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62:1. Even though it is a Mitzvah to be particular about the pronounciation of each letter [of the Shema], one who read it (1) and was not particular (2) has fulfilled his obligation.

MB 1: and was not particular – [This is not talking about] a case where he did not pronounce the words and letters, because that is certainly insufficient to fulfill his Mitzvah; but the case is one where [for example] he was not particular enough in ensuring that there was a space between linked words [ie. words like “Bechol Levovechah” where the final letter of one and the beginning letter of the other are the same and if one is not careful they will sound like one word “Becholevovechah” –SP] or he did not emphasize the letter Zayin of “Tizkeru” and other such cases as is mentioned above in Siman 61 (Bach and Eliyahu Rabbah in the name of the Chinuch, and so is proven from Rashi there in Mishnah B’rochos page 15 and from the Gemorrah there on page 15b – see there).

MB 2: has fulfilled – Nevertheless, before reading one should be very particular about this. The Talmud says that one who is particular about the words of the Shema is rewarded by having Gehinnom [Hell] cooled down for him – and this is “Measure for Measure” (*) since he holds back his own internal heat [the desire to rush – as in, “boiling with impatience”] in order to be particular about pronouncing each letter correctly, and thus raises his temperature. Through the merit of his having caused this rise in his body temperature, they cool down a temperature elsewhere for him, namely in Gehinnom (Beis Yosef). [(*) “Midah KeNeged Midah”, a principal whereby Hashem rewards or punishes us in the same manner and measure as we fulfill Mitzvos or, Heaven forbid, perform Aveiros (sins) –SP]

62:2. He may read it [the Shema] (3) in any language, but he should be careful about not making the mistakes that are possible in whatever language he is using, and he should be as particular about the pronounciation as [he would be] in Hebrew.

MB 3: in any language – But only if he understands that language. This law also applies to the Amidah, Grace after Meals, Kiddush, Blessings on Mitzvos and on fruit, and Hallel (Later Authorities, and see the Bi’ur Halachah [where the author of the Mishnah Berurah states that “in any language” means (apart from Hebrew) any language that is spoken by the people of the country, otherwise it may not be used for these purposes –SP]. All this is according to the minimum law, but the choicest way of performing the Mitzvah is in Hebrew alone – so wrote the Bach in Siman 193. And see in the books of the later authorities, who say that nowadays, one should be careful not to read the Shema in any language apart from Hebrew, even from the point of view of the law, since there are many words that we are not able to translate properly. For example, “Veshinantom” [usually translated as “And you shall teach them well”] has several explanations for its meaning – one is that it is an expression of teaching [from the word “Shonoh” “to teach”] and another is that it is an expression of sharpness, as our Rabbis of Blessed Memory [Chazal] have said that one’s words of Torah should be “sharp” in one’s mouth – so much so that if one is asked a question he need not hesitate [to remember], but answers clearly and straight away [This explanation is derived from the fact that “Veshinantom” has the word “Shein” (a tooth) as part of it (so one should be as sharp as a tooth) and also the fact that “Veshinantom” can be divided into two words “Veshinan” (you shall teach) and “Tom” (simply/clearly) –SP]. The same is true for many, many words in the Shema that we do not know how to translate well into other languages, such as “Es” [used between a verb and a direct object – no such word exists in English] and “Letotofos” [“‘frontlets’ (?) between your eyes”] and others. However, when we read the Shema in Hebrew, and so too with prayer, Grace after Meals, Kiddush and other blessings, even if we do not understand the language we have still fulfilled the Mitzvah, because even though a lack of intent and concentration [on the words of the first verse] prevent the Mitzvah from being performed, as is written in 63:4, there is not a Jew to be found who does not understand the meaning of the first verse of the Shema in Hebrew. [I don’t know if this is true today…–YM]

Stephen Phillips [email protected]

Siman 62. One who did not pronounce the Shema properly or did not read it audibly.

62:3. (4) It is necessary to (5) say it loudly enough that one can hear what his mouth is saying, but if he failed to read it audibly he has still fulffilled his obligation, as long as the words (6) leave his mouth.

MB 4: It is necessary – A Rabbinic ordinance; and it is the opinion of the Ra’avad, as mentioned in the Rashba, that this is a Torah obligation in the ideal [l’chatchila – it must be done, but if one failed to do so he has still fulfilled the commandment].

MB 5: Say it loudly – For the reading of the Shema, and the same is true for its blessings, as we will see later in 206:3.

MB 6: Leave his mouth – However, if he merely thought the words in his heart, this is insufficient, because we have learned that “thinking [the words] is not the same as saying them” – and see in the Biur Halacha.

62:4. If because of illness or something else that made speaking impossible, he should read the Shema in his heart and thus (7) fulfill his obligation. {Rama: (8) And even initially he should do this, if he is in a place which is not completely clean, and it is impossible to clean it, then he should think the Shema in his heart. This is true (9) as long as the place is not completely dirty (i.e., smelling of excrement) because even thinking words of Torah is forbidden in a dirty place (Bais Yosef, Siman 85).

MB 7: Fulfill his obligation – This ‘fulfilled’ is not completely so, because we have already determined that “thinking is not the same as saying.” Rather, he means to say that when there is no option, one should at least think the words of Shema in his heart, and the Holy One, Blessed be He will reward him for this. However, the fact remains that he has not fulfilled the commandment; therefore should whatever was holding him back be taken away, if the time for reading Shema has not passed he must go back and read it {such is the conclusion of the majority of the later decisors, and see in the Biur Halacha}.

MB 8: And even initially – The Taz writes that we can learn from this that if a person is thirsty at night after going to bed, when it is impossible for him to wash his hands and say the blessing (*), he should think the blessing in his heart and drink. And the Mate Yehuda argues with this opinion, and he writes that since it is possible for such a person to get up and go wash his hands, it is not similar to a person who is ill or has no choice – because we do not use cases where there was no alternative as models to judge cases with alternatives. Even if he does not have enough water to wash his hands and drink as well, or it is difficult for him to stand because of the cold, he can still clean his hands on a wall or anything else that will clean them off, and this is sufficient even if he knows with certainty that his hands touched a normally covered part of his body – as above in 4:22 and 23. [* – Remember that this was at a time when water was not available in the next room of a heated apartment, but rather one needed to bundle up against the Russian winter to go outside and pump it from a well. One is required to wash one’s hands if he has touched a normally covered part of his body – and the assumption is that one did so while sleeping for any length of time. — YM]

MB 9: As long as the place – If the place is completely dirty, he should not think the words of the Shema or the blessings; rather he should think in his heart that he is required to say it but cannot do so, and feel pain over this, and HaShem will see into his heart to give him reward for his thought, because he has no other option. And it seems obvious that those who take a drink while inside a bathhouse are not following the law, because while there it is forbidden to even think words of Torah, and there is nothing forcing him to take a drink inside. [No one does this today; again, we have hot & cold running water. — YM] And see later in Siman 84 what I will write there in the name of the Pri Megadim, concerning this subject.

62:5. The Chazan must raise his voice when saying “Shema Yisroel [Hear, Israel]” in order that the congregation should hear him and give Kingship to the name of Heaven together.

Yaakov Menken [email protected]