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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 15 Dec 2017 08:19 PM and ends Sat 16 Dec 2017 09:20 PM
י"א אדר ב' ה' אלפים תשע"ד
The communal keri’at ha-Torah (reading of the Torah as part of the prayer service) has undergone something of an evolution over the years. The roots of this service can be traced back to the septennial Hakhel service held on Hol ha-Mo’ed Sukkot following shemitta (the sabbatical year). It was then that the King read portions of the book of Deuteronomy to the assembled nation, “men, women and children.”2 As noted by the Hinnukh,3 the purpose of this reading was not just the public study of the Torah, but more importantly a reaffirmation of the centrality of the Torah and Torah study in the life of the Jewish people.
In addition, the Talmud4 records a tradition that a central reading of
the Torah for the Sabbath, holidays, Rosh Hodesh, Hol ha-Mo’ed, Mondays, and Thursday was established at the time of Moses.5 It was not until the beginning of the Second Commonwealth that Ezra the Scribe (ha- Sofer) instituted keri’at ha-Torah on Sabbath afternoons. It would seem that the Mosaic practice had only one oleh, i.e., a single individual to get an aliyya and read the Torah aloud for all. It was Ezra who instituted multiple aliyyot, varying in number according to the nature of the day: seven on the Sabbath; six on Yom Kippur; fi ve on the remaining Festivals; four on Rosh Hodesh and Hol ha-Mo’ed; and three on Sabbath afternoon, Hanukkah, Purim, fasts, Mondays, and Thursdays.6 The goal of these readings was public Torah study, and to assure that it would take place on a regular basis.
The mishna in Megilla (4:2) makes it clear that the seven aliyyot designated
by Ezra for the Sabbath are actually the minimal number, and additional aliyyot (called hosafot) may be added as desired.7 Since these hosafot are part of the original takkana (enactment) of aliyyot, they are also part and parcel of the fulfi llment of this rabbinic obligation.8 Thus, one who receives a hosafa recites the birkhot keri’at ha-Torah just like one who received one of the fi rst seven. Whether hosafot may be added on the holidays, as well, is a matter of dispute, though R. Moses Isserlis (Rema), along with the majority of codifi ers, rules that it is actually permitted.
Nevertheless, the general custom is to refrain from adding hosafot on Yom
Tov – with the exception of Simhat Torah. In the latter case, R. Israel Meir ha-Kohen Kagan,10 explains that we follow the basic law (me-ikkar ha-din) which is lenient, in order to enhance the rejoicing with the Torah.
The codifi ers further discuss whether, as part of the Torah reading (basic
aliyyot or hosafot), it is permissible to reread a section that was already chanted in a previous aliyya – and recite the keri’at ha-Torah benedictions thereon. The ruling of both Rabbis Caro and Isserlis is to follow the lenient opinion of Rivash when there is good reason to do so. This is indeed the normative practice on Hanukka, Hol ha-Mo’ed Sukkot, and Simhat Torah – where the same verses are read repeatedly.11 Since the codifi ers conclude that hosafot and repetitions are all part of Ezra’s original enactment of keri’at ha-Torah and communal Torah study, birkhot ha-Torah are recited. The take-home lesson is that there is no room to make any distinctions between the requirements and level of obligation of the fi rst seven aliyyot and those of the hosafot. This conclusion is stated explicitly by many leading posekim (decisors or adjudicators of Jewish law).
We turn now to the keri’at ha-Torah benedictions. Initially, prior to the reading, the fi rst oleh began by reciting “Barekhu et Ado-nai ha-mevorakh (Bless the Lord who is blessed).” To which the community responded, and the oleh repeated: “Barukh Ado-nai ha-mevorakh le-olam va’ed (Blessed is the Lord who is blessed for all eternity).” This fi rst oleh then recited the fi rst of the two birkhot ha-Torah “…asher bahar banu mikol ha-amim… (Who chose us from all the nations).” The last oleh following his aliyya recited the culminating benediction, “…asher natan lanu torat emet… (Who gave us a Torah of truth).” The intermediary olim recited no benedictions.13 Already in Talmudic times, this procedure was changed so that each oleh recited the barekhu salutation and the two berakhot before and after his reading.
Additionally, each oleh originally read his own Torah portion aloud
from the sefer Torah.15 This required literacy, knowledge, and preparation –
a challenge to which not all were equal.16 It was not until several hundred years later, in the post-Talmudic Geonic period,17 that a ba’al keri’ah (Torah
reader) was appointed to read aloud from the Torah for each oleh.
The question of women receiving aliyyot is also briefly discussed in a
baraita cited in the Talmud Megilla, which reads:
1לא אשה חכמים: אמרו אבל אשה. ואפילו קטן ואפילו שבעה, למנין עולין הכל רבנן: תנו
צבור. כבוד מפני בתורה, תקרא
The Rabbis taught: All are eligible for an aliyya (hakol olin) among the
seven [Sabbath aliyyot] – even a minor and even a woman. However, the
Rabbis declared: a woman should not read (lo tikra) from the Torah –
because of kevod tsibbur (communal honor).
Although this source presumably suggests that women are theoretically eligible to receive an aliyya and read their portion, in practical terms, however, this was seemingly ruled out because of kevod ha-tsibbur. This dichotomy fi nds further expression in the Tosefta Megilla, which reads:האשה
לקרות לרבים. את מביאין אין קטן. אפילו אשה, אפילו שבעה, והכל עולין למנין
And all are eligible for an aliyya among the seven [Sabbath aliyyot] – even a woman and even a minor; [however,] we do not bring a woman to read for the community.
Despite the above negative ruling of the Talmud and Tosefta, and in their wake all subsequent codifi ers,22 there have been several recent attempts to reopen this issue. Within the last decade, two major approaches have
been suggested - one penned by R. Mendel Shapiro23 (in part based on
the earlier writings of R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin24) and the other by R. Prof. Daniel Sperber - which attempt to build a case for women’s aliyyot
at a normative halakhic service. In essence, they argue that the change
in women’s sociological statu s in contemporary society should impact
upon the contemporary halakhic relevance of kevod ha-tsibbur – such that
bona fi de aliyyot, with their attendant blessings, should no longer be out
of bounds for women. R. Shapiro further posits that if the major barrier
to women getting aliyyot is kevod ha-tsibbur, then the community should
be sovereign to forgo its honor. Prof. Sperber, on the other hand, maintains
that if there is a community of women who are offended by their not receiving aliyyot, then kevod ha-beriyyot, the honor of the individual, should trump kevod ha-tsibbur, the honor of the community.27 These lenient rulings were soon after put into practice in various “egalitarian halakhic” or “Partnership” minyanim (e.g., Shira Hadasha in Jerusalem and Darkhei Noam in Manhattan; see Addendum for further discussion). The motivation for these innovations was, to our mind, positive and sensitive – an attempt to afford women greater opportunities for unmediated invovement in Jewish ritual. The question that we will address, however, is whether or not such innovations lie soundly within the parameters of halakha.
II. Assisting Others in Fulfi lling their Religious Obligations
As previously noted, in Mishnaic and Talmudic times there was no such
institution as the ba’al keri’ah, and, hence, each oleh read his own Torah
portion aloud from the sefer Torah for the community. It necessarily follows
that the Babylonian Talmud and Tosefta in Megilla cited above, which grant theoretical eligibility to women to receive an aliyya, also empowered the olah to read her portion for the community. This ability to read from the Torah, and assist (le-hotsi) the other members of the community in fulfi lling their keri’at ha-Torah obligation, might indicate that women share in the communal obligation of keri’at ha-Torah. The rationale for this conclusion requires us to go off on a bit of a tangent to discuss the rules of assisting others in fulfi lling their obligations.
Mitsvot can be divided into two categories: (a) mitsvot which are incumbent on one’s body (mitsvot she-beGufo), like donning tefillin and wearing tsitsit, eating matsa and maror on Passover, and immersing in a mikva; (b) mitsvot which are verbal or auditory obligations, such as reciting kiddush or havdala or reading Megillat Esther. With regard to mitsvot she-beGufo, each individual must perform them for themselves – no one can do these mitsvot for another, and the principle of agency (sheluho shel adam ke-moto – one’s agent is as oneself) is of no avail.29 On the other hand, with respect to verbal or auditory obligations, one Jew can receive assistance from another. Thus, one can, for example, recite appropriate benedictions, read the megilla, and sound the shofar for his fellow to hear.
The mechanism by which this assistance is received is known as shome’a
ke-oneh (listening attentively is like reciting it oneself).
According to most authorities, shome’a ke-oneh is a transfer mechanism, by which not only the verbal aspects, but the totality of the “assister’s” actions , are conveyed to the “assistee.” As a result, de jure, both the assister and the assistee have simultaneously fulfi lled the same obligation.
Thus, for example, although the congregants themselves are not reading from a parchment, they fulfi ll their commandment of reading Parashat Zakhor from a sefer Torah and the recitation of the Book of Esther from a bona fi de megilla, with the rendering of the ba’al keri’ah who is doing so. Similarly, those assembled carry out their obligation of reciting kiddush or havdala over a cup of wine, though they themselves are not holding such a cup.
To read more click http://www.rcarabbis.org/pdf/frimer_article.pdf