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Weekly Halacha

Shenayim Mikra v'Echad Targum

In conjunction with the weekly public reading of the Torah, parashas ha-shavua, there is a requirement that each individual study the parashah on his own and be familiar with its basic meaning. To achieve this level of mastery, our Sages instituted a parashah review known as shenayim mikra v’echad Targum, “two readings of the text and one of the translation of Onkelos.” The text itself must be read twice followed by Onkelos' translation[1]. A G-d-fearing individual should study Rashi's commentary in addition to Targum. If one does not have time for both, however, most poskim agree that Targum takes precedence over Rashi[2].

The origin of this mitzvah is unclear but it harks back to ancient times[3]. The Levush[4] writes that the first verse in of this week’s parashah conrains a hint (remez) to the mitzvah of shenayim mikra v’echad Targum. The Hebrew letters of the verse ו'א'ל'ה' ש'מ'ו'ת are an acronym for: ו'חייב א'דם ל'קרות ה'פרשה ש'נים מ'קרא ו'אחד ת'רגום—one is obligated to read the text of the parashah twice and Onkelos' translation once. Let us review some of the halachos:

As the word obligated in the remez proves, and as the Shulchan Aruch rules, shenayim mikra v'echad Targum is not just a helpful suggestion; it is a full-fledged obligation. Even a talmid chacham who is completely immersed in Torah study must fulfill this obligation, his other studies notwithstanding[5]. In addition, a reward of long life is promised to those who are meticulous in performing this mitzvah[6]. Women, though, are exempt[7].

The proper time:

There are four different time slots in which this mitzvah can be fulfilled l'chatchilah. They are listed in order of preference:

1. Doing all three readings on erev Shabbos, or beginning them during the week and finishing them on erev Shabbos[8]. Mishnah Berurah[9] rules that one may begin reading the weekly portion immediately after Minchah of the previous Shabbos.

2. Completing the readings before Shacharis Shabbos morning[10].

3. Completing the readings before the Shabbos morning meal[11].

4. Completing the readings before Shabbos Minchah[12].

B'diavad, if one did not finish his readings before Minchah on Shabbos, he may finish them until Tuesday night of the following week. One should complete his readings before beginning the new week’s portion[13]. Some poskim are even more lenient and allow one to make up an incomplete parashah until the next Simchas Torah[14]. Since both of these deadlines are “makeup times,” they are not to be relied on l'chatchilah[15].

A mourner during shivah may not read shenayim mikra v'echad Targum, even if he normally reads a segment of the parashah on a daily basis. On Shabbos, however, he may do so[16], unless his shivah will be over on Shabbos morning, in which case he should delay performing the mitzvah until after he rises from shivah[17].

The proper method:

There are several opinions regarding the method of reciting Shenayim mikra v'echad Targum[18].

  • Some prefer that each pasuk be read twice followed by Targum. This was the custom of the Chafetz Chayim[19].

  • Some prefer reading one segment of the sidrah (either a parshah pesuchah or stumah or one “story”, topic or narrative) twice followed by Targum. This was the custom of the Gra.

  • Some read the entire sidrah, repeat it, and then follow it up with the reading of the entire Targum[20].

  • Rav Y. Kamenetsky suggests a compromise between the views: The first time one should read a segment at a time; the second time he should read each pasuk with its Targum[21].

Question: Is it permitted to read Targum before mikra?

Discussion: All poskim agree that mikra must be read first. Whether or not the second mikra must also be read before targum is questionable. Mishnah Berurah permits it only b’diavad[22], while others permit it even l’chatchilah[23]. Chazon Ish, reportedly, recited mikra first, followed by Targum and then mikra for the second time[24].

When completing the recitation of Targum, the last verse of mikra should be repeated (for a third time), since the final verse to be read should always be from mikra and not from Targum[25]. Question: Can one fulfill part of the mitzvah of shenayim mikra by listening to Kerias ha-Torah?

Discussion: While listening to the Torah reading in shul, one may read the text (in a whisper) along with the reader and count it towards one recitation of mikra. If one listened attentively but did not read along with the reader, he should not rely on listening alone to fulfill his mikra obligation. B'diavad, however, some poskim are lenient and consider listening to the reader as having fulfilled one recitation of mikra[26].

Some poskim hold that if there are at least ten people paying attention to kerias ha-Torah it is permitted for one to recite shenayim mikra v'echad Targum even if he is reading the mikra not in unison with the reader of the Torah and hence not paying attention to kerias ha-Torah[27]. Many other poskim, however, strongly recommend that one not take advantage of this leniency but should rather pay attention to every word of Kerias ha-Torah[28].


1. The basic explanation for this mitzvah, given by the Levush, is that we should become fluent in the Torah. He does not, however, explain why we need to recite the text twice and the Targum once. See Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:2 and Emes l'Yaakov al ha-Torah (Mavo, pg. 11) for two original explanations for this mitzvah.

2. Sha’arei Teshuvah 285:2; Beiur Halachah 285:2, s.v. targum; Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:12; Rav C. Kanievsky (Derech Sichah, pg. 2). See, however, Michtavei Chafetz Chayim, letter 18, where he rules that nowadays we no longer fulfill our obligation by reading Targum; we must substitute Rashi's commentary instead.

3. We do not find a reference to it in the Mishnah. The earliest source is the Talmud Berachos 8a. See Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:2 who says that surely it was instituted by Moshe Rabbeinu.

4. O.C. 285. See also Ba'al ha-Turim (ha-Maor edition) Shemos 1:1.

5. Igros Moshe, O.C. 5:17; Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42:57 quoting Bnei Tziyon.

6. Berachos 8b.

7. Since they are not obligated to learn Torah or to listen to Kerias ha-Torah—see Mishnah Berurah 282:12 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 282:11—they are also not obligated to prepare for it.

8. Mishnah Berurah 285:8. Either of these options is considered a mitzvah min ha-muvchar, the optimal performance of the mitzvah.

9. Mishnah Berurah 285:7. [Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42, note 218, understands it to mean Minchah Gedolah - one half hour after midday; see Discussion on Parashas Chayei Sarah]. Note that other poskim rule that the proper time is from Sunday morning only; see Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 285:5; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:11.

10. Mishnah Berurah 285:9.

11. O.C. 285:4. According to some, this time is also considered mitzvah min ha-muvchar.

12. O.C. 285:4.

13. Ketzos ha-Shulchan 72:9. See Maharsham 1:213 who remains in doubt concerning this issue.

14. O.C. 285:4. It must be finished before the reading of Bereishis on Simchas Torah; Kaf ha-Chayim 285:26.

15. Mishnah Berurah 285:12.

16. Taz and Shach, Y.D. 400:1. He may not, however, study Rashi’s commentary, unless he always substitutes Rashi for Onkelos when fulfilling Shenayim Mikra v’eacha Targum; Badei ha-Shulchan 400:15.

17. Rav Akiva Eiger, Y.D. 400:1, quoting Peri Megadim. O.C. 285:6.

18. See Mishnah Berurah 285:2 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:4-7. All views may be followed, and one may change his method from week to week.

19. Reported in Shevet ha-Levi 7:33.

20. This method is quoted by Aruch ha-Shulchan, omitted by Mishnah Berurah, and opposed by Rav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted by Rabbi Y. Hoffman).

21. See explanation in Emes l'Yaakov, O.C. 285:1.

22. Mishnah Berurah 285:6 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 10.

23. Aruch ha-Shulchan 285

24. Rav C. Kanievsky (Derech Sichah, pg. 2).

25. Magen Avraham 285:8; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:11; Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:6. Mishnah Berurah, however, does not quote this.

26. See Mishnah Berurah 285:2 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:3, 13.

27. O.C. 285:5. See Sha’arei Efraim 4:12, Chayei Adam 31:2, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 23:8 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:13.

28. Mishnah Berurah 285:14 and Beiur Halachah, s.v. yachol. See Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:23; 4:40-5. See The Monthly Halachah Discussion, pgs. 204-208 for a comprehensive review of this subject.


Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2012 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 dneustadt@cordetroit.com


 






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