READ IT ONCE, READ IT TWICE…
The gemara in Berachot 8a says in the name of Rav Huna bar Yehuda that a person should always "complete his parshiyot with the community, twice Mikra and once Targum, and even Atarot and Divon." In simpler terms, a person is encouraged to always read the weekly Torah portion, twice reading the actual verses, and once reading the Aramaic explanation, generally assumed to be that of Onkelos. One who keeps this practice is promised long life.
The final clause from the gemara cited above is a bit more technical. Atarot and Divon are place names found in Bamidbar 32:3, and place names generally do not translate into any other language, retaining their original form. Seemingly, the gemara is telling us that even place names have to be read in the Targum, even if it will be the exact same word as in the original Hebrew. We will return to this issue a bit later on.
There are a number of issues involved in this law, and we will try to deal with them in the order in which they appear in the gemara. The first issue is the reason behind this law. Given the fact that we hear the entire parashat ha-shavua read every week, why is there a need to go over it privately three times? TheHagahot Maimoniyot cites Ra'avan, who basically asks this same question. Ra'avan feels that this law was mainly for those people who did not have a minyan of ten men available to them and thus never heard the entire parasha read in public. Thus, they had to read it three times in place of the three times that it was read in the synagogues in former times (once by the reader, once by the shaliach tzibur, and once by the person who would translate it for the generally uneducated masses). However, since most of us are now able to hear the Torah read in public, Ra'avan reasons that this custom should no longer apply for us. The Hagahot Maimoniyot understands the logic at work here, but responds that this custom is nevertheless a good one and should not be ignored.
TheAruch HaShulchan (O.C. 285) brings down several other reasons for this custom. He states simply that Moshe Rabbeinu established it, which is enough of a reason by itself, and then he cites the Levush, who claims that this was done so that people will become familiar and expert with the words of the Torah. He also cites a view that the three times that we have to review the weekly portion is to parallel the three times that the Torah was taught to the Jews in the desert - once at Sinai, once in the Ohel Moed (the tent of meeting where Moshe taught Torah), and once before Moshe's death in the Plains of Moav. Finally, the Aruch HaShulchan cites the Midrash in Yalkut Iyov, which states that every time Hashem spoke to Moshe He said what He had to say twice to Himself and only then did He say it openly to Moshe.
II. "HIS PARSHIYOT"
The next issue is what does the gemara mean when it refers to "parshiyot." Off the bat, we should note that the word parasha, in common parlance, has two possible meanings. One meaning is the entire weekly Torah portion; the second meaning is that it refers to a "parasha petucha" or a "parasha setumah," an open or closed paragraph in the Torah itself.Rashi claims that what is being referred to here is the entire weekly portion, although he makes no further comment on that matter.
This becomes an issue in terms of how a person is supposed to read through the portion every week. Should a person read through the entire portion twice and then read through the Targum? Should a person read each paragraph twice with the Targum? Are there any other methods of executing this mitzva?Rabbeinu Yonah notes that some people had the custom to read some of the weekly portion every day, although he does not say how much they did each day. The Magen Avraham cites the Shlah and the Maharshal, who rule that a person should read each parasha twice followed by its Targum, and the Aruch HaShulchan explains that this refers to the open and closed paragraphs, and not to the entire portion, and not to the aliyot divisions that we now have. The Be'eir Heitev notes that there are those who argue with the Shlah and claim that a person should read each verse twice and then read its Targum. He also notes that those who have this practice should assume a different order for the last verse - reading it once from the Torah, then from the Targum and then once again from the Torah, so that the last thing that a person reads is the Torah itself. The Mishna Berura notes that this was also the practice of the GR"A. However, the Aruch HaShulchan then notes that based on other statements of the gemara, the term "parasha" could refer to the entire weekly portion, and thus any custom that one has would satisfy the requirement.
The Aruch HaShulchan raises a curious issue. There are three verses in the Torah (Bereishit 35:22, Bamidbar 26:1, and Devarim 2:8) where the paragraph breaks in the middle of the verse. If one were to have the custom to read the paragraph twice with its Targum, one would be breaking up these verses, thus potentially violating the principle of not creating verses that Moshe himself did not create (seeChabura on this topic). The Aruch HaShulchan answers that this would not be a problem since Moshe himself made these breaks in the verses and thus one who breaks off reading them where the paragraph break is would not be creating any new division.
Finally, theBeit Yoseif cites the Terumat HaDeshen, who claims that the term "parshiyot" does not apply to the readings on holidays (since they are selections from parshiyot read at other times during the year). Furthermore, he cites Mordechai, who claims that this does not apply to the haftarot or to the readings done at Mincha on Shabbat.
III. "WITH THE COMMUNITY"
The next topic to be analyzed is what it means to complete the reading of the parasha "with the community." The gemara states that Rav Bibi bar Abaye wanted to complete the readings on Erev Yom HaKippurim, but was stopped from doing so since there is a commandment to eat on that day (seeChabura on that topic), and then he wanted to read them all in the span of a few weeks, but was told that once should not move up his reading of the parasha at all. Tosafot rule that "with the community" means to start the reading as early as Mincha on Shabbat when the parasha is read for the first time, and to continue up until the morning of the Shabbat when the entire parasha is read. Ideally, a person should be finished before the main meal on Shabbat day (although the Mishna Berura notes that one should not delay the meal if they had not yet finished reading the parasha).
There is some discussion about how much room there is to maneuver with these boundaries. The Hagahot Maimoniyot notes that according to Rabbeinu Simcha, one has until Shmini Atzeret to finish any parasha that he had yet to finish, and theShulchan Aruch comments that in the diaspora this refers to Simchat Torah. The Tur rules that a person has all week to read the parasha, and should be done by the meal. However, if a person did not finish before the meal then they have until Mincha to finish, at which point the next parasha begins its turn. The Beit Yoseif (and thus the Shulchan Aruch) notes a view of the Hagahot Maimoniyot that states that just as a person can make havdala as late as Tuesday, so too does a person have until Tuesday to finish reading the parasha (although the Kol-Bo claims that it has to be done on Shabbat). The Shlah claimed that the best time to read the parasha was after noon on Friday.
Interestingly, theAbudraham picks up the failed attempt of Rav Bibi bar Abaye and claims that if a person did not yet finish reading all parshiyot, then there is some merit to doing so during the Aseret Ymei Teshuva (between Rosh HaShana and Yom HaKippurim). Furthermore, the Aruch claims that what Rav Bibi was actually trying to do was to read all of the parshiyot from the months of Adar and Elul at one shot. The reason for this was that those months were the months of the major Rabbinical conventions (Yarchei Kallah), and thus there was less that sufficient time to finish reading each week's parasha on a normal schedule.
There is another issue that comes out of this term "with the community." Mordechai writes that theOr Zarua claims that Rav Yehuda HaChassid would read along with the public Torah reading and count that as one of his readings. Whether or not this is allowed or advisable is based on several issues. One is whether or not one actually has to listen to the Torah reading if he does the reading on his own. Despite the view of Ra'avan cited above, it seems that the general inclination is that even if one reads the parasha on his own, he still has to listen to the reading in the synagogue. A derivative issue is whether or not one can merely listen to the public reading and thus exempt himself from one of his private readings. Rambam (Hil. Tefilah 13:25) rules that even if one hears the Torah read in public, he still has to go back and read it twice on his own. The Perisha claims that one may follow the practice of Rav Yehuda HaChassid and read along in the synagogue, while the Levush opposed such a practice. While the Shulchan Aruch seems to side with Rav Yehuda HaChassid, the Mishna Berura cites the Shibbolei HaLeket, who claims that if one is going to read on his own in the synagogue, he should do so only between aliyot, and should listen to the public reading while it is going on.
IV. "TWICE MIKRA AND ONCE TARGUM"
While the discussion concerning the Torah aspect of this law concerns whether or not one can merely listen to another person reading it, the Targum side of this law has its own controversy. Tosafot cite a view that claims that a person can use a translation into any language, but rejects such a view. Many Rishonim and Acharonim note that only the real Targum is acceptable since, according to tradition, it was given at Sinai. However, Mordechai argues that it is better to read the commentary of Rashi, since that explains things better, and the Magen Avraham notes that Rashi's commentary has the advantage of being based on the gemara. The Shulchan Aruch settles this debate by ruling that a person who is God-fearing should read both. In either case, if a verse lacks either Targum or the commentary of Rashi, then the general view is that the verse should be read three times (see Rambam and others).
In later times, there was a change in opinion concerning language other than Targum. While Tosafot and the Tur had opposed using commentaries in other languages, theTaz allows a person who does not understand Rashi to use any commentary that he would understand better. This ruling is also brought down by the Mishna Berura.
V. "EVEN ATAROT V'DIVON"
Finally, we come to the most curious line in the gemara. We noted above that the singling out of the words "Atarot V'Divon" was to teach us that proper nouns had to be read in the Targum, even though they remained the same in translation. Tosafot, however, note something very interesting about the choice of proper nouns. Obviously, these are not the most obvious proper nouns in the Torah - certainly names such as Moshe or Avraham could have been used! Tosafot thus note that these names have a Targum, but it is not that of Onkelos. Rather, they have what is called Targum Yerushalmi (which is incorporated into the Targum Onkelos in most Chumashim today). Thus, Tosafot claims that the gemara is telling us that even words that have a Targum only of this lesser-known type still must be read in whatever Targum exists for them.
Rosh makes a different inference. He claims that since regular proper nouns (i.e. those with no Targum of any kind) are not mentioned by the gemara, there is no need to read them three times, and one fulfills his obligation by reading names without Targum only two times. However, Rosh goes on to note that the custom is to be strict and to read everything three times on one form or another. The Tur follows his father and rules this way as well.
Finally, a few closing notes. First, the Taz and the Be'eir Heitev cite the view of the Ari HaKadosh and Radvaz, who claimed that the best way to execute this commandment is to read it from an actual Torah (assuming that one is expert enough to do so). However, the Aruch HaShulchan has a view that it is better to read it from a printed Chumash during the week, and then to "ascend in holiness" on Shabbat by hearing it from a real Torah. Second, Rabbeinu Bechaye holds that a person should not read the Targum for Atarot and Divon at all, since they refer to idolatry. Finally, a person should read V'Zot HaBeracha, which has no Shabbat to itself, on the night of Simchat Torah, thus completing his reading of the Torah before the cycle beings again.
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