Simanim 48-50 Korabanot

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #25:Simanim 48 - 50

Pages 154 - 156


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon






            Regarding the recital of korbanot, see what we wrote in siman 1.


            The passage "And on the Shabbat day" is added on Shabbat due to the korban musaf - the additional offering.  A similar rationale exists for "And on your new moons."  However, there are those who omit this passage on Rosh Chodesh since the uniqueness of the day will in any case be mentioned in keriat ha-Torah.  The Tur writes that in Ashkenaz the custom was to indeed say it on Rosh Chodesh in order to publicize the day.  See the Shulchan Arukh and the Rema in se'if 1.




            The Menorat Ha-ma'or writes (siman 103): "I found in the Midrash that one must shake himself during tefilla, according to what is said, 'All my bones will say, "God, who is like You?"' (Tehillim 35:10), and this is the custom of pious people."


            The Avudraham adds that the custom was to sway during the reading of the Torah, to replicate the giving of the Torah which took place with trembling.


            There is another verse which points to the need for something more than mere verbalizing during tefilla: "My heart and my flesh will cry out to the living God" (Tehillim 84:3).


            Writes the Chida (Nachal Kedumim, Va-et'chanan, 1): "When a person prays before God, blessed be He, he must sway his body in order to direct himself to God with his supplications, to say them with kavana."


            There are, then, two reasons for swaying, an essential one - that the body, so to speak, also participate in prayer - and an ancillary one - to strengthen one's kavana.


            To be sure, there is a contrasting view.  The Derekh Ha-chayim (cited in the Shela, Inyanei Tefilla) writes: "One who sways during his prayer detracts from his kavana, while standing without any movement at all aids kavana.  And that which is written, 'All my bones say...' refers to pesukei de-zimra and the berakhot of keriat shema and the learning of Torah, but not tefilla.  And if one says that it is also for tefilla, it appears to me that his words should be ignored, since experience shows that standing without motion during tefilla brings about the directing of the heart, and this can be seen with your own eyes - would one ask questions of a flesh-and-blood king with his body swaying like the trees of the forest in a gale? ..."


            And so too wrote R. Menachem Azaria of Pano (siman 113), who derives it (in his book Alfasi Zuta, Berakhot 31a) from the verse "Only her lips were moving," (Shemuel I 1:13), which, he says, comes to exclude movement of the body.


            According to those who forbid it, swaying nullifies kavana - though this goes only for shemoneh esrei.  For the Derekh Ha-chayim, though, there is also an essential reason to forbid it during shemoneh esrei - that it is not fitting to appear thus before a king.  See the ruling of the Rema who cites the Avudraham.


            Practically speaking, the Magen Avraham writes, "He who acts according to the one master has acted properly, and he who acts according to the other master has also acted properly, provided that he has kavana."  His words are further explained in the Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 48:1) which is in turn cited in M.B. 48:5.  The Arukh Ha-shulchan writes more expansively (48:3), "And it is dependent upon his nature: if, while swaying, his kavana is better - it is proper to sway; but a person whose kavana is clearer while standing completely still should not sway, and in either case it should be for the sake of heaven." 


            It may be added that the same person might sometimes have greater kavana with swaying and sometimes have greater kavana without, and accordingly should behave each time in the manner which would maximize his kavana.  And as a final note we will add the words of the Chida (in Machzik Berakha) that even one who sways should remain calm and not indulge in excessive movements and strange sounds, remembering always that he is standing before the King of Glory.








            The source of this halakha is in Gittin 60b:


"Expounded R. Yehuda bar Nachmani, the interpreter of R. Shimon ben Lakish: 'It is written, "Write for you these words," and [immediately afterwards] it is written "for according to [al pi] these words" (Shemot 34:27).  How is this?  Things which are in writing, you are not permitted to say by heart; and things which are oral, you are not permitted to say them in writing [another version: you are not permitted to write them].'"


            What is the strength of this prohibition?


            Both Rishonim and Acharonim debate whether the prohibition is biblical or rabbinic in origin.  The Tashbetz (I, 2) writes that it is a biblical prohibition, as does the Sefer Charedim (Positive Commandments Relating to the Eyes, mitzva 2), who adds that it is a negative commandment which arises from a positive one, i.e., the positive commandment to learn Torah from a book.   The Chatam Sofer, too, agrees that it is of biblical origin (OC 208 and YD 258).


            In contrast, the Yerei'im (128) believes that it is rabbinic, with the verse serving merely as a support.


            A third alternative is held by the Tosafot Yeshanim (Yoma 70a).  The mishna (68b) teaches that on Yom Kippur the kohen gadol recites the parasha of "And on the tenth" (Bemidbar 29:7) by heart.  This apparently contradicts the gemara in Gittin which states that it is forbidden to recite by heart.  The Tosfot Yeshanim resolve this by saying, "Said Rebbe that it is an ideal mitzva to read that which is written from writing, but [in this case] due to the bother it would have caused the congregation they do not trouble him to wind the sefer Torah [in order to reach the portion in question and read it from the scroll]."


            Some Acharonim understand the passage in Gittin in light of Rashi who comments, "Things which I told you in writing you may not deliver to Israel verbally."  The Mishkenot Yaakov (responsum 66) understands this to mean that the prohibition was a temporary one and was never meant for the following generations.


            What are considered "things which are in writing"?  There are many verses which we say in the course of our prayers and at other times, and frequently (especially in the past when siddurim were not so easily obtained) these verses are said by heart.  In order to determine whether this is in fact permitted or forbidden, we must define the prohibition and analyze its character.


            The prohibition is defined by Tosafot (Temura 14b, s.v. Devarim) as relating only to Torah and not to Nevi'im or Ketuvim, and so rules the Bach (siman 49).  The rationale behind this limitation is explained by the Chavot Ya'ir (responsum 175); one among the several reasons he offers is that the verse "Write for yourself these words" was said regarding Torah alone.  The Shita Mekubetzet appears to agree.  However, the Chavot Ya'ir does not accept this as halakha and he rules instead that the prohibition encompasses all of Tanakh, as does the Elia Rabba cited in the Machatzit Ha-shekel.


            Regarding the nature of the prohibition there exists a debate among Rishonim.  Generally speaking, two basic reasons can be distinguished: the fear of mistakes, or a more essential reason - that things which are in writing have a certain quality which is spoiled when they are recited by heart.


            The opinion of Tosafot (ibid.) and the Rosh, as cited in the Tur (siman 49), is that this prohibition applies only when one is assisting others to fulfill their obligation; when one is reciting strictly for himself it is permitted.  And so rules the Gra.


            According to Rabbeinu Tam (cited in the Mordekhai in Gittin), the Tur in the name of his uncle R. Chaim, and the Tosfot Ha-rid (Ta'anit 28b), the prohibition does not apply to things which are familiar to everyone.  For this reason, keriat shema and the like may be said by heart.  Verses which are well-known to the individual in question but not to the average person are permitted by the Bach, but prohibited by the Magen Avraham.  See M.B. 49:4.


            With regard to saying things which are obligatory, two diametrically opposed views exist.  Rabbeinu Yona (Berakhot 5a in the pages of the Rif) writes that any verse whose recital is a mitzva or an obligation may be said by heart even at other times.  The Chavot Ya'ir (responsum 175) agrees and includes within this dispensation all of Tehillim for since it arouses divine mercy it can be considered as prayer, which is obligatory.  At the other end of the spectrum we find the Ritva (Yoma 70a s.v. Le-fi) who believes that the prohibition exists specifically for verses which are obligatory, but when one is merely repeating verses he may do so by heart.  Accordingly, the Tzitz Eliezer (XIII, 11) permits oral recitation of verses in school for the sake of memorization.


            When one has no choice, the Kolbo (siman 2) permits verses to be recited by heart, basing himself on the principle "Et la'asot laHashem, heferu toratekha" (interpreted to mean, "[When] it is time to act for God, annul Your Torah" - Tehillim 119:126).  If one has no chumash - see M.B. 49:1.  If one is speaking in public and finds it difficult to search for each verse inside a Tanakh - see M.B. 49:3.


            See the Shulchan Arukh for his ruling.  In practice, it is preferable to join together more than one cause for leniency, as does, for example, the Mishna Berura in 49:6 where he combines two reasons to permit the saying of Tehillim by heart (according to what we wrote above, there are actually two more which can be added).  In general, the basic source of leniency is the opinion of the Rosh that only obligatory verses are forbidden to be said by heart, plus the requirement that the verse be well-known at least to the one who is saying it.  To this can be added, when necessary, various other leniencies.  See the cases mentioned above, and the rulings of the Mishna Berura in this siman.




            We will discuss this issue briefly.  As is well-known, Rebbi permitted the writing of the Mishna despite the prohibition of "Things which are oral you are not permitted to write," basing himself on the principle of "Et la'asot laHashem."


            Was this permission granted absolutely, or only in a case where "it is time to act for God"?  The Rishonim debate this point.  The Radbaz (IV, 1156) writes that the leniency expires when the reason given for it does, and the Magen Avraham (284) agrees.  In contrast, the Lechem Mishneh in his explication of the Rambam's view (Hilkhot Talmud Torah 5:4) asserts that the prohibition has been completely eliminated.


            According to the stringent opinion, writes the Chatam Sofer (OC responsum 208), one who writes words of Torah for ulterior motives - not for the sake of heaven - transgresses the prohibition of "things which are oral you are not permitted to write," since this is not "to act for God" but rather acting for himself.


            In defense of the writing of sefarim and responsa, and indeed of these halakha sheets, it can be said that they fall under the heading of "it is time to act for God," taken in conjunction with the lenient opinion mentioned above.


            Regarding the writing of one's own Torah novellae for his own use, we can add the opinion of the Rema (in responsum 34) that possibly only writing in ktav Ashuri would entail a transgression of this prohibition.  Furthermore, perhaps writing for oneself does not count in this respect (something akin to this is found in Responsa Afarsakta De-anya siman 2, for a different reason).








            The gemara in Kiddushin 30a teaches,


"Said R. Safra, 'One should always divide his years:  one-third for mikra (scripture), one-third for mishna, and one-third for talmud.'  But who knows how long he will live?  No, we do need this - for days."


            This gemara indicates that one should learn mikra, mishan, and talmud each day.  We do this in an abbreviated version with the passages we say after birkot ha-Torah.  The pattern is repeated at greater length at the end of the recital of korbanot, as is found in the siddur of R. Amram Gaon, "To read (li-kro) with 'Tzav,' to learn (le-shanot) with 'Eizehu mekoman' and to expound (li-drosh) with 'R. Yishmael.'"


            Why were these specific passages chosen?


            Regarding parashat ha-tamid, the Tur quotes the midrash [and also in Ta'anit 27b], "Now that the Temple is no longer in existence, what will be with [the Jewish people]?  Said He to him, 'I have already prepared for them the passages of korbanot; each time they are involved with them I consider it as if they offered them before Me.'"  [To be sure, this can apply equally to "Eizehu mekoman;" apparently, however, the portion relating to the daily offerings was specifically included because "Tefillot were instituted to parallel the daily offerings" (Tzelota De-avraham, p. 87).]


            "Eizehu mekoman" has several reasons offered for its inclusion.  The Beit Yosef writes in the name of the Re'ah that this chapter of mishnayot was chosen because it does not contain a single machloket.  The Gra points out that it includes all the korbanot, and is "halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai."  Furthermore, he adds, these mishnayot are of very early origin - from the time of the mishkan, as is demonstrated by the use of the term "before the curtains" (the Temple did not have curtains but rather "chomat ha-azara," a wall).


            The beraita of "R. Yishmael" is, according to the Tur, "in place of talmud, since midrash is like talmud.  And furthermore, since it appears at the beginning of Torat Kohanim which is the source of all the korbanot, they set it next to the korbanot."  In other words, this beraita is included due to its connection to korbanot.  The siddur of R. Amram Gaon (cited in Tzelota De-avraham, p. 111) mentions an interesting reason: the gemara (Berakhot 11b) states that even for talmud one must say birkot ha-Torah and brings a proof for this from the statement of R. Chisda bar Ashi to the effect that when he was before Rav and they would read from Sifra De-vei Rav [Torat Kohanim], he, Rav, would say birkot ha-Torah.  Hence, when we recite birkot ha-Torah we follow them with "Eizehu mekoman" which appears at the beginning of Torat Kohanim.


            Since, as we have seen, these passages are meant to be for the purpose of learning, it is logical to say that one must understand what he reads.  To be sure, the Shu"t Maharil Ha-chadashot (siman 45) writes that there is importance to learning even without understanding, as per the gemara in Shabbat (63a), "A person should learn even if he does not know what he is saying."  However, the Magen Avraham writes that one does not fulfill his obligation if he does not understand.  See the ruling of the Mishna Berura, 50:2.



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)