Halacha for Thursday 25 Tishrei 5779 October 4 2018

Some Details Regarding the Laws of “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum”

In the previous Halacha, we have explained the general law that one must read the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum,” meaning that one must complete the weekly Torah portion by reading its verses twice and Unkelos’s Aramaic commentary once.

The Mitzvah of reading the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” is included in the Mitzvah of Torah study. Since women are exempt from the Mitzvah of Torah study (besides for studying the basic laws of the Torah which pertain to them), they are likewise exempt from the Mitzvah of reading the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum.” Nevertheless, a woman who wishes to read the weekly Torah portion in this way shall surely be blessed and she shall be rewarded for doing so. Similarly, if a woman has some time and spends it studying the weekly Torah portion with Rashi’s commentary, she indeed fulfills the Mitzvah of Torah study as one who is not commanded to perform a given Mitzvah and does so anyway. However, as we have established, there is no real obligation for a woman to do so.

It is absolutely forbidden to speak at all while the Torah is being read in the synagogue. Nevertheless, it is permissible according to the letter of the law to read the Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” while the Torah is being read in the synagogue. Although one may not necessarily be holding at the exact place where the Chazzan is reading because one may be reading the beginning or end of the Torah portion while the Chazzan is reading other verses, nevertheless, since one is involved in the same idea that the Chazzan is (i.e. reading the weekly Torah portion), this is permissible. This was indeed the custom of Rabbeinu Yehuda Ha’Chassid who would read the Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” while the Chazzan read the weekly Torah portion in the synagogue on Shabbat morning. Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules likewise (Chapter 285).

Nevertheless, Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (Chapter 146) writes that it is preferable for those who are meticulous with their performance of Mitzvot to read the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” either before or after the Torah is read in the synagogue so that one will be able to listen intently as the Torah is being read by the Chazzan.

The Hagahot Maimoniyot writes that the Maharam would read the Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” when the Chazzan was silent, i.e. between the Aliyot; however, while the Torah was being read, he would be silent. Furthermore, the Poskim write that in any case, one may read the Torah portion once at the time the Torah is being read by reading along every single word of the Torah portion along with the Chazzan. One should then read all of the verses of the Torah portion once again followed by Unkelos’s commentary on the Torah portion once.

We have already explained though that the most preferable way to fulfill this Mitzvah is by reading the Torah portion at a time other than when the Torah is being read in the synagogue and by reading each verse twice followed by Unkelos’s commentary on that verse once until one completes the Torah portion.

Summary: Women are exempt from reading the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum.” Nevertheless, a woman who is careful to read the Torah portion in this way fulfills a Mitzvah with her learning and this will greatly benefit her.

According to the letter of the law, one may read the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” while the Torah is being read by the Chazzan in the synagogue. It is preferable to avoid reading “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” while the Torah is being read and one should limit this to reading the Torah portion once word by word along with the Chazzan who is reading aloud. It is most preferable to be completely silent while the Torah is being read in the synagogue and to read the weekly Torah portion “Shenayim Mikrah Ve’Echad Targum” at a different time.

Based on the above, it is absolutely forbidden to speak idle chat while the Torah is being read in the synagogue and this is a grave sin. One who speaks while the Torah is being read should be instructed to be silent, for his sin is too great to bear since he is desecrating the sanctity of the synagogue and causing others to learn from him and talk as well. The merit of being quiet in the synagogue has the power to protect from all suffering. Even King David would take care to enter the synagogue quietly and calmly and without all of the noise and tumult that usually surrounds the king, as the verse states, “We took sweet counsel together; in the house of G-d we shall walk with emotion.”

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