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By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom | Series: | Level:

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 order.

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.



Yitzchak Etshalom



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 Megillah.”

The Gemara in Megillah (17a-b) cites prooftexts for each of these “non-l’mafrei’a'” readings:

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 necessary.

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 l’mafrei’a’:

(a) reading words out of order -such that the result is jibberish;

(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 original;

(c) reading verses out of order (although each verse is kept internally intact);

(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?



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 in order.

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’S APPROACH Rashi, cited above, gives the “jibberish” example of words being read backwards. There are two implications to be drawn from this Rashi:

(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 Torah.

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 completed.

(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. 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 Rambam’s approach.

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 last question.

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 verse?

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 gods.

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 Tefilla).

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, s.v. Hisdir.

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 Genesis, Inc.