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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 cited earlier the Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 135:7) who refers to Sefer Sha’arei Ephraim which states, “If Keri’at haTorah was not done in one synagogue but a majority of the synagogue’s members heard it in another synagogue, there is no need for recompense. However, if the majority did not hear that reading, then even if there are other synagogues where the Torah was properly read…they must make up for the missed keri’ah.”

From the above, it seems that Keri’at haTorah is a public function of the synagogue and possibly not incumbent upon each individual. The proof is the Sha’arei Ephraim’s words: “if the majority,” which implies that the minority who did not hear have no need of any remedy.

The Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (Responsa Noda BiYehuda vol II:15), however, disagrees, stating that every minyan needs to read from the Torah even if all its members already heard Keri’at haTorah elsewhere (or at an earlier minyan). (Rabbi Landau says we are not concerned that observers of the second minyan will assume that the reason the Torah is being read is because the Sefer Torah used the first time was pagum or that the earlier prayer session was somehow not performed properly.)

The Chayei Adam (31:11) deliberates whether Keri’at haTorah requires the majority of those present to have not heard it yet. He concludes that the matter requires further contemplation and offers no resolution.

Eshel Avraham (Responsum 69) initially maintained that Keri’at haTorah can take place even if only one person present had not previously heard it (as is the case for Kedusha and Barechu). He later recanted, though, and stated that at least a majority of the minyan needs to have not heard it yet. Having come to this conclusion, he wonders if a person has said a berachah levatalah if he gets an aliyah at a minyan where most of those present have already heard Keri’at haTorah.

Rabbi Yaakov Emden (in his Siddur Beit Yaakov) is undecided as to whether Keri’at haTorah is allowed if some of the minyan heard it earlier. Rabbi Emden also explains that the Mechaber’s statement (Orach Chayim 143:1), “If they started with a quorum and some left, they finish,” refers only to a situation where there were 10 present at the beginning of the Torah reading.

The Mechaber had stated earlier (Orach Chayim 55:3) that we do not include Keri’at haTorah in the same unit as the Shema blessings and Amidah in regards to the rule of “if we start with 10, we may finish.” That rule does apply, though, to Kaddish Titkabbel after Ashrei u’Va LeTziyon since in it we say, “Titkabbel tzelotehon – May our prayers be accepted,” which refers to the just completed Amidah.

Interesting to note is that Keri’at haTorah is in between the Amidah and Ashrei u’Va LeTziyon. If so why not allow it to be read if a minyan is no longer present (as long as there was a minyan present when the Amidah began) just like we can say Kaddish Titkabbel after Ashrei u’Va LeTziyon? The answer is simple. As noted above, in the Kaddish we say, “Titkabbel tzelotehon – May our prayers be accepted,” referring to prayers said earlier (i.e., the Amidah). Keri’at haTorah is not a prayer.

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.