Simanim 136-138 Weekday Torah Reading continued

  • Rav Asher Meir
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #77: Simanim 136 - 138


by Rav Asher Meir







After them [the kohen and levi], we call Torah scholars who are appointed as leaders [parnasim] of the public [tzibur], and after them  Torah scholars who are worthy of being appointed leaders of the public, and after them sons of Torah scholars, whose fathers are appointed leaders of the public, and after them community heads [roshei knesiot] and everyone else (Gittin 60a).


            The primary meaning of the word "parnas" is one who provides someone's material needs (see Mishna Ketubot 70a).  The idea that a Torah scholar is uniquely suited to be made a community "parnas" partially indicates that Torah rulings are a fundamental community need just as material needs are - they are not just a luxury.  However, looking at the many uses of this term in the Talmud, it seems clear that the term is not just a metaphor for the position of Rav, rather Chazal felt that being a Torah scholar was an important qualification for temporal leadership.


            This is also evident from the fact that the gemara (and the SA) refers to these scholars in the plural - Torah SCHOLARS who are appointed to lead the community.  A community usually has several secular leaders (such as the "seven goodly citizens"[shiva tovei hair] who constituted the secular leadership in Medieval European communities) but only one Rav.


This does NOT mean that there is no separation between secular authority and religious authority.  As we just mentioned, the custom in Europe was that each community had a Rav to make rulings and act as spiritual leader of the community and also seven alderman who took care of secular matters.  But the above source seems to indicate that even secular leaders should be Torah scholars of stature.


(Interestingly, whenever anyone refers to the mayor as "Rosh Ha-Ir "(head of the city - the modern Hebrew term commonly used for "mayor"), Rav Neuwirth is always careful to correct them and substitute "Rosh Ha-Iriyah"(head of the municipality).  The head of the city is the chief rabbi.)


The Arukh HaShulchan writes that in his time already we could not fulfill this custom, since the post of "parnas" was no longer existent (since Jewish autonomy had already been replaced by nominal enfranchisement by the time of the AHS), and furthermore "Today there is no Torah scholar who when asked a question in any area of halakha can answer" (the criterion the gemara gives for being worthy of being made a parnas). 


[This is an interesting and modest statement from a scholar who wrote a comprehensive and authoritative book on all four sections of the Shulchan Arukh, plus Arukh HaShulchan HaAtid, a most comprehensive book of rulings on those areas of halakha left out of the Shulchan Arukh since they were not relevant in his time - including sacrifices and ritual purity as well as agricultural laws treated very briefly in the SA.]


CLARIFICATION:  The shiur on "kaddish yatom"(shiur 74 on siman 132) implied that since kaddish is said in unison in almost all shuls today (a few people mentioned that in Munk's shul in Golder's Green kaddishim are still rationed), the complicated ordering described in the Bi'ur Halakha need not be mastered by gabbais.  Jason Rappaport points out that this order still determines precedence when more than one person has a chiyuv [mourner's obligation] for shaliach tzibbur.  Here the ordering is even MORE relevant than in the time of the MB, since relatively few shuls today have designated prayer leaders, even though these were once common.




The Bi'ur Halakha gives a detailed ordering of aliyot for men who have a special celebration.  The Arukh HaShulchan (136:3) writes that these "obligatory" aliyot have no source in the gemara or Rishonim; rather their source is in a decree of the Maharal of Prague (an early Acharon) - though customs today differ somewhat from those established in the decree.




The MB (s.k. 5) writes that the leading member of the congregation finishes the reading, that is, is called third on Monday or Thursday and seventh (or last if aliyot are added) on Shabbat morning.  This ruling is applied despite the fact that the ordering given in the gemara and the SA suggests that after kohen and levi, the third aliya is the most important.


The Arukh HaShulchan in the name of the Zohar mentions that while the third and seventh are indeed the most honored aliyot among Ashkenazim, among Sefaradim the most honored aliya is the sixth.


The Zohar (Shelach, III:164b) presents a midrashic explanation  on the verse (Mishlei 18) "A tower of might is the name of HaShem; the tzaddik will run inside and be raised up."  The "tower" refers to the ark (in the gemara any large cabinet is called a "migdal"), whereas "might" of course refers to the Torah - in this case the Torah scroll.  The sefer Torah when it is inside the ark is likened to abstract Godliness before it finds expression in human experience (the upper revelations of Godliness - from here on I am paraphrasing according to the commentary of the Sulam), but when it leaves the ark it finds expression in the six archetypical holy qualities, the last of which is "tzaddik" or saintliness, and ultimately in the final seventh level of concrete reality.  Hence the seven readers.


The verse in Mishlei hints that the person who "runs" to the sefer Torah - to read from it - should be a tzaddik and that his reading should correspond to the quality of his saintliness.  This means that the leader of the congregation should read sixth.  He is then assured that he will be "raised up" above mishaps and enjoy length of days.





This is what Rav Simi taught: We may not read less than ten verses in Beit Knesset, and "Va-yedaber [HaShem el Moshe lemor]"is counted.  What do these ten correspond to?


R. Yehoshua ben levi said, to the ten idlers in Beit Knesset.


Rav Yosef said, to the ten commandments which were given to Moshe at Sinai.


And R. Yochanan said, to the ten sayings which with the world was created.  Which are these - the verses in Bereshit in which it says "va-yomer"- there are only nine!?  "Bereshit" itself is also a "saying", as it is written (Tehillim 33) "By the word of HaShem the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all of their hosts"  Megilla 21b.


            The "idlers" of the town generally refer to people who are not idle at all but are idle from work and devoted to Torah study.  Perhaps R. Yehoshua ben Levi is hinting that the greatest benefit of the Torah is garnered mainly by those who have the time available to ponder the meaning of the pesukim.  Each of these individuals merits his own verse in the reading.


            The last two "tens" are also brought (by the same sages) as parallels to the ten "malkhiot" which we recite in the Rosh HaShana musaf (RH 32).  In that context, these associations are far more understandable, because our custom is to say EXACTLY ten malkhiot, and of course great significance is attached to the fact that there are EXACTLY ten commandments and ten "sayings."


            At any rate, in the current context Rav Yosef's  parallel seems to indicate that really EVERY verse of the Torah is God given, just as the ten commandments were.  Interestingly, the ten commandments were eliminated from the daily prayer service in order to prevent giving the opposite impression (Berakhot 12a).


R. Yochanan's metaphor may recall the Midrash that HaShem looked in the Torah and created the world (beginning of Bereshit Rabba), and also reminds us that our personal world is brought into existence and given shape and content through the Torah.