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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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We last noted the rather unusual view of the Noda BiYehuda regarding a synagogue that has two or more minyanim following each other. If those in a later minyan already heard Keri’at haTorah at an earlier minyan, must they read from the Torah again? The Noda BiYehuda says they must (and we need not fear that one will assume that the earlier reading was invalid for some reason). The Chaye Adam deliberates, without resolution, whether at least a majority of the minyan needs to have not heard Keri’at haTorah yet. Eshel Avraham does require a majority.

* * * * *

Central to our discussion, as we have noted previously, is the question of whether Keri’at haTorah is an individual obligation (chovat gavra) or a congregational obligation (chovat tzibbur). The Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, 135:7-80), writes as follows: “If an individual, due to circumstances beyond his control, prayed alone, he is not required to go [to shul] to hear Keri’at haTorah according to the strict letter of the law. [This is] especially true for a scholar diligently involved in his studies.”

He continues: “One who missed Keri’at haTorah…is not [even] required to read the portion he missed from a Chumash. Similarly, if someone was forced to leave [shul] in the middle of Keri’at haTorah, he is not required to read the portion he missed from a Chumash.” (Likutei Maharich [order of Tefillat Mincha], in contrast, does suggest that reading from a Chumash is the proper way of compensating for a missed Torah reading.)

In his accompanying commentary, Rav Yosef explains that Keri’at haTorah is a congregational obligation, not an individual one; thus, there is no need for any compensation. He cites the mishnah (Megillah 23b) which requires a minyan to be present for all matters of kedushah. On the mishnah’s list of such matters is Perisat Shema, the introduction to Shema; Nesiat Kappayim; Keri’at haTorah; the reading of the Haftara; Ma’amad U’Moshav, halts made at a funeral to lament and eulogize the departed; Birkat Aveilim, the mourners’ blessing; Nichum Aveilim, comforting by the shura after the burial; Birkat Chatanim, the bridegrooms’ blessing; zimmun for Birkat Hamazon; and the redemption of (hekdesh) real estate and human beings from a kohen.

The Ba’al HaMa’or asks a question which is central to our entire discussion: Why is the reading of the Megillah not on this list? He answers: “All those items enumerated in the mishnah are chovot tzibbur, congregational obligations, while the reading of the Megillah is a chovat yachid, an individual obligation.”

Rav Yosef also cites the Ran and Ramban (Milchamot Hashem, siman 5), who rule similarly that Keri’at haTorah is incumbent on the congregation, not the individual.

Many others hold this view, and we rule in accordance with it, but Rav Yosef also cites the Gaon Rav Chayim b. Yaakov Palaggi (Responsa Semicha L’chayim, Orach Chayim, siman 2) who states that there is a hidden requirement “al pi sod” for an individual to hear Keri’at haTorah, as noted in Tikkunim. Therefore, it is not proper for individuals to pray at home, he argues, even with a minyan, without the benefit of a Sefer Torah.

He goes on to cite his father, the Gaon Rav Ovadiah Yosef, who says that it is known that Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Ari Ha’Kodosh, would pray with a minyan at home but without a Sefer Torah. Of course, though, who are we to compare ourselves to the Ari who was on a very lofty level?

In any event, we see that everyone should attend shul, but if someone can’t for some reason (and certainly if he can’t due to matters beyond his control such as an illness), he need not worry about hearing Keri’at haTorah; there is no individual obligation to do so, and he incurs no transgression for not having done so.

(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.