Halacha for Wednesday 24 Tishrei 5779 October 3 2018

“Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum”

Question: Is one halachically obligated to read the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” every week? Are women obligated in this reading? May one read the weekly Torah portion while hearing the Torah being read in the synagogue on Shabbat?

Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 8a) states, “One should always complete the Torah portions with the congregation by reading them ‘Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum’, for whoever completes the Torah portions with the congregation shall have his days and years lengthened.” (Reading the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” refers to reading the Torah portion itself twice followed by reading Unkelos’s commentary once, as is printed in most Chumashim.) Indeed, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi commanded his children to complete the Torah portions along with the congregation by reading them “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum”. The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that Rabbi Yehuda Ha’Nassi commanded his children regarding this manner as well.

When the Gemara uses a language of “One should always complete the Torah portions,” this does not mean that this is not an actual obligation and is merely a piece of good advice, for reading the Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” is an actual obligation. Indeed, the Rambam writes (Chapter 13 of Hilchot Tefillah): “Although one hears all of the Torah portions being read every year by the Chazzan who reads them every Shabbat, one must nevertheless read the weekly Torah portion every week ‘Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum.’” Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules likewise (Chapter 285, Section 1) using the word “obligated”.

A responsa from the Geonim states as follows: “That you have asked regarding whether or not a Torah scholar who wishes to continue with his usual study routine and does not wish to complete the weekly Torah portion along with the congregation may indeed do so, the answer is, our Sages have taught that although one yearns for his usual study, one may not sin by not completing the Torah portions along with the congregation.”

One should preferably read each verse twice followed by Unkelos’s commentary on that verse. Nevertheless, if one has read the entire Torah portion twice followed by reading Unkelos’s commentary on the entire Torah portion once, one has fulfilled one’s obligation.

Summary: One must read the weekly Torah portion every week. Even Torah scholars must read the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum”. In the next Halacha we shall discuss the other questions we have posed regarding whether or not women are included in this obligation and whether or not one may read the Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” while the Torah is being read in the synagogue.

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