas Hadeshen (#28). He quotes the following question:

“Should an individual align his feet when he responds to the chazzan’s kedushah?”

To which he answers, “It appears to me that he should, since the prayer states, We shall sanctify his name just as they sanctify His Name in the highest heavens, and in the heavens they recite the kedushah with a ‘straight foot,’ as the verse reads ‘their feet were a straight foot.’ We should attempt to act like the angels to the best of our ability; there is neither conceit nor foolishness in our doing so. Indeed, this is the proper way to act.” This answer of the Terumas Hadeshen is quoted subsequently by all the authorities, and is codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 95:4).

Borchu

Although none of the reasons mentioned above applies to reciting Borchu, that is, we are not trying to compare ourselves to angels, nor is it the ultimate prayer; nevertheless, the custom is that Borchu is recited with one’s feet together. This custom is recorded by some late authorities (Aruch Hashulchan). Therefore, one should align one’s feet when reciting Borchu. However, since there is no halachic source that requires reciting Borchu with one’s feet together, one should not admonish someone who recites Borchu with his feet apart.

Kaddish

I have found no early source that requires one to have one’s feet together while reciting kaddish. Although it is standard practice that people recite kaddish with their feet together, since there does not appear to be an early halachic source for this practice, one should not admonish someone who fails to do so.

Conclusion

Understanding how much Chazal were concerned about the relatively minor aspects of davening, such as how we position our feet, should make us more aware of the fact that davening is our attempt at building a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three very high points — the three times that we daven, and from these three prayers we gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day.

 

Personal Supplications on Shabbos and Yom Tov

In Parshas Eikev, the Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed for the Jewish people. Would he have been permitted to do this on Shabbos? And would he have been permitted to pray for the needs of an individual on Shabbos, or perhaps just for the entire community?

Personal Supplications on Shabbos and Yom Tov

Question # 1: Harachaman Hullabaloo

“I know that some people do not recite the harachamans at the end of bensching on Shabbos, but I was raised saying them. Am I doing something wrong?”

Question #2: The Monotonous Mishebeirach Mode

Iam Impatient calls me with the following question: “Can we do anything to reduce the number of mishebeirachs in our shul? It is taking longer and longer, and I find the delay quite disturbing.”

Question #3: Kibud Av versus Kavod Shabbos

Michal’s father asks her to arrange a minyan to daven on his behalf on Shabbos. May she?

Question #4: On Shabbos morning, Shlomoh asks the shul’s gabbai. “My father will be having surgery this week. Can we say a chapter of Tehillim on his behalf after davening when everyone is still in shul?”

Answer:

In several places, the Gemara mentions that one may not pray for individual needs on Shabbos (e.g., Taanis 19a; Bava Basra 91a; Yerushalmi, Shabbos, 15:3). At least two reasons are quoted for this prohibition. Some sources include it under what the Navi Yeshaya (58:13) commanded when he declared, Vechibadto mei’asos derachecha mimetzo cheftzecha vedabeir davar, “You shall honor the Shabbos by not performing your own matters, seeking out your own needs and speaking of them” (Vayikra Rabbah 34:16; Rashba, Shabbos 113a). This proscription is usually simply called dabeir davar.

A second opinion

Others prohibit praying for personal requests on Shabbos because it violates one’s oneg Shabbos. Praying for personal needs causes one to focus on what troubles him, which leads a person to be sorrowful (see Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 30:12 and Ran, Shabbos, Rif page 5b). Shabbos is to be a day of joy.

According to both reasons, dabeir davar and oneg Shabbos, we now understand why, on Motza’ei Shabbos, we insert the passage atah chonantanu, which is a declaration of havdalah ending Shabbos, in the fourth brocha of shemoneh esrei, which is the first of the weekday brachos. The reason is that we may not recite the middle brachos of the shemoneh esrei until we have recited havdalah (Yerushalmi, Brachos end of 5:2; Shu”t HaRashba #739; Magen Avraham 294:1). Someone who forgot to recite atah chonantanu and realizes while in the middle of shemoneh esrei may continue the shemoneh esrei, but should not add any personal supplications to his prayer. The reason for this ruling will be explained shortly.

“Provide us, sustain us…”

If personal supplications are prohibited on Shabbos, how can we say in our bensching the personal requests to Hashem “Provide us, sustain us…”? The same question exists in many of the prayers that we recite on Shabbos, such as the Yehi ratzon prayer we recite at the end of the morning birchos hashachar. How are we permitted to recite this prayer on Shabbos?

This question is asked in the Gemara Yerushalmi, which I quote:

We learned: It is prohibited to pray for one’s needs on Shabbos. Rabbi Ze’eira asked Rabbi Chiya bar Abba, “When reciting the bensching, may one say ‘Tend to us, provide us with livelihood’ [re’einu, zuneinu, in the third brocha]?” Rabbi Chiya bar Abba answered him that this is permitted because this is the standard structure of the brocha (Yerushalmi, Shabbos 15:3).

Thus, the Yerushalmi introduces a new idea: that something that is a standard part of a tefillah or brocha may be recited on Shabbos, a concept called tofeis brocha. For this reason, we do not modify the words of bensching or the other brachos that we usually recite.

What is the logic behind permitting tofeis brocha? This is still a request that should be prohibited for one of the two reasons mentioned above.

I found three interpretations to explain why we may recite a prayer that is included in a tofeis brocha.

I. Distorted brachos

The Korban HaEidah, one of the primary commentaries on the Yerushalmi, explains that tofeis brocha is permitted because of concern that changing the wording on Shabbos might cause one to get confused and recite the entire brocha incorrectly.

II. Changing the nusach

The Rivash (Shu”t HaRivash #512) explains the reason for tofeis brocha is because one does not change a text established by Chazal. Thus, the prohibition against making personal requests on Shabbos never applied to standard texts. The Rivash then extends this idea even to selichos and piyutim – and it is for this reason that when we recite these passages on Shabbos that falls on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we recite the exact same text as we do when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fall on a weekday.

III. Familiarity breeds content

Others provide yet a third reason to explain why one may recite a supplication that is incorporated in a tofeis brocha: something that one says regularly does not cause him suffering (Kuntrus Bakashos BeShabbos page 3, quoting Yafeh Mareh and Atares Paz 1:2:2). This approach assumes that the reason we may not pray for personal supplications on Shabbos is not because of the takkanah of dabeir davar but only because of the reason of oneg Shabbos.

Harachaman Hullabaloo

At this point, we can already discuss the first question raised above:

“I know that some people do not recite the harachamans at the end of bensching on Shabbos, but I was raised saying them. Am I doing something wrong?”

No, you are in good company, together with many well-respected poskim. The Mishnah Berurah (188:9) rules that one may recite the harachamans on Shabbos – they are also considered tofeis brachos.

Some authorities extend the lenience of tofeis brocha considerably, ruling that the prohibition against reciting supplications on Shabbos applies only to a prayer that one constructs oneself, but does not apply to any standardized prayer (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim, Orach Chayim 2:46).

Pikuach nefesh

Aside from the situation of tofeis brachos, there is another case when one may recite personal supplications on Shabbos, and that is when the situation is one of pikuach nefesh, life-threatening emergency. Just as saving lives supersedes Shabbos and most mitzvos of the Torah, so one is permitted to pray for deliverance when faced by an immediate life-threatening emergency. For example, the Mishnah (Taanis 19a) teaches that one prays on Shabbos that Hashem save the people when a city is surrounded by invaders, when a river overflows, or when a boat is floundering at sea.

The same is true for an individual.  Just as pikuach nefesh of an individual supersedes Shabbos, so, too, praying for an individual’s deliverance in a life-threatening circumstance supersedes Shabbos when it is a sakanas hayom – a circumstance that presents an immediate, life-threatening emergency (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 288:9, 10). Therefore, if someone is very seriously ill and his life is in immediate danger, we say Tehillim and pray on his behalf, even on Shabbos. However, if the person is seriously ill but not in immediate danger, we do not say Tehillim for him on Shabbos, but wait until after Shabbos. Thus, the Mishnah Berurah (288:28) rules that a woman giving birth or a woman who gave birth within the past week are both considered sakanas hayom, and one may pray for them on Shabbos.

Out-of-town ill

Is one permitted to daven on Shabbos for an ill person who is not in his city? Why does it make a difference where the ill person is?

Some authorities contend that since one does not know if his condition is a sakanas hayom, these prayers might be desecrating Shabbos unnecessarily (Maharil cited by Machatzis HaShekel 288:14). The accepted practice follows those who permit these prayers, considering them a safek pikuach nefesh (Nachalas Shivah).

Can I get rid of all those mishebeirachs?

At this point, let us examine a different one of our opening questions.

Iam Impatient asked: “Can we do anything to reduce the number of mishebeirachs in our shul? It is taking longer and longer, and I find the delay quite disturbing.”

I mentioned above the dispute as to whether the prohibition of personal supplications on Shabbos is because of the law of dabeir davar, meaning that one should not discuss this-worldly matters on Shabbos, or it is because of oneg Shabbos — praying for personal needs may cause one to become sorrowful. Is there any difference in halachah between the two reasons?

Indeed, there are some differences in halachah that result from this disagreement. One dispute that results is germane to whether one may recite a mishebeirach for an ill person on Shabbos. The standard text for this mishebeirach when recited on a weekday includes a short prayer that the ill person should have a complete recovery. Logically, it should be prohibited to recite this on Shabbos, since it is a private request. Yet, some early authorities rule that when the ill person is not nearby, one may recite these mishebeirachs on Shabbos, reasoning that one does not become sorrowful when reciting a mishebeirach for someone not present (responsum of Rav Yaakov Beirav, in Shu”t Avkas Rocheil #11). This line of reasoning assumes that the prohibition of praying for personal requests on Shabbos is because it causes suffering.

However, several other authorities prohibit reciting a mishebeirach for ill people on Shabbos, expressly stating that it is forbidden because of dabeir davar (She’ei’las Yaavetz #64; Gra”z, Orach Chayim 288:9). The She’ei’las Yaavetz prohibits reciting a mishebeirach for the ill on Shabbos except for a choleh who is in the category of sakanas hayom. He also prohibits reciting these mishebeirachs for an additional reason that will make Iam happy: Yaavetz contends that they are prohibited because they inconvenience the community by delaying the services (tircha de’tzibura).

A compromise position rules that one may recite a mishebeirach for ill people on Shabbos provided that one modifies the text, and instead of closing with a prayer for a swift recovery, one blesses the ill person, and then makes a statement that on Shabbos we are not permitted to cry out, but recovery is soon to come (Magen Avraham 288:14).

The prevalent custom in most places today follows the last approach, and that is why, in many shullen, mishebeirachs are recited for the ill even when it is not a sakanas hayom. Of course, this ruling, which is probably the practice in Iam’s shul, is what is upsetting Iam.

Some authorities add an additional factor in favor of the reciting of the mishebeirach: it is considered a special merit to pray for someone during, or immediately after, the reading of the Torah. To quote the Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 335:12): “If one has a family member who is ill… the custom is to pray in shul during kerias haTorah for those who are sick, for then Divine Compassion is aroused.”

In answer to what is the best thing to do, I refer to a responsum of an earlier authority, the Rivash (Shu”t HaRivash #512) on a related topic: whether one should recite Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos of Rosh Hashanah, Shabbos Shuvah and Yom Kippur. After noting the different customs that he saw in several communities, and explaining the reasons why reciting Avinu Malkeinu on Shabbos does or does not violate the prohibition against reciting personal requests on Shabbos, he concludes that one should follow the prevalent local custom. Similarly, regarding whether one recites a mishebeirach on Shabbos, he should follow established community or shul custom.

May I pray for personal spiritual requests?

The Mishnah Berurah (288:22) permits praying on Shabbos for spiritual help or for any other request that is not a result of difficult circumstances. It seems that this should be permitted according to both reasons mentioned above. According to the first reason, one should not pray on Shabbos about one’s own needs, but spiritual needs are Hashem’s realm. According to the second reason, most people do not become saddened regarding their spiritual failings and “troubles.”

Based on the above, on Shabbos one may recite the prayer of Rav Nechunia ben Hakanah requesting divine assistance for one’s Torah learning (Halichos Shlomoh, 14:11).

Yom Tov versus Shabbos

Does the prohibition against requesting personal supplications apply only on Shabbos, or does it apply equally on Yom Tov? This topic is discussed by the halachic authorities in a variety of places.

The Magen Avraham (128:70) notes that although the custom among Ashkenazim outside Eretz Yisroel is to duchen only on Yom Tov, some communities do not duchen when Yom Tov falls on Shabbos. He suggests the reason for this practice is because the members of the congregation recite the prayer for bad dreams when the kohanim duchen, and that, if the kohanim duchen on Shabbos, people will say this prayer on Shabbos, which violates the prohibition against reciting personal supplications. The Magen Avraham states that there is no concern with reciting this prayer on Yom Tov, notwithstanding the fact that it qualifies as a personal supplication. Although he certainly agrees that one may not recite personal supplications on Yom Tov, he rallies evidence that there is a difference between Yom Tov and Shabbos regarding the severity of this prohibition. After all, we omit reciting the prayer Avinu Malkeinu on Rosh Hashanah when it falls on Shabbos, yet we have no problem with reciting Avinu Malkeinu when Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekday. We could similarly demonstrate this difference between Yom Tov and Shabbos from the fact that we recite certain personal requests and the 13 midos of Hashem when we take out the sefer Torah on Yom Tov, but refrain from reciting these prayers when Yom Tov falls on Shabbos.

However, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 576:12) implies that there is no difference between Yom Tov and Shabbos – that personal requests are prohibited equally on both days, a position reiterated by other later authorities (Shu”t Rav Pe’alim 2:46). It appears that Ashkenazim and Sefardim differ as to the accepted position. Ashkenazim follow the ruling of the Magen Avraham and are more lenient on Yom Tov, whereas Sefardim are stricter about reciting personal requests on Yom Tov.

Kibud Av versus Kavod Shabbos

At this point, I would like to address the third question asked above: “Michal’s father asks her to arrange a minyan to daven on his behalf on Shabbos. May she?”

To answer this question, I refer to a responsum on a related topic from Rav Moshe Feinstein.

On the last day of Pesach, someone who was seriously ill, but not a sakanas yom, requested that the members of a shul pray on his behalf. They then recited a few chapters of Tehillim on his behalf and recited the appropriate prayer. After Yom Tov, they were able to ask Rav Moshe whether they had done the correct thing.

Rav Moshe ruled that although this was not a sakanas yom, since the ill person himself had requested that they pray on his behalf, and he was in a situation of general pikuach nefesh, it was proper that they prayed on his behalf. Although ordinarily one may not pray on someone’s behalf if it is not a sakanas yom, in this situation we do pray on his behalf out of concern that he would become upset, which could aggravate his precarious condition. This concept is called shelo titrof daato, that the ill person should not become distressed, and is used in several different halachic contexts.

However, Rav Moshe notes, this ruling applies only when the ill person himself made the request. If family members ask that people pray on his behalf on Shabbos, one should not accede to their request, if it is not a case of sakanas yom (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:105).

At this point, I would like to refer to the last question I raised above: “On Shabbos morning, Shlomoh asks the shul’s gabbai. “My father will be having surgery this week. Can we say a chapter of Tehillim on his behalf after davening, when everyone is still in shul?”

The answer to the question is that since there is no sakanas hayom here and the ill person himself was not the source of the request, one should not say Tehillim and daven for him until after Shabbos.

Conclusion

The words of Yeshaya that include the words dabeir davar are read as part of the haftarah that we recite on Yom Kippur. There the Navi concludes “If you remove your internal yoke from yourself, pointing fingers at one another and evil speech… then Hashem will always guide you… if you refrain from doing your matters on My holy day… you honor it by not performing your own matters, seeking out your own needs and speaking of them. Then you will delight with Hashem and I will mount you on the highest places on Earth. I will feed you the heritage of your father Yaakov, for Hashem has spoken.”

 

Poetic Controversies

Ashkenazim and Sefardim recite very different kinos on Tisha B’Av and different piyutim on most other occasions. This provides an opportunity to discuss:

Poetic Controversies

Question #1: How many machzorim?

“I am a Sefardiyah by birth, and recently became engaged to a wonderful Ashkenazi man who gave me a beautiful, five-volume set of machzorim. I looked at my new set of machzorim and could not find the selichot recited in Elul anywhere in the Rosh Hashanah machzor, nor in any of the other volumes. Where will I find them? I also could not find any volume for Tisha B’Av, but I also could not find those prayers in the Ashkenazi siddur my chatan bought me.”

Question #2: The Italian connection

“Why are so many of our piyutim written by Italian authors?”

Introduction:

Our prayers have been enhanced by the inclusion of many religious poems written by various authors over the years. During the yomim nora’im, virtually every Jewish community recites piyutim, poetic liturgy, as part of the davening. We also prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with the recital of selichos, which also includes piyutim. Such famous and standard prayers as Yigdal, Adon Olam, and An’im Zemiros all qualify as piyutim. The zemiros that we sing at our Shabbos meals are also piyutim, as is Dvei Haseir, written by Dunash, recited prior to bensching at a wedding or sheva brachos, and Yom Le’yabasha, written by Rav Yehudah Halevi, that is chanted at a seudas bris. And do you know of a community that does not begin Shabbos by singing Lecha Dodi, written by Rav Shlomoh Alkabetz?

At one time, in Ashkenazic circles, the davening of all the yomim tovim, all special Shabbosos, and even Purim and Tisha B’Av was graced with piyutim specially suited to the occasion. The themes, history and emotions of each season and special day were expressed through these beautiful writings.

In the last generation, the recital of piyutim is definitely on the downswing. When I was young, during the birchos kerias shema of maariv on Pesach, Sukkos and Shavuos, most shullen recited piyutim, a custom that is in most places not observed today. About the only shullen where I hear this being practiced today are chassidishe minyanim or those following the nusach Ashkenaz traditions of the old German communities.

In the yeshivish world, what is left over from our long tradition of these piyutim are the zemiros of Shabbos, the piyutim recited during yomim nora’im, the kinos, and the selichos.

One interesting exception that has survived is the recital of Akdamus at the beginning of kerias haTorah on Shavuos, which is still recited in every Ashkenazi shul I have ever attended. (Sefardim do not recite Akdamus, as I will soon explain.)

Kinos versus selichos

Since I mentioned the remaining use of piyutim for both selichos and kinos, it is interesting to note a difference between the selichos and the kinos of Tisha B’Av. Although the same basic structure of selichos is followed by most Ashkenazic communities, different practices developed concerning which selichos are recited on which days and in what order. The differences are significant enough so as to make it necessary to make sure that one has a copy of the selichos that follows the exact minhag followed by the shul that one is attending.

On the other hand, with very slight differences, the same kinos for Tisha B’Av are recited virtually universally by all the different communities of Ashkenaz.

Ashkenazim and Sefardim

I once attended Rosh Hashanah davening with a Sefardic minyan, and I can advise someone doing this to have a Sefardic machzor handy, which I did not. Although many different customs have developed among various Ashkenazic communities, the same sources and the same style of piyutim are used by all. However, the piyutim recited by the Sefardim are completely different. Very few of the piyutim recited by Sefardim are familiar to Ashkenazim and vice versa. For example, the writings of the Italian school of paytanim (authors of piyutim) who figure so significantly among the Ashkenazim are never part of the Sefardic prayer. Similarly, Rav Elazar Hakalir, who figures so predominantly in the Ashkenazim’s prayer, is not used by the Sefardim. Most of their piyutim are of relatively late vintage and from four authors. The predominant paytanim used by the Sefardim are Rav Shelomoh ibn Gabirol, Rav Yehudah Halevi, Rav Moshe ibn Ezra and Rav Avraham ibn Ezra, all of the Spanish school of talmidei chachamim.

It is also interesting to note that in the Sefardic custom, fewer piyutim are recited, which is surprising, since the Jews of medieval Spain were far more noted for their poetry than were the Ashkenazim. Still, Sefardim recite piyutim as part of the selichos, during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur davening and on Tisha B’Av, which Ashkenazim call the reciting of kinos. By the way, although Sefardim say far less piyutim than Ashkenazim, they do say selichos after all five tefilos on Yom Kippur as well as piyutim before kedusha.

How many machzorim?

At this point, we can address one of our opening questions.

“I am a Sefardiyah by birth, and recently became engaged to a wonderful Ashkenazi man who gave me a beautiful, five-volume set of machzorim. I looked at my new set of machzorim and could not find the selichot recited in Elul anywhere in the Rosh Hashanah machzor, nor in any of the other volumes. Where will I find it? I also could not find any volume for Tisha B’Av, but I also could not find this in the Ashkenazi siddur my chatan bought me.”

The answer to this question is interesting. In the customs of bnei Ashkenaz, every day’s selichos is completely different from every other day. Although the Sefardim recite selichos the entire month of Elul, they have no separate selichos book. This is because they recite the same selichos every day, and the selichos are usually included in their Rosh Hashanah machzor. A Sefardi set of machzorim might include three volumes: one for Rosh Hashanah, one for Yom Kippur and one for Tisha B’Av. Since they do not recite piyutim on the other holidays, the printers did not always find it worthwhile to produce machzorim for those days, since a standard siddur and chumash suffice. Others include a fourth volume, which is for all three regalim.

On the other hand, when a publisher sells an Ashkenazic set of machzorim, he includes a volume for each Yom Tov because each Yom Tov had its own special piyutim. However, the selichos recited on fast days, during Elul and aseres yemei teshuvah, and the kinos recited on Tisha B’Av are not included in a set of machzorim and are sold as separate volumes.

History through piyutim

There is a tremendous amount of history that can be derived from learning about the authors of our piyutim. We get quite an education as we see where the wandering Jew has found himself over the centuries of our dispersal. Here is a sampling of the names and geographic areas of some of our predominant paytanim, organized according to the periods of history. In all likelihood, many of our more common piyutim predate even the earliest dates I have mentioned here. However, since we are without any means of dating them, I have omitted them.

Bavel

Some of our piyutim are known to date back to the era of the geonim 1200-1300 years ago. Among the authors of this period we find Rav Sa’adia Gaon, Rav Nissim Gaon, and Rav Amram Gaon.

The early Italians

Not long after the period of the geonim that I just mentioned, there was a period of significant production of piyutim that dates back to the late 9th century in Italy. Among the many Italian paytanim of this era whose works we recite are a grandfather and grandson both named Amitai, Shefatyah, who was the son of one Amitai and the father of the other, Zevadyah, and Rav Shlomoh Habavli. (Historians do not know for certain why he was called Habavli, since he lived in Italy. The most obvious explanation is that either he was originally from Bavel or that his family origins were there. This would be similar to someone with obvious German roots carrying the family name Pollack, or someone of eastern European background with a family name of a central or western European city, such as Shapiro, from the city Speyer in western Germany, because of some earlier family history.)

Early Ashkenaz

The word Ashkenaz is associated with Germany, and the historical origins of these practices are usually traced to the Jewish communities that lived a thousand years ago in the Rhine river valley. The most famous three of these communities were Speyer, Worms and Mainz. Many of our piyutim are authored by gedolim of this period, including Rabbeinu Gershom, Rabbi Shimon Hagadol of Mainz and Rav Meir ben Yitzchak, the chazzan of Worms, who was the author of Akdamus. By the way, this will explain why Sefardim do not recite Akdamus on Shavuos, since its author lived after the time that Sefardim and Ashkenazim were physically separated into different areas.

Spanish

Beginning around this era is the Golden Age of Spain, which included much writing of piyutim. The major body of the attributable piyutim recited by the Sefardim goes back to this period, most of it written by Rav Shlomo ibn Gabirol, Rav Yehudah Halevi, Rav Moshe ibn Ezra, and Rav Avraham ibn Ezra, as I noted above. Ashkenazim do recite some piyutim from these authors, for example, Shomron Kol Titein, recited in the kinos of Tisha B’Av, authored by ibn Gabirol, and Tziyon halo Sish’ali, also one of the kinos, and the above-mentioned Yom Le’yabasha by Rav Yehudah Halevi, recited commonly at a bris. By the way, you will find Yom Le’yabasha  in your Ashkenazi machzor for Pesach, where it exists as the piyut to be recited at shacharis of the seventh day of Pesach, immediately before the brocha of Ga’al Yisroel.

Later Ashkenaz

In this era, many of the piyutim were written by rishonim who are familiar to us from their halachic and Talmudic writings. These include several baalei Tosafos, such as the Rivam (Rashi’s grandson and the older brother of Rabbeinu Tam), Rav Elchanan, Rav Yehudah Hachasid, Rav Yitzchak Ohr Zarua, the Maharam, Rav Yosef Bechor Shor, Rav Yoel Halevi (the father of the Ra’avyah).

The Italian angle

Having studied a quick overview of the various places where our paytanim lived, we can now explain why Ashkenazim recite many selichos and other piyutim written by the early Italian paytanim, whereas the Sefardim do not recite piyutim from these authors. The answer is that the ancestors of what came to be called Ashkenazic Jewry probably predominantly migrated northward from Italy, bringing with them their customs and their piyutim that had been written during this early golden age of piyut.

Rav Elazar Hakalir

No discussion of piyutim is complete without presenting Rav Elazar Hakalir, who authored the lion’s share of the kinos we recite on Tisha B’Av, as well as many of our other piyutim, including Tefillas Tal and Tefillas Geshem, the piyutim for the four special Shabbosos (Shekalim, Zachor, Parah and Hachodesh), and many of the yotzros for Yomim Tovim. We know absolutely nothing about him personally — we cannot even date when he lived with any accuracy. Some Rishonim place him in the era of the Tanna’im, shortly after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, identifying him either as Rabbi Elazar ben Arach (Shu”t Harashba 1:469), a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, or as Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai’s son Elazar, who hid in the cave with his father (Tosafos, Chagigah 13a s.v. Veraglei; Rosh, Berachos 5:21; Shibbolei Haleket #28). On the other hand, others date Rav Elazar HaKalir hundreds of years later.

We do not know for certain what the name “Kalir” means. Since there are several places where he used the acronym “Elazar berabi Kalir,” it seems that his father’s name was Kalir. However, the Aruch explains that “kalir” means a type of cookie, and that he was called hakalir because he ate a cookie upon which had been written a special formula that blessed him with tremendous erudition (Aruch, eirech Kalar III).

Many of Rabbi Elazar Hakalir’s piyutim and kinos require studying rather than reading, since they rely on allusions to midrashim and historical events. Many commentators elucidated his works, attempting to illuminate the depths of his words. Often, his ideas are expressed in difficult allusions, and the story or midrash to which he hints is unclear or obscure. They certainly cannot be understood without careful preparation. Someone who takes the trouble to do this will be awed by the beauty of the thoughts and allusions.

When did he live?

Most assume that Rav Elazar HaKalir lived in Eretz Yisrael, based on the fact that we have no piyutim written by him for the second day of Yom Tov (Tosafos, Chagigah 13a s.v. Veraglei; Rosh, Berachos 5:21.) However, the yotzros of the second day of Sukkos clearly include Rav Kalir’s signature and follow his style. Could it be that Diaspora Jews moved yotzros he wrote for the first day of Yom Tov to the second day? This approach creates another question: Since the yotzros recited on the first day of Yom Tov were also written by him, would he have written two sets of yotzros for Shacharis on Sukkos? There are other indications that he did, indeed, sometimes write more than one set of piyutim for the same day, and this approach is followed by the Shibbolei Haleket (#28).

Kalirian controversy

Notwithstanding the brilliance and prevalence of Rav Kalir’s piyutim, reciting them was not without controversy. No less a gadol than the Ibn Ezra stridently opposes using Rav Kalir’s works. In an essay incorporated in his commentary to Koheles (5:1), the ibn Ezra levels extremely harsh criticism of the piyutim authored by Rav Kalir. He divides the nature of his arguments into four headings.

Simplicity of language

Ibn Ezra notes that prayers should be recited in simple language that can be understood on a very basic level. After all, the goal of prayer is to understand what one is saying. Since piyutim are usually intended to be forms of prayer, one should not recite any prayer whose intent is not obviously clear. Because of this criticism, Ibn Ezra advises reciting the piyutim written by Rav Sa’adia Gaon, which are written so that they can be understood in a very literal way.

Mixed language

Ibn Ezra’s second criticism of Kalir is that he mixed into the Hebrew of his piyutim vocabulary whose basis is in the Gemara, treating Talmudic language on the same level of Hebrew as that of Tanach. As Ibn Ezra notes, the Gemara says loshon mikra lechud uloshon Talmud lechud, which he understands to mean that the Hebrew used by the Gemara should be treated as a different language from that of Tanach. Therefore, one should not mix the two languages together when reciting prayers.

Grammatical creativity

The third criticism of ibn Ezra is that he is unhappy with Kalir’s creative approach to Hebrew grammar and structure, allowing poetic style to influence the Hebrew that he used. Ibn Ezra also criticized Kalir’s creation of new words by changing masculine words to feminine and vice versa for poetic effect or to accomplish his allusions.

Use of midrashim

Ibn Ezra’s fourth criticism of Kalir is that his piyutim are filled with midrashim, and that these should not be included in one’s prayers.

Ibn Ezra notes that there were those who took issue with his criticisms, since Kalir had passed on many years before and would be unable to respond. Ibn Ezra himself dispenses with this disapproval by noting that prayer must be whole-hearted, and how can one pray when one does not understand what one is saying? Ibn Ezra notes that when Rav Sa’adia wrote piyutim, he steered clear of these four problems.

In fact, Sefardim do not recite piyutim of Rav Kalir, whereas among Ashkenazim, he is the single, most commonly used paytan.

Response to ibn Ezra

We should note that the Shibbolei Haleket saw this essay of the ibn Ezra and quoted selections from it, but he omitted any of the ibn Ezra’s criticism of Rav Kalir’s writings.

Furthermore, none of ibn Ezra’s criticisms should be taken as casting aspersion on Rav Elazar Hakalir’s greatness. Shibbolei Haleket records that when Rabbi Elazar Hakalir wrote his poem Vechayos Asher Heinah Meruba’os (recited in the kedusha of musaf of Rosh Hashanah), the angels surrounded him with fire (quoted by the Magen Avraham at the beginning of Siman 68). Similarly, R’ Chaim Vital writes that his teacher, the Arizal, recited only the piyutim written by the early paytanim, such as R’ Elazar Hakalir, since they are based on kabbalah.

Which seder ha’avodah?

This dispute between Ashkenazic practice and Sefardic manifests itself in the choice of piyut used for the seder ha’avodah recited towards the end of musaf on Yom Kippur. Dozens of piyutim explaining the seder ha’avodah were written, some dating back to the time of the Gemara, some perhaps earlier. Notwithstanding the antiquity of some of these pieces of poetry, the ones currently used are of relatively late origin. Ashkenazim recite Amitz Koach, which is highly poetic and difficult to understand. On the other hand, Sefardim recite Atah Konanta, which is written in clear Hebrew.

Conclusion

Now that we have had an opportunity to appreciate some of the background to our piyutim, it should motivate us to utilize our davening better to build a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three very high points — the three times that we daven. We should gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day from these three prayers.

 

Shul Shaylos: The Rulings of the Gadol of Brownsville

Since Bilaam’s agenda included destroying all our shullen, it is an appropriate week to discuss:

Shul Shaylos: The Rulings of the Gadol of Brownsville

Question #1: Keeping them Waiting

“Unfortunately, some of those who attend my morning minyan come late, so that the minyan usually forms around Borchu time. Should the chazzan wait until ten people are ready to begin the quiet shemoneh esrei together?”

Question #2: Dwindling Minyan

“For many years, I have attended a minyan that is now severely dwindling. In addition, not all the attendees are capable of davening, and, therefore, there are usually less than ten people praying at a time. Should I continue to attend this shul, or should I begin attending another shul, where there will be a minyan of people who all daven together?”

Question #3: Lowering the Bar

“Some of the ladies who attend our shul are now aging, and it is difficult for them to climb the steps to the ezras nashim, the ladies’ section. May we take part of the downstairs men’s section, place a mechitzah between it and the men, and make it into an auxiliary women’s section?”

Introduction: The Gadol of Brownsville

What do the above questions have to do with a gadol of Brownsville? Actually, there were many great talmidei chachamim who lived in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn during its heyday as a Jewish neighborhood. This article will discuss two shaylos that were asked of a world-class gadol who served as a rav in Brownsville, Rav Moshe Rosen. Rav Rosen is usually known by the name of a series of sefarim he authored, the Neizer Hakodesh, which plows original ground on the entirety of Seder Kodoshim, and also includes volumes on Pesachim, Yoma, Makkos and Niddah.

Rav Rosen was born in the 1870’s in Brainsk, in Polish Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire). After marriage and five years of kest (the equivalent of kollel that existed for promising young talmidei chachamim in pre-World War I Eastern Europe), he became rav in Kveidan, a town near Kovno, Lithuania, where he remained through World War I before he moved to America. Even in his youth, he was a profound talmid chacham – as early an author as the Sedei Chemed quotes Rav Rosen with tremendous respect.[i]

In Europe, while yet a young man, the Neizer Hakodesh exchanged halachic correspondence with such luminaries as the nineteenth century’s poseik hador, Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector, the Or Somayach, the Chofeitz Chayim, Rav Chayim Ozer Grodzensky, Rav Itzele Ponovitcher and Rav Menachem Ziemba.[ii] The Ponovitcher Rav, Rav Yosef Kahaneman, said that the Neizer Hakodesh’s Torah scholarship and brilliance was in the league of the greatest gedolim of Europe, an opinion that was echoed by another Lithuanian gadol, Rav Yechezkel Abramsky.

One of the other gedolim who knew and admired Rav Rosen when he was still a young man in Europe was the Chazon Ish, whose rebbitzen was a native of Kveidan and where he (the Chazon Ish) resided immediately after his marriage. One short anecdote demonstrates the respect the Chazon Ish had for the Torah greatness of Rav Rosen: Shortly after World War I, the Chazon Ish wanted to print a new edition of the very difficult mesechta, Keilim, with three commentaries, those authored by Rav Chayim Ozer, the Chazon Ish himself and the Neizer Hakodesh.[iii] Apparently, this initiative never saw fruition.

At the beginning of World War I, the Eastern Front of the war — between Germany and Russia — passed right through Kveidan and its environs, and most of the Jews fled to avoid the battlefront. Since no other rav was nearby, the Neizer Hakodesh remained in the area to oversee the chesed and mitzvos that needed to be performed. By the end of the war, there was no Jewish community left in Kveidan,[iv] and the Neizer Hakodesh relocated to America, where he settled in Brownsville.

Once in New York, the Neizer Hakodesh became the first Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Among his early talmidim, was a young man named Avraham Pam, future Rosh Yeshivah of Torah Vodaas and future Chairman of the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah. In a later period, the Neizer Hakodesh would test (farher) the talmidim of Yeshivah Chayim Berlin. Decades later, he was also involved in the organization of the yeshivah Beis Hatalmud of Bensonhurst and of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

Upon arriving in America, Rav Rosen became rav of Khal Anshei Radishkovitz, colloquially known as the Amboy Street shul, one of the largest shuls in Brownsville. He later founded his own beis medrash, which, after his passing, was headed by his son, and later his son-in-law. The shul, now called Beis Hamedrash Harav, was subsequently relocated to Far Rockaway.

Rav Rosen authored over twenty sefarim, of which at least eighteen were subsequently published, most of them called Neizer Hakodesh. Many decades before the Brisker Rav popularized studying Seder Kodoshim in depth, Rav Rosen was attempting to re-breathe life into Kodoshim through his work, out of his home in Brownsville. He also authored several volumes of responsa and commentaries on Shulchan Aruch and Chumash.

Also a man of action, Rav Rosen raised money to support the Chazon Ish when he arrived in Bnei Beraq, and to assist the Brisker Rav when he arrived in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Rosen predeceased the Brisker Rav, passing away on Sukkos 5717 (1957).

A teshuvah from Brownsville

In one of his responsa, Rav Rosen deals with the second question that I asked above: “For many years, I have attended a minyan that is now severely dwindling. In addition, not all the attendees are capable of davening, and, therefore, there are usually less than ten people praying at a time. Should I continue to attend this shul, or should I begin attending another shul, where there will be a minyan of people who all daven together?”

Before I quote his response to this question, we should analyze the background of the issue.

What is a minyan?

We are all aware that several parts of our tefillah may be recited only when there is a quorum of at least ten adult men (a minyan) present. We are also aware that prayers recited together with a minyan accomplish more than when one prays by himself. To quote the Rambam: “The prayer of the community is always heard. Even when there are sinners among them, the Holy One, Blessed is He, does not despise the prayer of a group of people. Therefore, everyone is required to make himself part of the tzibur. One should not pray in private any time that one is able to pray with a community” (Hilchos Tefillah 8:1).

In a related discussion, the Rambam notes that the repetition of the shemoneh esrei requires that ten adult men be in attendance. He explains that it is not necessary that all ten are davening at this moment, provided that at least six people in attendance daven their quiet shemoneh esrei together prior to the repetition of the shemoneh esrei.

At this point, let us quote the first question asked above:

“Unfortunately, some of those who attend my morning minyan come late, so that the minyan usually forms around Borchu time. Should the chazzan wait until ten people are ready to begin the quiet shemoneh esrei together?”

The questioner is raising the following issue: Do six people davening together while ten are in attendance have all the value of tefillah betzibur, or does their joint prayer not carry all the merits of tefillah betzibur unless ten men are actually praying simultaneously? A corollary of this question is whether there is a preference to daven with a minyan where ten people are actually davening over one where less than ten are actually davening.

To answer this question, many authorities quote the words of the Chayei Adam (19:1):

“Someone who wants his prayers to be accepted should be careful to daven together with the tzibur… the main part of tefillah betzibur is the shemoneh esrei prayer, which means that ten adult males should pray together. The masses think, in error, that the purpose of tefillah betzibur is only to hear Kaddish, Kedushah and Borchu, and, as a result, they are not concerned about davening together, as long as there are ten people in shul. This is a major error. Therefore, it is a personal responsibility of each man to arrive in shul early and begin davening with the chazzan, so that he can daven in the proper order.”

Clearly, the main concern of the Chayei Adam was the bad habit of arriving late for services, resulting in not davening the shemoneh esrei together with the tzibur. However, while emphasizing the importance of reciting one’s prayers at the same time that the tzibur does, the Chayei Adam wrote, “the main part of tefillah betzibur is… that ten adult males pray together.” This is understood by many authorities to mean that although one may repeat the shemoneh esrei (chazaras hashatz) even if only six of the people in attendance have davened, it is not considered full-fledged tefillah betzibur unless at least ten actually davened together. These significant words of the Chayei Adam are quoted by the Mishnah Berurah.

The logic used to explain this position is that a minyan should be treated no different from any other minimum amount required for the performance of a mitzvah. When the Torah requires that we eat a kezayis (the volume-equivalent of an olive) of matzoh on Seder night, it is insufficient for someone to eat most of the volume-equivalent of an olive. The mitzvah is fulfilled only when one consumes an entire olive-sized piece. So, too, although six people davening with four others in attendance allows one to repeat the shemoneh esrei and to recite Kedushah, Kaddish and Borchu, ultimately one does not have a minyan of people davening simultaneously (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:28, 29, 30). Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach also held this position (Halichos Shlomoh 5:8).

Other authorities dispute this conclusion, contending that if ten people are in attendance, tefillah betzibur is accomplished even when only six of them daven at the same time. They contend that the first approach is reading more into the Chayei Adam’s comments than the author intended. The purpose of the Chayei Adam’s comments is only to show that reciting the shemoneh esrei with the tzibur is the primary focus of attending public prayer and not only the recital of Kaddish and Kedushah, unlike  the errant understanding of the common folk.

Those who espouse the latter position note that the Rambam’s comments imply that six people praying with four others in attendance constitutes tefillah betzibur. They note that since the Rambam implies that six people praying together with a minyan in attendance qualifies as tefillah betzibur, how can one infer from the Chayei Adam otherwise? If the Chayei Adam intended to dispute the Rambam’s conclusion, he would explain that he is doing so. Therefore, it is more likely that he agrees with the Rambam and that having six people davening does qualify as tefillah betizbur (Beis Baruch commentary on Chayei Adam). The Eimek Beracha (Tefillah #6) provides several indications that this is true, and rules that this is unquestionably accurate.

Returning to our first question: “Unfortunately, some of those who attend my morning minyan come late, so that the minyan usually forms around Borchu time. Should the chazzan wait until ten people are ready to begin the quiet shemoneh esrei together?”

Well, dear reader, what do you answer our friend? It depends which opinion of the two approaches one holds. According to the first approach, it is preferable to wait until ten people begin shemoneh esrei simultaneously, which accomplishes tefillah betzibur. According to the second approach, it is not required. The rav of the shul should decide which approach they should follow.

Dwindling minyan

At this point, I would like to address the second question posed above:

“For many years, I have attended a minyan that is now severely dwindling. In addition, not all the attendees are capable of davening, and, therefore, there are usually less than ten people praying at a time. Should I continue to attend this shul, or should I begin attending another shul, where there will be a minyan of people who all daven together?”

This actual question was asked of the Neizer Hakodesh. The first step in this question is: Assuming that at least six people are davening, is this considered tefillah betzibur?

The answer to this question is, of course, dependent on our previous discussion. In his responsum, the Neizer Hakodesh assumes that if ten people are not davening shemoneh esrei together, the resultant tefillah does not qualify as tefillah betzibur. However, notwithstanding that remaining in the dying shul deprives the questioner of the mitzvah of tefillah betzibur, Rav Rosen still concludes that he should remain at that shul — for a different reason, based on the following well-known Talmudic story (Berachos 47b):

Rabbi Eliezer, attended by his slave, entered a shul to discover that it was short one Jew for a minyan. Although a non-Jewish slave owned by a Jew is required to observe most mitzvos, he is still not considered a full-fledged Jew until he is freed, and he does not count towards a minyan. Rabbi Eliezer promptly freed his slave so that there would be a minyan and davening could begin. The Gemara asks: Upon what halachic basis did Rabbi Eliezer free his slave, since this act is prohibited by the Torah? The Gemara replies that since freeing his slave in this instance allowed a “community” of Jews to perform a mitzvah, a mitzvah of the community supersedes the prohibition of freeing one’s slave. Thus, we see the importance of enabling the tzibur to perform the various mitzvos, including reciting Kaddish, Kedusha, and Borchu, repeating the shemoneh esrei, and reading the Torah. Rav Rosen ruled that the community’s ability to observe these mitzvos holds greater halachic weight than the individual being able to daven with a proper minyan of ten people davening at the same time (Neizer Hakodesh U’she’eilos U’teshuvos #14).

Moving the ezras nashim

At this point, I would like to address the last of our opening questions:

“Some of the ladies who attend our shul are now aging, and it is difficult for them to climb the steps to the ezras nashim. May we take part of the downstairs men’s section, place a mechitzah between it and the men, and make it into an auxiliary women’s section?”

The question here is based on the following halachic issue. The Gemara states that one may not take an item that is designated for a greater kedusha and now use it for a lesser kedusha (see Megillah 26a). The question is whether, since both the ezras nashim and the men’s section are designated for prayer, they have the same level of sanctity, or if there is any distinction between them.

The Neizer Hakodesh writes that a respected earlier authority, the Divrei Chayim, previously analyzed this question, noting that there are many mitzvos, such as reading the Torah, blowing Shofar, lighting the menorah on Chanukah, and the recital of elements of davening that require a minyan are based in the men’s shul. As a result, the Divrei Chayim concluded that although the ezras nashim certainly has great sanctity, there is more sanctity in the main shul. This precludes changing a section of the shul for use as an ezras nashim (Shu”t Divrei Chayim, Orach Chayim 2:14).

After discussing the issues at length, Rav Rosen voiced concern that should the shul not construct a lower ezras nashim, some women would begin to attend non-Orthodox congregations. He therefore recommended the following: Notwithstanding that the main shul cannot be converted to an ezras nashim, under the extenuating circumstances, one may be lenient that the area above the men’s height does not have the kedusha of the shul, and construct an auxiliary ezras nashim in the air space above part of the men’s section. Since this would not be much taller than the main shul, it would be easy to access with a short ramp or short set of stairs, thus being available to those who require it.

In the responsa of Rav Moshe Feinstein, we find a teshuvah where he was asked a similar question regarding changing the ezras nashim of a shul from a balcony to a section alongside the main shul with a proper mechitzah (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:43). Rav Moshe rules that one may not do this, because we see from the Gemara (Sukkah 51b) that it is preferred for the women’s section to be in a balcony. Although a shul whose ezras nashim is alongside the main shul and separated by a mechitzah is kosher, one should not replace a balcony mechitzah, which is the preferred choice, with one alongside the main shul. Rav Moshe is also clearly concerned that the attempt to change the mechitzah is meant to be a liberalizing step in the shul and could lead to other “innovations” with more serious halachic ramifications. He rules that the rav should fight this innovation of relocating the ezras nashim with all his might. Nevertheless, Rav Moshe rules that if the congregation moves the women’s section from a balcony to an area alongside the main shul with a kosher mechitzah, that the rav of the shul may keep his position, since the shul still has a kosher mechitzah.

Conclusion

I personally enjoy knowing something of the life of a gadol whose Torah I am studying. I hope that our readers similarly enjoyed reading a bit about Rav Moshe Rosen while studying some of his halachic rulings.

 

 

[i] The Sedei Chemed cites Rav Rosen in Volume 8 at the beginning of his exposition on the issues of Chanukah.

[ii] Most of the biographical information was obtained from Volume 3 of Rav Yisrael Shurin’s Morei Ha’umah and a published interview of Rav Rosen’s grandson, Rav Hillel Litwack of Flatbush.

[iii] Finkelman, Shimon, The Chazon Ish, Page 35.

[iv] Finkelman, Shimon, The Chazon Ish, Page 43.

Bimah in the Middle

Prior to Shavuos is an excellent time to review some of the less-known halachos germane to kerias haTorah, including whether the Bimah needs to be in the middle of the shul.

Question #1: Small Shul

“We have converted a storage area into a temporary shul for our neighborhood. Must we put the shulchan in the middle when, as a result, we will have less seating capacity?”

Question #2: Reading from the Front

“May I daven in a shul where the bimah is in the front of the shul?”

Question #3: The Beis Medrash

“Must the bimah of a yeshivah be located in the middle of the beis medrash?”

Where is the bimah?

Although we find allusion going back to the time of the tanna’im concerning the proper location of the bimah and the shulchan in a shul, most of the halachic discussion about the topic is within the last two hundred years, for reasons that will soon be obvious. Let us begin by citing the early sources for this halachah, and then analyze some of the responsa on the subject.

Introduction:

When the Rambam records the laws germane to the proper construction of a shul, he mentions that a shul should have a raised platform in the middle, which we call the bimah (Hilchos Tefillah 11:3, see Kesef Mishneh). The Rambam explains that the bimah is used for two purposes: in order to read the Torah and to facilitate public speaking, the goal, in both instances, being to enable people to hear. He then adds that the shulchan upon which the sefer Torah is placed (which he calls a teivah) should be positioned on top and in the middle of the bimah. We thus see that there is a halachic preference, if not an outright requirement, (1) to have the shulchan placed in the middle of the shul, (2) to have it on an elevated surface.

Notwithstanding this ruling of the Rambam, the Kesef Mishneh (ad locum) notes that many shullen are not built this way. To justify the custom, he explains that, when constructing a large shul, one should place the bimah in the middle so that people can hear the reading, but when a shul is small, it may be more practical to have the Torah read from a place that is not centrally located.

When Rav Yosef Karo, the author of the Kesef Mishneh, wrote the Shulchan Aruch, he omitted the law requiring a bimah platform and that the bimah and the shulchan be in the center of the shul. This appears consistent with his opinion that the location of the bimah and the shulchan is not a requirement of shul design, but, rather, is a practical matter that is dependent on the construction and acoustics of the shul. However, both the Tur (Orach Chayim 150) and the Rema (ad locum) mention that the bimah should be in the middle of the shul.

Talmudic sources

The Gra cites Talmudic sources for the practice of placing the bimah in the middle of the shul (Glosses to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 150). The Tosefta (Sukkah 4:4) and the Gemara (Sukkah 51b) describe the huge shul in Alexandria, which had a seating capacity of many thousands, and which had a wooden bimah in the middle. The Gra apparently holds that these allusions provided the Rambam with his source requiring a centrally located bimah. The question now is, if there is indeed a Talmudic source requiring the bimah to be in the middle, how can the Kesef Mishneh rule that there is no such requirement? Apparently, he feels that a large shul must have a centralized bimah in order to make it possible for the maximum number of people to hear the reading of the Torah, whereas a small shul does not require that its bimah be centrally located. On the other hand, the Rambam, the Tur and the Rema contend that a centrally-located bimah is an important aspect of shul design and construction.

The Chasam Sofer

We find little other literature on this subject until the nineteenth century. The earliest work of that era on this topic is a responsum from the Chasam Sofer, regarding a plan to increase seating capacity in a shul by relocating the shulchan to the front (Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #28). The Chasam Sofer discusses the points raised by the Rambam, the Tur and the Rema that the shulchan should be in the middle, and the Kesef Mishneh’s comment that a small shul is not required to have its shulchan in the center, since people will easily hear the kerias haTorah from wherever it is read. The Chasam Sofer writes that the Kesef Mishneh’s reason applies only in a case of a shul that was built originally without the bimah in the middle, but once the bimah was built in the middle, one may not move it to a different location. Furthermore, the Chasam Sofer writes that if a small shul was expanded to accommodate a larger crowd, they will now be required to move the shulchan to the middle so that everyone can easily hear kerias haTorah.

The Chasam Sofer then writes an additional reason why one may not change the location of the bimah and the shulchan after they have been built. He notes a ruling of the Talmud Yerushalmi concerning the marking of the boards used in the construction of the mishkan. Since the boards of the mishkan were identical, why were they marked to designate each one’s proper location every time the mishkan was reassembled? What difference does it make where one puts any particular board?

The Yerushalmi explains that even if all the boards are identical and perfectly interchangeable, one is required to have each board returned to the same relative location. Each board acquires a specific sanctity because of its location, and this should not be changed. The Chasam Sofer then quotes the Maharil, who ruled that one should be careful to replace the planks of one’s sukkah in the same place year after year, for the same reason as we have just mentioned. Each board has a claim to its location, and one should return it to the spot it held the year before. Similarly, contends the Chasam Sofer, the part of the shul on which the bimah and the shulchan rested should remain as their location, and therefore, one may not relocate the bimah away from the central place that it has held.

As proof to his point, the Chasam Sofer notes that, although the second Beis Hamikdash was larger than the first, the location of the menorah, the mizbechos (the altars) and all the other vessels remained the same — they were not moved to accommodate the new, larger structure. This was because the site where the holy vessels were located should not be changed. Similarly, rules the Chasam Sofer, even according to the Kesef Mishneh’s approach that a bimah need not be centrally located, this ruling does not permit relocating a bimah that has already been placed in the middle.

Shulchan is like the mizbeiach

In addition to the reasons just cited, the Chasam Sofer provides another reason why the shulchan should be in the center of the shul. The shulchan serves in a role similar to that of the mizbeiach, the altar of the Beis Hamikdash. This is because of the concept – based on the words of the prophet Hoshea, U’neshalmah parim sefaseinu – our lips, meaning our reading of the Torah, replace the bulls that were offered in the Beis Hamikdash. (This idea is conveyed in a passage of the Gemara in mesechta Megillah 31b.)

When we read about the korbanos during kerias haTorah, it is as if those sacrifices are being offered. This reading, then, provides the shulchan with some of the sanctity of the mizbeiach, and the shul with some of the sanctity of the Beis Hamikdash.

This idea can be demonstrated from the hoshanos that we perform on Sukkos (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 660), which are reminiscent of the hoshanos procedure performed in the Beis Hamikdash, when the four minim were carried around the mizbeiach. The original service of the hoshanos could be performed only by circling around the mizbeiach. So too, when we perform hoshanos, we walk around the shulchan, which serves as a surrogate mizbeiach. Similarly, on Simchas Torah, we carry the sifrei Torah around the bimah (Rema, Orach Chayim 669:1).

The Chasam Sofer explains that since the mizbeiach was in the middle of the Beis Hamikdash, so too, the shulchan should be located in the middle of the shul.

Meishiv Davar

Another major posek who associates a centralized bimah with the mizbeiach is the Netziv, Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, who was the Rosh Yeshivah of the yeshiva in Volozhin for many decades of the late nineteenth century. In a responsum (Shu”t Meishiv Davar #15), he notes that the shulchan is in the middle to parallel the mizbeiach, which explains why we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah from the bimah just as in the Beis Hamikdash they blew the trumpets at the time that the korbanos were offered. He rules that the shulchan must be exactly midway between the north and south parts of the shul, just as the outside mizbeiach was, but that it does not have to be midway between the east and west parts, because the outside mizbeiach was not located centrally in this axis.

The Netziv adds a few other reasons why it is prohibited to move the bimah — one of which is that people will assume that they can change other Jewish customs, without realizing that they are tampering with halachah.

Which mizbeiach?

When one reads the two responsa very carefully, that of the Chasam Sofer and that of the Meishiv Davar, one will notice that there is a bit of a dispute between them. Although both scholars compare the shulchan to the mizbeiach, the Chasam Sofer compares the shulchan to both the inner mizbeiach, which was made of gold and predominantly used for burning the ketores, the incense offered daily in the Beis Hamikdash, and also to the outside mizbeiach, whereas the Netziv compares it only to the outside mizbeiach.

The inner mizbeiach was located midway between the shulchan of the Beis Hamikdash, on which was placed the lechem hapanim (the showbread), and the menorah, which was kindled daily. The shulchan stood in the northern section and on the western side of the kodesh; the menorah stood opposite it on the southern flank, and the mizbeiach was exactly in the middle of the kodesh.

The outer mizbeiach, which was used all day long for the various offerings of the Beis Hamikdash, stood in the middle of the azarah, the courtyard of the Beis Hamikdash. Actually, there is a dispute among tanna’im exactly where the mizbeiach stood. All agree that on the orientation of east to west, it was in the middle of the azarah. The dispute is from a north-south perspective, whether it was exactly in the middle, or whether it was somewhat off center, either to the north or to the south. According to some authorities, this dispute might affect whether one should try to make sure that the bimah and the shulchan are exactly in the middle of the shul, or whether it is sufficient that they are near the middle, but they do not need to be perfectly centered, as is the prevailing custom.

It should be noted that, notwithstanding that the Chasam Sofer and the Meishiv Davar both explain that the bimah must be in the middle of the shul because of its comparison to the mizbeiach, Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that this is not a convincing reason for the practice (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:42).

Moving the bimah

According to what we have just said, one should not move the bimah in order to make more room to perform hoshanos. Although this seems to be the predominant approach among the halachic authorities, the Minchas Yitzchak (3:4) quotes from the Imrei Eish a justification of those who move the bimah in order to conduct the hakafos, on the basis that (1) there is no requirement to make the bimah represent the mizbeiach, and (2) even if there is such a requirement, the bimah does not need to be in the perfect center, and it is permitted  to move the bimah, provided it is not placed next to the aron, but in front of it. Nevertheless, all agree that both the hoshanos and the hakafos must go around the bimah, as expressed in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, chapter 660) and the Rema (Orach Chayim, chapter 669).

Imitating idolic practice

Until now, the discussion regarding the proper location of the bimah and the shulchan has involved only the laws of building a shul. However, a completely new issue is discussed by a disciple of the Chasam Sofer, the Maharam Shik (Shu”t Maharam Shik, Yoreh Deah 165). In a responsum dated erev rosh chodesh Adar, 5616 (1856), to Rav Yisroel Dovid, the av beis din of Feising, the Maharam Shik introduces a new halachic issue: the Torah violation of imitating the practices of the gentiles. In the mid-1800’s, those who wanted to locate the bimah and the shulchan to the front of the shul were, in general, not motivated by space concerns, but because they wanted their shullen to look similar to the way non-religious congregations appeared, which, in turn, were made to appear like churches. Following gentile practices in the observance of our mitzvos involves the violation of several verses of the Torah, such as, Uvechukoseihem lo seileichu, Do not follow their laws (Vayikra 18:3), Velo seilechu bechukos hagoy, Do not follow the laws of the gentile (Vayikra 20:23), and Hishamer lecha pen tinakeish achareihem, Be careful lest you be attracted to them (Devorim 12:30). This general prohibition is quoted by the Rambam (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 11:1) and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah, Chapter 178:1).

In the details germane to understanding the laws of Uvechukoseihem lo seileichu, there was a dispute between Rav Yisroel Dovid and the Maharam Shik. Rav Yisroel Dovid felt that this prohibition would exist even when the reason for moving the bimah was to make more seating room. The Maharam Shik disagreed, demonstrating that Uvechukoseihem lo seileichu is violated only when the intent is to mimic non-Jewish practices. The Maharam Shik also prohibits having the bimah in front or moving it there when someone might assume that the bimah is in front in order to mimic non-Jewish practices, even when this was not the intention of those who planned and constructed this shul. When it is clear that the purpose for moving the bimah and the shulchan is to create more seating capacity, it is not prohibited under the heading of Uvechukoseihem lo seileichu, but only because of the reasons mentioned by the Chasam Sofer.

Turned-down position

The Minchas Yitzchak (3:4) quotes a letter from Rav Shimon Sofer (a son of the Chasam Sofer, who ultimately became the rav of Cracow) written to a very prominent community that had offered him the position of chief rabbi. Rav Sofer wrote a letter to the community turning down the post, because the bimah of their main shul was not located in the middle of the sanctuary and, also, because the chazan’s amud was located at a high point in the shul, when, according to halachah, it should be at a low place.

In this context, we should quote the Mishnah Berurah, “With our great sins, in some places the custom of the early generations has been ignored and the bimah is constructed near the aron hakodesh, out of desire to follow the practices that the gentiles observe in their temples. Regarding these communities, one should say, And Yisroel forgot his Maker and he built temples [Hoshea 8:14]. The later authorities already cast aspersions on these people” (Biur Halachah 150:5, s.v. Be’emtza).

Entering the shul

Is there any halachic problem with entering a shul whose bimah is in the front?

The Minchas Yitzchak (3:5) quotes from different sources that prohibited even entering such a shul.

However, Rav Moshe Feinstein holds a more moderate approach to this last question (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:42.) Rav Moshe was asked whether one may daven in a shul that has its bimah in the front. The questioner had heard that in Hungary they had prohibited davening in such a shul, an approach that would indeed be reflected by the above-quoted Minchas Yitzchak. Rav Moshe responds that he was unfamiliar with such a prohibition. If it did exist, it was because they needed to stamp out Reform, and it has the halachic status of a hora’as sha’ah, a ruling established because of a temporary circumstance. However, in other countries one is permitted to daven in such a shul. Rav Moshe concludes that when there are two shullen in a town, one with its bimah in the middle and the other with the bimah elsewhere, one should daven regularly in the shul whose bimah is in the middle.

Beis Medrash

At this point, let us discuss the third question asked at the beginning. “Must the bimah in a yeshivah be in the middle of the beis medrash?”

This question is discussed by the Minchas Yitzchak (Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak, 3:6), who concludes that the rules governing the existence of a bimah and a shulchan and their location are germane only to a shul, but that there is no requirement to have a bimah in a beis medrash. The reason for this ruling is a topic for a different article. The Minchas Yitzchak writes that it is perfectly acceptable for a beis medrash to use a portable shulchan for kerias haTorah.

Conclusion

We all hope and pray that the day will soon come when we shall merit the third Beis Hamikdash. In the interim, we should be careful to treat our batei keneses and batei medrash with proper sanctity, including all their halachic details.

 

The Mitzvah Snatcher

CHAPTER 1

A QUICK DAVENING

Yankel is in the year of mourning for his father and meticulously fulfills his filial responsibility to “daven in front of the amud.” Finding himself one day at a Mincha minyan in an unfamiliar neighborhood, he races to the amud before anyone else gets a chance. After davening, a nicely dressed gentleman hands Yankel a business card and asks if he can speak to him for a second.

“Are you new in the neighborhood? I don’t believe we have ever met before. My name is Irving Friedman.”

“Mine is Yankel Schwartz. No, I don’t live here. I was just passing through and needed a Mincha minyan.”

“Oh, I would like to make your acquaintance. Could I trouble you for your phone number?”

Not suspecting anything, Yankel provides Irving Friedman with his home, business, and cell phone numbers. Friedman then asks him for his home address, which arouses Yankel’s suspicion. “Why do you want to know?”

“Well, I guess I should be straightforward with you,” Irving continues. “I want you to be aware that you owe me a huge amount of money. You see, I have the chazakah of davening at the amud during this minyan. By grabbing the mitzvah, you stole from me nineteen brachos of the repetition of Shmoneh Esrei and two Kaddeishim, for each of which you owe me ten gold coins. I have made the exact calculation on the back of my business card. If you doubt that you owe me this money, I suggest you discuss the matter with your own rav. Since you look like an ehrliche yid, I assume that you will attempt to pay me before Yom Kippur. However, if that is too difficult, I am willing to discuss a payment plan. You have my phone number on the card.” With this, Irving Friedman (not his real name) got into his car and drove off.

A bit bewildered at this surprising turn of events, Yankel looked at the business card in his hand. The front of the card had Friedman’s name, business address, and the title and logo of his business. On the back, Yankel found the following hand-written calculation:

Invoice:

19 brachos @ 10 gold dinar coins each =                  190 gold dinar coins.

2 kaddeishim @ 10 gold dinar coins each=                 20 gold dinar coins.

Total                                                                            210 gold dinar coins.

Based on my research, these coins are worth between $24 and $200 each, in contemporary dollars (see Shiurei Torah, pg. 302.) This makes a total outstanding debt of between $5,040 and $42,000.

I am willing to accept the lower sum, and I am willing to discuss a payment schedule.

Yours sincerely, I. Friedman

CHAPTER 2

Yankel was shocked. He presumed that Irving Friedman was pulling his leg. Yet, Friedman’s demeanor about the entire matter had been so business-like that it did not seem Friedman was playing a prank on him. “Five grand for one Mincha. He must be kidding!!” was all Yankel could think.

Yankel now realized that his running to the amud was very presumptuous. Usually, one goes to the amud when asked by a gabbai, unless one has a regular chazakah to daven at the amud during that particular minyan. Yankel realized that his enthusiasm to get the amud had clouded his reasonable judgment.

Back in his own shul and on familiar turf, Yankel davened maariv at the amud uneventfully and then noticed his good buddy, Shmuel. Besides being a good friend, Shmuel was more learned than Yankel and would be able to help him sort out what had happened. Yankel told Shmuel about the day’s events and showed him the business card.

“I know that the Gemara talks about charging someone ten gold coins for snatching a mitzvah, but I never heard of someone trying to collect it,” was Shmuel’s surprised reaction.

“Where do you think Friedman got this dollar figure?”

“He has a note on the card quoting ‘Shiurei Torah, pg. 302.’ This is a sefer on the subject of halachic measurements. I don’t have the sefer, but let’s see if the shul has a copy.”

Sure enough, the shul library had a copy of Shiurei Torah by Rav Avrohom Chayim Na’eh, one of the gedolei poskim in Eretz Yisroel about sixty years ago. Shmuel located the chapter where the sefer discusses the halachic sources for determining the value of “ten gold coins,” and indeed, Friedman’s calculations were based on the conclusions of Shiurei Torah.

“What should I do? $5,040 is a lot of money. Do I really owe him this much money because I davened Mincha without checking if someone else had a right to the amud?” Yankel asked his friend.

“Maybe discuss the issue with the Rav.”

CHAPTER 3

Still very disturbed about the matter, Yankel called Rav Cohen to schedule an appointment. By now, he regretted his rash Mincha davening, and realized that it is far more important not to infringe on someone else’s mitzvah than to daven at the amud.

At the appointed time, Yankel arrived at Rav Cohen’s office and explained the whole story, showing him the calculation on the back of the business card.

Rav Cohen noticed a halachic flaw in Mr. Friedman’s argument, but felt that Yankel would benefit more if he found out this information a bit later. The sage knew that this was not the first time that Yankel’s impetuous nature had gotten him into trouble. This situation might help him realize not to be so rash.

Rav Cohen introduced Yankel to the halachic issues involved. “As we know from the Chumash, someone who shechts a bird has a mitzvah of “kisui hadam,” to cover the blood with dirt. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 91b) tells us a story of a shocheit who shechted a bird and then, before he had a chance to fulfill the mitzvah of covering the blood, someone else covered it, thus snatching the mitzvah. The shocheit brought the offending party to a din Torah where the great Tanna Rabban Gamliel presided. Rabban Gamliel ruled that the ‘mitzvah snatcher’ must pay ten gold coins for taking someone else’s mitzvah.”

“But in that case he is being fined for taking away his mitzvah, not for the bracha,” Yankel countered.

“Actually, the Gemara (Chullin 87a) asks exactly this question. The Gemara cites a case where someone grabbed someone else’s right to lead the bensching. In the time of the Gemara, when a group of people bensched together, one person recited the entire bensching aloud, and the others listened attentively and answered amen when he finished each bracha. By hearing the brachos of the person reciting the bensching, they fulfilled their obligation to bensch.

“In this instance, someone else began bensching other than the person who had the right to bensch. The Gemara discusses whether the person who bensched must compensate for one mitzvah, which is ten gold coins, or for four brachos, which is forty coins.”

Yankel, now keenly aware of the difference between ten coins and forty, lets out a sigh.

“How does the Gemara rule?” asked Yankel, hoping that the Gemara would rule in his favor and save him a lot of money. After all, if the Gemara rules that the entire bensching is only one mitzvah, his nineteen snatched brachos, which are only one mitzvah, are worth only ten gold coins. However, if the Gemara rules that he must compensate per bracha, he must pay 190 gold coins. By some quick arithmetic, Yankel figured that this saves him at least $4,500! He had never before realized before how much a Gemara discussion might be worth.

Rav Cohen realized what was going through Yankel’s head. “Well, there are other issues that impact on your case, but …. the Gemara rules that he must pay forty gold coins.”

The ramifications of this ruling were not lost on Yankel. “But what is he paying for? He didn’t take anything.”

“That is a really good question,” responded the Rav patiently. “Rashi (Chullin 87a) explains that the mitzvah snatcher is paying for the reward that he deprived the other person of when the mitzvah was taken away.”

“I didn’t know you could put a price tag on a mitzvah’s reward,” Yankel blurted out. “The reward for a mitzvah is priceless!”

The Rav could not miss this opportunity. “If that is so, then you are really getting a very good bargain.”

“Why?”

“What is worth more, the mitzvos one observes, or the money being paid as compensation?”

“Put that way, I must admit that it is a bargain. But it is still a very expensive bargain!”

Yankel continued. “Are there any other instances of collecting money for someone taking away a mitzvah?”

“The Gemara discusses a din Torah raised by a person whose tree was overhanging a public area and could cause potential damage. Before he could trim the tree, someone else chopped down the problematic branches. The owner placed a claim in beis din against the chopper for snatching his mitzvah. The beis din sided with the owner that his mitzvah was indeed snatched.”

“Shmuel told me that he never heard of anyone collect money for snatched mitzvos. Is there any discussion after the time of the Gemara about collecting for snatched mitzvos?”

Tosafos discusses a case when someone was ‘called up’ for an aliyah, and another person went up for the aliyah instead, thus snatching two brachos away from the person who had a right to them.”

“What chutzpah!” blurted out Yankel. Then, realizing the hypocrisy in his reaction, he added. “I shouldn’t be the one to talk. If I had a little less chutzpah, I wouldn’t have gotten into such hot water.”

“Whatever happened to this aliyah snatcher?” queried Yankel.

“How much do you think he should have paid?” replied the Rav, cunningly waiting for the best time to reveal the rest of the story.

“Well, based on the bensching case where he paid forty coins for four brachos, I would imagine the aliyah snatcher should pay twenty coins for two brachos, one before and one after the aliyah.”

“You are catching on really well,” complimented the Rav.

“Well, if I do end up financially poorer for this experience, at least I should end up a bit wealthier in Torah learning,” concluded Yankel. “But what do the poskim rule?”

Rav Cohen decided it was now time to let Yankel in on the secret. “There is a dispute in this question between Rabbeinu Tam and his nephew, Rabbeinu Yitzchok. Rabbeinu Yitzchok rules exactly like you contended – the aliyah snatcher must pay twenty gold coins. However, Rabbeinu Tam ruled that he is not required to pay at all (Tosafos, Bava Kamma 91b s.v. vichiyavo).”

Yankel was on the edge of his chair. Maybe Rabbeinu Tam would be his savior!

“How did Rabbeinu Tam get him off the hook?” was all Yankel wanted to know.

Rav Cohen leaned toward Yankel, asking him, “Which act earns more reward, reciting a bracha or answering amen?”

“I would assume reciting the bracha,” responded Yankel, “But because of the way you asked the question, I must be wrong.”

“Indeed, the Gemara (Berachos 53b) declares that it is greater to recite amen than to recite the bracha. Rabbeinu Tam understands this to mean that the person who answers amen receives more reward than the person who recites the bracha! He therefore concludes that the person who snatched the aliyah need not pay, since the person who should have received the aliyah would receive even more reward for reciting amen to the bracha. Remember, the compensation is for losing reward, and the aliyah snatcher did not take away any reward.”

“One second,” blurted out Yankel, “The guy who covered the blood also didn’t stop the shocheit from reciting amen. Why did he have to pay?”

“That is a really good question that the later poskim ask. There are two very different approaches to explain why Rabbeinu Tam agrees that the blood coverer must pay the shocheit. Some contend that he recited the bracha in a way that the shocheit did not hear the bracha and that is why he must pay. According to this approach, had the shocheit heard the bracha, he would not collect compensation for losing his mitzvah.

Others contend that the shocheit has two different claims, one for the mitzvah and the other for the bracha. Answering amen provides an even greater reward than reciting the bracha, so the shocheit does not collect for missing the bracha. However, the shocheit still lost the reward for performing the mitzvah, and for this loss he deserves compensation (Sma 382:7; Shach and other commentaries ad loc.).”

“Is this why Shmuel said he never heard of someone trying to collect ten gold coins for a snatched mitzvah?”

“No. Actually, the reason for this is a bit complicated,” began the Rav. “Technically, only a beis din whose members received the original semicha that Moshe Rabbeinu conferred to Yehoshua can enforce a financial claim. Since we no longer have this semicha, this would mean that no one could ever collect damages or a bad debt. To avoid this problem, Chazal instituted that one can collect damages or debts through any beis din. However, Chazal instituted this method of collecting only when a person suffered out-of-pocket losses, as he does in the case of a bad debt or an injury. When someone took another person’s mitzvah, however, although this is a real loss, there was no out-of-pocket loss. The result is that a mitzvah snatcher owes money and should pay it, but there is no way to force him to pay the debt (Tosafos, Bava Kamma 91b s.v. vechiyavo). However, since there is definitely a moral obligation to pay, the aggrieved party is permitted to seize property as payment.”

Yankel nodded, showing that he understood. “In conclusion, according to many opinions, I owe Mr. Friedman a considerable amount of money. Does it make any difference that I was unaware that he had the right to the amud and didn’t know that I could become obligated to pay a huge sum of money?”

“It should not make any difference, since you owe him for taking away his reward, which is something that you did whether you realized it or not.”

“Do I also owe him for the two kaddeishim? These are not brachos,” inquired Yankel.

“It would seem that Mr. Friedman considers them to be mitzvos, and from his perspective he is probably right. It is true that whether one snatched someone else’s bracha or his mitzvah, one is required to pay compensation for his lost reward. However, it is not clear from the poskim whether one must pay for depriving someone of a mitzvah that is not min haTorah (Yam Shel Shelomoh, Bava Kamma 8:60).”

“What about the fact that he said amen to my brachos. Does that get me off the hook? Do we paskin like Rabbeinu Tam?” The hope in Yankel’s voice was very obvious.

“Actually, there is a big dispute among poskim. Many rule like Rabbeinu Tam, but this is certainly not a universally held position (see Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 382 and commentaries).”

“What does the Rav paskin in this situation?”

I would suggest that one follow the decision of the Taz (end of Choshen Mishpat 382), who says that you should contact Mr. Friedman and apologize, and offer some compensation (Aruch Hashulchan 382:7).”

Yankel phoned Irving Friedman. After a few pleasantries, he apologized for having taken the “amud” from him that fateful afternoon, and discussed the conversation he had with Rav Cohen. He offered him some financial compensation, but far less than $5000, which Friedman accepted, and that was the last time Yankel “chapped” an amud without asking beforehand.

 

Practices of the Tochacha

Question #1: Anonymous Callup

Avraham Gabbai asks: “Why is the practice in my shul not to mention the name of the person who receives the aliyah of the tochacha?”

Question #2: Disproportionate Reading

“When I was studying the parshah that we will read this week, I noticed that the first two aliyos of parshas Bechukosai are very tiny, the third aliyah is huge, and the last four aliyos are fairly small. Why is this parshah divided so unevenly?”

Question #3: Missed the Call

“I once visited an unfamiliar shul for the tochacha reading, and it seemed that no one recited the brochos on that part of the reading. Is this an acceptable practice?”

Answer:

In two places, at the end of the book of VaYikra and in parshas Ki Savo in Devorim, the Torah describes, in great detail, the calamities that may befall Klal Yisroel, chas veshalom, should we not observe the Torah properly. This part of the Torah is customarily called the tochacha, literally, the admonition, although the Mishnah (Megillah 31a) calls it the curses. We find halachic discussion in the Gemara, and much debate among later authorities, as to how these passages are read for kerias haTorah. The goal of our article is to understand which practices are based in halacha and which are not, and to provide a greater appreciation of the topic.

Splitting the tochacha

The earliest discussion, found already in the Mishnah and Gemara, revolves around whether we can divide the tochacha into several different aliyos, which would make the size of the different aliyos in parshas Bechukosai more proportionate. In reference to reading the tochacha, the Mishnah writes very succinctly: We do not end an aliyah in the middle of the curses. For this reason, in the years that we read only parshas Bechukosai, we divide the beginning of the parsha into two very small aliyos and then read the entire tochacha for the third aliyah. (In most years, parshas Bechukosai is combined with parshas Behar.)

Why not split?

To elucidate this Mishnah, the Gemara (Megillah 31b) presents two reasons why we do not split the tochacha into two aliyos.

The Gemara offers an additional reason for not splitting the tochacha into two aliyos: we do not want to recite a brocha specifically on the tochacha. To quote the Mesechta Sofrim (Chapter 12), “Hashem said, ‘It is inappropriate that, while my children are being cursed, I am being blessed,'” or, as explained slightly differently by Tosafos (Megillah 31b, s.v. Ein), “It is inappropriate that my sons bless me for the curses that they receive.” To circumvent this concern, we begin the reading before the tochacha and end the reading after the tochacha, so that the brochos are recited on the earlier and later verses.

There seems to be a difference in halacha between these two answers. According to the first reason, it is acceptable to begin an aliyah with the tochacha and end it immediately afterwards, since the person who received the aliyah heard the tochacha in its entirety. However, according to the second reason, one should begin the aliyah several verses before the tochacha and end it several verses after.

In his commentary on this Gemara, the Sfas Emes demonstrates that the two reasons quoted do not disagree, but complement one another, since each reason applies in situations when the other does not. When the original takkanah to read the Torah was instituted, each person called to the Torah did not recite brochos before and after his aliyah. The person who received the first aliyah recited a brocha before the reading, and the person who received the last aliyah recited the after-brocha. Thus, since the Mishnah that records the practice of not splitting the tochacha into two aliyos was written in the era when only the first and last person recited brochos, the second reason provided by the Gemara (so that we should not recite a brocha directly on the tochacha) could not be explaining the Mishnah, but is providing an additional reason for the halacha.

We do not stop an aliyah in the middle of the tochacha for both reasons. Therefore, we should not start an aliyah right at the tochacha nor end it immediately after. This is our halachic practice.

Not all tochachas are created equal

In the Gemara Megillah (31b), Abayei comments that the ruling prohibiting splitting the reading into two aliyos applies only to the tochacha in Bechukosai, but not to that in Ki Savo. Why are the two tochachas treated differently?

The Gemara explains that the tochacha of Bechukosai is more stringent, because it is written in the singular and has Hashem speaking, whereas in Ki Savo, Moshe speaks in the third person about what Hashem will do, and he refers to the Jewish people in the plural.

Can we divide and conquer?

The Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah 13:7) and the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 428:6) already note that the custom developed not to divide either tochacha, although the halacha remains that it is technically permitted to divide the tochacha in Ki Savo.

The two tochachas remain unequal

A difference of halacha results from the fact that it is technically permitted to divide the tochacha in Ki Savo. Suppose that in the middle of reading the tochacha in Ki Savo one were to find a pesul, a defect, in the sefer Torah that prevents proceeding with the reading in that sefer Torah. When a defect like this is found in a place where it is permitted to end an aliyah, the optimal practice is to end the aliyah and have the person whose aliyah it is recite the after brochaasher nasan lanu Toras emes.” We then close the sefer Torah that has been found defective, tie its gartel around the outside of the sefer Torah’s cover/mantel (the universal way of signaling that a sefer Torah requires repair), and then take out a new sefer Torah and roll it to this point in the reading. We then call up a different person to begin his aliyah.

Should one discover a defect in the middle of the tochacha in parshas Ki Savo, this is the practice that one should observe, despite the fact that it results in ending and beginning aliyos in the middle of the tochacha.

However, were one to find a defect of this nature in the tochacha of parshas Bechukosai, one would not be permitted to end the aliyah at this point, since the Mishnah prohibited dividing the tochacha into two aliyos. Instead, one would be forced to follow the procedure for finding a mistake in a sefer Torah at a point at which one cannot divide the aliyah – which is to take out a new sefer Torah and continue the aliyah from it.

Lightning reading

At this point, we will begin to discuss some of the customs that have developed concerning the reading of the tochacha. Many communities have the practice of reading the tochacha extremely quickly, which has an old, although questionable, tradition, already recorded in the Gemara:

“Levi bar Buta was reading the tochacha very quickly and with difficulty. Rav Huna told him, since you do not want to read it, stop, even though you are in the middle of the tochacha. The halacha not to stop in the middle applies only for the tochacha of VaYikra and not for the one of Devorim” (Megillah 31b, as explained by Rashi). Since most of us are not old enough to have heard Levi bar Buta’s reading, we cannot tell for certain whether our quick readings are similar to his reading, for which he was rebuked.

There are other customs that have developed concerning the tochacha. Some read it in an undertone, although one who does this must be careful to read it loud enough that everyone in the shul can hear it, so it should be read in a voice that we usually call a “stage whisper.”

Only the greatest shall read

Some early authorities cite a custom to call up the rav or other gadol baTorah for the aliyah of the tochacha (Magen Avraham 428:8, quoting Keneses HaGedolah). We find sources showing that this custom is very ancient, as implied by the following anecdote recorded by the Sefer Hassidim: Someone in the community regularly received the aliyah of the tochacha. One time, the gabbai got angry at him, and told him, “I am giving you this for your honor,” to which the perennial recipient responded: “If your intent is to honor me by calling me up for the tochacha, don’t call me up!” They called up someone else instead. Later that Shabbos, something calamitous occurred in the household of the perennial tochacha recipient. The Sefer Hassidim concludes that, although the perennial recipient had a valid reason to refuse the aliyah, he still should not have told this to the gabbai. One who has the opportunity to perform a mitzvah should not turn it down.

Notwithstanding the fact that one should not refuse the aliyah of the tochacha, the Sefer Hassidim notes that some early authorities recommended giving the aliyah of the tochacha to unlettered people for the following reason: should one give the aliyah to a Torah scholar and something grievous happen to him, people might attribute the calamity to the fact that he had read the tochacha. However, despite this concern, the Sefer Hassidim still rules that anyone called to an aliyah should eagerly accept the mitzvah (Sefer Hassidim #766).

No one wants the aliyah

Until now, we have been discussing halachos of reading the tochacha that are based in the Mishnah, Gemara and early authorities. At this point, we will discuss the many customs that developed because people did not want to receive the aliyah in which the tochacha is read.

Obviously, this part of the Torah has the same amount of sanctity as the rest: it is an honor and a mitzvah to be called to read from any part of the Torah. Although there is no halachic basis for the concern, we find that people considered it a bad omen to be called up for the aliyah in which the tochacha was read. Difficulty in finding someone willing to receive this aliyah led to a disgrace to the Torah’s honor. To avoid this bezayon haTorah, a number of interesting customs, some of them with halachic basis and sanction and others without, developed.

Skipping the parsha

The Biur Halacha (428:6) records with tremendous disdain the practice of communities who skipped completely the kerias haTorah on the two Shabbosos of Bechukosai and Ki Savo, in order to avoid the problem that no one wanted the aliyah of the tochacha!

The Biur Halacha decries this practice, noting that this approach means not fulfilling the mitzvah of reading the Torah every Shabbos morning and completing the Torah every year. The reason for reading the Torah is to teach us to behave according to its dictates, whereas skipping these parshiyos means losing the opportunity to learn valuable lessons. The Biur Halacha compares the practice of skipping these parshiyos to an individual who decides that he will avoid the dangers of walking through an area full of pits by wearing blinders! Obviously, the exact opposite is true. One, who needs to walk through a minefield, whether physical or spiritual, must keep his wits about him and walk as carefully as possible. Avoiding bizayon haTorah by skipping the tochacha is not acceptable.

Read without an aliyah

In some circles, the custom developed for the baal keriyah to read the aliyah of the tochacha, but without anyone reciting brochos either before or after it.  Although several major halachic authorities, including Rav Shlomoh Kluger (Shu”t HaElef Lecha Shlomoh, Orach Chayim #63) and Rav Ovadyah Yosef, sharply rebuked this practice, there are halachic authorities who accepted it.

I found this practice quoted by the Maharsham (Daas Torah) in the name of the Shu”t Har HaCarmel (Orach Chayim #12), who recounts that in a certain place they could not find anyone to take the aliyah of the tochacha, unless the community paid them huge amounts of money. Even then, only the lowest of the people in the community would agree.  Since paying someone an exorbitant amount of money for the honor of receiving an aliyah is a bezayon haTorah, the Har HaCarmel permitted the lesser of two evils and allowed them to read the tochacha without anyone reciting brochos. Apparently, this was also the practice in some communities in Morocco.

The Sho’el Umeishiv permitted this practice of “reading the tochacha without an aliyah,” but for a different reason. As I will demonstrate shortly, because of people’s hesitance to receive the aliyah of the tochacha, it was common to prearrange the hiring of someone to receive the aliyah of the tochacha before Shabbos. Once, it happened that the gabbai had forgotten to “hire” someone before Shabbos for the aliyah, and the community made the financial arrangements on Shabbos, which the Sho’el Umeishiv contended violated the halacha of doing business on Shabbos. In order to avoid this halachic violation, the Sho’el Umeishiv considered it preferable to have the baal keriyah read the aliyah without anyone reciting brochos, rather than running the risk of making negotiations on Shabbos!

The opposition

Despite the fact that there were rabbonim who permitted “reading the tochacha without an aliyah,” other poskim took tremendous exception to the practice. Rav Shlomoh Kluger derides the custom as a bizayon haTorah, and a violation of the halacha that requires a brocha prior to reading the Torah. Should the community be unable to hire someone to take the aliyah, or to give it to the shamash or some other community employee, Rav Kluger rules that the attendees of the shul should draw lots for the aliyah (Shu”t HaElef Lecha Shlomoh, Orach Chayim #63). I found, among recent halachic authorities, that Rav Ovadyah Yosef also takes strong umbrage to the practice of “reading the tochacha without an aliyah,” whereas Rav Yaakov Breisch discusses it and does not oppose its practice (Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov, Orach Chayim #35).

Miss only the brochos

The Har HaCarmel, who suggested “reading the tochacha without an aliyah,” presented another suggestion: the person who received the previous aliyah omits reciting a brocha after his aliyah, and the person who received the aliyah afterwards omits the brocha before his aliyah. Thus, the aliyah is read by the baal keriyah, without calling any specific person for the aliyah, but it is sandwiched between two brochos.

Other practices

The Rama cites the following:

“Our custom is that no one goes up to take an aliyah unless the gabbai calls him, and the gabbai calls up only someone designated by the donor who purchased the rights to distribute the day’s aliyos. Even the gabbai does not take an aliyah without permission…. The prevailing practice for both tochachas is to call only someone who wants the aliyah” (Darkei Moshe, Orach Chayim 139:1). The explanation of the Rama is that one should prearrange who will receive this aliyah, to make sure it is not someone who will be offended by its being offered him.

What did the Rama mean?

However, when the Rama quotes this ruling in his glosses on the Shulchan Aruch, he reports that the custom is to refrain from calling a person up to the tochacha by name, but, instead, to give the aliyah to “someone who wants it” (Orach Chayim 428:6). What does the Rama mean?

Some authorities understand the Rama to mean that we do not call up someone by name for this aliyah (Aruch HaShulchan), a practice followed in some places to this day. The concern is that even though the person who received this aliyah is being paid, should he refuse once he was called to the Torah, he will be guilty of a bezayon haTorah (Levush, quoted by Machatzis HaShekel).

A different approach

The Biur Halacha (428:6) suggests that the Rama meant that one should make certain to call up someone who wants the aliyah, and, if no one wants it, entice someone to accept the aliyah by paying him. This method was practiced in certain Chassidic communities. For example, Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (Orach Chayim #35) records that this was the custom in the area where he grew up.

Conclusion

In most places today, the accepted practice is that the aliyah including the tochacha is given to the baal keriyah or to the gabbai. Performing a mitzvah is the greatest segulah for Divine help, and therefore, this is probably the best way to fulfill kavod haTorah. Indeed, it is possible that it is a bigger mitzvah to receive this aliyah than any other, since it includes the strongest reproach in the Torah, enabling a person to grow in serving Hashem. Those places that have other customs should discuss the matter with their rav, to understand the halachic basis for their practice.

 

What If I Goofed and Said Tikanta Shabbos by Mistake?‎

Since this coming Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, this question may become very germane.

What If I Goofed and Said Tikanta Shabbos by Mistake?

By Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff

Question: In the middle of davening Musaf on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, I realized that I was reciting the Musaf for a regular Shabbos rather than the special Musaf for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. What should I have done?

Answer:

This Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh, requiring the recital of a special text for the middle bracha of Musaf. This special Musaf includes elements of the usual Shabbos Musaf, the usual Rosh Chodesh Musaf, and a special introductory passage. This passage, beginning with the words Atah Yatzarta, actually bears closer resemblance to the introductory part of the Yom Tov Musaf than it does to Musaf of either Shabbos or Rosh Chodesh. The rest of the middle bracha of Musaf combines elements of both Shabbos Musaf and Rosh Chodesh Musaf.

I once edited an article in which the author quoted several anthologies, each of which ruled that someone who realizes he is saying Tikanta Shabbos on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh should immediately stop where he is, and go to the beginning of Atah Yatzarta, and recite the entire bracha. However, I believe that this ruling is in error. I will explain shortly why I believe that this answer is erroneous.  But first…

I attempted to trace the sources quoted in the article to see if perhaps I was missing some logic or information that I would clarify in the course of my research.

What I did discover was that each source was simply quoting a previous one, and that they all traced to one obscure 19th century work, which did not explain at all the reason for the ruling. Classic group-think.

I will now explain why I believe this ruling is in error, and what one should do. My major concern is that the approach that these works advocate results in repeating many parts of the shemoneh esrei, and that this repetition constitutes a forbidden interruption in the tefillah. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, there is no essential requirement to recite this middle bracha of the shemoneh esrei precisely in order. Obviously, one should maintain the order as is, but there is ample evidence from major halachic authorities that, in general, mistakenly rearranging the order of a bracha is not calamitous (see, for example, Rosh, Taanis 1:1; Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:18 and 4:70:14). Thus, when left with the choice of rearranging the order of a bracha to avoid repetition, or repeating parts of the bracha and ignoring what was already said, one should follow the first approach.

Subsequently, I realized that the position I have followed, is indeed that of Rav Moshe Feinstein. However, it appears that, in general, there are other halachic authorities who feel that the text of a brocha should indeed be kept intact even when repetition will result (see, for example, Mateh Efrayim 582:10; Mishnah Berurah 582:16; Biur Halacha 127:2 s.v. Aval).

Notwithstanding the disputing opinion, I still think that the approach I am suggesting is correct, but I recognize that others may disagree with me. Therefore, I am going to present my approach, as confusing as it may appear.

Based on my opinion, it appears that someone who discovers that he/she began reciting Tikanta Shabbos rather than Atah Yatzarta should mention only those parts of the bracha that he/she has as yet not recited, but not repeat any theme or part of the bracha that one has already said. Although fulfilling this may be confusing to someone unfamiliar with the bracha, this should provide us with a valid reason to pay more attention to the details of this bracha and understand its different parts.

In order to explain how one does this correctly, brachos of Atah Yatzarta and Tikanta Shabbos into their constituent parts, so that we can identify which parts we should not repeat. We can divide these brachos into the following seven sections (the sections for a regular Shabbos have been numbered in a way that parallels the list for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh:

 

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Regular Shabbos
1. The introduction – from the words Atah Yatzarta until and including the words shenishtalcha (some recite the text hashelucha) bemikdashecha.

 

1. The introduction – from the words Tikanta Shabbos until and including the word kara’ui.
2. The prayer for our return – beginning with the words Yehi Ratzon – until (and including) the word kehilchasam. 2. The prayer for our return – beginning with the words Yehi Ratzon – until (and including) the word kehilchasam.
3. The sentence that introduces the mention of the pesukim of the Musaf Ve’es Musafei Yom HaShabbos Hazeh veyom Rosh Hachodesh… until (and including) the word ka’amur. 3. The sentence that introduces the mention of the pesukim of the Musaf Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh… until (and including) the word ka’amur.

 

4. Mention of the pesukim of the korban Musaf of Shabbos. 4. Mention of the pesukim of the korban Musaf of Shabbos.
5. Mention of the pasuk of the korban Musaf of Rosh Chodesh and the passage Uminchasam… until (and including) the word kehilchasam.
6. The paragraph Yismechu Vemalchusecha that concludes with the words zeicher lemaasei vereishis. 6. The paragraph Yismechu Vemalchusecha that concludes with the words zeicher lemaasei vereishis.
7. The closing of the brachaElokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu. 7. The closing of the brachaElokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu.

 

We should note that the closings of these middle brachos of Musaf shemoneh esrei are very different. On Shabbos Rosh Chodesh we recite a version that is almost identical to what we recite on a weekday Rosh Chodesh, but we insert three passages to include Shabbos.

Parts 2, 4 and 6 of the two brachos are identical, whether it is Shabbos or Shabbos Rosh Chodesh. Therefore, one should not repeat these sections if one has said them already.

Part 1 on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, Atah Yatzarta, is very different from what we usually recite on a regular Shabbos. Therefore, someone still in the middle of this bracha should recite this passage again.

If someone missed part 5, mention of the pesukim of Rosh Chodesh, and is still in the middle of this bracha, he/she should recite it and introduce it with the section 3 above, which introduces the korbanos of the Musaf. However, if he/she already recited the pesukim of Shabbos korban Musaf (#4) above, he should omit the reference to Shabbos in this piece and only mention Rosh Chodesh. In the latter case, one should change the plural Musafei to a singular Musaf since he/she now is only mentioning the Rosh Chodesh Musaf.

Having explained the rules governing these halachos, I will now present the conclusions in a hopefully clearer way, depending on when you discover your mistake:

  1. If you were still reciting the beginning of Tikanta Shabbos, and had not yet reached Yehi Ratzon:

Return to Atah Yatzarta and recite it in order without any changes.

  1. If you had already begun the Yehi Ratzon, but are before Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Complete the Yehi Ratzon until Ve’es Musaf; then recite Atah Yatzarta until the words Yehi Ratzon, then resume from the words Ve’es Musafei Yom HaShabbos Hazeh Veyom Rosh Hachodesh from the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Musaf and continue through the rest of the tefillah.

  1. If you had just begun Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Add the words Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh, and then continue in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Musaf until Yismechu Vemalchusecha. Immediately prior to saying Yismechu Vemalchusecha insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to Yismechu Vemalchusecha and recite the rest of the tefillah in order.

  1. If you are already in the middle of Ve’es Musaf Yom HaShabbos Hazeh:

Recite Uveyom Hashabbas… until Veniskah. Then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say the following: Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section and continue in order.

  1. If you are in the middle of Yismechu Vemalchusecha, complete it until Zeicher lemaasei vereishis, and then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say the following: Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section. Then go to Elokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu (after Yismechu Vemalchusecha) and finish the end of the bracha and the davening.
  2. If you are already in the middle of the closing part of the bracha (Elokeinu Veilokei Avoseinu) complete the clause that you are saying, and then insert the words from Atah Yatzarta until the words shenishtalcha bemikdashecha. Then return to the words Ve’es Musaf but say Ve’es Musaf Yom Rosh Hachodesh Hazeh until the word ka’amur. Then say Uverashei Chadsheichem in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section. Then return to chadeish aleinu beyom hashabbos hazeh es hachodesh hazeh and finish the end of the bracha in the Shabbos Rosh Chodesh section.

If you completed the entire bracha of Tikanta Shabbos, but mentioned in the middle of the bracha some reference to the korban Musaf of Rosh Chodesh, you have fulfilled the requirements of this prayer and you should continue Retzei (see Mishnah Berurah 423:6). If you completed the bracha of Tikanta Shabbos but did not yet begin Retzeih, you should say “vena’aseh lefanecha korban Rosh Chodesh hazeh” – “and we shall do before You this Rosh Chodesh offering” and then continue with Retzei (ibid.).

Conclusion

Although all this may sound very confusing, if we spend a few seconds familiarizing ourselves with the divisions of this bracha that I have made, we will easily realize why the halachos are as I have outlined, and will be ready to make the necessary adjustments should we find that we have erred. This readiness has of course a tremendous value on its own: It familiarizes us with the shemoneh esrei, something we always should do, but, unfortunately, often do not pay sufficient attention.

Understanding how much concern Chazal placed in the relatively minor aspects of davening should make us even more aware of the fact that davening is our attempt at building a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three high points — the three times that we daven. Certainly, one should do whatever one can to make sure to pay attention to the meaning of the words of one’s Tefillah. We should gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day from these three prayers. Let us hope that Hashem will accept our tefillos together with those of Klal Yisrael!

 

Missing the Reading II

Question #1: The Missing Speaker

The audience waited patiently for the guest speaker from America who never arrived, notwithstanding that he had marked it carefully on his calendar and was planning to be there. What went wrong?

Question #2: The Missing Reading

“I will be traveling to Eretz Yisroel this spring, and will miss one of the parshiyos. Can I make up the missing kerias haTorah?”

Question #3: The Missing Parshah

“I will be traveling from Eretz Yisroel to the United States after Pesach. Do I need to review the parshah twice?”

Question #4: The Missing Aliyah

“May I accept an aliyah for a parshah that is not the one I will be reading on Shabbos?”

Introduction:

As we explained in the first part of this article, this year we have a very interesting phenomenon — there is a difference in the weekly Torah reading between what is read in Eretz Yisroel and what is read in chutz la’aretz for over three months  – until the Shabbos of Matos/Masei, during the Three Weeks and immediately before Shabbos Chazon. Since the Eighth Day of Pesach, Acharon shel Pesach, falls on Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz, where this day is Yom Tov, we read a special Torah reading in honor of Yom Tov that begins with the words Aseir te’aseir. In Eretz Yisroel, where Pesach is only seven days long, this Shabbos is after Pesach (although the house is still chometz-free), and the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, which is always the first reading after Pesach in a leap year (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428:4). On the subsequent Shabbos, the Jews of Eretz Yisroel already read parshas Kedoshim, whereas outside Eretz Yisroel the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, since for them it is the first Shabbos after Pesach. This phenomenon, whereby the readings of Eretz Yisroel and chutz la’aretz are a week apart, continues until the Shabbos that falls on August 6th. On that Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz parshiyos Matos and Masei are read together, whereas in Eretz Yisroel that week is parshas Masei, parshas Matos having been read the Shabbos before.

Anyone traveling to Eretz Yisroel during these three months will miss a parshah on his trip there, and anyone traveling from Eretz Yisroel to chutz la’aretz will hear the same parshah on two consecutive Shabbosos. Those from Eretz Yisroel who spend Pesach in chutz la’aretz will find that they have missed a parshah.

As I mentioned, there are several halachic questions that result from this phenomenon. Is a traveler or someone who attended a chutz la’aretz minyan on Acharon shel Pesach required to make up the missed parshah, and, if so, how? During which week does he review the parshah shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum? If he will be hearing a repeated parshah, is he required to review the parshah again on the consecutive week? Can he receive an aliyah or “lein” on a Torah reading that is not “his” parshah? These are some of the questions that result from this occurrence.

Searching for a Missing Parshah

At this point, let us examine some of our opening questions. “I will be traveling to Eretz Yisroel this spring, and will miss one of the parshiyos. Can I make up the missing kerias haTorah?”

To the best of my knowledge, all halachic authorities rule that there is no requirement upon an individual to make up a missing parshah (Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah, page 239, notes 40 and 41, quoting Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, Rav Elazar Shach, and disciples of Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his name). Nevertheless, there is a widespread practice to try to find ways of reading through the entire extra parshah. Among the approaches I know are the following:

  1. Read the entire missed parshah together with the kohen’s aliyah.
  2. On the Shabbos mincha of the week before one leaves chutz la’aretz, read the entire coming week’s parshah, rather than only until sheini, as we usually do (Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah, page 241).

Individual versus tzibur

We should note that there is a major difference in halachah whether an individual missed the week’s reading, or whether an entire tzibur missed the reading.  There is longstanding halachic literature ruling that, when an entire tzibur missed a week’s Torah reading, a situation that transpired occasionally due to flooding, warfare or other calamity, the tzibur would be required to make up the reading that was missed by reading a double parshah the following week (Rema, Orach Chayim 135:2, quoting Or Zarua).

Which parshah?

At this point, let us examine the next of our opening questions:

“I will be traveling from Eretz Yisroel to the United States after Pesach. Do I need to review the parshah twice?”

Let me explain the background to the question. The Gemara (Brachos 8a-b) states: “A person should always complete his weekly parshiyos with the community by reading the Scriptures twice and the targum once (shenayim mikra ve’echad targum).” The targum referred to here is the Aramaic translation of the chumash known as Targum Onkelus. We will leave the details of this mitzvah for a different time, but we should be aware that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 285:2) states that one who “fears Heaven” should read both the targum and Rashi.

Our questioner is asking as follows: He will have read each parshah according to the weekly schedule in Eretz Yisroel, and then he will be traveling to chutz la’aretz, where the previous week’s Eretz Yisroel reading will be read. Does the requirement to read the weekly parshah “with the community” require him to read the same parshah again, the next week, since for this week, he is part of that community, notwithstanding that he just read through that entire parshah the week before?

This exact issue is raised by Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh, one of the great halachic authorities of mid-twentieth century Yerushalayim. Rav Na’eh, usually referred as the Grach Na’eh, authored many Torah works, among them Shiurei Torah on the measurements germane to halachah, and Ketzos Hashulchan, which is an easy-to-read, practical guide to daily halachah. Aside from being a very excellent source of halachah that can be studied by both a layman and a skilled talmid chacham, the Grach Na’eh had a specific unwritten goal to accomplish. Whenever the Mishnah Berurah disputes an approach of the Gra”z (also known as the Shulchan Aruch Harav), the Grach Na’eh presents a brilliant approach explaining how the Gra”z understood the topic and thus justifying that position. The Grach Na’eh himself was a Lubavitcher Chassid, and, therefore, felt a personal responsibility to explain any difficulty that someone might pose with a halachic position of the Gra”z, the founder of Chabad Chassidus.

Returning to our original question, the Grach Na’eh (Ketzos Hashulchan, Chapter 72, footnote 3) rules that a ben Eretz Yisroel is not required to read shenayim mikra ve’echad targum a second time the next week, since he already fulfilled the mitzvah of reading it together with the Israeli tzibur. However, a ben chutz la’aretz who is in Eretz Yisroel should read shenayim mikra ve’echad targum for both parshiyos the week he is in Eretz Yisroel. Since he will be part of an Eretz Yisroel tzibur, he should read that parshah, and he also must read the one of chutz la’aretz, because otherwise, he’ll completely miss studying that parshah this year.

Which one first?

This last point leads us to a new question. Assuming that our chutz la’aretz traveler is now required to read through two parshiyos during the week that will be his first Shabbos in Israel, which parshah does he read first? Does he read the two parshiyos according to their order in the Torah, or does he read first the Eretz Yisroel parshah, which is second in order in the Torah?

Why would he read the two parshiyos out of order?

The reason to require this is because the mitzvah is to read the parshah with the tzibur, and the Torah reading our traveler will be hearing that week is the second parshah since Eretz Yisroel’s reading is a week ahead.

We actually find a responsum on a related question. The Maharsham, one of the greatest halachic authorities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was asked a question by Rav Yitzchak Weiss, who is identified as a rav of Pressburg, Hungary. (You won’t find this city in any map of Hungary today, for two very good reasons: This city is known today as Bratislava, and it is no longer in Hungary, but serves as the capital of Slovakia.)

The question concerns someone who did not complete being maavir sedra one week. Should he complete the parshah that he is missing before beginning the current week, in order to do his parshiyos in order, or should he do the current week first, and then make up the missed part of the previous week?

The Maharsham concludes that he should do the current week first and then the makeup (Shu”t Maharsham 1:213). If we consider our case to be parallel to his, then one should do the two parshiyos in reverse order. However, one could, perhaps, argue that our traveler has an equal chiyuv to complete both parshiyos, since he is now considered a member of two different communities regarding the laws of the week’s parshah. In this case, he should do them in order.

Which aliyah?

At this point, let us look at our final question. “May I accept an aliyah for a parshah that is not the one I will be reading on Shabbos?”

All halachic authorities that I have heard contend that one may receive an aliyah and/or lein without any concerns. The basis for this approach is that there is no requirement to hear a specific Torah reading each week. One is required to hear a Torah reading, and that reading should follow a consecutive pattern. But these details are not requirements that govern an individual’s mitzvah.

This year in Jerusalem…

In these occasional years when Matos and Masei are read separately, parshas Pinchas falls out before the Three Weeks — and we actually get to read the haftarah that is printed in the chumashim for parshas Pinchas, Ve’yad Hashem, from the book of Melachim. In all other years, parshas Pinchas is the first Shabbos of the Three Weeks, and the haftarah is Divrei Yirmiyahu, the opening words of the book of Yirmiyahu, which is appropriate to the season. The printers of chumashim usually elect to print Divrei Yirmiyahu as if it is the haftarah for parshas Matos, and then instruct you to read it, on most years, instead as the haftarah for Pinchas. What is more logical is to label Divrei Yirmiyahu as the hatarah appropriate for the first of the Three Weeks, and to print both Ve’yad Hashem and Divrei Yirmiyahu after Pinchas; Ve’yad Hashem for the occasional year when Pinchas falls before the 17th of Tamuz, and Divrei Yirmiyahu for the far more frequent year when it falls after, and instruct people that when there is a haftarah to be read just for parshas Matos, they should read Divrei Yirmiyahu which is located as the second haftarah printed after parshas Pinchas. But, then, the printers do not usually ask me what to do, electing instead to mimic what previous printers have done. This phenomenon affects practical halachah, but that is a topic for a different time. However, the printers’ insistence to call Ve’yad Hashem the “regular” haftarah for parshas Pinchas has lead to interesting questions.

Wrong haftarah

The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, was asked the following shaylah. A shul read the haftarah Ve’yad Hashem for parshas Pinchas when it fell during the Three Weeks, which is the wrong haftarah (they should have read Divrei Yirmiyahu), and now it is parshas Matos/Masei. Which haftarah do they read, Divrei Yirmiyahu which is the one for the first of the Three Weeks, or the one for the second of the Three Weeks, which begins with the words Shim’u dvar Hashem?

He says that because these two chapters, Divrei Yirmiyahu and Shim’u dvar Hashem are next to one another, they should begin with Divrei Yirmiyahu and read them in order, both together, as one long haftarah (Shu”t Tzemach Tzedek, quoted by Maharsham). Those who are unhappy about this decision of reading what is, in essence, a doubled haftarah, should take it up with their gabbai, or, if they prefer, with the printers, who should have placed Divrei Yirmiyahu after parshas Pinchas!

End of Shim’u dvar Hashem – Nice or near?

By the way, there is a difference between the way the Sefardim and the Ashkenazim end this haftarah. The passage Shim’u dvar Hashem does not end on the most pleasant topic, and we try to close our haftaros on a positive note. For this reason, both Ashkenazim and Sefardim skip ahead to find a nice way to end the haftarah, but we don’t jump to the same place. Ashkenazim skip to the pasuk Halo Mei’atah, which is twelve pesukim ahead, whereas Sefardim jump ahead further, to the two heart-warming pesukim that begin with Im tashuv Yisroel, which are over thirty pesukim ahead. In this instance, it appears that Sefardim elected to go with the nicer conclusion, whereas Ashkenazim elected the nearest appropriate ending.

Conclusion

We see the importance of reading through the entire Torah every year. We should place even more importance in understanding the Torah’s portion well every week and putting it into practice.

 

Missing the Reading

Question #1: The Missing Speaker

The audience waited patiently for the guest speaker from America who never arrived, notwithstanding that he had marked it carefully on his calendar and was planning to be there. What went wrong?

Question #2: The Missing Reading

“I will be traveling to Eretz Yisroel this spring, and will miss one of the parshiyos. Can I make up the missing kerias haTorah?”

Question #3: The Missing Parshah

“I will be traveling from Eretz Yisroel to the United States after Pesach. Do I need to review the parshah twice?”

Question #4: The Missing Aliyah

“May I accept an aliyah for a parshah that is not the one I will be reading on Shabbos?”

Introduction:

The Jerusalem audience is waiting for the special guest speaker. The scheduled time comes and goes, and the organizer is also wondering why the speaker did not apprise him of a delay. Finally, he begins making phone calls and discovers that the speaker — is still in Brooklyn!

What happened? Well… arrangements had been made for the speaker to speak on Wednesday of parshas Behar. Both sides confirmed the date on their calendars — but neither side realized that they were not talking about the same date!

This year we have a very interesting phenomenon that affects baalei keriyah, calendar makers, those travelling to or from Eretz Yisroel, and authors whose articles are published in Torah publications worldwide. When Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos in a leap year, there is a difference in the weekly Torah reading between what is read in Eretz Yisroel and what is read in chutz la’aretz – for a very long period of time – over three months  – until the Shabbos of Matos/Masei, during the Three Weeks and immediately before Shabbos Chazon. Although Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos fairly frequently, most of the time this is in a common year, and the difference between the observances of chutz la’aretz and of Eretz Yisroel last for only a few weeks. The last time Acharon shel Pesach fell on Shabbos in a leap year was back in 5755.

Why the different reading?

When the Eighth Day of Pesach, Acharon shel Pesach, falls on Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz, where this day is Yom Tov, we read a special Torah reading in honor of Yom Tov that begins with the words Aseir te’aseir. In Eretz Yisroel, where Pesach is only seven days long, this Shabbos is after Pesach (although the house is still chometz-free), and the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, which is always the first reading after Pesach in a leap year (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428:4). On the subsequent Shabbos, the Jews of Eretz Yisroel already read parshas Kedoshim, whereas outside Eretz Yisroel the reading is parshas Acharei Mos, since for them it is the first Shabbos after Pesach. Until mid-summer, chutz la’aretz will consistently be a week “behind” Eretz Yisroel. Thus, in Jerusalem, the Wednesday of parshas Behar is the 10th of Iyar or May 18th. However, in chutz la’aretz, the Wednesday of parshas Behar is a week later, on the 17th of Iyar or May 25th.

This phenomenon, whereby the readings of Eretz Yisroel and chutz la’aretz are a week apart, continues until the Shabbos that falls on August 6th. On that Shabbos, in chutz la’aretz parshiyos Matos and Masei are read together, whereas in Eretz Yisroel that week is parshas Masei, parshas Matos having been read the Shabbos before.

The ramifications of these practices affect not only speakers missing their engagements, and writers, such as myself, who live in Eretz Yisroel but write parshah columns that are published in chutz la’aretz. Anyone traveling to Eretz Yisroel during these three months will miss a parshah on his trip there, and anyone traveling from Eretz Yisroel to chutz la’aretz will hear the same parshah on two consecutive Shabbosos. Those from Eretz Yisroel who spent Pesach in chutz la’aretz discover that they have missed a parshah. Unless, of course, they decide to stay in Eretz Yisroel until the Nine Days. But this latter solution will not help someone who is living temporarily in Eretz Yisroel and therefore observing two days of Yom Tov. Assuming that he attends a chutz la’aretz minyan on Acharon shel Pesach, he will miss hearing parshas Acharei Mos.

Several halachic questions result from this phenomenon: Is a traveler or someone who attended a chutz la’aretz minyan on Acharon shel Pesach required to make up the missed parshah, and, if so, how? During which week does he review the parshah shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum? If he will be hearing a repeated parshah, is he required to review the parshah again on the consecutive week? Can he receive an aliyah or “lein” on a Torah reading that is not “his” parshah?

Why doesn’t chutz la’aretz catch up earlier?

First, let us understand why this phenomenon lasts for such a long time! After all, there are numerous weeks when chutz la’aretz could “double up” two parshiyos and thereby “catch up” to Eretz Yisroel. Why don’t they double up Acharei Mos/Kedoshim the week after Pesach, or Behar/Bechukosei, which is only a few weeks later, rather than reading five weeks of sefer Vayikra and virtually all of sefer Bamidbar before straightening out the problem?

As you can imagine, we are not the first to raise this question. The question is discussed by one of the great sixteenth-century halachic authorities, the Maharit (Shu”t Maharit, Volume II, Orach Chayim #4). He answers that the reason why chutz la’aretz does not double the parshah earlier is because this would make Shavuos fall earlier than it should, relative to the parshiyos. Ideally, Shavuos should be observed between Bamidbar and Naso, and combining either Acharei Mos with Kedoshim, or Behar with Bechokosai pushes Shavuos until after parshas Naso.

Shavuos after Bamidbar

Why should Shavuos be after Bamidbar? The Gemara establishes certain rules how the parshiyos should be spaced through the year. The Gemara (Megillah 31b) explains: Ezra decreed that the Jews should read the curses of the tochacha in Vayikra before Shavuos and those of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah. Why? In order to end the year together with its curses! [The Gemara then comments:] We well understand why we read the tochacha of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah, because the year is ending, but why is that of Vayikra read before Shavuos? Is Shavuos the beginning of a year? Yes, Shavuos is the beginning of a new year, as the Mishnah explains that the world is judged on Shavuos for its fruit”.

We see from this Gemara that we should plan the parshiyos in such a way that we read from the beginning of Bereishis, which we begin on Simchas Torah, until parshas Bechukosai at the end of Vayikra before Shavuos. We then space our parshiyos so that we complete the second tochacha in parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah.

One week or two?

However, this Gemara does not seem to explain our practice. Neither of these parshiyos, Bechukosai or Ki Savo, is ever read immediately before Shavuos or Rosh Hashanah. There is always at least one other Shabbos wedged between. This practice is already noted by Tosafos (Megillah 31b s.v. Kelalos). The Levush (Orach Chayim 428:4) explains that without the intervening Shabbos as a shield, the Satan could use the tochacha as a means of accusing us on the judgment day. The intervening Shabbos, when we read a different parshah, prevents the Satan from his attempt at prosecuting, and, as a result, we can declare: End the year together with its curses!

The Maharit explains that not only should we have one intervening Shabbos between the reading of the tochacha and the judgment day, we should preferably have only one Shabbos between the two. That is why chutz la’aretz postpones doubling a parshah until after Shavuos. (Indeed, parshas Naso is read in Eretz Yisroel before Shavuos in these years, but that is because there is no better option. In chutz la’aretz, since one can have the readings occur on the preferred weeks, Shavuos is observed on its optimal Shabbos reading.)

Why not Chukas/Balak?

However, the Maharit points out that this does not explain why the parshiyos of Chukas and Balak are not combined, although he notes that, in his day, some communities indeed did read the two together when Acharon shel Pesach of a leap year fell on Shabbos. The Syrian communities followed this practice and in these years combined parshiyos Chukas and Balak together, and read Matos and Masei on separate weeks. There is no Jewish community in Syria anymore today that reads kerias haTorah according to this custom – for that matter, there is unfortunately no longer any Jewish community in Syria that reads kerias haTorah according to any custom. I am under the impression that the communities of Aleppo Jews currently living in Flatbush and in Deal, New Jersey, do not follow this approach, notwithstanding their strict adherence to the customs that they have practiced for centuries. I am not familiar with the custom of other Syrian communities.

To explain the common custom that does not combine the parshiyos of Chukas and Balak, the Maharit concludes that, once most of the summer has passed and the difference is only what to read on three Shabbosos, we combine Matos with Masei which are usually combined, rather than Chukas and Balak, which are usually separate. The two parshiyos, Matos and Masei, are almost always read together, and are separated only when the year requires an extra Shabbos reading, as it does this year in Eretz Yisroel. Truthfully, we should view Matos and Masei as one long parshah (making the combination the largest parshah in the Torah) that occasionally needs to be divided, rather than as two parshiyos that are usually combined.

One could explain the phenomenon more simply: Matos and Masei are read on separate weeks only when there simply are otherwise not enough readings for every Shabbos of the year.

In these occasional years when Matos and Masei are read separately, parshas Pinchas falls out before the Three Weeks — and we actually get to read the haftarah that is printed in the chumashim for parshas Pinchas, Ve’yad Hashem, from the book of Melachim. In all other years, parshas Pinchas is the first Shabbos of the Three Weeks, and the haftarah is Divrei Yirmiyahu, the opening words of the book of Yirmiyahu, which is appropriate to the season. The printers of chumashim usually elect to print Divrei Yirmiyahu as if it is the haftarah for parshas Matos, and then instruct you to read it, on most years, instead as the haftarah for Pinchas. It is actually more logical to label Divrei Yirmiyahu as the hatarah appropriate for the first of the Three Weeks, and to print both Ve’yad Hashem and Divrei Yirmiyahu after Pinchas; Ve’yad Hashem for the occasional year when Pinchas falls before the 17th of Tamuz, and Divrei Yirmiyahu for the far more frequent year when it falls after, and instruct people that when there is a haftarah to be read just for parshas Matos, they should read Divrei Yirmiyahu which is located as the second haftarah printed after parshas Pinchas. But, then, the printers do not usually ask me what to do, electing instead to mimic what previous printers have done. This phenomenon affects practical halachah, but that is a topic for a different time. However, the printers’ insistence to call Ve’yad Hashem the “regular” haftarah for parshas Pinchas has led to interesting questions.

This article will be continued next week.