K'RIAT SH'MA L'MAFREI'A'
Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Kriat Shema 2:11-12
11. If someone reads [K'riat Sh'ma] out of order (*l'mafreia'* -
lit. "backwards"), *Lo Yatza* (he has not fulfilled his
obligation). When does this apply? - to the order of verses;
however, if he read one Parasha before another Parasha, even
though he is not allowed [to do so], I say that *Yatza*, since
they are not next to each other in the Torah.
If he read a verse and went back and read it a second time, this
is unseemly. If he read one word and repeated it - for instance,
if he read "Sh'ma, Sh'ma", we hush him.
12. If he read [K'riat Sh'ma in a manner of] *Serugin*, Yatza.
Even if he paused between each *Serug* enough time to finish the
whole [reading], Yatza. [This is true] as long as he reads in
If he read it *Mitnamnem* - i.e. someone who is neither fully
awake nor fully asleep, Yatza. [This is true] as long as he is
awake for the first verse.
The Mishna in Berakhot (2:3) states: *HaKorei l'mafrei'a' Lo
Yatza* - if someone reads K'riat Sh'ma *L'mafrei'a'* - they have
not fulfilled the obligation. The meaning of l'mafrei'a' is
"backwards" or "out of order".
Rashi (Berakhot 13a s.v. mid'varim) explains that *L'mafrei'a'*
means e.g. "uvish'arekha - beitekha - mezuzot" (instead of the
way it is written: "mezuzot - beitekha - uveish'arekha").
The Mishna lists one other reading which, if done l'mafrei'a', is
invalid: The Megillah (Megillat Esther - read on Purim from a
scroll). (Megillah 2:1). The Tosefta (Berakhot 2:3) adds Hallel
and Tefillah, as follows: "If someone reads K'riat Sh'ma
l'mafrei'a', lo yatza; the same applies to Hallel, Tefillah and
The Gemara in Megillah (17a-b) cites prooftexts for each of these
Megillah: "These days [of Purim] are observed and remembered" -
just as the observance cannot be out of order (the 14th of Adar
must come before the 15th - Rashi), similarly, the remembrance
(Megillah) must be in order;
Hallel: (various texts from Hallel itself are offered which
indicate that the praise for God must be in its order, just like
the sun moves from east to west)
Tefillah: (here, there is no prooftext; however) the Gemara cites
two sources that indicate that the blessings of the Tefillah were
"ordered", hinting that the order is not coincidental but
K'riat Sh'ma: *V'hayu haD'varim ha'Eleh* - (and these words shall
be...) that they should be [read] as they are - not l'mafrei'a'.
We have seen four readings which are invalidated l'mafrei'a'; are
all four invalidated for the same reason? The practical
difference may be the range of invalidity - what level of
l'mafrei'a' is problematic in each case? Another way of stating
the questions is: How do we interpret the term "l'mafrei'a'"?
There are at least four distinct possible ways of interpreting
(a) reading words out of order -such that the result is
(b) reading phrases out of order (while maintaining word order
within each phrase) - such that each phrase makes internal sense,
but the phrases do not follow each other as they do in the
(c) reading verses out of order (although each verse is kept
(d) reading Parashiot out of order - even though the integrity of
each Parasha is maintained.
(the terms used above are equally valid for Megillah, Hallel and
K'riat Sh'ma; however, we must "transpose" for Tefillah: instead
of "verses" ©, read "sentences within a blessing" and instead
of "Parashiot" (d), read "blessings".)
There is another thing to consider: Does the rule of l'mafrei'a'
apply throughout K'riat Sh'ma? What if someone read the first
verse correctly and then did a patchwork reading of the rest?
What if someone read the entire first Parasha correctly but then
hopscotched around the second and third Parashiot? Is the reading
invalidated at any point due to l'mafrei'a' - or is it limited in
scope to one part of K'riat Sh'ma?
MEGILLAH AND K'RIAT SH'MA
The Gemara (Megillah 18b) implies that the problem with a
l'mafrei'a' reading of the Megillah applies up to level (d) above
- even if you read each chapter properly, but read chapters 6-10
and then chapters 1-5, this would be invalid. The Gemara states
that if you enter a Beit K'nesset (on Purim) and found that the
community had already read half of the Megillah, you shouldn't
read the second half with them and then go back and read the
first half; rather you should read it from beginning to end.
The reason here seems to be that the whole point of the Megillah
is to see how each event (seemingly a coincidence) leads to the
next one (for example, Vashti's rebellious attitude necessitates
a new queen, Haman's ego makes him come to the king late at
night, Mordechai's overhearing the plot against the king gets him
raised above Haman etc.) This whole message is lost if not read
However, there is good reason to suspect that the level of
l'mafrei'a'-invalidity is less in the case of K'riat Sh'ma.
The Mishna (Berakhot 2:1) states that if you were reading from
the Torah and read the section(s) of K'riat Sh'ma and it happened
to be the time for K'riat Sh'ma, depending on your intent (and
style of reading), you may have fulfilled the Mitzvah of K'riat
Sh'ma. Since the assumption is that you were reading the Torah
straight through (e.g. checking a Sefer Torah for mistakes), that
means that you read the Parashiot of K'riat Sh'ma out of order -
first the final Parasha, from Chapter 15 of Bamidbar [Numbers],
then the first (Chapter 6 of Devarim[Deuteronomy]) and then the
second (Chapter 11 of Devarim). Since the Mishna allows for the
possiblity that you have fulfilled the Mitzvah, it stands to
reason that there is no concern of l'mafrei'a' between Parashiot,
as long as (at the most) each Parasha is read correctly.
Rashi, cited above, gives the "jibberish" example of words being
read backwards. There are two implications to be drawn from this
(1) The rule of l'mafrei'a' applies at least through the entire
first Parasha - and
(2) l'mafrei'a' only applies to mixing up the words (level (a)
above). (The inference is based on the idea that if Rashi also
held that a verse-mixing reading was invalid - where each verse
was read correctly - he would have mentioned that, which is a
less egregious form of l'mafrei'a' and is a more novel idea which
obviously implies the invalidity of "jibberish".)
Why would Rashi apply l'mafrei'a' only to "jibberish"? And - why
throughout the first Parasha (but, possibly, no further)?
Rashi holds that the first Parasha alone is sufficient to fulfill
the basic requirement of K'riat Sh'ma (Rashi at the beginning of
Berakhot - also, see the Introductory Shiur). One of the
explanation for this approach is based on the notion that K'riat
Sh'ma is essentially the minimalistic Talmud Torah of the day -
which, in its most basic form, must be an entire Parasha of
It stands to reason that, just as with any other learning, as
long as the words are comprehensible and the reader is following
the meaning, this is a valid fulfillment of Torah study.
According to Rashi, then, the invalidity of l'mafrei'a' cuts to
the nature of K'riat Sh'ma itself - it is only a valid reading
if it makes sense as it is read. Reading whole phrases or verses
in alternate sequence is not invalid as all of the ideas make
sense and, as long as they are all read, the Mitzvah has been
(See the Turei Aven on Megillah 17b s.v. Shelo yikra - I believe
that this comment answers his challenge to Rashi)
As we see in our Halakha, Rambam rules that l'mafrei'a' only
applies up to level © - and his argument (phrased as "I say"
because it is not explicit in the Gemara and, as we shall see
later, there is room to argue against this position from the
Tosefta) is fairly straightforward: Clearly there is no concern
for reading the Parashiot in order, since the Torah itself didn't
place them in that order. Obviously, whatever message and/or
meaning is implied by the sequences of ideas in K'riat Sh'ma
doesn't move from Parasha to Parasha - just within each Parasha.
Rambam, then, must hold that l'mafrei'a' isn't just an issue of
making sense (Rashi's approach); rather, it is a question of
conforming to the order of the Torah - perhaps, in order to "get
the message" as clearly as possible.
Another thing seems clear from the Rambam - that the invalidity
of l'mafrei'a' applies throughout K'riat Sh'ma.
R'AH AND RITBA
R. Aharon haLevi (R'ah), in his comments on Berakhot (13a), takes
several approaches to the problem. At first, he adopts Rashi's
formula, that only mixing up words within one verse is
problematic. He then suggests that l'mafrei'a' may be a problem
even between Parashiot - he reinterprets the Mishna about the
person who was reading from a Torah during K'riat Sh'ma time and
suggests that the person in question was, coincidentally, reading
those three Parashiot in the proper order - in other words, he
raises the possibility that even fidelity to the order within the
Parashiot may be significant. (level (d)).
Although this is a difficult read of that Mishna, there is a
Tosefta which seems to support this approach: "If someone came
into a Beit K'nesset and found that the community had read half
[of K'riat Sh'ma] and he read the rest with them, he should not
go back and read from the beginning until that place; rather he
should read from the beginning until the end. The same holds for
Hallel, Tefillah and Megillah." (Tosefta Berakhot 2:4 - the
Gemara cited above is another version of this Halakha,
specifically applied to Megillah.)
The Gra (OC 64) raises this Tosefta as a challenge against
The Ritba, in his commentary to Megillah (17a s.v. haKorei),
supports the general approach of Rambam and spells out the
distinction between K'riat Sh'ma and Megillah mentioned above.
However, at the end of his comment, he seems to indicate that
only by reading the Parashiot in the exact order found in the
Torah is it valid - i.e. if you read the selection from Devarim
11, then Devarim 6, then Bamidbar 15, it might not be invalid.
If that is a correct read in the Ritba, then we have a slight
twist on the approach of the R'ah (his teacher). Like the R'ah,
he maintains that inter-Parashiot sequence is significant;
however, we have two choices as to that sequence - to read it in
the order prescribed by the Rabbis, or in the order provided by
the Torah - but it must follow some sequence.
Until now, we have seen various approaches taken by the Rishonim
to the problem of l'mafrei'a' in K'riat Sh'ma. All of them
revolved around one point - fidelity. Whether fidelity to meaning
(Rashi) or to text (Rambam to R'ah, with Ritba in the middle) -
it is an issue of fidelity.
Raaviah's comments raise another possibility: he states (#52):
"If someone reads l'mafrei'a', lo yatza - e.g. the first Parasha,
according to those whole that the whole Parasha needs Kavvanah;
or just the first verse according to the one who rules that it
alone is obligatory [of Kavvanah].
Raaviah is taking a different approach; he would likely agree
with Rashi, that jibberish reading is meaningless as a form of
l'mafrei'a' - but he is willing to extend it further based on the
consideration of Kavvanah. Although some parts of K'riat Sh'ma
may be read without focus (see the shiur on 2:1); certainly part
of K'riat Sh'ma demands Kavvanah (anywhere from the first verse
to the first Parasha).
In order to have Kavvanah, before you can even begin to be
concerned about focus - you need to have a target on which to
focus. If the words are being read inaccurately, there can be no
proper Kavvanah. Therefore, those parts of K'riat Sh'ma which
must be read with focus must first be read accurately. The one
question here is what does Raaviah do with the rest of K'riat
Sh'ma - according to his second option, only within the first
verse does the issue of l'mafrei'a' play out. Does that mean
that one can recite "jibberish" during the rest, as long as he
has read the first verse properly (and with Kavvanah)?
now, to the questions:
Q1: Why is reading l'mafrei'a' invalid?
A: See the shiur above. See also Meir's comments below at the
Q2: Note the Rambam's "I say" - who says differently and why?
A: See the shiur, above.
Q3: What is the logic behind Rambam's argument in this case?
A: See the shiur, above.
Q4: Why is it "unseemly" (*meguneh*) if someone repeats a
A: See the response at Q5 below.
Q5: Why do "we" hush up someone who repeats a word?
A: The Mishna (Berakhot 5:3, parallel in Megillah 4:9) says that
if someone says "Modim, Modim" (repeating the first word of the
"Modim" - we thank You - presumably the person is saying this as
part of the community's Modim during the repetition of the
Tefillah), we silence him. The Gemara (Berakhot 33b) explains
that we silence him (hush him) because it seems like he is
praying to two gods. R. Zera is then quoted as saying that anyone
who says "Sh'ma, Sh'ma" is similar to one who says "Modim,
Modim". As we see, Rambam understands "Sh'ma, Sh'ma" as an
example and that R. Zera intends this ruling to apply to any
repetition of words.
By the way, there is a dispute among the Rishonim about
repetition of words and verses: The Gemara there cites a
statement that if someone says Sh'ma and repeats it, this is
"unseemly" - but we don't silence him. The Gemara resolves this
by saying that one statement refers to repeating words (Sh'ma,
Sh'ma) and the other refers to repeating an entire verse. Rashi
(Megillah 25a s.v. Milta) explains that if he repeats each word,
this doesn't seem like two gods, rather he just seems foolish
-and that's why it's unseemly. According to Rashi (Berakhot 33b
s.v. Milta) repeating the entire verse implies accepting two
Rambam, as we see, reads the Gemara's resolution in the opposite
way - that repeating the words implies acceptance of two gods and
must be hushed; whereas repeating a verse is unseemly (it may be
for a different reason - because it seems that he didn't pay
close enough attention the first time, which is unseemly) but not
worthy of "hushing".
Q6: Why does Rambam provide the example of "Sh'ma, Sh'ma" to
illustrate this last Halakhah?
A: As pointed out above, this example is the one provided in the
Gemara. Rambam is showing us that he doesn't understand that
Gemara as being an exhaustive list (Modim and Sh'ma) rather as an
example of the Halakha.
Q7: What is *Serugin* - what are the potential problems and why
is it valid nonetheless?
A: The Gemara (Megillah 18b) explains that it means "pieces at a
time"; i.e. reading a bit, waiting (silently) for a while, readin
some more, waiting some more and so on. The problem is raised in
the Gemara (Berakhot 22b-23a) in the context of Tefillah - if you
waited (silently) during Tefillah for a long enough period to
complete the Tefillah, is this considered a *Hefseq*
(interruption) which invalidates the Tefillah? Rambam rules (MT
Tefillah 4:13) that if you waited during Tefillah for a long
enough period to finish the whole thing (two side questions: does
that mean to finish from beginning to end or from the point where
you are until the end - and is this time measure objective or
subjective - but we'll discuss that in Hilkhot Tefillah) you must
go back to the beginning of the Tefillah. *Serugin* invalidates
Tefillah but not K'riat Sh'ma (nor Megillah).
I believe that the reason for this distinction is that whereas
our concern for "proper" reading in K'riat Sh'ma and Megillah
(and, perhaps, Hallel) is to convey a certain idea, constructed
in a particular sequence - which is not lost with silent breaks
in the middle, although it is possibly diminished in impact -
Tefillah is a wholly emotional outpouring of the heart and mind
to God; the type of silence which is being discussed (see Hilkhot
Tefillah 4:13 for the circumstance) seems to be a "removal" of
focus away from Tefillah. In the same way that other (non-K'riat
Sh'ma) speech is considered an interruption from K'riat Sh'ma and
necessitates a repetition, similarly a significantly long
silence, indicating a srong focus away from Tefillah, is a
*Hefseq* and necessitates repetition.
Q8: Why is a *Serugin* reading valid only if it is read in
order? What is the connection here?
Meir Levin :
The Rambam understands that there is: 1. A Psul (invalidity) of
"Lemafreah" 2. Requirement of *Al Haseder* (being read in order)
There are 2 types of this a) Al Haseder of sequence(1,2,3,4,5),
b) Al haseder of Zman (reading within a defined period of time).
Either one is acceptable.
Thus in Halacha 11- Reading lemafreah is Lo Yatza. Reading a
verse and repeating(1,2,2,3,3,4,4,) it or repeating a word, such
as "Shma, Shma" is unseemly or we hush but is acceptable
B'di'avad.(There is no Al Haseder of sequence but there is Al
Haseder of Zman)
*Serugin* violates the requirement of Al Haseder of Zman but as
long as there is Al Haseder of sequence, Yatza.
Rambam has the same approach in MT Megila 2,1.
In MT Tefila he seems to contradict this by ALWAYS requiring the
Al Haseder of Zman, see Beis Yosef 65. This, in fact, is further
proof to the above principle. In Tefila 1,4 he states clearly
that Al Haseder in Tefila is only a "mnemonic" device, so that
even those who are not literate can remember the prayer. [mod.
note: I am not sure that that is Rambam's intent there; however,
we will discuss that when we get there.)
Since there is no AL Haseder of sequence, we must require ALWAYS
require the AL Haseder of Zman.
Note : [the repetition of ] "Shma, Shma" and "Modim, Modim" is to
Rambam an issue of Nusach Hatefila (the formulation/wording of
See our halacha and Tefila 9:4. Rambam does not quote the law of
"Modim, Modim" in 9:7 or 10:5 where heretical leanings during
Amida are discussed but in the context of Nusach of Shmonei
Esreh. (But see Commentary to Megial 25)
This principle may be held also by Rashi. See Tosfot Megila 17b,
A: Rambam is also underscoring that the invalidity of l'mafrei'a'
remains, in spite of the validity of a Serugin-type reading.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project