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Siman 61 . The law concerning precision and concentration while reading the Shema.

61:1. One should read the (1) Shema (2) with concentration, (3) with awe and fear, (4) with shaking and trembling.

MB 1: Shema - Meaning the entire reading of the Shema. That which was discussed at the end of the previous Siman was only if someone already did less than the ideal.

MB 2: With concentration - The Elya Raba says in the name of the Kol Bo, who derived this from the Jerusalem Talmud at the end of the first chapter of Tractate Brachos, that contained within the Shema is a hint to the Ten Commandments [this is a mistranslation. There are actually 14 commandments within the ten declarations]. In "HaShem is our G-d" is a hint to "I am HaShem your G-d". Within "HaShem is One" is "you shall have no other gods". In the verse "And you shall love..." is hinted that "you shall not take His name in vain", because one who loves the King will not swear falsely in his name. And in the verse "and you shall write them..." is "you shall not covet", because you are to write them onto your house and not your neighbor's. In the verse "and you shall gather your crop" is "you shall not steal", because you shall gather your grain and not your neighbor's. And in the verse "and you will be speedily lost from the land" is the command "you shall not kill", because one who kills shall be killed. And in the verse "in order to increase your days upon the land" is "Respect thy father and mother" [because the reward for respecting parents is long life]. And in "and your will not stray... after your eyes" is "you shall not commit adultery". And in the verse "in order that you remember..." is the command to "remember the Sabbath day", which is as valuable as the entire Torah. And in the verse "I am HaShem, your G-d" is the statement "you shall not give false witness against your neighbor". Therefore a person must concentrate when saying the Shema, in order that he not come to violate any of these commandments.

MB 3: With awe and fear - And it seems that "awe and fear" is in a way that a person concentrates when he is reading the Shema, to accept upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, to be killed for the Sanctification of the Holy Name, because this is "with all your soul", even if they will take your soul. And upon this the verse says "For on your behalf we are killed all day", because then with this intent he will read this with awe and fear, shaking and trembling. [Rav Shlomo Wolbe shlit"a asked, "Are you reading the Shema with proper intent? Yes. You think so. Does your body _protest_ at the idea of being killed?" -- YM]

MB 4: With shaking and trembling - The Tur wrote in the name of Rav Amram that whenever a person reads the Shema, he should consider it as a new proclamation (meaning a written command of the King upon all his citizens), and he should think in his heart, if a king of flesh and blood were to send a new proclamation, how every citizen would certainly read it with awe, fear, shaking and trembling - all the more so the reading of the Shema, which is the proclamation of the King of Kings, the Holy One Blessed be He, how everyone is obligated to read it with awe, fear, shaking and trembling. And the Prisha wrote that the Shema is compared to a proclamation and written command of the King, to tell you that one should not read the Shema in a rush, quickly and tumbling over the words, but rather with patience, word for word and with a pause between each item, like a person reading the command of the king, which one would read with great patience, every command by itself, in order to understand it correctly. So one should read the Shema, placing upon his heart each command and each punishment mentioned within it, in order to understand that it is the command of the High King, Blessed be He.

Yaakov Menken

Siman 61: Laws Concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of the Shema (cont'd.)

61:2. The phrase "Asher Anochi M'tzavcha haYom" ["which I command you today," in the first paragraph of the Shema] means to say that you should regard the Torah's commandments as if they were brand new to you, and not like someone who has already heard them so many times that they are no longer precious (5) to him.

MB 5: To him - The Pri Megadim [Rabbi Yosef Teomim, late 18th cent.] writes that all the more so one must understand what one is saying each time he reads the Shema, and one should not read it quickly out of habit, merely to fulfill one's obligation.

61.3: The Shema contains 245 words (in the first verse "Shema Yisrael ..." and the three paragraphs that follow), and in order (6) to complete a total of 248 words corresponding to the "members" of the human body [this is the traditional number assigned, Gray's Anatomy notwithstanding (see MB 6 below)], (7) the Chazan concludes (8) "HaShem Elokeichem Emes" ["The L-rd your G-d is true / truth" - although the last word of the Shema is Elokeichem, the following blessing begins 'Emes'. Together, the three words are from Jeremiah 10.10] (9) and then repeats out loud (10) "Ado-nai Elo-heichem Emes". {Rama: Everyone present fulfills their obligation by hearing these words from the Chazan (*) (Beis Yosef [by R. Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch] in the name of the Orchos Chaim). If one of the congregants wishes to say these words together with the Chazan, there is no prohibition (11) against it.} Someone reading the Shema by himself should concentrate (12) on the 15 'Vav's (the Hebrew letter) which begin the 15 words following "Emes" ("V'Yatziv, v'Nachon, v'Kayam, ..."), which have a total numeric value of 90 (each Vav having a value of 6), corresponding to three Divine Names (i.e., the four letter name as it is written, Yud, Hey, Vav, and Hey,) since the numerical (Gematria) value of each Name totals 26, which added to four letters equals 30 (and 3x30=90). {Rama: Another explanation for having the 15 Vavs in mind when reading the Shema alone is that the numeric value of the Vavs equals 90, and the reading of the Shema counts as one, (13) which totals 91; 91 is the sum of the numeric values of G-d's four-letter name as written (=26) and as read (Ado-nai, spelled Aleph, Dalet, Nun, and Yud =65). Thus it is as if one said the words "Yud- Hey-Vav- and -Hey" [which we pronounce as "Ado-nai"] and "Ado-nai" in addition to "Emes" [Maharik, Shoresh 42 and Agur]. Some authorities rule that one who reads the Shema alone (14) should say the words "Eyl Melech Ne'eman" just before "Shema Yisrael...", because these three words complete the total of 248 and they also take the place of the "Amen" [since the initial letters, Aleph, Mem, and Nun, spell "Amen"] which should have been said for the blessing immediately preceding the Shema (this blessing concludes "HaBocher b'Amo Yisrael b'Ahava", "Who has chosen His people Israel with love"). Our practice is to follow this opinion. However, it seems to me that one who reads the Shema with a congregation should not say "Eyl Melech Ne'eman" prior to the Shema, but rather (15) should say "Amen" after the Chazan's conclusion of the preceding blessing. (16) This is the practice and it is correct.

MB 6: To complete a total of 248 - As stated in the Midrash ha'Ne'elam [one of the sections of the Zohar, an early Kabbalistic work attributed to the Mishnaic Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai]. [To summarize, that Midrash explains that the 245 words of the Shema plus the 3 words repeated by the Chazan restore the vigor of the 248 members of the body.]

MB 7: The Chazan concludes - An individual reading the Shema quietly (either together with the congregation or alone) concludes with the word "Emes" (i.e., anytime one reads the Shema one should say "Emes" immediately after "Ado-nai Elo-heichem", [though "Emes" is not part of the Shema itself, as explained in 61.3 above]). However, the individual should not afterwards repeat the word "Emes," but should just begin "v'Yatziv v'Nachon..." as stated below in Siman 66, Paragraph 10 in the Rama. [One might have thought that the word "Emes" should be repeated, since it is the first word of the blessing following the Shema, and one ordinarily does not pause in the middle of a blessing, as one does in this case while waiting for the Chazan to repeat the words "Ado-nai Elo-heichem Emes" out loud. - LC]

MB 8: Ado-nai Elo-heichem Emes - In the work Asarah Ma'amaros [Kabbalistic work by R. Menachem Azaryah of Zano, late 16th cent.], the author writes that the Chazan does not conclude his own quiet reading of the Shema with the word "Emes", but only says "Emes" when he says "Ado-nai Elo-heichem Emes" out loud. This way he completes a total of 248 words; if he said "Emes" twice it would add to 249 words. However, the practice is like the Shulchan Aruch, that the Chazan should also say "Emes" quietly at the end of his quiet reading of the Shema, so as not to separate the words "Ado-nai Elo-heichem" from "Emes" (which together make the statement, "The L-rd your G-d is Truth"); the second "Emes" is not included in the count of 248, but is the beginning of the blessing "Emes v'Yatziv". The Pri Megadim rules this way, but the GR'A [Gaon Rabbeinu Eliyahu, The Vilna Gaon, 18th cent.] writes that the prevailing opinion is that of the Asarah Ma'amaros.

MB 9: And then repeats - And in a place where it is not the custom to repeat "Ado-nai Elo-heichem Emes" one should not protest. [The original, uncorrected text of the Mishnah Brurah states "one should protest".]

MB 10: Ado-nai Elo-heichem Emes - He should not also repeat the word "Ani" (which means "I"; the final phrase of the Shema being "I am the L-rd your G-d").

MB 11: Against it - But one should not say "Emes" alone with the Chazan, since it is like saying "Shema Shema" (which is forbidden because of the appearance of accepting the yoke of more than one King, G-d forbid, as discussed later on in Paragraph 9). [That is, one thereby says "Emes" twice in a row, albeit with a pause. - LC] Nevertheless, one need not silence someone who does this if he pauses in between.

MB 12: On the 15 Vavs - One reading the Shema individually during the evening service should have in mind that the word "Emes" corresponds to the three Divine Names mentioned in 61.3 above, thus completing the count of 248.

MB 13: Which totals 91 - This is the numeric value of the word "Amen" (Aleph, Mem, and Nun) as well as the sum of the values of the written and pronounced Divine Name. [Although not stated here, perhaps this is another significance to the words "Eyl Melech Ne'eman" said by one reading the Shema individually, since their initial letters spell "Amen". - LC]

MB 14: Should say the words "Eyl Melech Ne'eman" - See the Magen Avraham [commentary on the Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Avraham Abeli Gombiner, late 17th cent.] and the Bach [for Bayis Chadash, commentary on the Tur by Rabbi Yoel Sirkes, mid-17th cent.], who say that this is an early custom. [Original, uncorrected text read "holy custom".]

MB 15: Should say "Amen" - Nevertheless, one should not learn from this regarding the situation where one has recited a blessing over fruit or bread (or any food) and has not yet eaten some, and someone else concludes the same blessing, that one should respond "Amen" to that person's blessing. [One might have drawn an analogy from the blessing preceding the Shema, where one may answer "Amen" to the Chazan's blessing, although one has not begun the Shema. LC] See the Pri Megadim. It is also clear from the Biyur haGR'A above in Siman 59, that the reasoning of the Rama here (i.e., that one should respond "Amen" to the Chazan's blessing preceding the Shema, even though this constitutes an interruption between one's own blessing and the reading of the Shema) is that the blessings preceding and following the reading of the Shema were not specifically intended as blessings over the reading itself. [See Siman 59, MB 25.]

MB 16: This is the practice - See the Pri Megadim, and see what we have written above (Siman 59, MB 25), that before the fact it is preferable to conclude the blessing preceding the Shema simultaneously with the Chazan, so that one will not have to answer "Amen" after him.

61.4: The practice is to read the first verse of the Shema (i.e., "Shema Yisrael, Ado-nai Elo-heinu Ado-ani Echad") out loud, in order to arouse one's concentration.

Lawton Cooper

Siman 61. Laws Concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont.)

61:5. There is a general custom to cover one's face with one's (17) hands while reading the first verse, so as to avoid staring at something which would prevent a person from proper concentration.

MB 17: One's hands - Meaning one's right hand.

61:6. It is necessary to (18) lengthen (pronunciation of) the Ches of the word "Echad" [One, as in, "HaShem is One"] in order to [concentrate upon] making the Holy One, Blessed be He, ruler over heaven and earth, because this is what is hinted in the tent-shaped roof of the letter Ches. So too, one should lengthen the Dalet of "Echad" long enough to think that the Holy One, Blessed be He is unique in his world, and rules over all the four courners of the earth. One (19) should not lengthen longer than this amount. There are those who have a custom to nod their heads in the corresponding directions as they (20) think about above, below, and the four directions.

MB 18: Lengthen the Ches - The Magen Avraham wrote in the name of the [Mem-Ayin - I'm stumped.] that one should say the Ches about 1/3 longer than normal, and the Dalet about 2/3 longer. And there are those who say that one should not extend the Ches at all, but rather think about all of these things while saying the Dalet - and so wrote the Gr"a in his explanations. [Today, we have lost the distinction between a hard Dalet as pronounced with a dot in the middle, and a soft Dalet without the dot - such as that at the end of Echad. Therefore we are unable to lengthen the Dalet. Perhaps what one should do is extend pronunciation of the vowel under the Ches (the Kamatz). I am surprised that the Mishna Brura or even the Gr"a do not speak about this, as they also in all probability had no way of extending a Dalet. -- YM]

MB 19: Should not lengthen longer - See in the Pri Megadim, in the name of the Pri Chadash.

MB 20: Think about - Even though it says that one who is reading Shema should not look around, etc., here it is different. There the looking or signing is for the sake of something else, and interferes with concentration, but here he is looking around for the sake of better concentration. And he must turn east, north, west and south in that order, and not turn east, west, north, south - because that is, Heaven forbid, vertical and horizontal. [The actual terms used are "warp and woof," the two perpendicular directions of a loom. I'm certain that the Mishna Brura is hinting to the sign made by priests and nuns.]

61:7. One should emphasize (21) the Dalet, in order that it not sound like a Reish.

MB 21: The Dalet - One should not emphasize the Dalet too much, because then it would seem as if the Dalet has a vowel underneath it [as if the word was "Echade"]. Rather the intent here is that one should pronounce it carefully.

Yaakov Menken

Siman 61. Laws Concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont'd)

61:8. One should not cut short the [letter] 'Chet' [of the word Echad, One], nor lengthen the 'Aleph'. [Avi says that this would negate the word, as if the reader were saying "not one". I don't know his source, nor did I edit this far enough in advance to ask him. -- YM]

61:9. It is forbidden to say (22) Shema twice, (23) neither repeating the word by saying "Shema Shema", nor by repeating (24) the first verse.

MB 22: Shema twice - because it seems as if he is accepting two gods, G-d forbid. If he didn't concentrate the first time, he should repeat it quietly, and if no one can hear him then he can even say it out loud, but if he concentrated the first time then he should not even repeat it quietly. During the selichos (the extra prayers we say from before Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur, and on Fast days), one is allowed to say Shema every time we reach the verse, "And G-d passed over his face ..." because there is a long break between each repetition of the Shema, and therefore it does not look like acceptance of two gods (*). And see the Taz, Siman 63, note 3, where he also writes that if one waits between the first and second readings then it is allowed, because we only silence him if he says it twice consecutively. When one waits, this isn't even considered disgraceful. [* We do not have this custom of saying Shema during Slichos. This is interesting, because our Slichos are reprinted or based upon those actually used during the MB's time.]

MB 23: Neither repeating - If he repeated the verse he has still fulfilled the commandment after the fact. If he repeated the word it is questionable, and see the Biur Halacha [where he seems to side with the opinion that he has fulfilled the commandment].

MB 24: the first verse - It is written in the Beit Yoseph that after the first verse there is no problem [of repetition]. However from the Ri"f it seems otherwise, see there, and also see the Magen Giborim, who says that the Meiri was also strict about this. When saying the Shema in bed [before going to sleep - not in fulfillment of the Torah commandment], one certainly need not be strict.

61:10. When reading Shema (25) in bed [before going to sleep], one may read the whole first paragraph and then repeat it. There are those who say that even in this case one must be careful not to say the first verse {Rama: twice}.

MB 25: In bed - It seems that this means only when one is in bed and wishes to fall asleep while saying Shema, which brings Divine protection, but in other situations even repeating an entire paragraph is forbidden. Even on his bed it is allowed only if he is saying the whole paragraph and then repeating, and not merely the first verse (the Gr"a). And it appears to me that all of this is in a case where one is reading only the first parsha, but if one is reading the entire Shema, then there is no problem of repetition.

Avi Bloch ( and Jonathan Chody (

Siman 61. Laws concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont.)

61:11. There are those who say and repeat the first verse of Shema when saying selichot early in the morning or on Yom Kippur during Neilah, and they should be taught (26) not to say it.

MB 26: not to say it - and the Ba"ch wrote that in places where they have such a custom we should not stop them, and so wrote the Eliyahu Raba. But the Levush, the Lechem Chamudot, and the Magen Avraham forbade this practice, and it seems from what was written by the Gr"a that he forbade it as well.

61:12. We repeat "Hashem, Hu Ha'Elokim [HaShem, He is G-d]" on Yom Kippur during Neilah 7 times, and this is (27) a good custom. {Rama: There are those who say that one must be careful not to answer (28) amen twice after any blessing (Beit Yoseph in the name of the Ohel Moed)}.

MB 27: A good custom - that we praise the Creator Who lives above the seven heavens. We also find in the Tana"ch [Bible] a repitition of "Hashem is the G-d" in the story of Eliyahu the prophet [Kings I 18:39]. And our repetition three times of the verse "Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity" on Yom Kippur is also allowed, because the problem of accepting two gods only occurs when saying the first verse of Shema (which is the main acceptance of the yoke of heaven), and since one already accepted the yoke of heaven once without repetition, there is no problem when saying "Blessed is the Name ..." more than once, because it applies to the previous verse of "Shema Yisroel" so there can be no mistake.

MB 28: Amen twice - because this is also considered [as accepting] two gods. See the Magen Avraham that is lenient in this case, but most of the latter poskim agree that it is not allowed. If one says "amen AND amen" then it is allowed, as it is written [in Psalms] "Blessed is Hashem amen and amen." And see the Pri Megadim who wrote something new about this, that there are two types of amen; one that declares "I believe and reinforce that [what the one who made the blessing said] is the truth," and a second that applies to the request, meaning that we believe in the blessings, and that He will answer our requests. If so, then it is definitely appropriate to say amen twice to a blessing that has both these parts, e.g., the blessing [in the Amidah] "Heal us Hashem and we will be healed ... the healer of the sick" [which has a request and a statement about Hashem].

61:13. After the first verse one should say (29) "Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity" (30) quietly.

MB 29. "Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity" - And if one didn't say it there are opinions among the poskim that one must go back, see the Magen Avraham and see the Biur Halacha [where he sides with the opinion that one does need to go back].

MB 30. quietly - When Yaakov called his sons [to his bedside, before he died], he wanted to reveal to them the End [when Moshiach will come] as it is written "And I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of the days". However, the Shechinah left him and did not let him reveal it. He then said to his sons, "Maybe there is among you one who is not worthy?" and they all answered in unison, "Shema Yisrael ..." Then Yaakov answered "Blessed is the Name ...". So the Sages debated what to do. How can we say it ["Blessed is the Name ..."], if Moshe didn't say it [in the parsha of Shema]? But how can we _not_ say it if Yaakov said it? Therefore the Sages ruled that one should say it quietly, which makes it clear that this is not part of the parsha of Shema, but rather something that Yaakov said.

Avi Bloch

Siman 61 Laws concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont.)

61.14: One should pause briefly (31) between "for all eternity" (L'olam voed) and "and you shall love" (V'ahavta) in order to differentiate between [the Mitzva] of accepting G-d's absolute sovereignty and other Mitzvos (referred to in the rest of the first paragraph of the Sh'ma). {Rama: One should also pause in the first verse between "Israel" and "HaShem" and between "our G-d" and the second [mention of] "HaShem" in order that the verse be understood as "Hear/understand, Israel, that HaShem who is our G-d, is the One and Only HaShem". One should pause a little between "the One and Only HaShem" and "Blessed" because the main acceptance of G-d's sovereignty is the first verse.}

MB 31: between "for all eternity" (L'olam voed) - Because this verse (Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity) is also part of the acceptance of G-d's absolute sovereignty, therefore one should pause a little after [saying] it.

61.15: One must pause between "today" and "upon your heart" (in the first paragraph) and between "today" and "to love" (in the second paragraph) so that it should not sound like you are commanded only for today, but not tomorrow.

61.16: One must pause between "has sworn" (nishba - towards the end of the second paragraph) and "Hashem" in order to pronounce the letter "Ayin" (meaning Hashem has sworn) clearly, so that it does not sound like a letter "Hey" (HaShem caused to rest).

Jonathan Chody sha-61.17

Siman 61. Laws concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont.)

61:17. One must stress the letter "Zayin" ["z"] in the word "tizk'ru" ["you will remember", Num. 15:40] so that it does not sound like "tishk'ru" ["you will lie"] or "tisk'ru" ["you will be hired / paid"], which would make one appear like a servant who serves in order to receive reward (*). Similarly, one must stress the "zayin" in the word "uz'chartem" (Num 15:39). [* The Sages say that one is not supposed to serve HaShem in this fashion - looking for our reward for good behavior. -- YM]

61:18. One must stress the letter "yud" ["y"] of "Shema Yisrael" (32) in order that it not be slurred over and sound like the [silent] letter "alef"; and similarly the "yud" of "v'hayu" (Deut. 6:6) [should not be slurred over], so that it not sound like "v'ha'u".

MB 32: So that it not be slurred over - The author of the Shulhan Aruch mentioned these verses, but the same law holds for the recital of the entire Shema: that one must be careful not to slur over the letters or to exchange them with other letters, such as in the verse beginning "V'ahavta" (Deut. 6:5), one should not appear to be reading "V'ahafta", or "l'vafcha" [instead of "l'vavcha"] or "navsh'cha" [instead of "nafsh'cha"] or "modecha" [instead of "me'odecha"], etc. in the entire Shema.

One should be careful to read at a moderate pace, each word by itself, in order to pronounce it properly. By doing so, all one's 248 limbs will be made whole, as mentioned above in MB 6. See below in Siman 62, MB 1.

61:19. One must pause briefly betwen the words "v'chara" and "af" (Deut. 11:17) so that it not sound like "v'charaf".

Shalom Bresticker

Siman 61: Laws concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont.)

61:20. One must pause briefly before a word which begins with a sound similar to that which ended the previous word, such as (33) "b'chol l'vav'cha" (Deut. 6:5), "`al l'vavchem" (Deut. 11:18), "b'chol l'vavchem" (Deut. 11:13), "`eysev b'sadecha" (Deut. 11:15), "va'avadtem m'heyra" (Deut. 11:17), "hakanaf psil" (Num. 15:38), "eschem mey'eretz" (Num. 15:41). [Because of the context here, a translation of these words would be of little value.]

MB 33: "b'chol l'vav'cha" - The intent here is not to stop completely between them, but rather just to prononunce them so that one hears that there are two "lamed"'s ["l"]. But nevertheless there must be a "makaf" between them ["makaf" is a hyphen-like sign - it indicates a connection between words even in terms of pronunciation.]. Without a makaf, one would pronunce "b'chol" with a "cholam" [long "o"-sound, "b'chol"], but with a makaf, one pronunces it with a "kamatz" [a "small" or "half" kamatz, "aw"-sound, "b'chawl". Many modern Hebrew speakers pronounce the "half-kamatz" like a "cholam", and then there is no difference -- SB].

61:21. One must pause briefly before every "alef" [at the beginning of a word] that follows a "mem" [at the end of the preceding word], such as "v'limadtem osam" (Deut. 11:19), "uk'shartem osam" (Deut. 11:18), "v'samtem es" (Deut. 11:18), "ur'isem oso" (Num. 15:39), {"uz'chartem es" (Num. 15:39), "va`asisem es" (Num. 15:40),} so that one not appear (34) to be saying "mosam" or "mes".

MB 34: To be saying "mosam" - The Elya Raba says in the name of the Shela that one must pause for every "alef" that follows a "mem", such as "va`avadtem elokim(*) acheyrim" (Deut. 11:16), "`eyneychem asher" (Num. 15:39), "zonim achareyhem" (ibid.), "elokeychem asher" (Num. 15:41), "leylokeychem ani" (Num. 15:40-41), "elokeychem emes" (end of sh'ma). [* To avoid someone speaking out these words and thereby pronouncing a name of G-d unnecessarily, I followed the convention of converting 'h' to 'k' in this paragraph. Similarly, a-d-na below refers to Aleph/Dalet/Nun/Yud - the way the four letter name of G-d is pronounced (as in, Baruch Ata ....). We usually say 'HaShem' when studying, but HaShem does not begin with the right letter! -- YM] Similarly, every word that begins with "alef" where it is possible that the listener will not hear it clearly, a pause is required, such as "asher anochi" (Deut. 11:13), "m'tar artzechem" (11:14), "v`atzar es" (11:17), "asher a-d-na" (11:17), "d'vari eyleh" (11:18), "vayomer a-d-na el" (Num. 15:37), "daber el" (15:38), "mitzvos a-d-na" (15:39), "asher atem" (15:39), and all such cases. And so too, one must stress the pronunciation of every word beginning in "yud" ["y"], so that it not seem to be a continuation of the preceding word, for example "pen yifteh" (Deut. 11:16) should not sound like he is saying "penifteh" or "pen ifteh", and similarly in the word "yirbu" (Deut. 11:21), and in all such cases.

61:22. One must also be careful to follow these rules in "Psukey D'zimra" ["Verses of Praise"] and Prayer [i.e., Amidah, Shmoneh Esreh]. {Ramah: And the same is for one who is reading the Torah, Prophets, or Writings, (35) he must be careful.}

MB 35: He must be careful - And they [our Sages] gave us a special warning about the recital of Shema only because it applies to all [all Jews, not only scholars, recite it twice every day] and it contains the declaration of G-d's unity.

Shalom Bresticker


Siman 61: Laws concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont.)

61:23. One must be careful not to weaken strong consonants, nor to strengthen the weak (*) and also not to leave silent a pronounced [vowel] [lit. leave resting a moving vowel] nor pronounce (36) a silent.

[* This refers to certain consonants, described by linguists as corresponding "Stops" and "Friccotals" - the stops (strong) cause a full stop in the mouth, while the friccotal (weak) does not. Note that each pair comes from the same part of the mouth, and as the Hebrew letters are identical (in voweled text, the stop has a dot, the friccotal does not), confusion is easy: Beis (B) and Veis (V) Kaf (K) and Chaf (Ch as in Bach) Pay (P) and Fay (F) Ashkenazic: Taf (T) and Saf (S) And we no longer know how to distinguish two types of: Gimel (G), Dalet (D) and Reish (R) - though certain Yemenites apparently do. --YM]

MB 36: A silent [vowel] - A Sh'va which is cut off [unpronounced] is called "resting", such as that found at the end of a word, or in the middle following a "Small" vowel, while a "moving" Sh'va refers to one that is "shaking" [i.e. is heard, like a short 'e' sound as in Bed. In the word "Shema", the 'e' is a moving Sh'va - one that is pronounced.] such as that found at the beginning of a word, or in the middle of a word following a "Large" vowel. The large vowels are those found in "pEEtOOchEY chOHsAWm," although a chirik ["EE"] is only considered a large vowel when spelled with a Yud following it, while when there is no Yud following it it is called a small vowel.

[This is a peculiar law of Hebrew grammer. The truth is that many words are frequently written in voweled text without a Yud, but in unvoweled text with a Yud to show you that the correct pronunciation of that syllable is with a chirik, EE. There is essentially no difference in pronunciation of the vowel itself - but there _is_ a difference in the following Sh'va, if any, for those being precise. --YM]

61:24. One must read the Shema with it's tunes, as they are in the Torah [like we hear in the public readings on Shabbos]. {Rama: However, our custom is not (37) to do so in our countries - but in any case those who are precise are strict (38) with this.}

MB 37: To do so - However, one must be careful to stop in the appropriate places, in accordance with the meaning of the text, in order that there be meaning and understanding in his words [in order that his words be comprehensible to a listener --YM]. Therefore one should read it slowly, because if not he will sometimes change the understood meaning of his words by doing so [rushing]. [Sometimes, especially in Hebrew, it is possible to change the meaning of a sentence by pausing at different points than originally intended. See the requirement to pause after the word "today", in 61:15. --YM]

MB 38: With this - As long as he has proper concentration and intent, because for one unfamiliar with the proper tune, trying to sing can cause him to lose his concentration upon the words.

61:25. (39) When one says "And you shall tie them for a sign upon your hand" one should hold the Tefillin upon his hand, and when he says "and they should be Totafot 'Frontlets' between your eyes" he should hold the one upon is head; and when he says "And you shall see it" [referring to the Tzitzis upon his garment] he should hold the two frontmost Tzitzis (and see above in 24:4 [where the Shulchan Aruch discusses the custom of placing the Tzitzis upon the eyes when saying this, and the Rema also mentions the custom of kissing them]).

MB 39: When one says - And the same is true in the second paragraph, that when he mentions the Tefillin he must hold them.

Yaakov Menken

P.S. Thank you to all who have already responded to the survey. The responses so far have been absolutely _outstanding_, and I hope that many more will respond as well.

Siman 61. Laws concerning the Degree of Precision and Intent Required in the Reading of Shema (cont.)

61:26. (40) Some have the custom to read the Shema out loud, and some have the custom to read it quietly. {Rema: In any event one should read the first verse out loud, and this is our custom (Kol Bo).}

MB 40: Some have the custom - Concerning whether one can fulfill the Mitzvah of reading the Shema by listening to another who intends to fulfill the listener's requirement, see in the Magen Avrohom and P'ri Megadim. Most of the later authorities share the opinion that the listener has fulfilled his Mitzvah. Listening to another is far preferable to merely thinking [the Shema in his mind], because "thinking is not considered the same as speaking" [and saying the words of the prayers is a requirement (*)], whereas here we say that listening is indeed like speaking ["Shome'ah Ke'Oneh", a principle which allows a person to fulfill a Mitzvah that requires speaking (eg. Kiddush, Megillah, etc.) by listening to someone else --SP]. The Olas Tomid writes "It would seem that this is true only where he understands the language being spoken; and even if the language is Hebrew [where understanding the words of prayers is not usually required] we require that at least the listener understands [the words of the Shema] - see Siman 193:1 [where the Shulchan Aruch states that one who fulfills his Mitzvah of Grace after Meals by listening to another must be able to understand what is being said, even if it is in Hebrew] - and the Sha'arei Kenesses Hagedolah brings in the name of the Birchas Avrohom that this is only where a single person is reciting Grace after Meals for one other person, but where a single person recites Grace after Meals for many people or even just two others, even if they do not understand Hebrew they have still fulfilled their Mitzvah. [* - Many people do not realize that unless one actually says the words of the prayers, it is as if one did not pray at all. Staring at the words on the page, even with intense concentration, is not praying. As the MB points out below, zooming through the words so quickly that one cannot hear them is also not praying. -- YM]

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