Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 2 January 2016 / 21 Tevet 5776

Understanding Shnayim Mikra V'Echad Targum

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

There is a well-known Gemara in Brachos[1] that states: “A person should always complete his [study of the] parsha with the congregation[2] - [by studying] shnayim mikra v’echad targum. Anyone who does this will have long days and years.” Learning the text of the weekly parsha twice with the targum (keep reading for explanation) is a segula for long life[3].

What many do not know is that this statement of Chazal is actually codified in halacha[4]!

The Ba’al HaTurim[5] famously comments that this halacha can be gleaned from the first verse in Parshas Shemos: The parsha begins “V’aileh shemos Bnei Yisrael” - “And these are the names of Bnei Yisrael”. The Ba’al HaTurim remarks that this passage stands for (roshei teivos) -‘V’adam asher lomed haseder shnayim mikra v’echad targum b’kol naim yashir, yichyeh shanim rabos aruchim l’olam’ or “And the person who learns (or sings) the weekly parsha shnayim mikra v’echad targum in a sweet straight voice will live many long years (have an extremely long life)."

Translating ‘Targum’

Now that we have seen that such a great reward[6] awaits those who strictly this, there is only one thing left to ascertain: What precisely is the Mitzvah? Obviously, it means to recite the weekly Torah portion twice, plus targum, but what exactly does targum refer to, and what is the purpose of it?

This is actually a dispute among the Rishonim. Several are of the opinion that the purpose of targum is that it is not just a simple translation, but also adds layers of explanation to every word[7]. Consequently, according to this opinion, the purpose of reading the parsha with targum is to learn the Torah in a way that allows us to understand it better. Practically, according to the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, this means that targum here would mean learning the parsha with Rashi’s commentary, as it is the best commentary to unlock the pshat (basic understanding) of the Chumash[8].

Others maintain that the halacha is referring to the targum as we know it: Targum Onkelus, as the Gemara in Megillah[9] states that this translation of the Torah was actually given to us by Moshe Rabbeinu[10]. The Rema[11] held that, therefore, reading Targum Onkelus is like reading from the Torah itself! Accordingly, by reading the parsha with its original targum, we are re-presenting the Torah weekly in the same manner as it was given at Har Sinai.

Some opine that this is Rashi’s own opinion when it comes to shnayim mikra v’echad targum. The result of this dispute is that Rashi would maintain that Targum Onkelus is preferable, while the Rosh was of the opinion that Rashi’s commentary is preferable. That means according to Rashi, ironically, it’s possible that one might not even fulfill his obligation of targum if he learns Rashi’s own commentary[12]!

The Shulchan Aruch[13] cites both opinions and rules that one can fulfill his obligation with either one, Targum Onkelus or Rashi. However, he concludes that it is preferable to do both, as that way one can satisfy both interpretations[14].

The Taz[15] explains that if someone does not understand either one, he can read the original Tzennah U’Renna in German (presumably Yiddish) to enable his understanding, and with this he fulfills his targum obligation. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berurah rule this way as well. In this vein, several contemporary authorities, including Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Moshe Sternbuch, ruled that nowadays one may perform his targum obligation by reading an English translation of Rashi’s commentary, if that is the way one best understands it.

What time is Mincha?

The Shulchan Aruch[16] rules that the proper time to fulfill this Mitzvah is from the Sunday[17] of the week when a given parsha is read, over the course of the whole week and preferably finishing before the Shabbos day meal[18]. If one has not yet done so, then he has “until Mincha” to finish. [B’dieved one has until Simchas Torah to catch up for the whole year.]

The Shulchan Aruch’s enigmatic choice of words led to an interesting dispute among several authorities: What did the Shulchan Aruch mean by “until Mincha”? Some posit that he was referring to a personal Mincha, meaning that a person can finish this Mitzvah up until he himself actually davens Mincha[19]. Others maintain that his intent was until the time of Mincha, meaning Mincha Gedolah, the earliest time that one may daven Mincha[20]. A third approach is that it refers to the time when Mincha is davened in the local shul[21]. Interestingly, there does not seem to be any clear cut consensus on this issue[22].

One Small Step For Man…

Another issue that raises much debate among the halachic decisors is what the proper order and way to do shnayim mikra v’echad targum is, and at which points one may stop; whether pasuk by pasuk, section by section, or parsha by parsha. There does not seem to be a clear consensus on this either.[23] Although for many, to clear a time-block to do shnayim mikra at once may be difficult, it might be a good idea to follow the Mishna Berurah’s[24] advice and employ the Vilna Gaon’s method of immediately after one’s dailyShacharis, doing a small part every day (i.e. on Sunday do up to Sheini; on Monday up to Shlishi, etc.). By following this technique one will have finished this Mitzvah by Shabbos, every week.

Just Do It!

Many contemporary authorities are at a loss to explain the perceived lackadaisicalness that many have concerning this Mitzvah. These Gedolim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, and Rav Ovadia Yosef, stressed its significance[25], and decried the fact that it seems to have fallen into disuse, with several averring that there is even a Mitzvah of chinuch for a parent to teach shnayim mikra’s importance to his children[26]! So, although there is halachic discussion as to what the proper order and way to fulfill this Mitzvah is, one shouldn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees; the most essential point is that one should actually make the effort to do it. Who would willingly want to turn down a promise by the Gemara for an extremely long life?!

This article was written L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben Yechezkel Shraga, R’ Chaim Baruch Yehuda ben Dovid Tzvi, L’Refuah Sheleimah for R’ Shlomo Yoel ben Chaya Leah, Rina Geulah bas Dreiza Liba, and l’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif u’miyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”.

[1] Gemara Brachos 8a - 8b, in the statement by Rav Huna ben Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rabbi Ami.

[2] The Sha’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (vol. 2, 72, 25), citing Sefer HaPardes L’Rashi (99) and Rav Yosef Engel’s Gilyonei HaShas (Brachos 8a), explains that the reason the Gemara adds to complete shnayim mikraim haTzibbur' is that the minhag in the times of the Rishonim, and possibly dating back to the Amoraim, was that after davening, the entire congregation would stay in shul and recite shnayim mikra v’echad targum!

[3] Interestingly, and although it is not the actual halachah [see Shulchan Aruch and Rema (Orach Chaim 285, 7; who conclude that even so there are those who are noheg to do so; citing the Mordechai on Brachos - Halachos Ketanos 968, and Terumas HaDeshen vol. 1, 23 & vol. 2, 170), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 13), Taamei Minhagim (pg. 180, 346), and Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 3, 40)], nonetheless, there are decisors who extend the obligation of shnayim mikra to include the weekly haftara [see Magen Avraham (ad loc. 12; citing the Knesses HaGedolah), Shlah (Maseches Shabbos, Perek Torah Ohr, 22; cited in Pischei Teshuva ad loc. 9), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (72, 11), and Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parshas Lech Lecha 11)] and the special maftir of the Shabbos, for example the Arba Parshiyos - Shekalim, Zachor, Parah andHaChodesh [Magen Avraham (ibid.), Ben Ish Chai (ibid.); see also Shu”t Divrei Moshe (Orach Chaim 12), quoting several earlier authorities; this was known to be the Terumas Hadeshen’s personal minhag as well - see Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 685, par. Parshas HaChodesh 9).].

[4] Rambam (Hilchos Tefilla Ch. 13, 25), Tur & Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 285, 1). The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 2) posits that this is a takkana from Moshe Rabbeinu! See Shu”t Maharsham (vol.1, 213 s.v. ulam) who states that although it is not technically a “chiyuv gamur” like reading the Torah, it has since been equated to the status of “chiyuv”. The Maharal M’Prague (Nesivos Olam, Nesiv HaAvodah Ch. 13), expounding the significance of shnayim mikra, explains that it is meant as a weekly commemoration of the giving of the Torah, which was first given over to Klal Yisrael at Har Sinai, repeated over at the Ohel Moed, and a third time at Arvos Moav. At Arvos Moav the Torah was explained in 70 languages to ensure that each person understood the Torah in his own language. At the time, the language most of Klal Yisrael spoke then was Targum.Therefore, the enactment of shnayim mikra v’echad targum, as the targum is meant to serve as a ‘Biur HaTorah’.

[5] Ba'al HaTurim in his commentary to Shemos (Ch. 1, 1). The Levush (Orach Chaim 285, 1) and Pri Megadim (ad loc Mishbetzos Zahav 1) write similarly (with slight variations) that this passage alludes to this Mitzvah,V’chayev Adam likros (or lehashleem)haparsha shnayim mikra v’echad targum”, and conclude “v’zeh chayavim kol Bnei Yisrael”. See also the Chida’s Chomas Anoch (beginning of Parshas Shemos, brought in Toras HaChida to Parshas Shemos, 8) who credits this allusion to Rabbeinu Efraim, and gives a Kabbalistic explanation to its meaning, and its relevance to Parshas Shemos. [Thanks are due to R' Yitzchak Botton for showing me this source.] It is also cited by Rav Chaim Fala’ji in his Kaf Hachaim (27). See also Rabbi Elchanan Shoff’s recent sefer Birchasa V’Shirasa (on Maseches Brachos pg. 73, s.v. shnayim) who cites a variation of this statement found in Midrash Rebbi David HaNaggid (a grandson of the Rambam).

[6] See Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 285, 32) who cites many other rewards for those who do shnayim mikra v’echad targum faithfully.

[7] See commentary of Tosafos and the Rosh on this Gemara, as well as the Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 285, 2).

[8] Tur, Beis Yosef, Shulchan Aruch, Taz (Orach Chaim 285, 2), Shlah (Maseches Shabbos, Ner Mitzva 15); see also the Chafetz Chaim’s Likutei Ma’amrim (Ch. 5). The Chasam Sofer (Shu”t vol. 6, 61) used to stress the importance of additionally learning the parsha with the Ramban’s commentary

[9] Gemara Megillah 3a. See there further on the importance of Targum Onkelus and Targum Yonason.

[10] Beis Yosef (ibid), quoting the Smag in the name of Rav Notranoi Gaon. See also Biur HaGr”a (ad loc. 2), Pri Megadim (ad loc Misbetzos Zahav 1 s.v. hataam, who explains this based on the words Ba’er Heitiv), and Biur Halacha (ad loc s.v. targum).

[11] Shu”t Rema (127 - 130), based on Tosafos in Bava Kamma (83a s.v. lashon). This is a famous dispute the Rema had with Rav Shmuel Yehuda Katzenellenbogen, as to Tosafos’s intent with his statement that ‘The Torah spoke in Aramaic’.

[12] See Rabbi Yosef Meir Radner’s recent sefer Nachlas Mayim (vol. 3, Al Sugyos HaShas B’Inyanei HaMoadim, Ch. 34) at length.

[13] Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 285, 2) as does the Tur. Explained at length in Biur Halacha (ad loc. s.v. targum).

[14] Regarding whether one can fulfill his Targum obligation with Targum Yonason, Rav Asher Weiss (Shu”t Minchas Asher vol. 1, 13, 4) maintains that indeed one does (even though it is probable that Targum Yonason al haTorah is not really the one referred to in the Gemara - see the Chida’s Sheim Gedolim, Maareches HaSeforim 96), as it would be considered similar to reading Rashi’s pshat, as it explains the pesukim as well as adds chiddushim. Nevertheless, he concludes that is still preferable to stick to Targum Onkelus, as Chazal intended. However, others, including Rav Chaim Kanievsky, are quoted (see Rabbi Yaakov Skoczylas’s recent Kuntress Ohel Yaakov on Shnayim Mikra pg. 17 - 18, footnote 36) as holding that one is not yotzei shnayim mikra with Targum Yonason.

[15] Taz (Orach Chaim 285, 2), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (72, 11), Mishnah Berurah (285, 5). Rav Moshe Feinstein’s opinion is cited in sefer Yagel Yaakov (pg. 208, quoting his son Rav Dovid Feinstein); Rav Moshe Sternbuch’s is found in Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1, 261, s.v. vhiskamti).

[16] Orach Chaim 285, 3 & 4, based on Tosafos and the Rosh (ibid).

[17] Although the Rema in Darchei Moshe (ibid, based on the Kol Bo 37) mentions that this truly means Sunday [see also Pri Megadim (ad loc Eshel Avraham 5)], nevertheless, the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc 7, and Shaar HaTziyun 12) and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc 24), citing many Rishonim, rule that this really means the preceding Shabbos after Mincha, when the next week’s parsha is already read. However, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Orach Chaim 285, 5) and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (72, 11) rule that optimally one should wait until Sunday to start the next week’s shnayim mikra. Additionally, the Birur Halacha (Orach Chaim 285, 25) cites many other Rishonim who hold that one may not start until Sunday. See also Shu”t Minchas Chein (vol. 2, Orach Chaim 17), who concludes that lechatchila one should wait until Sunday to start shnayim mikra, however, b’dieved if one already started on Shabbos after Mincha, he would certainly be yotzei.

[18] Most authorities understand this to mean the Shabbos Lunch meal (Chayei Adam, Shabbos Ch. 7, 9; Shulchan Aruch HaRav Orach Chaim 285, 5; Aruch Hashulchan ad loc 8; Mishnah Berurah, 9 & Biur Halacha s.v. yashlim); however the Chazon Ish (cited in Orchos Rabbeinu vol. 3, pg. 234) held that this was referring to Seudas Shlishis. There are those who hold that it is preferable to complete shnayim mikra on, or at least finish, by Friday - See Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 285, 5 & 6, quoting the Shlah), Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc. 1, quoting the Arizal and Rav Chaim Vital), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parshas Lech Lecha 11), and Mishnah Berurah (ibid 8 & 9 and Biur Halacha s.v. kodem).

[19] Including Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla Ch. 12, 35) and Rav Chaim Kanievsky (cited in Halichos Chaim vol. 1, pg. 95, 278).

[20] Including the Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa (vol. 2, 42, footnote 218) and possibly Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (see Shgiyos Mi Yavin vol. 2, 40, footnote 9; although some report his opinion as Mincha Ketana). This is also the mashmaos of the Mishnah Berurah (above, 10).

[21] This is the opinion of Rav Chaim Na’eh (Ketzos Hashulchan 72, Badei Hashulchan 7).

[22] See Mv”R Rav Yosef Yitzchak Lerner’s award-winning sefer Shgiyos Mi Yavin (vol. 2, 40, 2& 3).

[23] See the major commentaries to the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 285), including the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Aruch Hashulchan, Mishnah Berurah (who concludes that ‘d’avid k’mar avid u’d’avid k’mar avid’) and Kaf Hachaim, as well as Emes L’Yaakov on Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 285), and his introduction to Emes L'Yaakov al HaTorah.See also Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 16, 18), Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (vol. 8, 3), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 5, 216), Shu”t Shevet HaLevi (vol. 7, 33, 1), Chut Shani (Shabbos vol. 4, pg. 115, 2), and Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 1, pg. 123).

[24] Mishnah Berurah (ad loc 8), quoting Maaseh Rav (59). Although the Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc 4) writes that there is no reason to separate shnayim mikra by aliyos, nonetheless, see Derech Sicha (from Rav Chaim Kanievsky, page 2) who commends this mehalech. It is well known that Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l would use this method of performing shnayim mikra, daily prior to the 6:30 A.M. Shacharis in his shul (see Gadol HaDor pg. 48).

[25] Rav Moshe Feinstein (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 5, 17), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo on Tefillah Ch. 12, 36 7 footnote 106), Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi vol. 8, 46) and Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 1, 261). See also Shu”t Kinyan Torah B’Halacha (vol. 6, 22). Rav Ovadia Yosef, aside for what he wrote in Shu”t Yechaveh Daas (vol. 2, 37), dedicated his broadcasted weekly shiur several years ago to exhort the masses to perform this weekly Mitzvah. See also Rav Chaim Falaj’i’s Kaf Hachaim (27, 3) and Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah (Ch. 42, 57). In fact, around a century ago, the Minchas Elazar (Shu”t vol. 1, 26, in the footnote), in a quite telling comment addressing the Rema’s statement (Yoreh Deah 361, 1) that generally speaking everyone nowadays is in the category of someone who ‘reads and learns (Torah)’, remarked that in his day this was certainly true; as ‘who doesn’t sit in shul over Shabbos and recite shnayim mikra v’echad targum?!”

[26] Including Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner (Shu”t Shevet HaLevi ibid, s.v. pshita), Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos ibid, s.v. ulinyan), and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla Ch. 12, 36). Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yechaveh Daas ibid, s.v. u’v’siyum) exhorts schools to teach children the Taamei HaMikra (trop); that way when they do the Mitzvah of shnayim mikra they will be able to fulfill it in the optimal manner. Chinuch for shnayim mikra would not include a daughter, as a woman is technically exempt from the Mitzvah of Torah study, and therefore also from this Mitzvah [see Shu”t Ba’er Sarim (vol. 7, 52, 10), Shu”t Mishna Halachos (vol. 6, 60), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 6, 115, 35), Shu”t Mishnas Yosef (vol. 6, 15), Chut Shani on Hilchos Shabbos (vol. 4, pg. 215), Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah (Ch. 42, 60), and Yalkut Yosef (Otzar Dinim L’Isha U’lvas Ch. 5, 3)]. On the topic of women being exempt from targum in general, see Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 282, 11). However, since shnayim mikra is part of the Mitzvah of Torah study, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L’Yaakov on Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 285, footnote 308) ruled that a boy who becomes Bar Mitzvah in the middle of the year does not have to repeat the Parshiyos that he read shnayim mikra as a kattan, as even a kattan still has a Mitzvah of Talmud Torah (as explained in his Emes L’Yaakov on Kiddushin 29b - 30a).

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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