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Question: If a person was ill on Shabbos and unable to go to shul to hear Keri’at haTorah, must he have someone read it to him in shul upon his recovery?

Sincerely,
Isaac Greenberg

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Answer: We seem to have established that Keri’at haTorah is only done with a minyan. There are several minhagim, however, that call for reading from the Torah even without a minyan. Some read the entire Sefer Devarim on Hoshana Rabba eve and some also have the custom to read the Nesi’im (in Parshat Naso) during the two weeks preceding Pesach. Are these minhagim halachically sanctioned?

Rav Weiss (Minchat Yitzchok Vol 8, 84:2) discusses this issue. He writes that the custom to read Sefer Devarim on Hoshana Rabba eve was established by Rabbi Chaim Halberstam, the Divrei Chaim, and later continued by Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira, the Minchas Elazar. These chassidic giants were great Talmudic scholars as is evident from the fact that they are referred to by the titles of their major halachic works, which are staples in the halls of both Litvish and chassidish yeshivos.

Among others in the chassidic world who followed this practice were the Yismach Moshe of Sziget and the Yitev Lev (Satmar-Sziget). Today, even some non-chassidic shuls which follow Nusach Sefard have the custom of reading Sefer Devarim on the eve of Hoshana Rabba.

(Insofar as reading the Nesi’im is concerned, Rav Weiss notes that this custom too was a practice of the Divrei Chaim and the Yitev Lev of Satmar-Sziget.)

Rav Weiss notes that the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 139:8), based upon the Gemara (Megillah 21b), states that when reading from the Torah there is a requirement to say Birkat haTorah. Those who read Sefer Devarim on Hoshana Rabba eve and the Nesi’im before Pesach do not say Birkat haTorah beforehand. Why not?

Rav Weiss cites the Rashba and Rif who maintain that the sages required Birkat haTorah to be said before reading the Torah due to kavod haTorah (so as to accord honor to the Torah). This enactment was made specifically for Keri’at haTorah; Torah readings – such as Sefer Devarim on Hoshana Rabba eve – were not part of the original enactment and thus not covered by it. That’s why there is no requirement to say Birkat HaTorah beforehand.

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.