Siman 66 Permissible Interruptions in Reading Keriat Shema

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion


 

SHIUR #40:Siman 66

Pages 198-202

 

by Rav Asher Meir

 

 

SIMAN 66 - PERMISSIBLE INTERRUPTIONS IN READING KRIAT SHEMA

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PERMITTED INTERRUPTIONS

 

            The gemara, and thus the Shulchan Arukh, rules in accordance with the opinion of R. Yehuda in the mishna at the beginning of the second chapter of Berakhot: Between paragraphs of KS one may greet a dignitary and respond to anyone's greeting; and even in the midst of a paragraph one may respond to a dignitary's greeting, and if one encounters a person who inspires awe one may even initiate a greeting.

 

            Our gemara does not give a source for this halakha - though we do know that human dignity is a supreme value in halakha, usually superseding rabbinical prohibitions (Berakhot 19b) and in extreme cases exempting one from performing Torah obligations (MB 444:29).

 

            However, the Yerushalmi gives a surprising source:

 

"So far, [we have permitted only] in the middle of the paragraph.  In the middle of a verse, R. Yirmia would only gesture, but R. Yona would even [greet] aloud! Rav Huna [and] Rav Yosef [explained]: 've-dibarta bam' - this means that you are permitted to speak in their midst!" (Yerushalmi Berakhot end of 2:1)

 

            In other words, "ve-dibarta bam" does not only mean "you shall speak of them" - it also means "you shall speak in them!"

 

            It is this very mishna which explains that KS begins with "Shema" to show that accepting God's yoke is a prerequisite to accepting the commandments; in a previous shiur we suggested that the gemara extends this idea and implies that the ultimate prerequisite for KS is proper conduct towards one's fellow man.  According to the Yerushalmi, the insistence that KS be embedded in a setting of dignified conduct is actually implied in the very words of KS!

 

OUR CUSTOM

 

            MB 2 indicates that our custom today is different.  It seems that the reason is that in the time of the gemara, the rules of greetings were extremely formal - a greeting was not merely a pleasantry but a clearly defined recognition of mutual status and affection.  It follows that neglecting the principles of greeting was not merely "gauche" but actually a significant insult.

 

            This may also explain why we are more LENIENT nowadays regarding greetings to a mourner (see SA YD 385:1 and what the Rema remarks); and why some men permit themselves to greet a married lady (despite the ruling in SA EHE 21:6).  A greeting which is a mere pleasantry is not a mark of closeness and endearment which would be a negation of mourning, and not necessarily a breach of modesty.

 

SUMMARY OF PERMITTED INTERRUPTIONS

 

            In general, this shiur is meant to provide "background and enrichment" - not to rehash the MB.  However, the rulings in this siman are sufficiently important - and confusing - to warrant a tabular summary.  The table is based on the rulings of the Mishna Berura - not of the Shulchan Arukh.  The se'if katan of the MB is given in parentheses.

 

            The following places in KS and its blessings are arranged from the most lenient to the most stringent in terms of when one can interrupt:

 

1. BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS: This means: between "Yotzer Ha-Me'orot" and "Ahava Raba" and between "Bokher Be-Amo Yisrael Be-Ahava" and Shema; the corresponding stages at Ma'ariv are between "Ha-Ma'ariv Aravim" and "Ahavat Olam" and between "Ohev Amo Yisrael" and Shema.  In addition, at Ma'ariv between "ga'al Yisrael" and "hashkivenu" is considered bein ha-perakim as is the stage between hashkivenu and kaddish - even in places where "barukh Hashem le-olam" is recited (BH s.v. Ve-elu hen).  Between paragraphs of Shema; between "Hashem Elokeikhem Emet" at the end of Shema and the continuation of "Emet ve-yatziv" or "Emet ve-emuna."

 

2. IN THE MIDDLE OF A PARAGRAPH

 

3. IN THE MIDDLE OF A VERSE - BUT THE END OF A PHRASE.  In general, this also applies to the middle of a sentence in one of the berakhot - though regarding tefillin there is a distinction, as we will make clear.

IN THE MIDDLE OF "ELOKAI NETZOR" AT THE END OF AMIDA has the same status (22).

 

4. IN THE MIDDLE OF A VERSE - EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A PHRASE - but not in the middle of the conclusion of the berakha, that is, from "Barukh Ata HaShem" to the end (BH s.v. Lekadesh).

BETWEEN "HASHEM ELOKEIKHEM" AND "EMET:" It seems from the MB s.k. 30 that this has the same status.

 

5. IN THE MIDDLE OF "SHEMA YISRAEL" OR THE MIDDLE OF AMIDA; BETWEEN "GA'AL YISRAEL" AND AMIDA has the same status (39).

 

            The following interruptions are arranged according to the same numerical gradation:

 

0. NO INTERRUPTION IS JUSTIFIED

 

A. GIVING OR ANSWERING A GREETING: We don't do this at all nowadays - even between paragraphs (2).  However, since the original halakha is that we may interrupt, if one makes a greeting in accordance with the ruling of the SA, it is not considered an interruption and one need not start over.

B. RECITING ASHER YATZAR: There is no reason to interrupt since this can be put off until after Amida (23).

 

1. ONLY BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS:

 

ANSWERING AMEN TO ANY BERAKHA.. The exception is to amen of "Kedusha" and "Shome'a Tefilla" - see number 3 (23).

 

2. Even in the middle of a paragraph

PUTTING ON A TALLIT: (15).

 

3. EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A VERSE

 

A.  ANSWERING "BARKHU" (18),.

B. SAYING "MODIM ANACHNU LAKH" (20) TOGETHER WITH THE CONGREGATION:

C. RESPONDING AMEN TO "HA-KEL HA-KADOSH" OR  "SHOME'A TEFILLA" (21),

These may actually be a "4," as we explain in a note at the end.

 

4. EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A PHRASE ("INYAN")

 

A. ANSWERING "YEHE SHEMEI RABA" OF KADISH (17),

B. ANSWERING "KADOSH KADOSH KADOSH" AND "BARUKH KEVOD HASHEM" OF KEDUSHA (17).  In the se'if katan indicated this is rated a "3," but in s.k. 10 the MB rules that in case of need this may be considered a 4 - one may interrupt even in the middle of a phrase.

C. LAYING TEFILLIN - EVEN WITH A BERAKHA (15): Even in the middle of a verse - of KS itself.  But regarding the berakhot, this rates only a "1" - between paragraphs only.

D. RESPONDING TO BEING CALLED TO THE TORAH: Even in the middle of a phrase - if he will delay the congregation by finishing (26).  But the gabbai should not call him even between paragraphs.

E. PREVENTING A MONETARY LOSS: BH s.v. O oness.

 

5. EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE VERSE "SHEMA YISRAEL" OR AMIDA

 

DANGER TO LIFE: (13). This halakha comes to tell us that interrupting "Shema" is not considered apostasy and is permissible in case of danger.  Even if the oppressor is God forbid intentionally interrupting us so as to prevent us from unifying God's name, one need not sacrifice one's life unless it is a general time of religious repression, since this is a crime of "omission" and not of "commission."  See Yoreh De'a 157:1 and the Rema there.

 

            The following cases are unresolved in the MB:

 

BETWEEN "SHEMA" AND "BARUKH SHEM:" Is this considered like the middle of "shema" (level 5) or perhaps it is like between paragraphs (level 1)?  (BH s.v. Shelo yafsik)

 

BLESSING ON THUNDER - maybe it is permissible even in the middle of a verse (level 4) or maybe only between paragraphs (level 1) (19).

 

BARKHU, MODIM, AND AMEN OF "HA-KEL HA-KADOSH" AND "SHOME'A TEFILLA:" These are categorized in their listed s.k. as level 3 - not to interrupt a phrase.  But when the MB indicates that Kadish and Kedusha are really level 4 - they can interrupt a phrase if necessary - it seems likely that he means to include these too.  The Rema specifically states that the two "Amens" have the same status as Kedusha.  There is not much of a practical difference, since it is almost always possible to finish a phrase before joining in.

 

AMEN OF "GA'AL YISRAEL"

 

            Every Shacharit we face the same dilemma: On the one hand, we MUST NOT say amen to the blessing "Ga'al Yisrael" since this interrupts between "Ge'ula" and "Tefilla" (SA se'if 7).  On the other hand, we MUST say amen since we hear a valid berakha from the Shaliach Tzibur (Rema there).

 

            As indicated in the MB, there are actually three different rulings on this issue:

1. The Rosh (Berakhot 7:10) rules that it is always proper to say amen after ga'al yisrael - even after one's own blessing!  An individual says "amen" after "boneh Yerushalayim" in birkat ha-mazon since it is the conclusion of a set of blessings, and so for the same reason he should say "amen" after "ga'al yisrael."

2. The Rambam (Hilkhot Berakhot 1:18) agrees with this principle, but holds that a "set" of blessings means at least two said consecutively, whereas ga'al yisrael is the only blessing said after KS.  But even according to the Rambam, there is no reason to avoid saying "amen" to the Shaliach Tzibur's blessing.

3. The Zohar (beginning of Vayigash) likens an interruption between ge'ula and tefilla to one between tefillin shel yad and tefillin shel rosh.  Between the two tefillin we do not interrupt to say amen even for someone else's blessing, and so according to the Zohar we never interrupt between ge'ula and tefilla at Shacharit.

 

            If there were a definitive ruling, we would have no dilemma.  It is exactly because there is no unambiguous conclusion that we seek a way to avoid getting into the situation where the individual is between ge'ula and tefilla when he hears "ga'al yisrael" from the shaliach tzibur.  The MB at the end of s.k. 35 gives two suggestions.  One common "solution" which the MB does NOT give is for the Shaliach Tzibur to say the berakha silently.  This is a very problematic answer since the whole purpose of having a Shaliach Tzibur is to have ALL blessings recited aloud.  It is much better to follow the advice of the MB.

 

SEMIKHAT GEULA LE-TEFILLA ON SHABBAT

 

            The MB in s.k. 50 mentions the view brought in the Rema 111:1 - that there is no principle of adjoining the Amida directly to "ga'al yisrael" on Shabbat.

 

            The importance of "semikhat ge'ula le-tefilla" is discussed in our gemara on Berakhot 9b.  No source is mentioned there, but in the Yerushalmi Berakhot 1:1 the reason is given that the verse "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable before You, Hashem, my rock and my redeemer (go'ali)" (Tehillim 19:15) is immediately followed by the verse "Hashem will answer you [i.e., your prayer] in a time of distress" (Tehillim 20:2).

 

            However, we never refer to Shabbat as a time of distress in our prayers.  This is the reason we don't say this chapter - "La-menatzeach" - after "Ashrei" following Shacharit on Shabbat!  The Or Zaru'a learns from this Yerushalmi that we do not need to adjoin the Amida to "ga'al yisrael" on Shabbat.  The MB mentions that many Acharonim concur.  Look at the Rema and MB on 111:1 to see what our custom is.