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Question: I’m told that it is meritorious to complete the reading of the weekly Torah portion during the week and that it is a segula bestowing the blessing of long life. Does this apply even if one has no understanding of the text?

Shmuel B.
Via Email



Answer: Last week we began our discussion with the Mechaber’s statement (Orach Chayyim 285:1) regarding the requirement to read the weekly Torah portion twice in the original and once in the Aramaic translation, as well as the reward of a long life mentioned in the Gemara (Berachot 8a-b) for one who accomplishes this. We explained how important Targum Onkelos is for the comprehension of the text (Tosafot ad loc.), serving as more than a simple translation.

Last we dealt with the correct sequence in the study of the text. While some authorities opine that the entire parsha is to be read twice, followed by the Targum, most agree, as is our practice, that it is proper to read each verse twice and then, without interruption, to read the Targum of that verse. We reviewed the exhortations of Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch (Responsa Teshuvot VeHanhagot) to be diligent in completing this requirement. He also advises those who do not understand Targum Onkelos to read another translation (e.g., English) in addition, as understanding the parsha is vital to fulfilling the obligation.


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Answer: As we noted, the Mechaber states (Orach Chayyim 285:1) that reading the Torah portion twice with the Aramaic translation is the optimal means of satisfying the rabbinical requirement for the weekly study of the parsha.

One of the difficulties we are presented with regarding Aramaic is that this is not a language now spoken. However, it is the language that we find interspersed in the text of the Midrashim and the Talmud, particularly in the Jerusalem Talmud and, of course, it is the language of the two Aramaic translations, Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonatan ben Uzziel, which encompass rich explanations of the text of Scripture.

Some time ago, my friend Rabbi Henoch Levine concluded the last volume, Devarim, of his Chumash commentary, “Saraty Ba’Medinot – Princess of the Provinces” (see Megillat Eicha 1:1). He lists numerous reasons for the name of this project, but I would like to add one more reason: It refers to its principal commentary, Targum Yonatan ben Uzziel. Thus, Saraty might be a combination of “sar, contender,” as when Jacob contended with the Angel of G-d, resulting in the name Yisrael, and “-ty,” an acronym for Targum Yonatan (ben Uzziel).

The purpose of this particular endeavor is to explain and comprehensively elucidate the commentary of Targum Yonatan [and, at times, Targum Onkelos].

To illustrate both the value of the Targum and the new vistas of understanding that are presented to the reader, we shall cite an example from this great work.

In parshat Tetzaveh (Exodus 29:43), the verse states, “Veno’adeti shamah li’vnei Yisrael venikdash bi’chevodi – There [in the Tent of Meeting, the Ohel Mo’ed] I will set meetings with the Children of Israel and it [the Tabernacle] will be sanctified with My Glory.

Targum Yonatan translates this verse: “Ve’eizamen meimri taman li’vnei Yisrael va’ekaddesh berabbaneihon begin yekari.”

Rabbi Levine renders the above passage in a simple Hebrew, which we translate: “And I will arrange My utterances to the Children of Israel there and I will be sanctified through their great ones [who are Nadav and Avihu, see the commentary on Targum Yonatan] for the sake of My Glory.

Rabbi Levine, in his Saraty Ba’Medinot commentary, seeks to explain the various nuances of the Targum Yonatan translation, which go beyond the simple words of the verse.

The verse (29:43) concludes, “… venikdash bi’chevodi – and it will be sanctified with My Glory.” Rabbi Levine cites from the work Ahavat Yehonatan to explain the correlation between this verse and the tragic deaths of the two sons of Aaron, as it states later (Leviticus 10:3) “Bi’kerovai ekaddesh – with those nearest to Me I am sanctified.”

Ahavat Yehonatan continues: “See Targum Yonatan (Exodus 29:43), which explains ‘bi’chevodi – with My glory’ in two ways, which Rashi explains as well. First, with those of Mine who are honored, and this is ‘rabbaneihon – the great ones,’ and second, ‘begin yekari – for the sake of My Glory.'”

Thus, we see that Targum Yonatan connects the two verses so that our verse foreshadows events that occur in parshat Shemini (op cit. Leviticus 10:2) with the tragic deaths of Aaron’s two eldest sons, Nadav and Avihu.

Ahavat Yehonatan states further: “This demonstrates that G-d deals with the righteous, those nearest and dearest to Him, with greater severity than He does with the average person, as the Talmud explains (Zevachim 115b): Moses said to Aaron, ‘My brother, your sons died only so that the Name of the Holy One, Blessed is He, be sanctified through them.'” Rashi (Zevachim ad loc.) explains the phrase “be sanctified through them” to mean that He causes awe in those who fear Him and know Him.

It is clear from the above that Targum Yonatan and, of course, Targum Onkelos, are both replete with rich explanations of matters and events and are thus of great value.

In this instance, we see the influence of Targum Yonatan on Rashi’s commentary as well.

We are also fortunate today, as we noted at the outset, to have such a wide variety of Torah translations into English and other languages that render the text in a clear and concise manner, so that one who studies them on a weekly basis will, without doubt, merit abundant Heavenly blessings.


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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.