Listening to Kerias ha-Torah
There are two basic opinions among the early poskim concerning the nature of
the obligation of Kerias ha-Torah on Shabbos morning. One opinion holds
that every adult male is obligated to listen to the weekly portion read
every Shabbos morning from a kosher Sefer Torah. He must pay attention to
every word being read, or he will not fulfill his obligation. The second
opinion maintains that the obligation of Kerias ha-Torah devolves upon
the congregation as a whole. In other words, if ten or more men are together
on Shabbos morning, they must read from the weekly portion. While each
member of the congregation is included in this congregational obligation, it
is not a specific obligation upon each individual, provided that there are
ten men who are paying attention.
There are some basic questions concerning Kerias ha-Torah whose answers
will differ depending on which of these two opinions one follows:
- Is one actually required to follow each word recited by the Reader, the
koreh, without missing even one letter [and, according to some opinions,
even read along with him to make sure nothing is missed ], or is one
permitted – even l’chatchilah – to be lax about this requirement?
- Is it permitted to learn or to recite Shnayim mikra v’echad targum
during Kerias ha-Torah?
- If an individual missed a word or two of the Torah reading, must he hear
the Torah reading again?
- If ten or more men missed one word or more from the reading, should they
take out the Sefer Torah after davening and read the portion they missed?
- If one came late to shul but arrived in time for Kerias ha-Torah, should
he listen to the Torah reading first and then daven?
- If a situation arises where tefillah b’tzibur and Kerias ha-Torah
conflict, which takes precedence?
- If a situation arises where, by listening to Kerias ha-Torah, one would
not be able to daven altogether, which takes precedence?
- Should one interrupt his private Shemoneh Esrei to listen to Kerias
The answer to these and other such questions depends, for the most part, on
which of the two views one is following. Clearly, according to the first
opinion, one must give undivided attention to each and every word being
read. Davening, learning or reciting Shnayim mikra v’echad targum during
Kerias ha-Torah would be prohibited, and even b’diavad one would have to
make up any missed words. But according to the second opinion, the answers
to all these questions would be more lenient, for as long as the
congregation fulfilled its obligation to read the Torah correctly, and as
long as ten men paid attention to the reading, the individual’s obligation
is no longer a matter of concern.
Shulchan Aruch does not give a clear, definitive ruling concerning this
dispute. Indeed, while discussing the laws regarding the permissibility of
learning during Kerias ha-Torah, he quotes both opinions without rendering a
decision. Instead, he concludes that “it is proper for a meticulous person
to focus on and pay attention to the words of the reader.” This indicates
that Shulchan Aruch and many other prominent poskim hold that while it
is commendable to be stringent, it is not absolutely essential. Mishnah
Berurah, though, quotes several poskim who maintain that the halachah
requires that each individual listen to every word of Kerias ha-Torah.
Rav M. Feinstein rules that even b’diavad one does not fulfill his
obligation if he misses a word, and he must find a way to make up what he
missed. There are, however, a host of poskim who maintain that Kerias
ha-Torah is a congregational and not an individual obligation.
Several contemporary poskim suggest what appears to be a compromise.
Clearly, l’chatchilah we follow the view of the poskim that each individual
is obligated to listen to Kerias ha-Torah, and it is standard practice for
each individual to pay undivided attention to each word that is recited.
Indeed, in the situation described above where Kerias ha-Torah conflicts
with tefillah b’tzibur, some poskim rule that the obligation to hear Kerias
ha-Torah takes precedence, in deference to the authorities who consider it
an individual obligation.
But, b’diavad, if it were to happen that a word or two was missed, one is
not obligated to go to another shul to listen to the part of the reading
that was missed. Rather, we rely on the second opinion which maintains that
so long as the congregation has fulfilled its obligation, the individual is
covered. Accordingly, if listening to Kerias ha-Torah will result in
missing davening altogether, davening takes priority, since we rely on the
poskim who maintain that Kerias ha-Torah is a congregational obligation.
Similarly, one should not interrupt his private Shemoneh Esrei to listen to
But regardless of the above dispute and compromise, the poskim are in
agreement about the following rules:
- There must be at least ten men listening to the entire Kerias
ha-Torah. If there are fewer than ten, then the entire congregation has not
fulfilled its obligation according to all views.
- Conversing during Kerias ha-Torah is strictly prohibited even when there
are ten men paying attention. According to most poskim, it is prohibited to
converse even between aliyos (bein gavra l’gavra). One who converses
during Kerias ha-Torah is called “a sinner whose sin is too great to be
- Even those who permit learning during Kerias ha-Torah stipulate that it
may only be done quietly, so that it does not interfere with the Torah
- “Talking in learning” bein gavra l’gavra is permitted by some poskim
and prohibited by others. An individual, however, may learn by himself or
answer a halachic question bein gavra l’gavra.
1. Shibbolei ha-Leket 39, quoted in Beis Yosef, O.C. 146. This also seems
to be the view of the Magen Avraham 146:5, quoting Shelah and Mateh Moshe.
See also Ma’asei Rav 131. See, however, Peulas Sachir on Ma’asei Rav 175.
2. Among the Rishonim see Ramban and Ran, Megillah 5a. Among the poskim
see Ginas Veradim 2:21; Imrei Yosher 2:171; Binyan Shlomo 35; Levushei
Mordechai 2:99 and others. See also Yabia Omer 4:31-3 and 7:9.
3. Mishnah Berurah 146:15.
4. Sha’arei Efrayim 4:12 and Siddur Derech ha-Chayim (4-5) clearly rule in
accordance with this view. This may also be the ruling of Chayei Adam 31:2
and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 23:8.
5. 146:15. Aruch ha-Shulchan 146:6 and Kaf ha-Chayim 146:10,14 concur with
6. There are conflicting indications as to what, exactly, is the view of
the Mishnah Berurah on this issue; see Beiur Halachah 135:14, s.v. ein, and
146:2, s.v. v’yeish.
7. Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:23; 4:40-4-5. If ten or more men missed a section
of the Torah reading, then they should take out the sefer after davening and
read that section over; ibid.
8. See also Eimek Berachah (Kerias ha-Torah 3).
9. Rav S.Z. Auerbach and Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (oral ruling, quoted in Avnei
Yashfei on Tefillah, pg. 140). See dissenting opinion in Minchas Yitzchak 7:6.
10. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Siach Halachah 6:8 and Halichos Shlomo
1:12-1; see also Minchas Shlomo 2:4-15); Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (oral ruling
quoted in Avnei Yashfei on Tefillah, pg. 140).
11. Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (oral ruling, quoted in Avnei Yashfei on Tefillah,
12. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo 1:12-4). [A Diaspora Jew who may
have missed an entire parashah when traveling to Eretz Yisrael after a Yom
Tov, does not need to make up what he missed (ibid. 6). See Ishei Yisrael
38:29 for a dissenting opinion.
13. Aruch ha-Shulchan 146:5.
14. Bach, as understood by Mishnah Berurah 146:6 and many poskim. There
are poskim, however, who maintain that the Bach permits even idle talk bein
gavra l’gavra; see Machatzis ha-Shekel, Aruch ha-Shulchan, and Shulchan
ha-Tahor. See also Peri Chadash, who allows conversing bein gavra l’gavra.
Obviously, they refer to the type of talk which is permitted in shul and/or
15. Beiur Halachah 146:2, s.v. v’hanachon, who uses strong language in
condemning these people.
16. Mishnah Berurah 146:11.
17. Mishnah Berurah 146:6.
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org