This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.
After each of the makkos, Moshe Rabbeinu had to daven to Hashem to stop the makkah. After the makkah of frogs, the pasuk says “…vayitzak Moshe el Hashem al devar hatzefardi’im asher sam l’pharoh – and Moshe cried out to Hashem regarding the frogs that he inflicted on Pharaoh” (Shemos 8:8). This is the only makkah in which we find that the Torah uses the word “vayitzak [cried out]” in reference to how Moshe davened to Hashem. By the other makkos, the Torah uses the word “vayetar.” The Sifsei Chachamim asks the question that he says was bothering many people. He asks why the Torah changes its wording by the makkah of the frogs to the word “vayitzak.”
The Sifsei Chachamim answers that the frogs were croaking and making a lot of noise. The halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 101:2) states that one who is davening must recite the words loud enough for him to hear what he is saying. Since the frogs were making loud noises, Moshe could not hear his own words. Therefore, he had to scream his tefillah in order to hear his own words.
The Netziv, in his sefer Hemek She’eilah (143:6), points out a contradiction between the Tosefta and the Yerushalmi. The Tosefta (Berachos 3:9) says that one should not say the words loud enough to hear them himself. The Yerushalmi (Berachos 2:4) says that optimally one must recite the words of davening loud enough to hear them himself. The Netziv suggests that there is no dispute between the Tosefta and the Yerushalmi. Rather, the Tosefta agrees that one must say the words loud enough to hear them himself. The Tosefta, however, is referring to a situation of there being a lot of noise and he cannot hear himself – if he speaks at the decibel in which he would hear himself if there was no noise around him. In this situation the Tosefta says that one should not scream louder in order to hear himself over the noise; rather, it is sufficient to say the words at a decibel whereby he would hear himself if it was not noisy.
Regarding davening Krias Shema alone, one is required to say the words louder when he is in a noisy place in order to actually hear the words that he is saying. But tefillah only requires one to say the words at a decibel that, in a quiet atmosphere, he would hear himself; one does not actually have to hear his own words.
The Netziv seemingly contradicts directly what the Sifsei Chachamim said, namely that in a noisy place one must recite the words of davening louder so he can actually hear what he is saying. The Netziv believes that the halacha in which one must hear what he is saying is not to be taken literally; rather, the halacha only requires that one recite the words at a certain decibel that could generally be heard – regardless of whether he can actually hear himself.
Reb Akiva Eiger (Teshuvos 1:30) discusses whether we can apply to different situations the halacha that writing is considered as if one said the words that he wrote (kesivah kedibur), such as Sefiras Ha’omer. If one were to write what the day’s omer was, would he have fulfilled his obligation of counting the omer? Reb Akiva Eiger says that regarding mitzvos in which, optimally, one must hear what he is saying, we cannot apply the halacha of kesivah kedibur. This is because even if we consider as if he said the words that he wrote, he nevertheless did not hear them. Therefore we cannot say that he has fulfilled his obligation in an optimal manner.
Some Acharonim suggest that Reb Akiva Eiger’s issue that the application of the halacha of kesivah kedibur does not meet the requirements of hearing that which was written is dependent on the abovementioned machlokes. If the requirement to hear what is being said is to be taken literally (that one must actually always hear himself), Reb Akiva Eiger’s issue is indeed a valid one. However, if the halacha that one must hear what he is saying does not dictate that one must actually hear himself but rather it is a decibel level of speech that must always be met, perhaps we can also apply kesivah kedibur to situations requiring one to hear himself. This is because the reason for the halacha that one must hear what he is saying is that otherwise, the words are not considered spoken but is instead considered to be thoughts. Once the words are spoken at a decibel in which one could theoretically hear them, they are considered to be spoken words – even if no one actually heard them.