Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum by Willie Roth


I. Introduction

The Gemara (Berachot 8a-b) writes, “Amar Rav Huna Bar Yehudah Amar Rav Ami LeOlam Yashlim Adam Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum VeAfilu Atarot VeDivon SheKol HaMashlim Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur Maarichin Lo Yamav UShnotav,” “Rav Huna Bar Yehudah said in the name of Rav Ami, ‘A person should always complete his Parshiyot with the congregation, twice reading the Pesukim and once their translation, even the Pasuk “Atarot VeDivon…” (which just consists of names of cities), as anyone who completes his Parshiyot with the congregation has his life lengthened.”

It emerges from the Gemara’s presentation that there are two aspects of this Din: an obligation upon the individual which is emphasized by the words “Yashlim Adam,” “A person should complete,” and a connection between the learning of the individual and the community as signified by the term “Im HaTzibur,” “with the congregation.” What exactly is the relationship between these two aspects of Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum (reading the Pesukim twice and translation once; commonly abbreviated Shemo”t)?

Regarding the source of the Din, the Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 285:2) writes, “the reason for this (Shemo”t) is unknown, but it is certain that at the time Moshe instituted Keriat HaTorah he also established that each person should read [the Parashah] Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum.” It, thus, emerges from the Aruch HaShulchan that Shemo”t is a Din DeRabanan that parallels Keriat HaTorah.

The Levush (O.C. 285:1) adds that there is a Remez to Shemo”t in the Torah from the Pasuk, “VeEileh Shemot Bnei Yisrael HaBa’im Mitzraymah,” “These are the names of the sons of Yisrael coming to Egypt” (Shemot 1:1), as the first two words are an acronym for the phrase, “(ו)VeChayav (א)Adam (ל)LiKrot (ה)HaParashah (ש)Shenayim (מ)Mikra (ו)VeEchad (ת)Targum,” “A person is obligated to read the Parashah twice Pesukim and once translation.” The Baal HaTurim formulates the Remez by using the first four words of the Pasuk as an acronym: “VeAdam Asher Lomeid HaSeider Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum BeKol Na’im Yashir Yichyeh Shanim Rabot Arukim LeOlam,” “A person who learns the weekly section twice reading it and once the translation in a nice, singing voice will live for many long years.” If we add this idea to that of the Gemara, it appears that one receives long life for the fulfillment of this Din. What exactly is the nature of this Din DeRabanan whose fulfillment warrants such a reward? 

II. The Raavan

The Raavan (Shut 88) writes that only one who lives in a city in which there is no Minyan, and thus no Keriat HaTorah, is obligated in Shemo”t. Such a person must read the Parashah using the Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum method at the same time the Tzibur reads the Parashah in shul. He also notes that the specific format of Shemo”t is meant to parallel the Keriat HaTorah BeTzibur. The “Shenayim Mikra” parallels the Oleh and Baal Korei, and the Targum is meant to symbolize the Meturgeman (public translator who used to, and still does in Yemenite Jewish congregations, translate Pesukim during Keriat HaTorah).

It seems the Raavan understands Shemo”t to be a Din in Keriat HaTorah. Additionally, he understands Keriat HaTorah to be a Chovat HaYachid, an obligation on the individual, but one that requires the individual to maintain an association with the community. Thus, even one who does not daven with a Minyan must discharge his obligation in a way that parallels the communal Keriat HaTorah. 

III. The Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch

LeHalachah, the Poskim do not follow the opinion of the Raavan, and they maintain that everyone has an obligation in Shemo”t, even those who listen to Keriat HaTorah in shul. Such is the opinion of the Rambam (Hilchot Tefillah UNsiat Kapayim 13:25) as well as the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 285:1).

As opposed to the Raavan, these Poskim believe that Shemo”t is not a Din in Keriat HaTorah, but rather a component of the obligation of Talmud Torah that is done within a communal framework. Normally, there is no connection between individuals’ obligations of Talmud Torah, and each person can discharge his obligation with whatever subject matter he desires. One person can learn Masechet Sukah while another learns Masechet Gittin, and each has fulfilled his obligation. However, regarding Shemo”t, there is a standardized timeframe and subject matter for each individual’s obligation. In order to express that there is a communal aspect to this Din of Talmud Torah, there is a parallel between the Shemo”t of the individual and the Keriat HaTorah of the community: the “Shenayim Mikra” symbolizes the Oleh and Baal Korei, and the Targum is meant to parallel the Meturgeman.

The Hagahot Maimoniyot (Hilchot Tefillah UNsiat Kapayim 13:25) quotes the Din of Rabbeinu Simchah that even though the Ikar Mitzvah of Shemo”t is to complete the Parashah each week with the Tzibur, if one is unable to do so, he should finish all the Parshiyot by Shemini Atzeret, the day on which the Tzibur completes the Torah (in Eretz Yisrael). The Terumat HaDeshen (23) explains that establishing Shemini Atzeret, the day the Tzibur completes the Torah, as the deadline for finishing Shemo”t, shows that the purpose of Shemo”t is for each individual to finish the entire Torah every year.

Taking the Terumat HaDeshen’s explanation of Rabbeinu Simchah’s Din into account, it emerges that while Shemo”t may be an obligation upon the individual, it is still done within the communal framework and thus each person has the same deadline, the day on which the entire community finishes the Torah. This idea may also explain the Gemara’s language of “LeOlam Yashlim Adam Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur,” “A person should always complete his Parshiyot with the congregation.” It is “Parshiyotav,” “his Parshiyot,” because he has his own Chiyuv of Talmud Torah, but it is “Im HaTzibur,” “with the congregation,” because his personal obligation exists within the communal framework.

Within the approach that Shemo”t is a Din in Talmud Torah, there are two suggestions given to explain the purpose of this obligation. The Sefer HaChinuch (introduction) writes, “VeZehu Ameram Zal ‘LeOlam Yashlim Adam Parshiyotav Im HaTzibur’ Kedei SheYaskil BaDevarim Yoteir BiKroto Oto BeVeito,” “And this is the saying of the Sages: ‘A person should always complete his Parshiyot with the congregation’ so that he understands the matters better when he reads the Parashah at home.” In other words, the purpose of Shemo”t is to provide a person with a clearer and more profound understanding of Chumash.

An additional reason, cited by the Levush (O.C. 285:1), is that Shemo”t helps a person attain fluency in Chumash. The Tzlach (Berachot 8a) writes that the three readings include Shenayim Mikra VeEchad Targum symbolize the idea of “VeHaChut HaMshulash Lo ViMheirah Yinateik,” “A three-ply cord is not easily severed” (Kohelet 4:12). Perhaps the Tzlach’s reasoning follows that of the Levush; repetition and review of the Torah leads one to fluency in Torah, and by studying at least three times he will not forget the Torah. 

IV. What is the format of Shemo”t?

The Magen Avraham (O.C. 285:1) presents two opinions as to the correct format of Shemo”t. The Lechem Chamudot believes that one should recite each Pasuk twice and then the Targum for that Pasuk. However, the Shelah maintains that one should read the entire Parashah (in terms of Petuchot and Setumot – see Mishnah Berurah) twice and then the Targum for that Parashah.

The Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 285:4) writes that the Shelah’s opinion is more logical because as the Midrash Torat Kohanim explains, Hashem taught the Torah to Moshe Parashah by Parashah in order to give him an opportunity to understand each section. If Shemo”t is a Din in Talmud Torah, then perhaps it would be understandable to follow the Shelah’s approach, because it was how Moshe Rabbeinu learned the Torah as well. However, if Shemo”t is a Din in Keriat HaTorah, then the approach of the Lechem Chamudot would be more logical, as the Pasuk-by-Pasuk format most directly parallels Keriat HaTorah, especially with the Raavan’s description of how the two Pesukim and one Targum symbolize the Oleh, Baal Korei, and Meturgeman. 

V. What is Targum?

There are three approaches in the Rishonim and Geonim as to what is considered Targum for Shemo”t. In Siddur Rav Amram Gaon (2:31), it is written that Unkelus is preferred from amongst the Targumim because it was given at Har Sinai as the Gemara explains (Megillah 3a). Alternatively, the Rivavan (quoted as the “Yeish Mefarshim” in Tosafot Berachot 8a s.v. Shemo”t and in the Rosh Berachot 1:8) believes that Laaz (translation into another language) is as effective as Unkelus because both of them explain the Pasuk to the Amei HaAretz, which is the purpose of Targum. However, the Smag (Asin 19) writes that “Peirush” is better than Unkelus. The Tur (O.C. 285) and Rosh (ibid.) understand the Smag to mean that even though Laaz will not work for Targum, Peirush Rashi is better than Unkelus. The Mishnah Berurah (285:4 and 285:6) explains that the advantages of Peirush Rashi are that it explains the Torah more thoroughly than Unkelus and that it is based upon Divrei Chazal.

The Birkat Chaim (Berachot 8a) explains that the Machloket as to whether Peirush Rashi is considered Targum or not is based upon an understanding of the reason the “Echad Targum” was instituted. Is the main purpose of Targum simply a third Mikra, but instead of just reading the same Pasuk a third time, it is more beneficial to use Targum because it provides some understanding, or is the primary function of Targum to provide one with a clearer, deeper understanding of the Torah? If the reading of Targum was instituted to be a third Keriah, then Peirush Rashi could not be a substitute for Targum because it does not cover every Pasuk or every word. (Additionally, it is possible that Laaz would not work either because, as the Rivavan explains, Laaz is an explanation for Amei HaAretz and thus has no relevance to being a third Keriah.) Thus, the opinion of Rav Amram Gaon would be the most logical; because Unkelus was given at Har Sinai, it has some element of Kedushah, and one could be Yotzei his Chiyuv of Keriah with it. However, if the “Echad Targum” was instituted to provide additional explanation beyond the Mikra, then Peirush Rashi would be effective (as would Laaz).

However, it is possible to explain the Machloket not in terms of an understanding of the purpose of Targum, but as a debate regarding the nature of the Din of Shemo”t. According to Rav Amram Gaon, who holds that specifically Unkelus is required because it was transmitted at Har Sinai, Shemo”t is a Din in Keriat HaTorah. One cannot be Yotzei his Chiyuv with Rashi or Laaz because for Keriat HaTorah one needs to use a Targum that has an element of Kedushah. Additionally, it is possible that according to the Rivavan, as well, who allows the use of Laaz, Shemo”t is a Din in Keriat HaTorah and, thus, it must parallel Keriat HaTorah BeTzibur. Just like the Raavan explains that the Targum of Shemo”t parallels the Meturgeman whose role is to explain the Torah to Amei HaAretz, one can use any language that explains the Torah to him for Targum.

On the other hand, according to the Smag, Shemot is a type of Talmud Torah. Therefore, for Targum, one must use that which is based on Chazal and provides a clear understanding of the Torah, just like one must use for any type of Limud Torah. As the Mishnah Berurah describes, this is the definition of Peirush Rashi. 

VI. A Third Approach to Shemot

On the topic of Parashat HaShavua, the Rav develops the idea (such is how Rav Chaim Jachter told this author) that every Parashah characterizes the Shabbat on which it is read. For example, this Shabbat, during which Parashat Mikeitz is read, is not simply a regular Shabbat, but it is called – and in essence, it is – “Shabbat Parashat Mikeitz.” Rav Jachter further explains that the characterization of this Shabbat as Shabbat Parashat Mikeitz takes place both on the Tzibur level and on the Yachid level. Through Keriat HaTorah BeTzibur, the community distinguishes this Shabbat, and through Shemo”t, the individual characterizes this Shabbat as Shabbat Parashat Mikeitz. This idea could possibly explain why the Tur and Shulchan Aruch place Hilchot Shenayim Mikra in Hilchot Shabbat and not in Hilchot Keriat HaTorah or Hilchot Talmud Torah.

It is possible that this idea also explains several Shitot regarding the proper time to do Shemo”t. Tosafot (Berachot 8b s.v. Yashlim) quote the Midrash which records that Rebbi instructed his sons to complete Shemo”t before the first Shabbat meal. LeHalachah, Tosafot maintain that the Mitzvah Min HaMuvchar is to follow the custom of Rebbi, and the Tur (O.C. 285) also quotes this opinion. Additionally, the Maharam MeiRutenburg writes in a Teshuvah (1:247) that the preferred time for Shemo”t is specifically on Shabbat. Furthermore, the Shaarei Teshuvah (285:1) records that the practice of the Arizal was to learn Shemo”t after Shacharit on Erev Shabbat. If Shemo”t is a Din in the definition of Shabbat, then it is understandable that there is an idea to finish the Parashah before the first Shabbat meal or to specifically learn the Parashah on Shabbat. Even according the Arizal, Shemo”t may be part of the preparations one must do for Shabbat, although it is also possible that his practice is based on Kabbalah.

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