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?
Answer: No, but let us look at the sources on this topic. The Rambam (Mishneh Torah 12:1) writes: “Moses enacted that the Jewish people read from the Torah in public on Shabbos, Monday, and Thursday in order that three days not go by without hearing the Torah. And Ezra enacted that they also read from the Torah every Shabbos afternoon at Mincha as a benefit to the idlers. He enacted, as well, that three people should read the Torah on Monday and Thursday and they not read less than 10 verses.”
The Kesef Mishnah (ad loc.) refers us to a baraita (Bava Kamma 82a): “Ten ordinances were enacted by Ezra: that the Torah be read publicly at Mincha on Shabbos; that it be read on Monday and Thursday; that the Courts sit on Monday and Thursday….” He then writes that the Gemara states that the enactment to read the Torah on Shabbos at Mincha was made for the yoshvei keranot (lit., those who sit at the corners). Rashi writes that this term refers to shopkeepers who are so occupied with their businesses the entire week that they are unable to go to shul on Mondays and Thursdays.
The baraita states that the enactment to read the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays was made by Ezra, but the Gemara finds this difficult to believe and asks: “Was this an enactment of Ezra? Surely, this was enacted earlier. As we were taught in a Baraita: The Torah (Exodus 15:22) states: ‘vayel’chu sheloshet yomim ba’midbar v’lo motz’u mayyim – and they traveled three days in the desert and they did not find any water.’ Those who expound the verses explain that ‘water’ refers to Torah as Isaiah 55:1 states: ‘hoi kol tzomei l’chu la’mayyim – Ho, everyone who thirsts go to the water.’ When three days passed without Torah, they immediately became exhausted. Therefore, the prophets among them rose and enacted that they read the Torah on Shabbos, skip a day, read on Monday, skip Tuesday and Wednesday, read yet again on Thursday, and then skip Friday, in order that they not go three days without Torah.”
The Kesef Mishna explains that “the prophets among them” actually refers to Moses who was the greatest of the prophets. Now if Moses enacted the thrice-weekly reading, what did Ezra enact? The Gemara answers that the original enactment was that one person read three verses, or that three men read three verses corresponding to the priests, Levites, and Israelites. Ezra enacted that three men be called up and between them a minimum of 10 verses be read corresponding to the 10 batlanim (lit. idle ones).
Important to this discussion is how many people are called up to read from the Torah on Shabbos morning when we read the entire parshah. The Mishnah (Megillah 21a) states: “On Monday, Thursday, and Shabbos at Mincha three are called to read, no fewer and no more, and we do not call to read the Haftara from the Prophets. The one who is called to read recites the opening blessing and the closing one. On Rosh Chodesh and Chol ha’Moed four are called to read, no more and no fewer, and we do not call to read the Haftara from the Prophets. The one who is called to read recites the opening blessing and the closing one. This is the rule: Any situation where there is the additional [Musaf] service and it is not Yom Tov, four are called to read. On Yom Tov five are called, on Yom Kippur six are called, on Shabbos seven are called. We may not detract from that number but we may add to it. Additionally, regarding Shabbos and Yom Tov, the additional aliyah of maftir is not included in any number limitations of those called to read from the Torah.”
The Rema (Orach Chayim 282:1), based on the fact that the Mishnah sets no upward limit on those called to the Torah for the Yom Tov reading opines (in the name of the Rambam, Maharam, and Beit Yosef ) that the number of those called may be increased – just like on Shabbos. He also cites the Ran, though, who rules that we may not call up more than five people on Yom Tov; he states that not doing so is the custom in Ashkenaz lands. The only exception is on Simchat Torah when many additional people are called.
Regarding the 10 batlanim: Rashi (sv “asara batlanim”) explains that these were 10 people of fine, impeccable character who were engaged purely in the needs of the community and, as such, were charged to come posthaste to shul to always assure the presence of a minyan. In consequence of their service, the community provided for their livelihood.
The Rambam – with his statement that “Moses enacted that they read from the Torah in public” – infers very clearly that the reading of the Torah may only be with a minimum quorum of 10 since 10 people constitutes a rabim/tzibbur.
(To be continued)Rabbi Yaakov Klass