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By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom | Series: | Level:

7. Anyone who is exempt from K’riat Sh’ma, if he wanted to be strict with himself and read, he may do so – as long as his mind is settled. However, if this person, who is exempt from reading was confused, he is not allowed to read until he gets settled. [RABD: [relating to the second clause in the Halakhah] – so what? let him read and he will be considered like one who is reading Torah, and he shouldn’t be considered like one who rejects God’s Name [by not reading] – and this case is not like that of Tefillah. We are no longer concerned with *Yohara* (see questions) in our day, since it is generally known that most people who read [K’riat Sh’ma] and say Tefillah are just doing it by rote – we even find that the sages of the Gemara said this: “I owe thanks to my head; when I get to ‘Modim’, it bows on its own!”; another said that he used to count bathhouses (in the city) during Tefillah, while another said that he would think about who is going to bring the myrtle branches to the king’s palace.]


(Haughtiness in the Realm of Mitzvot)

Yitzchak Etshalom

[This shiur is based on a shiur given by R. Aharon Lichtestein, Rosh Yeshivat Har Etzion. R. Lichtenstein has not checked this presentation.]



Berakhot 2:5

The Mishnah in Berakhot (2:5) states: A *Hatan* (groom) is exempt from [reading] K’riat Sh’ma on the first night until Motza’ei Shabbat [Saturday night] if he has not consummated the marriage. It was related that Rabban Gamliel read [K’riat Sh’ma] on the first night [of his marriage]; his students told him: “Our Master, did you not teach us that a groom is exempt from K’riat Sh’ma?”; whereupon he responded: “I will not heed you and [thereby] uproot the Kingdom of Heaven from myself for even one hour”.


(1) What was the challenge of the students? According to their statement, a groom is merely exempt from K’riat Sh’ma – there is no hint that ignoring this exemption is problematic.

(2) What is R. Gamliel’s response? After all, they are quoting him to himself – why does he say: “I will not heed _you_”? He doesn’t need to heed them, rather himself!

Berakhot 2:8

In Mishnah 8, we read: If a Hatan wishes to read K’riat Sh’ma on the first night, he may read; Rabban Shim’on b. Gamliel (son of the Rabban Gamliel of Mishnah 5) says: Not everyone who wishes *litol et hashem* (lit. – “to take the name” – thie phrase is discussed in the shiur) should do so.


R. Shim’on b. Gamliel’s words could be understood two ways:

(a) No one may “take the name” – i.e. claim such a reputation for himself; or

(b) Some people may do so, but it isn’t open for anyone who wants to.

Following (a), R. Gamliel must disagree – since he read! However, it is possible that R. Gamliel agrees that not everyone has the right to behave so “religiously”, but that some may (and he is included in that group).

Rashi (Berakhot 17b s.v. lo kol harotzeh) takes approach (b), that if someone is known to be otherwise sagacious and pious, he may read in this case, even though he is exempt.

From this sugya alone, we could not infer rules about behaving “holier than thou” regarding other Mitzvot; we could posit that even those who limit access to K’riat Sh’ma when it isn’t commanded (R. Shim’on b. Gamliel), would not do so in other areas – since the assumption of the ability to focus on holy things at such a time is an extreme case of yohara. Alternatively, even Rabanan (who oppose R. Shim’on b. Gamliel) might say that in other circumstances, we are concerned with yohara, but here, because of the importance of K’riat Sh’ma (and its attendant Kabbalat Ol Malkhut Shamayim – acceptance of God’s rule), we overlook it. Such an approach is suggested later on (Berakhot 20b) regarding women – that I might think that they should be obligated to read K’riat Sh’ma, in spite of its time-orientation which would normally exempt them, because of Kabbalat Ol Malkhut Shamayim. (See our discussion at K’riat Sh’ma 4:01).

Pesahim 4:5 The Mishnah in Pesahim, amidst a list of behaviors which are determined by local custom, states: On Tish’a B’av (the national day of mourning for Yerushalayim in mid-summer), in a place where the custom is that people work, they work; in a place where the custom is that people do not work, they do not work. In all places, Talmidei Hakhamim (scholars) desist from work. R. Shim’on b. Gamliel says: A person should always make himself to be a Talmid Hakham [in this matter].


The Gemara (both in Berakhot and Pesahim) note the seeming inconsistencies here: In Berakhot, R. Shim’on b. Gamliel is concerned about Yohara- that someone who isn’t obligated in K’riat Sh’ma because we all know that he can’t concentrate, as he is about to be married, shouldn’t read. By reading anyways, he seems to be saying that he is in a “higher category” of people, who aren’t affected by such human anxieties. In Pesahim, on the other hand, R. Shim’on b. Gamliel not only allows “self-inclusion” in an elite category, he even promotes it. The Rabanan take the opposite position in each case.



In Berakhot (17b), we have two different approaches to reconciling these sources:

Solution #1: R. Yohanan says, the names are reversed. In other words, R. Yohanan sees the two statements as doubly irreconcilable and understands that there must have been a mistake in the oral transmission here – he therefore claims that one of these Mishnayot has an inverted association of authorities with positions.

Note: The inconsistency is much stronger in the case of R. Shim’on b. Gamliel; since he forbids some people (or everyone) from assuming this pose in Berakhot, yet encourages it here. On the other hand, Rabanan are not necessarily inconsistent. In Berakhot, they allow anyone to make his own choice – and, in Pesahim, they make no statements about other people. Since R. Yohanan saw both positions as irreconcilable, it must be that he understood that Rabanan in Pesahim disallowed others to desist from work (unless they are Talmidei Hakhamim, or in a place where that is the custom) – and, responding to that, R. Shim’on b. Gamliel encourages everyone to desist.

Solution #2: R. Shesha b. d’Rav Idi: There is no need to reverse. Rabanan are consistent, in that in both cases the person is doing the same as everyone else (reading K’riat Sh’ma, working) and not deviating from communal norms. If he would not work, he would be “joining” the group of Talmidei Hakhamim – to whom he really doesn’t belong. Rabban Shim’on b. Gamliel’s positions are also consistent: In each case, he is behaving in a way which is obviously “holier than thou”; in the case of K’riat Sh’ma, everyone knows he is about to be wed and cannot focus, regarding Tish’a b’Av, noone knows why he isn’t working (it’s possible that he is either lazy or unemployed).



Perhaps R. Yohanan and R. Shesha are debating the extent of yohara- does it only apply to situations where someone is behaving differently than everyone else (R. Shesha) or in any case (R. Yohanan). This may play out in one of two ways:

(a) There is a subjective evaluation at play here: R. Yohanan is concerned in both cases, that each one may lead to yohara, whereas R. Shesha is only concerned when someone does something which is explicitly and clearly a deviation from the norm.

(b) There is a difference of opinion about the nature of yohara – whether it is appearance-driven or internally-driven. In other words, are we concerned with how a particular action is perceived by others (R. Shesha), in which case the yohara is less of an issue when he is acting consistently with others – or are we concerned with the fact of yohara (R. Yohanan), in which case it doesn’t matter what the public perception and awareness hold – yohara is problematic due to its internal effect and affect.

Note that in the sugya, it begins with assigning who is *hoshesh l’yohara* – who is “concerned about yohara”; but, after R. Shesha’s explanation, switches to a lexicon of *mehzi k’yohara* – “it looks to be yohara.” This may represent a subtle shift in emphasis from internal issue (R. Yohanan) to public perception (R. Shesha).

[Parenthetically, there is a dispute among the Aharonim as to whether the issue of yohara applies in private. Maharshal (R. Shlomo Luria) (Yam Shel Shlomo, Bava Kama 7:41) holds that it applies in private, as well as public; Sh’vut Ya’akov (2:44) holds that it only applies in public. The approach of Sh’vut Ya’akov may be understood in two ways:

(a) Yohara is only a public concern – how one’s extravagant behavior affects the community. In that case, he is in principled disagreement with Maharshal.

(b) Yohara is also a private concern (how it affects the person internally). However, the locale where such behavior has that effect is in the public eye. If so, he agrees with Maharshal that yohara is a problem of personal development, attitude etc.; but disagrees as to the “reach” of such behavior.

It is appropriate, at this point, to look at the nature of the problem. Yohara may be, as mentioned above, a public issue; but, as we will see later on, it certainly is rooted in private and personal issues. It may fall under the general rubric of “Ga’avah” (haughtiness) – that a person is supposed to develop a humble spirit and not to see himself as more than he really is. The basic sugya of Ga’avah is in Sotah, 4-5 and in MT De’ot Ch. 1-2. See also Sefer Mitzvot Katan #14.

It may, alternatively, be a unique form of Ga’avah – the association of undue pride with Avodat Hashem. If someone [erroneously] sees himself as a superior musician or actor, that is one type of Ga’avah. However, to find the area of Ga’avah specifically within the realm of Avodat Hashem – to pride oneself on “frumkeit” and see himself as “the most religious” etc. is, possibly, a more heinous form of Ga’avah, as it is using worship of God to further one’s own goals.]



The phrase which shows up at the beginning of our sugya is *hayyish l’yohara* – lit. “is concerned with yohara”. This concern may be understood in two ways:

(a) Sometimes is person is not *hoshesh* for something, meaning that he is not concerned that it will come to pass. Indeed, if it did happen, it would be a tragedy – but he isn’t concerned that it will happen in his case. (Smoking and cancer is a perfect example – it would be a tragedy but “it won’t happen to me”).

(b) Other times, a person is not *hoshesh* for something, because even if it does happen, that isn’t such a tragedy.

“I’m not concerned about this grade” may mean – “I’m fairly confident that I will get a good grade” OR “I’m not going to be negatively affected even if I do get the bad grade.”

In our case, the one who is *hoshesh l’yohara* (either Rabban Shim’on b. Gamliel in both cases, or each side once) is concerned that yohara is a terrible thing if it indeed is caused by this action and is also concerned that it is quite likely to occur. His opponent will hold either:

(a) It isn’t so bad even if it happens, OR

(b) it isn’t likely to happen OR

(c) even though it is terrible and likely to happen, it may not outweigh the opposing consideration – in the case of K’riat Sh’ma, the value of reading Sh’ma.

This may explain R. Gamliel’s response to his students: “I will not heed you…” ; meaning that their point was that the concern for yohara should outweigh the value of reading Sh’ma – and it was that suggestion that he chose to ignore.



R. Shesha explains that unlike working on Tish’a b’Av, when no one can know why he is desisting from work (hence, R. Shim’on b. Gamliel’s encouragement for everyone to behave like a Talmid Hakham), “K’riat Sh’ma depends on Kavvanah, and everyone knows that he cannot focus.” What is this answer?

R. Lichtenstein suggested that this response has nothing to do with yohara, per se, but is rooted in the demands of Kavvanah for K’riat Sh’ma. Although we regard Tefillah with greater concern (e.g. dress, standing etc.) – such that, as Rambam rules (MT Tefillah 4:15) that if someone cannot focus on Tefillah, he is _not_allowed_ to say Tefillah, the demands are generally less stringent with regard to K’riat Sh’ma. It is possible that the fact that he cannot focus (and is exempt) moves us to prohibit him from reading.

This is possible as a read of the Gemara in Berakhot. However, in the parallel sugya in Pesahim (55a), the term *mehze k’yohara* is explicitly mentioned in this context. Nevertheless, the original explanation may still work. Under normal circumstances, we would allow the successful fulfillment of a Mitzvah to outweigh the concern for yohara. However, since we know that he won’t be able to concentrate properly, it no longer outweighs it. In other words, there is a combination of factors; the demand for Kavvanah in K’riat Sh’ma and the concern of yohara.



As we discussed in the last shiur, an *onen* (someone whose close relative has died and he is involved in funerary preparation) is exempt from K’riat Sh’ma. What if an onen wishes to read K’riat Sh’ma (or say Berakhot etc.) nonetheless? The Bavli does not address this issue, but the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 3:1) says that we do not allow him. At this point, we would expect an argument of yohara – that he may not read because he is exempt and such reading smacks of “overpiety”. However, no such reason is offered. The Yerushalmi maintains that he isn’t allowed to read K’riat Sh’ma on account of honor for the dead relative (see our discussion in the last shiur). Why isn’t yohara mentioned here?

This may be understood by looking at Rabban Shim’on b. Gamliel’s phrasing – *lo kol harotzeh litol et hashem yitol* – what does *netilat shem* (taking a name) mean?

Evidently the problem of yohara is not with specific pietistic behaviors, except insofar as they reflect membership of an elite sector of society to which this person doesn’t rightfully belong. The language of the Mishnah in Pesahim is even clearer on this point – there are two groups, Talmidei Hakhamim and everyone else, and R. Shim’on b. Gamliel is suggesting that everyone endeavor to be associated with this group.

Not every behavior puts someone in a different class; perhaps a groom who reads K’riat Sh’ma on his wedding night is attempting to associate himself with a certain elite group, whereas an onen who reads K’riat Sh’ma is not doing so.

Another explanation is possible here:

The groom is exempted from reading not because the rabbis wanted him to focus on his bride and the upcoming consummation; rather because they were aware of this human anxiety and exempted him on its account. The groom who “shows his willpower” and reads K’riat Sh’ma is demonstrating his ability to overcome this human concern.

An onen , on the other hand, is not desisting from K’riat Sh’ma necessarily because of his own difficulties in focus; rather, the Halakhah directed him to focus on the burial. His “negotiation” is not with his internal emotions, rather with the Shulhan Arukh. If he were to read, this would not be demonstrating extra-special willpower, unlike the groom.



Ta’anit 1:4

[In describing the sequence of fasts undertaken and decreed when the rainy season has begun and there is a drought; the first part of that sequence is:] If the 17th of Marcheshvan (sometime in November) came and no rain has fallen, *yechidim* (lit. “special/elite people”) fast three fasts…


Although the Mishnah alludes to a select group of people (yechidim), they are not identified; neither are we told how to respond if a “non-yachid” wants to join the group.

The Gemara (Ta’anit 10a) asks “who are the yechidim” and answers in the name of R. Huna: *rabanan* (students of Torah).

The Gemara then goes on (10b) to raise our question: The Rabbis taught: A student should not say “I am not worthy to be a yachid”, rather, all talmidei hakhamim are considered yechidim.

[At this point, we are given some sense of distinction, albeit blurry, of who is defined as a yachid.]

The Gemara quotes a second Baraita, which directly addresses our issue: The Rabbis taught: Not everyone who wishes to make himself a yachid may do so, nor everyone who wishes to make himself a talmid may do so [I am following one reading here; the other one is possibly translated as “not everyone who wishes to make himself a yachid may do so, but anyone who wishes to make himself a talmid may do so] – these are the words of R. Me’ir. R. Yosi [or – according to Rif – R. Yehudah] says: [Anyone] may do so [make himself to be a yachid] and is well-remembered, since it is not a matter of benefit for him, rather it is painful [i.e. fasting].

Another Baraita, which hits home, is quoted: Not everyone who wishes to make himself to be a yachid may do so, nor anyone who wishes to make himself a talmid may do so [again, there are two readings here], these are the words of R. Shim’on b. Elazar. R. Shim’on b. Gamliel says: When does this apply? Regarding a matter of honor; however, regarding a painful matter, he may do so and is well-remembered, since it is not a matter of benefit for him, rather it is painful.

Here we see our own R. Shim’on b. Gamliel qualifying the limitations on “joining the ranks” – if it involves a matter which is painful and difficult, he lets loose the reins and allows anyone who wishes to join these ranks to do so.

Why would he distinguish between self-promotion to the elite class in cases of honor and in cases of difficulty?

It is possible that the concern – that this inclusion with the upper crust will lead him to arrogance – is offset by the painful and humbling nature of fasting.

It is interesting that this Baraita was not cited or considered in either Berakhot or Pesahim, where our discussion is rooted. In order to understand why, we may have to reevaluate the sugya of “yechidim” and its unique association with yohara.



In our chief sugya, where the groom is exempted from K’riat Sh’ma and nevertheless wishes to read, we have no distinctions given as to group-membership. The exemption applies to grooms equally (although the possibility to ignore the exemption may be group-based). Therefore, the groom who wishes to read is not trying to enlist himself in a more elite group than is appropriate; he is merely not taking advantage of a particular exemption. This is not the case in Ta’anit, where the Mishnah sets up two distinct groups – yechidim and everyone else. [The word yechidim, by itself, implies that there is another group – the “non-yechidim”; if everyone is a member of the yechidim, they are no longer yechidim.] Therefore, the person who is not called upon the fast at this juncture and does so anyway, is attempting to place himself in a group to which he does not belong; therefore, the yohara problem may be more severe here and not be applicable to the groom/K’riat Sh’ma issue. That would explain why the yechidim/fasting problem was not brought in to the groom/K’riat Sh’ma discussion.

However, this answer is deficient – because the Mishnah in Pesahim (talmidei hakhamim/desisting from work on Tish’a b’Av) does recognize and operate with two distinct groups. Everyone follows local custom, whereas talmidei hakhamim desist from work in any case. We seem to be back at square one – why wasn’t the yechidim/fasting material brought in to our discussion?

Another, more critical distinction, may be drawn between the yechidim and both of our sugyot. In both Berakhot and Pesahim, we are addressing issues of personal behavior – reading K’riat Sh’ma when exempt and desisting from work on Tish’a b’Av in a town where the custom is to engage in work on that day. The issue of yohara is one of self-promotion beyond what is accurate for one’s own position – and behaving accordingly.

Contradistinctively, the yechidim are not being asked to accept more honor, to perform another Mitzvah, or even to behave in a more circumspect manner than everyone else; rather, they are being called upon by the community to intercede with God on behalf of the townfolk. Here, the yohara problem is much more acute, since he is doing more than “posing” as a man of great willpower or a talmid hakham – he is abusing communal trust.

The Rambam’s rulings in these matters seem to bear out this distinction. In our Halakhah, Rambam seems to rule that anyone may read K’riat Sh’ma (see above, section V, where R. Lichtenstein explanation of the Rambam’s approach is presented). He does not raise the yohara issue at all.

(R. Lichtenstein suggested that RABD, there, understood Rambam’s concern with someone reading when unfocussed as relating to yohara and therefore responded as he did – that yohara is not operative anymore. Parenthetically, see Tosafot Berakhot 17b s.v. Rav Shesha, where he puts an interesting twist on the yohara issue in our day. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible, as mentioned above, that Rambam’s ruling has nothing to do with yohara but rather is grounded in a concern for a minimal level of focus during K’riat Sh’ma.)

Rambam also rules (MT Ta’aniot 5:10) that talmidei hakhamim desist from work on Tish’a b’Av – but he again avoids the issue of yohara. It would seem, therefore, that Rambam rules that anyone may adopt these practices if he wishes to do so.

However, regarding the early-fasters (MT Ta’aniot 3:1), Rambam rules that *v’khol hatalmidim r’u’yin l’khakh* – “all of the students are worthy to do so”. Here, he explicitly draws a line between yechidim [=students] and everyone else. According to the above explanation based on the role of the yechidim, this distinction within the Rambam’s rulings is easily understood.

The Yerushalmi (Berakhot 2:9), commenting on our Mishnah, does cite the ruling of R. Shim’on b. Gamliel as quoted in Ta’anit. Evidently, the Yerushalmi understood that the reading K’riat Sh’ma is to be considered “a matter of benefit” for the groom, which explains R. Shim’on b. Gamliel’s ruling in that matter.



Ra’aviah, in his discussion of our Halakhah (#56), places an interesting caveat in front of the restriction associated with yohara: “These rules apply to people in general, however, for a talmid hakham and *g’dol hador* (Torah leader of the generation), there is no concern of yohara.” As support for this distinction, Ra’aviah cites R. Shim’on b. Gamliel’s restriction alongside the report of his own father’s reading on his wedding night – and, Ra’aviah asserts, R. Shim’on b. Gamliel was certainly not challenging his father’s ruling. Therefore, it must be the case that yohara only applies to the general populace, but not to great scholars and leaders.

What is the rationale behind this distinction? We could posit that someone who is this great, who is constantly studying and growing in Torah, is less likely to be drawn to the non-spiritual characteristics associated with yohara.

However, Ra’aviah, in an earlier comment, makes the same general statement but in a significantly different phrasing which leads us to believe that the exception of talmid hakham may be rooted in a different understanding of yohara.

In his discussion of the first sugya of Berakhot (reading K’riat Sh’ma earlier than nightfall – see our discussion at K’riat Sh’ma 1:09-10), Ra’aviah makes the statement that “regarding those who delay and read later [than the common custom – to read K’riat Sh’ma and say Tefillat ‘Arvit before nightfall], it is considered yohara, since anyone who does anything from which he is exempt is called a “hedyot” (we will examine to this phrase later on), as we learn in the Yerushalmi of our Massechet [Berakhot] in the second chapter. However, for those who are accustomed to *p’rishut* (behaving differently, more carefully) in other things, it is not considered yohara.” (See Rema, Orach Hayyim 235 for an interesting twist on this piece from Ra’aviah.)

R. Lichtenstein explained this phrase as meaning not just that we are not concerned that a saintly person and/or talmid hakham will be drawn into yohara – rather that there is nothing to which to be drawn! In other words, yohara is not an issue when someone has an internally consistent level of piety; the problem is when someone who is otherwise not on that “level” of behavior adopts one practice which is only appropriate for a more select group within the community.

An important consequence of this approach is that Halakhah is not, God forbid, trying to encourage some type of religious conformism regarding measures of piety; rather, each person should endeavor to grow in learning and religiosity as much as possible. However, these steps should be measured, consistent and part of a whole-person development. Yohara becomes a problem when the one behavior under discussion does not fit with the person’s place – not only his place in society, but, much more to our point, his place within himself.

See also Ra’aviah #597, where he clearly states that yohara is just not applicable to a talmid hakham.



As mentioned in the previous section, Ra’aviah makes a connection between the problem of yohara and the famous statement of the Yerushalmi (which does not appear in any form in the Bavli): *Kol haPatur min haDavar v’Oseihu Nikra Hedyot* – Anyone who is exempt from a matter and does it anyways is called a *Hedyot* (commoner/low-life). He states that reading K’riat Sh’ma late is considered yohara because he is exempt [has already fulfilled the Mitzvah earlier] and, therefore, his action has the stamp of hedyot on it.

However, this connection is far from clear. The Rishonim use this phrase when discussing meaningless actions; i.e. actions which in other contexts are significant but in the particular instance being discussed are of no value. For instance, Rabbenu Tam (Sefer haYashar #104) rules that it is silly and foolish to score the parchment of Tefillin (*sirtut*), since anyone who is exempt from something and does it anyway is called a hedyot. The reason this is a meaningless action is since the whole value of ritual is as a Mitzvah, if it is not required, it has no meaning.

However, our cases of yohara run in the opposite direction – here, someone wants to fulfill a Mitzvah in the grandest way possible! (i.e., even when he is personally exempt, although the Mitzvah is still meaningful and valid). So the Ra’aviah’s connection between yohara and “anyone who is exempt…hedyot” seems to be a strange one.

Rabbi Soloveitchik zt”l claims that the issue of whether someone who stays in the Sukkah even while it is raining should be deemed a hedyot is dependent on this exact point: If we are merely exempt from Sukkah while it is raining (as a corollary to the rule of someone who is excessively uncomfortable – *mitz’ta’er*), then this person would not be a hedyot. This would be similar to women, who are exempt from Sukkah, but who certainly have a positive interaction with this Mitzvah (and have reward for doing so, as the Gemara in Kiddushin implies when it states that someone who is commanded has greater rewards than someone who isn’t commanded – ergo, someone who isn’t commanded still has some heavenly reward).

However, if there is no Mitzvah of Sukkah at all when it is raining – i.e. it isn’t just an exemption based on discomfort but an uprooting of the Mitzvah, then this person is certainly a hedyot.

Ramban (Kiddushin 31 a s.v. man d’amar li) makes a similar distinction with regards to women and their fulfillment of Mitzvot regarding which they are not commanded.

However, the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 2:9) cites a case of R. Yasa and R. Sh’muel b. R. Yitzchak who were sitting and eating; when the time for Tefillah came, R. Sh’muel b. R. Yitzchak stood up [interrupting his meal] and prayed. R. Meisha pointed out to him the ruling of the Mishnah (Shabbat 1:2) that if one begins a meal, he need not interrupt for Tefillah (unless, of course, the time for Tefillah is passing); he then quoted Hezekiah who said: Anyone who is exempt from a matter and does it anyway is called a hedyot.

In this case, we certainly won’t regard this Tefillah as having no value – the only questionable action was the necessity of interrupting the meal. This Yerushalmi (and Ra’aviah who cites it) seem to maintain a different approach than that of Ramban. The exempt person who is considered a hedyot is not only the one who does a meaningless action – but also one whose action has a negative spin on it; whether on account of yohara or some other consideration.



As I mentioned at the top of this shiur, most of the material and presentation here are based on a shiur given by R. Aharon Lichtenstein in the summer of 1983. I hope that the presentation here has been faithful to the original.

In concluding the shiur, R. Lichtenstein pointed out that, of course, this was only the tip of the iceberg of the issue of yohara and that, as should be obvious, the issue has many ramifications which reach well beyond the narrow and (hopefully) well-defined Halakhic parameters presented here.

now, to the questions:

Q1: Why would we think that a person who is exempt may not read – why does Rambam have to tell us that he may do so?

A: Two possible reasons: Yohara (see the shiur) or because there is something inherently problematic with reading K’riat Sh’ma “improperly”. The argument goes as follows: When someone is obligated, he does the best he can to read properly, with total focus etc. However, if someone isn’t obligated, we cannot excuse “poor” reading and prefer to avoid it if it can’t be done right. See question 3 for more on this.

Q2: Why is the “confused” fellow not allowed to read?

A: See next question.

Q3: How do we defend Rambam against RABD’s challenge – indeed, if the “confused” fellow reads, he is just reading words of Torah – there is nothing negative about that!

A: As mentioned in the shiur, it is possible to read Rambam’s ruling as having nothing to do with Yohara, rather with a minimal demand for Kavvanah in K’riat Sh’ma before the fact. In other words, whereas in Tefillah we demand that a person be “settled” and able to focus -and, barring that, he is not allowed to say Tefillah, it is possible that we extend this idea to K’riat Sh’ma, but, of course, with more minimal demands. It is possible, therefore, that RABD rejects this whole approach and sees nothing inherently negative about reading K’riat Sh’ma in such a state. It could also be that RABD understood Rambam’s ruling to be yohara-based, and, responding to that, claimed that we do not concern ourselves with yohara anymore. In addition, as Migdal Oz (quoted in Kessef Mishneh) says, that Rambam’s concern is about the Berakhot of K’riat Sh’ma; i.e. that if the K’riat Sh’ma is said without any Kavvanah whatsoever, (and by someone who is exempt, to boot), the B’rakhot may be in vain. See, however, the rest of Kessef Mishneh’s approach.

Q4: Why does RABD mention *Yohara* here – what does it mean and what is its relevance?

A: See the shiur.

Q5: Why does RABD cite these sages who had difficulty focussing during Tefillah?

A: We see two things from these anecdotes:

(1) Even for great sages, total focus is not always present – so we should “lower our demands” of Kavvanah.

(2) Even though they were aware of this shortcoming, they didn’t desist from prayer. If they were prepared to say Tefillah, which involves Berakhot and has a higher demand of Kavvanah, even though they couldn’t always meet such a standard, then certainly K’riat Sh’ma (which is “just words of Torah” – see question 3) should not be avoided in spite of distractions.

Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.