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21b-22a: How to Divide Aliyot (1)

Rav Ezra Bick

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We are on 21b, four lines from the bottom of the page.

Last week we saw some simple rules about how the reading of the Torah is divided up. These were simple arithmetic rules - you need a minimum of ten verses and three readers, and each reader must read a minimum of three verses. Today we are going to learn a set of much more complicated rules, and  discuss a case that challenges the applicability of those rules.


On the New Moon and Intermediate Days, four read etc. Ulla bar Rav asked Rava: How do we read the reading for Rosh Chodesh?

"צו את בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם את קרבני לחמי", which is eight verses, what shall we do?

  • Shall we have two each read three verses - there would remain two (verses), and we do not leave less than three verses in a parsha.
  • Shall we read each four verses -  there would remain seven - u-veyom hashabbat is two, and u-veroshei chodsheichem is five - what shall we do?
    • Shall we read two from this and one from that - we do not begin a parsha with less than three verses.
    • Shall we read two from this and three from that  - there would remain only two.
He said to him: This I have not heard, but I have heard of a similar case:
  • (1) As we have been taught: The first day - Bereishit, Va-yehi rakia.
    (2) And it was taught on it: Bereishit with two, Yehi rakia with one.
    (3) And it was discussed: Yehi rakia with one (is good), for there are three verses, but bereishit with two - there are five verses, and we have been taught: He who reads the Torah should not read less than three verses?
    (4) And it was said on it:
    • Rav said: Skip.
    • Shemuel said: Divide.

בראשי חדשים ובחולו של מועד קורין ארבע וכו': בעא מיניה עולא בר רב מרבא: פרשת ראש חודש, כיצד קורין אותה?

"צו את בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם את קרבני לחמי", דהויין תמניא פסוקי, היכי נעביד?

  • ניקרי תרי תלתא תלתא פסוקין, פשו ליה תרי, ואין משיירין בפרשה פחות משלשה פסוקין.
  • ניקרי ארבעה ארבעה, פשו להו שבעה - וביום השבת הויין תרי ובראשי חדשיכם הויין חמשה - היכי נעביד?


    • ניקרי תרי מהא וחד מהנך - אין מתחילין בפרשה פחות משלשה פסוקין.

      ניקרי תרי מהא ותלתא מהך, פשו להו תרי.

אמר לו: זו לא שמעתי, כיוצא בו שמעתי:   

  • דתנן:יום הראשון - בראשית, ויהי רקיע.
    ןתני עלה: בראשית בשנים, יהי רקיע באחד.
    והוינן בה: בשלמא יהי רקיע באחד דתלתא פסוקי הוו, אלא בראשית בשנים - חמשה פסוקי הוו, ותניא: הקורא בתורה לא יפחות משלשה פסוקין?
    ואיתמר עלה:
    • רב אמר: דולג
      ושמואל אמר פוםק.


This is a fairly complicated argument, which is why I have chosen to break the citation at this point, even though the gemara is in the middle of the the discussion of Rav and Shemuel.

In order to understand what is going on, you should have a copy of parashat rosh chodesh (Bamidbar 28,1-16) before you.

א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. ב צַו אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם: אֶת-קָרְבָּנִי לַחְמִי לְאִשַּׁי, רֵיחַ נִיחֹחִי, תִּשְׁמְרוּ, לְהַקְרִיב לִי בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ. ג וְאָמַרְתָּ לָהֶם--זֶה הָאִשֶּׁה, אֲשֶׁר תַּקְרִיבוּ לַיהוָה: כְּבָשִׂים בְּנֵי-שָׁנָה תְמִימִם שְׁנַיִם לַיּוֹם, עֹלָה תָמִיד. ד אֶת-הַכֶּבֶשׂ אֶחָד, תַּעֲשֶׂה בַבֹּקֶר; וְאֵת הַכֶּבֶשׂ הַשֵּׁנִי, תַּעֲשֶׂה בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם. ה וַעֲשִׂירִית הָאֵיפָה סֹלֶת, לְמִנְחָה, בְּלוּלָה בְּשֶׁמֶן כָּתִית, רְבִיעִת הַהִין. ו עֹלַת, תָּמִיד--הָעֲשֻׂיָה, בְּהַר סִינַי, לְרֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ, אִשֶּׁה לַיהוָה. ז וְנִסְכּוֹ רְבִיעִת הַהִין, לַכֶּבֶשׂ הָאֶחָד; בַּקֹּדֶשׁ, הַסֵּךְ נֶסֶךְ שֵׁכָר--לַיהוָה. ח וְאֵת הַכֶּבֶשׂ הַשֵּׁנִי, תַּעֲשֶׂה בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם: כְּמִנְחַת הַבֹּקֶר וּכְנִסְכּוֹ תַּעֲשֶׂה, אִשֵּׁה רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ לַיהוָה. {פ}


ט וּבְיוֹם, הַשַּׁבָּת--שְׁנֵי-כְבָשִׂים בְּנֵי-שָׁנָה, תְּמִימִם; וּשְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים, סֹלֶת מִנְחָה בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן--וְנִסְכּוֹ. י עֹלַת שַׁבַּת, בְּשַׁבַּתּוֹ, עַל-עֹלַת הַתָּמִיד, וְנִסְכָּהּ. {פ}


יא וּבְרָאשֵׁי, חָדְשֵׁיכֶם--תַּקְרִיבוּ עֹלָה, לַיהוָה: פָּרִים בְּנֵי-בָקָר שְׁנַיִם וְאַיִל אֶחָד, כְּבָשִׂים בְּנֵי-שָׁנָה שִׁבְעָה תְּמִימִם. יב וּשְׁלֹשָׁה עֶשְׂרֹנִים, סֹלֶת מִנְחָה בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן, לַפָּר, הָאֶחָד; וּשְׁנֵי עֶשְׂרֹנִים, סֹלֶת מִנְחָה בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן, לָאַיִל, הָאֶחָד. יג וְעִשָּׂרֹן עִשָּׂרוֹן, סֹלֶת מִנְחָה בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן, לַכֶּבֶשׂ, הָאֶחָד; עֹלָה רֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ, אִשֶּׁה לַיהוָה. יד וְנִסְכֵּיהֶם, חֲצִי הַהִין יִהְיֶה לַפָּר וּשְׁלִישִׁת הַהִין לָאַיִל וּרְבִיעִת הַהִין לַכֶּבֶשׂ--יָיִן: זֹאת עֹלַת חֹדֶשׁ בְּחָדְשׁוֹ, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה. טו וּשְׂעִיר עִזִּים אֶחָד לְחַטָּאת, לַיהוָה, עַל-עֹלַת הַתָּמִיד יֵעָשֶׂה, וְנִסְכּוֹ. {ס}

The word parsha in the gemara here has a technical sense. A parsha is a section of the Torah, more or less the equivalent of a paragraph. The parshiot (pl. of parsha) are fixed and a mandatory aspect of the writing of a sefer Torah. In the text above, the parsha endings are marked with a {פ} or a {ס} (for there are two kinds of parshiot - petuchot and setumot, but this need not concern us at this time).

We see that there are three parshiot included in the reading for Rosh Chodesh. The first (called tzav, after the second verse) has  eight verses, the second (u-veyom hashabbat) has only two, and the third (u-veroshei chodsheichem) has five.

Ulla's question is based on the fact that it is impossible to divide this reading among four people. This is due to a set of additional rules about stopping within a parsha.

  1. One cannot stop leaving less than three verses to the end of a parsha.
  2. One cannot begin a reading less than three verses from the beginning of a parsha.

This, together with our old rule that one must read a minimum of three verses for each oleh, makes it impossible to read the reading for Rosh Chodesh with four olim. Why? Ulla spells it out for us.

1. The first two olim have to read a minimum of six verses, but that leaves them two verses from the end of the first parsha, so they have to read all eight verses.

2. That leaves seven verses, divided into two parshiot (2 and 5). The third oleh must read at least one verse from the third parsha, but then he must read at least three verses, so as not to end within three verses of the beginning of a parsha. Hence he must read five verses, which leaves only two for the last oleh.


Read over Ulla's question again, in all its parts. It actually is quite clear, despite its apparent complication. He simply covers every possibility, with the rule that negates each one. The trick to reading a lengthy question like this is simply to remember to breath in the middle. Each step is perfectly clear - once you figure it out!

Now for Rava's answer.

Rava answers that he has not "heard" this. What does this mean? Our gemara illustrates an important point about the Talmud. Most discussions in the Talmud are "sugyot", which are quotations of real discussions which are then learned by heart. Rava is answering that, in his memory (the equivalent of a modern computer database), there is no discussion filed under the topic "how to read on Rosh Chodesh". But of course, Rava is more than a memory retrieval system. So he digs up a different discussion, which he thinks can be applied to our problem, since the problem is identical.

The second discussion is quoted verbatim. It consists of a mishna, a beraita on the mishna, a discussion on the beraita, and a dispute of two amoraim, Rav and Shemuel (the four steps were set in bold in the citation above).

First, some background. What is the subject of the other discussion that Rava is quoting? The way to answer this question is not to ask me, but first, to look in Rashi, and second, to find the source and look there. The small print reference on the side of the gemara points to Taanit 26a, and since Rashi does not tell us much, the best thing would be to look there.

Rashi does mention one word, which he presumably thought would provide all the information we need. Rashi (s.v. "b'yom") says that this mishna is about "ma'amadot."

The Mishna in Taanit 26a lists the "ma'amadot" and explains,

It is written, "Command the Jews, My sacrifices, My bread for the fire...." But how can the sacrifice of a man be offered if he is not standing above it? Therefore, the early prophets instituted twenty-four orders (mishmarot), and each order had a stand in Jerusalem, of kohanim, leviim, and yisraelim. When the time came for the order to go up, the kohanim  and leviim would go up to Jerusalem, and the yisrael of that order would gather in their cities, and they would read from Bereishit....

(The numbers is parentheses appear in the English text above). The mishna (1) continues and lists the readings of the maamadot. The first reading is "Bereishit..."; the second is "Yehi rakia." The beraita (2) states that bereishit is read by two people and yehi rakia by one. The discussion (3) of the beit midrash is then quoted by Rava - how can two people read bereishit, which has only five verses? Itmar, a quoted summary of the conclusion of the discussion (4), brings two answers, Rav and Shemuel. One said doleg, skip; and one said posek, divide.


Look in Rashi for the meaning of doleg and posek

Jump. The second goes back and begins with the verse that the preceding person ended with:

Divide. The first one reads half of the third verse and divides it.

דולג. השני חוזר ומתחיל פסוק שגמר בו לפניו:

פוסק. הראשון קורא חצי הפסוק השלישי ופוסקו: 

There are two ways to accomplish the impossible and have two people each read three verses of a parsha with only five verses. You either have each read 2 1/2 verses, or you read one verse twice.

But what is the respective reasoning of Rav and Shemuel. The Talmud has a habit of clarifying a dispute like ours by asking why each amora did not agree with other. What is the reason for each one's rejection of the other opinion?

Rav said, skip. Why did he not say posek (divide)?

He maintains that any division not divided by Moshe should not be divided by us.

And does Shemuel think that we do divide (thus)? Did not Rav Chanania Kra say: I had great trouble with Rav Chanania the Great, but he permitted me to divide only for the children of the household of Rabban Gamliel,since it was for educational purposes?

There the reason was that there was no alternative; here too, there is no alternative.

And Shemuel said divide, why did he not say doleg (skip)?

It is a enactment, because of those who come in and those who go out.

רב אמר דולג, מאי טעמא לא אמר פוסק?

קסבר כל פסוקא דלא פסקיה משה אנון לא פסקינן ליה.

ושמואל אמר פסקינן ליה? והא אמר רב חנניא קרא: צער גדול היה לי אצל רב חנניא הגדול ולא התיר לי לפסוק אלא לתינוקות של בית רבן הואיל ולהתלמד עשויין.

התם טעמא מאי משום דלא אפשר, הכא נמי לא אפשר. 

ושמואל אמר פוסק, מאי טעמא לא אמר דולג?

גזירה משום הנכנסין ומשום היוצאים.  

"Those who come in and those who go out" we have already met in the previous page, and the principle is the same. You should not read in a manner that gives the impression that someone has read less than three verses. If you skip back one verse, it gives the impression to one who has just come in that the previous oleh read only two verses. Similarly, one who leaves after the first, and does not know that you are going to use the unusual method of skipping backwards, will think that the next oleh is going to read only two verses.

The reasoning of Rav is more interesting. There is a rule that we are not permitted to parse verses differently than way we have received them (the way that Moshe divided them). Hence, dividing a verse into two is inherently objectionable. The reason presumably is that any division changes the meaning. The gemara implies that Shemuel agrees to the rule in principle; however, the question is whether we can break the rule in an emergency, when there is no alternative. The source case is where Rav Chanania permitted redivision for educational purposes, to teach children. Shemuel feels that reading the Torah in public provides a comparable reason to suspend the rule.

We have learned a number of rules about dividing up the verses in Torah reading in the last two weeks.

1. A single reader must read at least three verses.

2. There are always at least three readers.

3. The total reading must include at least ten verses.

4. You are not supposed to begin within three verses of the start of a parsha.

5. You are not supposed to end within three verses of the end of a parsha.

6. You are not supposed to divide a verse differently than the accepted version.

One interesting question. You might ask, why do we not, on Rosh Chodesh, simply read a few more verses from the continuation of the Torah, or begin a few verses back? This would solve all the problems of fitting in the four olim to the 12 verses.

The Ran (R. Nissim Girondi) answers that we can only read what is relevant to the day. Since the daily sacrifice is brought on Rosh Chodesh as well, there is no problem starting from there, but we cannot read the previous parsha which has nothing to do with the reading for Rosh Chodesh, not continue into the next reading, which is about Pesach. Apparently, sticking to the topic is even more important than avoiding dividing a verse, or worrying about the misconceptions of the people leaving early or coming late, so adding on irrelevant bits is not even an option. You might say that there is an important moral lesson to be learned here, one that I shall have to try and keep more in the future.


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