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?
Last week we quoted from “Prayer: The Proper Way” by HaRav Yaakov Simcha Cohen zt”l who cites the Mishnah (Megillah 23b) stating that Keriat Ha’Torah is considered a form of kedushah and therefore requires the presence of a minyan. Rabbi Cohen wonders why Torah study requires two berachot and cites the Bach who explains that the first berachah is a birkat hamitzvah while the second is a praise of Hashem that satisfies the biblical mandate (Deuteronomy 4:7-10) to never forget that we were chosen, from all the nations, to receive Hashem’s Torah at Mt. Sinai.
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Rabbi Cohen continues: Based upon this theory of the Bach, it is possible to clarify the raison d’etre of Keriat HaTorah. Since “asher bachar banu” is the basic berachah said prior to reading the Torah, it is logical to assume that it relates to the prime purpose of Keriat HaTorah: namely, to keep the revelation at Mount Sinai alive in the minds of the Jewish people.
The Ramban specifically states that Deuteronomy 4:7-10 – “Only take heed to thyself lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart thy heart all the days of thy life, but bring them to the knowledge of thy children and thy children’s children – the day that thou stood before G-d at Choreb” – explicitly prohibits forgetting the revelation. Indeed, this exhortation is one of the 613 primary mitzvot. (Those who disagree with the Ramban contend that this verse does not refer specifically to the revelation; rather, it is a general prohibition against forgetting Torah.)
The Rambam rules that Moshe Rabbeinu enacted the original ordinance of Keriat HaTorah (Hilchot Tefillah 12:1). It seems that Moshe Rabbeinu wished to ensure that the Jewish people would cherish its holy legacy, the Torah, so he decided to make them read it constantly in a manner that would remind them of the revelation on Mt. Sinai. That is why Keriat HaTorah is classified as a form of kedushah and requires the presence of a minyan. Just like the Torah was given in public, so too must Keriat HaTorah be performed in public.
The Torah was not given to individuals on Mount Sinai; it was given to a people – Klal Yisrael – and all of them, therefore, were in attendance. Revelation, the ultimate source of our national soul and pride, is the true seed of kedushah. The blessing “asher bachar banu” does not relate to the private obligation of individual Jews. It is an affirmation that Jews are involved in Torah only because they are members of Klal Yisrael. Keriat HaTorah is a means of implanting the belief that the sanctity of the Jewish people is interrelated with the sanctity of the Torah.
(To be continued)Rabbi Yaakov Klass