Shenayim Mikra Ve-echad Targum (Part 2)

  • Rav Moshe Taragin


             The previous shiur outlined two different models towards understanding shenayim mikra ve-echad targum.  It can be viewed as a Torah study quota for the week or an enhancer to keriyat ha-Torah.  Several additional factors may be influenced by this question. 




            Tosafot in Berakhot (8b s.v. yashlim) claim that the practice may commence immediately on Sunday (when the week begins) and this position is cited in Shulchan Arukh.  Other opinions seek to juxtapose the shenayim mikra to the actual keriyat ha-Torah on Shabbat.  The Taz cites the Shelah who recommended reading shenayim mikra after midday on Friday afternoon.  The Ohr Zaruah in Hilkhot Keriyat shema cites Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid as actually performing shenayim mikra during keriyat ha-Torah.  Without question, viewing this mitzva as an enhancer to keriyat ha-Torah would better justify the attempts to schedule it a day prior to, or even during, the actual keriyat ha-Torah.  Conversely, if we view it as a Torah study quota there is no reason to postpone it to erev Shabbat or Shabbat itself. 


            What about a deadline for shenayim mikra?  Presumably, as the week concludes with the close of Shabbat, we should not extend shenayim mikra beyond that point.  The Hagahot Maimoniyot in his comments to the Rambam's Hilkhot Tefilla (perek 13) cites the Maharam Mi-Rotenberg who allows an extension until the ensuing Wednesday.  In many ways the halakhic week does extend to the following Wednesday as evidenced by the ability to recite havdala till that point.  Either way - whether the deadline is the conclusion of Shabbat of the following Wednesday - shenayim mikra is delimited by the close of the halakhic week. 


            Alternatively, Tosafot in Berakhot cite a midrash in which Rebbi instructs his family to complete shenayim mikra before conducting the Shabbat morning meal.  The Shulchan Arukh actually cites this as an ideal deadline for shenayim mikra.  This directive of Rebbi would seem to reflect shenayim mikra's functioning as an enhancer of, or accessory to keriyat ha-Torah.  As such, it should ideally be completed before the afternoon meal – so that the process is proximate to the actual keriya.  In this respect, viewing shenayim mikra as an additive to keriyat ha-Torah would abbreviate its deadline. 


            Ironically, by viewing it as an additive to keriyat ha-Torah we may EXTEND its deadline well BEYOND Shabbat or even the ensuing Wednesday.  The Hagahot Maimoniyot cites Rabbenu Simcha who allows shenayim mikra to be completed by Simchat Torah – for those who have neglected the weekly quota or have otherwise fallen behind.  This would be a difficult position to justify if shenayim mikra represents a weekly Torah quota.  Even if we could flex the deadline beyond the actual week, Simchat Torah should not represent an endpoint! However if we view shenayim mikra as an accessory to keriyat ha-Torah, Rabenu Simcha's position possesses logic.  The annual cycle of keriyat ha-Torah concludes on Simchat Torah and that serves as the absolute endpoint for completing a personal "parallel" experience to keriyat ha-Torah. 




            Having inspected the timing of the mitzva we may consider the actual execution.  Should each pasuk be read followed by its targum or should larger blocks of pesukim be recited followed by appropriate sections of targum.  This issue is debated by many Acharonim and the dispute is quoted by the Magen Avraham in seif katan 1.  Perhaps the insistence on reading pasuk by pasuk followed immediately by its targum is geared toward structuring shenayim mikra in a manner which is similar to actual keriyat ha-Torah.  In fact, the Magen Avraham himself asserts this point when he defends the practice of reciting one pasuk at a time followed by its targum.  Many cite the Vilna Gaon as reciting an entire parasha at once (a parasha setuma or petucha) which is more reasonable if the reading is geared toward actual Torah study - each section represents a different topic and should be read individually and uninterruptedly. 


            The Mahari Bruna in his responsa (#103) raises an interesting question (which has important practical ramifications).  Can LISTENING to the public keriyat ha-Torah 'count' as one rendition of shenayim mikra thereby allowing a person to make only one more "pass" through the Biblical text?  He rejects this possibility but the Shulchan Arukh disagrees and "be-dieved" allows this leniency.  If shenayim mikra is a study quota it is highly unlikely that listening should not count as one 'pass.'  By attentively listening to the public keriyat ha- Torah a person has engaged in study.  However, if shenayim mikra is a preparatory enhancer to keriyat ha-Torah we may disallow the actual keriyat ha-Torah to 'count' as one recital.  The purpose of shenayim mikra may be to prepare and elaborate the ceremonious keriya and it must be performed in its ENTIRETY INDEPENDENT of the ACTUAL keriya. 




            Most of the aforementioned questions regarding the format of shenayim mikra are derived from discussions amongst Rishonim and Acharonim.  The only issue which the gemara directly addresses is the question of Torah words which appear to require no targum.  When the gemara cites the basic halakha, it asserts that shenayim mikra must be performed even upon the words "atarot ve-divon" (names of places in Bamidbar 32:3).  Rashi and Tosafot disagree about the gemara's intention.  Rashi claims that these names of places have no targum and despite the absence of targum they still must be included in the full recital.  Evidently, Rashi requires a comprehensive recital for each and every word - even for those without supplied targum; instead of skipping the absent targum the words are read THREE times in Hebrew.  Tosafot disagree, citing the fact that these words may not have targum Onkelos but do have a supplied targum Yerushalmi! According to Tosafot the gemara demands a three part rendition even for these words despite the fact that the extant targum is not as NECESSARY (since these words are names).  The gemara never demanded a three-time repetition of the Biblical word.  These names of places have some commentary affixed to them and therefore require a full menu of shenayim mikra (even though the targum would seem less valuable).  According to Tosafot words which have absolutely NO targum (such as common names of Biblical personalities) would not require a third leg; in these instances merely reciting the pasuk TWICE would suffice. 


            Perhaps Tosafot and Rashi dispute the nature of shenayim mikra.  Viewing it as a Torah study curriculum would exempt names and places from targum or even a third reading.  If the translation adds nothing to comprehension it can be skipped.  Tosafot who allow this practice may have regarded shatyim mikra as a study quota.  Alternatively, Rashi may have seen it as a recreation of keriyat ha-Torah on a personal level.  As such, the format of reading EVERYTHING three times should be retained regardless of whether the translation adds anything. 


            An interesting analogy in Megilla (4a) may shed some light upon the nature of shenayim mikra.  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asserted that a person must read the megilla at night and repeat it (le-shanota) in the morning.  Uncertain as to Rabbi Yehoshua's intent, the gemara wonders that this may mean reading the actual megilla at night and studying mishnayot relevant to Purim during the morning.  To clarify, Rabbi Yirmaya explains that the mitzva requirement is akin to people who declare that they will read a parasha from the Torah once and repeat it the next day.  Assuming Rabbi Yirmaya was referring to the halakhic practice of shenayim mikra, he uses this as a model to structure a double reading of Megillat Esther (albeit without targum).  This analogy and employment of shenayim mikra as a template for a dual reading of Megillat Esther would squarely identify shenayim mikra as an element of keriyat ha-Torah.  As a facet of keriyat ha-Torah, we can utilize shenayim mikra as a model to build a parallel mitzva of keriyat megilla. 




            There are many mystical suggestions associated with shenayim mikra.  Some of these include clipping fingernails prior to reading, immersing in a mikva afterwards and timing the recital in, and around, erev Shabbat.  Several commentaries upon the Shulchan Arukh cite some of these ritualistic conditions for shenayim mikra.  Evidently, this practice took on a greater and more mystical meaning than merely study of weekly pesukim.  We may conjecture that this "elaboration" of shenayim mikra was based on viewing it halakhically as a personal rendition of public keriyat ha-Torah.  This would probably invite greater mystical associations.  Viewing it as a mere quota of weekly Torah study would probably less invite deeper mystical meaning.