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Friday, 19 Adar 5773 / March 1, 2013

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Eleven, Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Twelve, Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Thirteen

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Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Eleven

Halacha 1

Wherever ten Jews live, it is necessary to establish a place for them to congregate for prayer at the time of each prayer service.

This place is called a Beit K'nesset. The inhabitants of a city can compel each other to construct a synagogue and to purchase scrolls containing the Torah, the Prophets, and the Sacred Writings.

Halacha 2

When a synagogue is built, it should be built only at the highest point of the city [as implied by Proverbs 1:21]: "She cries at the head of the public places." It should be built [so that] its height exceeds [that of] all the other buildings in the city [as implied by Ezra 9:9]: "to lift up the house of our God."

The entrance to the synagogue should open only on the east [as implied by Numbers 3:38]: "...And those who camped before the sanctuary on the east."

In [the synagogue], a heichal, where the Torah scroll is placed, should be constructed. The heichal should be constructed in the direction to which the people pray in that city, so that they will face the heichal when they stand to pray.

Halacha 3

A platform is placed in the center of the hall, so that the one who reads the Torah or one who gives a sermon can stand on it, so that all the others will hear him.

When one positions the tevah which contains the Torah scroll, one should position it in the center of the hall, in the direction of the heichal and facing the people.

Halacha 4

How do the people sit in the synagogue? The elders sit facing the people with their backs toward the heichal. All the people sit row after row, each row facing the back of the row before it. Thus, all the people face the sanctuary, the elders, and the tevah.

When the leader of the congregation stands to pray, he stands on the ground, before the tevah, facing the sanctuary like the others.

Halacha 5

Synagogues and houses of study should be treated with respect. They should be swept clean and mopped.

All the Jews in Spain, the west, Babylonia, and Eretz Yisrael, are accustomed to light lamps in the synagogue and spread mats over the floor to sit on. In European communities, they sit on chairs.

Halacha 6

No lightheadedness - i.e., jests, frivolity, and idle conversation - should be seen in a synagogue. We may not eat or drink inside [a synagogue], nor use [a synagogue] for our benefit, nor stroll inside one.

On a sunny [day], one should not enter [a synagogue to seek shade] from the sun, and on a rainy [day], [one should not enter a synagogue to seek shelter] from the rain. [However,] the sages and their students are permitted to eat and drink in a synagogue because of the difficulty [observing the prohibition would cause them].

Halacha 7

It is forbidden to calculate accounts in [a synagogue], unless the accounts are connected with a mitzvah: for example, the collection of charity, the redemption of captives, or the like.

[Similarly,] eulogies should not be recited inside them, except a eulogy that involves many [of the inhabitants of the city]; for example, [if] there were a eulogy of the great sages of that city for which all the people would gather together and come.

Halacha 8

If a synagogue or a house of study has two entrances, one should not use it for a shortcut, i.e., to enter through one entrance and leave through the other to reduce [the distance one] travels, because it is forbidden to enter [these buildings] except for a mitzvah.

Halacha 9

A person who has to enter a synagogue to call a child or his friend should enter and read [a portion of the written law] or relate a teaching [of the oral law] and then call his friend, so that he will not have entered [a synagogue] for his personal reasons alone.

If he does not know [how to study], he should ask one of the children [to] tell him the verse he is studying or, [at the very least,] wait a while in the synagogue and then leave, since spending time [in the synagogue] is one of the aspects of the mitzvah as implied by [Psalms 84:5]: "Happy are those who dwell in Your house."

Halacha 10

A person who enters [a synagogue] to pray or to study is permitted to leave by the opposite door to shorten his way.

A person is permitted to enter a synagogue [holding] his staff, [wearing] his shoes, wearing [only] lower garments, or with dust on his feet. If it is necessary for him to spit, he may spit in the synagogue.

Halacha 11

Synagogues and houses of study that have been destroyed remain holy [as can be inferred from Leviticus 26:31]: "I will destroy your sanctuaries." [Our Sages explained]: Even though they are destroyed, they remain holy.

Just as one must treat them with respect while they are standing, so must they be treated [with respect] when they are destroyed with the exception of sweeping and mopping them. [When destroyed], they need not be swept or mopped.

If grass grows in them, it should be pulled out and left there so that it will be seen by the people [in the hope that] it will rouse their spirits and rebuild them.

Halacha 12

One should not tear down a synagogue in order to build another in its place or in another place. Instead, one should build the [new synagogue] and then, one [may] tear down the [previous] one lest unforeseen difficulties arise [which prevent it] from being built.

This applies even to a single wall of [a synagogue]. One should build the new wall next to the old wall and then, tear down the old wall.

Halacha 13

When does the above apply? When its foundations are not ruined or its walls are not leaning perilously. However, if its foundation is destroyed or its walls are leaning perilously, it should be destroyed immediately and [then, efforts to] rebuild it should be begun immediately throughout the day and night lest times become difficult and it remain destroyed.

Halacha 14

It is permitted to transform a synagogue into a house of study. However, it is forbidden to transform a house of study into a synagogue because the sanctity of a house of study exceeds that of a synagogue and one must proceed to a higher rung of holiness, but not descend to a lower rung.

Similarly, the inhabitants of a city who sold a synagogue may purchase an ark with the proceeds. If they sold an ark, they may purchase a mantle or a case for a Torah scroll with the proceeds. If they sold a mantle or a case, they may buy chumashim with the proceeds. If they sold chumashim, they may buy a Torah scroll with the proceeds. If they sold a Torah scroll, the proceeds may only be used to purchase another Torah scroll, for there is no level of holiness above that of a Torah scroll.

The same [laws apply] to [any money] which remains.

Halacha 15

Similar [principles apply] if a congregation collected money to build a house of study or a synagogue or to purchase an ark, a mantle or a case [for a Torah scroll], or a Torah scroll, and desired to change [the purpose for which] all the [funds] had been [originally] collected.

It is forbidden to change [the purpose for which the funds will be used] except from a matter of lesser sanctity to one of greater sanctity. However, if [the congregation] accomplished the purpose for which they had [originally] collected [the funds], they may use the remainder for whatever they desire.

All the components of a synagogue are considered like the synagogue itself. The curtain hanging before the ark is considered like the mantle of a Torah scroll. If a condition was made concerning them, the terms of the condition are binding.

Halacha 16

When do the above statements permitting the sale of a synagogue apply? In regard to a synagogue in a village. Since it was constructed for the sake of the inhabitants of that village alone, so that they can pray inside it, they are permitted to sell it if they all desire to do so.

In contrast, a synagogue in a metropolis, since it was constructed for the sake of all the people in the world, [i.e.,] so that anyone who comes to that country can come and pray in it, it is considered as [the property] of [the entire] Jewish people and it can never be sold.

Halacha 17

The inhabitants of a village who desire to sell their synagogue in order to build another synagogue with the money, or to buy an ark or Torah scroll with the money, must establish as a condition [of the sale] that the purchaser not use the building for a bathhouse, a leatherworks, a mikveh, or a laundry.

If, at the time of the sale, the seven officials of the community made a condition in the presence of the entire community that the purchaser be allowed to use the building for the above purposes, he may.

Halacha 18

Similarly, if the seven officials of the community made a condition in the presence of the entire community that [after the community accomplished the purpose for which they sold the synagogue], the remainder of the funds could be used for mundane purposes, they may be used for such purposes. Thus, after the money has been used for building another synagogue, for purchasing an ark, a mantle or case [for a Torah scroll], chumashim, or a Torah scroll, the remainder may be used for mundane purposes in accordance with their condition, and may be used for whatever they please.

Halacha 19

Similarly, if all the inhabitants of a city - or a majority of them - accept [the authority of] a single individual, whatever actions he takes [in regard to a synagogue] are binding. He may sell [the synagogue] or give [it as a gift] alone, as he sees fit, and establish whatever conditions he desires.

Halacha 20

Just as it is permitted to sell a synagogue, it is permitted to give it away as a present. If the community had not received any benefit from giving it as a gift, it would not have given it. However, it cannot be rented or given as security.

Similarly, when a synagogue is being torn down so that it can be rebuilt, it is permitted to sell the bricks, timber, and soil, exchange them, or give them as gifts. However, it is forbidden to lend them, since their sanctity only departs in return for money or benefit which is equivalent to money.

Halacha 21

Although the people pray in a city's main street on fast days and ma'amadot, because too many people gather to fit within a synagogue, [the street] does not possess any quality of sanctity, because [praying there is only a temporary measure] and it is not established as a place of prayer.

Similarly, buildings and courtyards where people gather to pray do not possess any measure of sanctity, because they were not designated for prayer alone. Rather, [people] pray within them as a temporary measure, as a person prays within his home.

Commentary Halacha 1

Wherever ten Jews live - Since communal prayer is impossible without a quorum of ten, this is the minimum number of people that must live in a community before constructing a synagogue becomes obligatory.

it is necessary to establish a place for them to congregate for prayer at the time of each prayer service. - Note Hilchot De'ot 4:23, which states that a Torah sage is not allowed to live in a city which lacks any of ten community resources, one of which is a synagogue.

This place is called a Beit K'nesset - literally, "a house of congregation," generally, translated as "synagogue."

The inhabitants of a city can compel each other - The Ramah (Choshen Mishpat 163:1) states that even if the majority of the inhabitants do not desire the construction of a synagogue, the minority have the right to compel them to build it.

to construct - i.e., participate both financially and in the actual construction work, if necessary,

a synagogue and to purchase scrolls containing the Torah, the Prophets, and the Sacred Writings. - so that these texts will be available for Torah study (Hilchot Sh'chenim 6:1). At present, when a greater number of Torah texts are available, the congregation is obligated to buy the Torah texts needed by the congregation - both adults and minors - for study (Magen Avraham 150:1).

Commentary Halacha 2

When a synagogue is built, it should be built only at the highest point of the city [as implied by Proverbs 1:21]: "She cries at the head of the public places." - These statements are quoted from the Tosefta, Megillah 3:14. The commentaries question how this verse serves as a prooftext for the law which is stated.

It should be built [so that] its height exceeds [that of] all the other buildings in the city [as implied by Ezra 9:9]: "to lift up the house of our God." - Shabbat 11a states: "Any city whose roofs are higher than the synagogue will ultimately be destroyed."

The Hagahot Maimoniot maintain that this applies only to buildings with flat roofs. However, if the roofs are slanted and therefore, will not be used by people, the height of the other buildings may exceed that of the synagogue. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 150:2) states that apartments or offices in other buildings should also not be higher than the synagogue's roof.

The Mishnah Berurah 150:5 notes that many communities are not stringent in the observance of this law and quotes sources which explain that since buildings owned by gentiles are often taller than the synagogue, the synagogue is not likely to be the tallest building in the city in any case. Therefore, other Jewish houses may also be built higher than the synagogue. His own opinion, however, is not to seek leniency in this regard.

The entrance to the synagogue should open only on the east [as implied by Numbers 3:38]: "...And those who camped before - The word "before" is understood to mean "at the entrance to."

the sanctuary on the east." - This law is quoted from the Tosefta (loc. cit.). The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 150:5) explain that this law applied only in Babylon, where their synagogues faced west. Thus, the doorway on the eastern side would be opposite the ark. However, since the Rambam mentions the possibility of the heichal being built on different walls, but mentions only one position for the entrance, it appears that he requires the entrance to be placed at the east at all times.

In [the synagogue], a heichal, where the Torah scroll is placed, should be constructed. - This refers to a fixed structure like the ark (Aron HaKodesh) which is found in contemporary synagogues. In addition, as explained in the following halachah, the custom was to have a tevah, a smaller ark, positioned next to the place where the chazan would stand.

The heichal should be constructed in the direction to which the people pray in that city - As mentioned in Chapter 5, Halachah 3, one should always pray facing the direction of the Temple. Thus, if the synagogue is located to the west of Jerusalem, the heichal should be built into the eastern wall.

so that they will face the heichal when they stand to pray. - It is apparent from the Rambam's statements that, if for some reason, the heichal of a synagogue was not positioned in the direction of Jerusalem, one should pray facing Jerusalem and not facing the heichal.

Commentary Halacha 3

A platform is placed in the center of the hall - both lengthwise and widthwise. (See the Jerusalem Talmud, Sukkah 5:1.)

so that the one who reads the Torah - as described in the following chapter

or one who gives a sermon - The Mishnah (Ta'anit 2:1) explains that on fast days, one of the elders of the congregation would speak and call the people to repent. Similarly, the Talmud mentions that some of the leading Sages would visit distant communities and address the people in the synagogue.

can stand on it, so that all the others will hear him.

When one positions the tevah which contains the Torah scroll - In contrast to the heichal whose position is fixed, thetevah is a movable ark, in which the Torah scrolls used for the public reading of the Torah were kept. (See the responsa of the Radbaz, Vol. II, 157.)

one should position it in the center of the hall - widthwise

in the direction of the heichal - i.e., close to the wall on which the heichal is constructed

and facing the people.

Commentary Halacha 4

How do the people sit in the synagogue? The elders sit facing the people with their backs toward the heichal. - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 150:5) quotes this halachah, but does not mention that the elders sit with their backs to the heichal. The commentaries note that in many Sephardic communities the elders would sit with their backs to the ark, while in Ashkenazic communities, the custom is for them to sit on either side of the ark.

All the people sit row after row, each row facing the back of the row before it. Thus, all the people face the sanctuary - the heichal

the elders, and the tevah. - which should all be positioned in the direction of Jerusalem

When the leader of the congregation stands to pray, he stands on the ground - praying from a low place, as implied by Psalms 130:1: "From the depths, I called out to You, O God" (Berachot 10b).

before the tevah - Hence, the expression, 18ינפלáדרוי הביתה (literally, "descend before the ark") is often used to refer to leading communal prayer, because the chazan would pray "on the ground, before the tevah."

facing the sanctuary - the heichal

like the others - i.e., facing the same direction as the other congregants.

Commentary Halacha 5

Synagogues and houses of study should be treated with respect. - The Mishneh Berurah (151:1) notes that Megillah 29a quotes Ezekiel 11:16: "I have been a sanctuary in microcosm to them in the countries where they have come" to describe the synagogues in the Diaspora. This association allows one to infer that the obligation to honor a synagogue is related to the mitzvah (Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment 21) to revere the Temple.

The S'dei Chemed cites Sefer HaMitzvot (Negative Commandment 65) which mentions the prohibition against "destroying the houses where God is worshiped," indicating that the obligation to honor the synagogues has its source in a Torah commandment. (Note the commentary on Halachah 12.)

They should be swept clean - Sefer Chassidim 128 relates tht Rabbi Ya'akov bar Yakar, Rashi's teacher, would polish the floor before the ark with his beard.

and mopped. - Their synagogues often had dirt floors. Thus, mopping them would also keep the dust from rising (Megillah 28b).

All the Jews in Spain, the west - i.e., North Africa,

Babylonia, - The translation is based on Targum Onkelos to Genesis 19:1.

and Eretz Yisrael - The term ארץ הצבי is applied to Eretz Yisrael, based on Jeremiah 3:19: "I will give you a delightful land (ארץ צבי), the finest heritage of a host of nations." (See also Daniel 8:9, Gittin 57a.)

are accustomed to light lamps in the synagogue - The Rambam appears to imply that in addition to lighting lamps at night, when their light would be necessary, lamps were lit during the day as a mark of respect.

and spread mats over the floor to sit on. In European communities - literally, "in the cities of Edom (i.e., Rome)."

they sit on chairs.

Commentary Halacha 6

No lightheadedness - Rashi, Megillah 28a, explains that קלות ראש also connotes irreverence. These activities...

i.e., jests, frivolity, and idle conversation - cheapen the respect and awe one has for the synagogue. Rashi also includes in the category of קלות ראש all the other activities the Rambam mentions in this halachah because they all cause us to view the synagogue as a place where mundane affairs can be carried out, and thus, minimize our appreciation of its holiness.

should be seen in a synagogue. - The Sefer Mitzvot Gadol states that the sin of frivolity in the synagogues causes them to be sold to gentiles and transformed into houses of idol worship.

The Zohar (Parashat Vayakhel) severely condemns the sin of idle conversation in a synagogue, because God's presence is manifest there, and, therefore, any activity of this sort indicates a lack of reverence for Him.

We may not eat or drink inside [a synagogue] - Pesachim 101a relates that wayfarers would eat meals in the synagogue. However, Tosafot, Megillah 28a, explains that synagogues would have a side room that was used as a guest house. However, eating and drinking would not be permitted in the room used for prayer.

nor use [a synagogue] for our benefit - Our translation is based on the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Berachot 8:6. Rashi (Megillah 28b) renders ניאותין as "adorn ourselves." According to his interpretation, the synagogue should not be a place where people come to show off their clothes and jewelry.

nor stroll inside one. - i.e., it is forbidden to go to a synagogue for the purpose of walking around to release tension (Kessef Mishneh).

On a sunny [day], one should not enter [a synagogue to seek shade] from the sun, and on a rainy [day], [one should not enter a synagogue to seek shelter] from the rain. - Megillah 28b relates that Ravina and Rav Ada bar Matanah were discussing a Halachic problem with Ravva outside. When it began raining, they entered a synagogue to continue their discussion. They explained, "We did not enter the synagogue because of the rain, but because the comprehension of the passage requires a relaxed state of mind."

[However,] the sages and their students - The Magen Avraham 151:2 states that this license is granted only to scholars who spend the majority of their time in the house of study. Others, however, are not granted such privileges.

are permitted to eat and drink in a synagogue - Megillah 28b states that a house of study is called "the rabbis' house," implying that they can do anything they would do in their own homes in the house of study. Since the holiness of a house of study exceeds that of a synagogue (see Halachah 14), we can assume that these activities are also permitted in a synagogue.

Nonetheless, this license is granted only...

because of the difficulty [observing the prohibition would cause them]. - Forcing the scholars to leave the synagogue whenever they wanted to eat or drink would cause them to waste time that could be devoted to Torah study (Magen Avraham, loc. cit.:2).

The Magen Avraham cites authorities who permit wider use of synagogue facilities if they were originally constructed with this use in mind. This leniency is based on Megillah, loc. cit., which states that the synagogues in Babylonia could be used for mundane purposes since they were constructed with this condition in mind.

Commentary Halacha 7

It is forbidden to calculate accounts in [a synagogue], unless the accounts are connected with a mitzvah - See Ketubot 5a, which states that though it is forbidden to think over one's accounts on the Sabbath, one is permitted to calculate accounts that are associated with a mitzvah even in a synagogue.

for example, the collection of charity - For a more precise definition of the term קופה, see Hilchot Matnot Ani'im 9:1.

the redemption of captives - Note the Rambam's comments on the importance of the redemption of captives, Hilchot Matnot Ani'im 8:10-18.

or the like. [Similarly,] eulogies - This does not refer to a eulogy recited in the presence of the corpse itself, but rather a public meeting in honor of the deceased after his burial (Rav Kapach).

should not be recited inside them, except a eulogy that involves many [of the inhabitants of the city]; for example, [if] there were a eulogy of the great sages of that city for which all the people would gather together and come. - From Megillah 28b, it appears that this refers to a eulogy recited over a great sage, by a great sage, or attended by a great sage.

Commentary Halacha 8

If a synagogue or a house of study has two entrances, one should not use it for a shortcut - Note Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 7:2, which mentions a similar prohibition with regard to the Temple Mount.

i.e., to enter through one entrance and leave through the other to reduce [the distance one] travels, because it is forbidden to enter [these buildings] except for a mitzvah. - Note Halachah 10, which states that if one enters a synagogue for the sake of a mitzvah, one may afterwards leave from the other entrance to shorten his way.

The Be'ur Halachah (151) questions whether a person who is going to do a mitzvah may take a shortcut through a synagogue. Though the Pri Megadim states that this might be permissible, the Be'ur Halachah maintains that the wording the Rambam chose implies that one must enter the synagogue to do a mitzvah within, and not to pass through for the sake of a mitzvah.

Commentary Halacha 9

A person who has to enter a synagogue to call a child or his friend, should enter and read [a portion of the written law] or relate a teaching [of the oral law] and then call his friend - The Lechem Mishneh explains that the person should study first and then call his friend, so that it will not appear that he entered the synagogue only to serve his personal concerns.

so that he will not have entered [a synagogue] for his personal reasons alone - which is forbidden, as mentioned above.

If he does not know [how to study], he should ask one of the children - This suggestion is quoted from Megillah 28b, the source for this halachah. As obvious from Gittin 58a and other sources throughout the Talmud, synagogues were often used as classrooms for younger children.

[to] tell him the verse he is studying - for listening to the words of Torah recited by another person is also considered as Torah study.

or, [at the very least,] wait a while in the synagogue - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 151:8) states that one must wait at least the length of time it takes to walk eight handbreadths (slightly less than five feet).

and then leave, since spending time [in the synagogue] is one of the aspects of the mitzvah as implied by [Psalms 84:5]: "Happy are those who dwell in Your house." - The Bayit Chadash (Orach Chayim 151) points out that the emphasis is not on sitting, but on spending time, whether one stands or sits. To clarify this point, the Rambam does not quote the Talmudic source (Megillah, loc. cit.) exactly. That passage reads, "[he should] wait a while, get up, and leave." The Rambam omits the expression, "get up," to indicate that one need not actually sit.

Commentary Halacha 10

A person who enters [a synagogue] to pray or to study is permitted to leave by the opposite door to shorten his way. -Megillah 29a bases this law on Ezekiel 46:9 which states that in the Messianic age, after the people complete their service in the Temple, they will not leave through the same gate through which they entered. If this will be permitted in the Temple, it is surely permitted in a synagogue.

The Kessef Mishneh questions the order of the halachot chosen by the Rambam, noting that it would have seemed more logical to mention this law directly after Halachah 8, which forbids taking a shortcut through a synagogue. The Or Sameach points out a possible resolution of this difficulty, noting that in teaching this law after Halachah 9, the Rambam implies that leniency is granted only for the sake of calling a friend. However, it is forbidden to enter a synagogue and study Torah in order to leave by the opposite door.

A person is permitted to enter a synagogue - The Mishnah (Berachot 9:6) forbids the following four activities on the Temple Mount, considering them as irreverent. See also Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 7:2.

[holding] his staff, [wearing] his shoes, - Though there is no obligation to remove one's shoes before entering a synagogue, we find the practice mentioned in various sources. The Jerusalem Talmud (Bava Metzia 2:8) relates that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi's son removed his sandals before entering a synagogue. When he left, he discovered that they had been stolen. He said, "If I had not entered the synagogue, my sandals wouldn't have been stolen."

wearing [only] lower garments, - In his commentary on the above mishnah, the Rambam defines אפונדתו as "a garment which one wears against his flesh to collect perspiration, so that... he will not spoil his dress clothing." Others render אפונדתו as "money-belt."

or with dust on his feet. - Berachot 63a compares a synagogue to one's house. Since these activities are accepted in one's home, they are also acceptable in the synagogue.

It must be noted that many authoritative manuscripts of theMishneh Torah omit the phrases "wearing [only] lower garments" and "with dust on his feet." Note also the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 151:8) which states that a person should clean mud from his shoes before entering a synagogue.

If it is necessary for him to spit, he may spit in the synagogue. - Rabbenu Manoach cites the following statement from the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 3:5):

A person who spits in the synagogue is considered like one who spits in [God's] eye. Rabbi Yonah would spit and wipe it with his foot.

Rabbenu Manoach explains that this passage does not contradict the Babylonian Talmud (Berachot, loc. cit.) which allows one to spit in the synagogue. As long as Rabbi Yonah's practice is followed, there is no prohibition.

Though some authorities disagree, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 151:7) accepts Rabbenu Manoach's decision. However, while reciting the Shemoneh Esreh, spitting is forbidden (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 97:2). The Magen Avraham 151:9 mentions that the Ari zal would refrain from spitting within a synagogue.

Commentary Halacha 11

Synagogues and houses of study that have been destroyed remain holy [as can be inferred from Leviticus 26:31]: "I will destroy your sanctuaries." - The commentaries explain that since the verse states והשמותי את מקדשיכם, with the noun "sanctuaries" following the verb "I will destroy," rather than 18םכישדקמáתאו םמישא, one may draw the following inference.

[Our Sages explained]: Even though they are destroyed, they remain - sanctuaries and therefore, must be regarded as

holy. - Therefore,

Just as one must treat them with respect while they are standing, - as explained in Halachot 5-10.

so must they be treated [with respect] when they are destroyed - Megillah 28b mentions that if one constructed a synagogue with the condition that it can be used for mundane purposes, one may do so. As mentioned in the commentary to Halachah 6, the Ramban and other authorities maintain that if a synagogue was constructed with such a condition, guests may eat inside and it may be used for other mundane purposes.

Tosafot disagrees, maintaining that the condition has no effect while the synagogue is standing and applies only after it has been destroyed. Thus, were a synagogue to be built with such a condition, as were the synagogues in Babylonia in Talmudic times, mundane activities could be carried on within its premises after it was destroyed. However, even then, activities directly opposed to the sanctity of the synagogue, e.g., sowing crops on the land, are forbidden.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 151:11) quotes Tosafot's opinion. Interestingly, the Rambam does not mention either the Ramban's or Tosafot's interpretation of the possibility of making the condition mentioned in Megillah (loc. cit.).

with the exception of sweeping and mopping them. [When destroyed], they need not be swept or mopped - for there would be no benefit in doing so.

If grass grows in them, it should be pulled out and left there - The Mishnah (Megillah 28b) states, "If grass grow in it, it should not be pulled out." The Talmud comments that one is not allowed to pull out the grass to use as fodder for animals, but one may pull out the grass and leave it there.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam writes that one is permitted to pull the grass out and leave it in its place. The published text of the Mishneh Torah (which we have quoted) appears to imply that one should pull them out (i.e., it is imperative to do so). However, the version of the halachah found in authoritative manuscripts is closer to the understanding in the Commentary to the Mishnah.

The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.:10) quotes the version of the halachah in the published texts of the Mishneh Torah. However, the Mishnah Berurah (151:29) quotes the Commentary to the Mishnah.

so that it will be seen by the people [in the hope that] it will rouse their spirits and rebuild them. - In his Commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam adds that if it is impossible for the synagogues to be rebuilt, the grass should be left there since seeing it will motivate the people to Teshuvah.

Commentary Halacha 12

One should not tear down a synagogue in order to build another in its place or in another place. - Note Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 65), which states that destroying a synagogue is a transgression of a Torah commandment. Nonetheless, if one's intention is to build a new synagogue, the destruction of the old one is permitted (See also Ramah, Orach Chayim 152:2).

Instead, one should build the [new synagogue] and then, one [may] tear down the [previous] one - This law is quoted from Bava Batra 3b. Two reasons are mentioned by the Talmud. The Rambam quotes one:

lest unforeseen difficulties arise [which prevent it] from being built. - The second reason mentioned in the Talmud is so that people will have a place to pray in the interim. The Talmud notes that different corollaries result from these two explanations. If there is another synagogue in the city, according to the second explanation (not mentioned by the Rambam), one could tear down the first synagogue while building a new one, since people would be able to pray in the other synagogue in the interim. However, according to the explanation quoted by the Rambam, it would be improper to destroy the synagogue lest the new synagogue never be built.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 152:1) quotes the Rambam's decision. The Mishnah Berurah 152:4 states that this law applies even if all the money necessary to build the new synagogue has been collected.

This applies even to a single wall of [a synagogue]. One should build the new wall next to the old wall and then, tear down the old wall. - The Be'ur Halachah (152) mentions the opinion of Rabbenu Asher who permits a community to enlarge a synagogue by tearing down an existing wall before building a new one if there is no other alternative. He maintains that the Rambam might also agree to this decision. However, most authorities interpret the Rambam's words as forbidding such a practice.

Commentary Halacha 13

When does the above apply? When its foundations are not ruined or its walls are not leaning perilously - so that there is no danger in continuing to pray within.

However, if its foundation is destroyed or its walls are leaning perilously, - and there is a danger that it may collapse

it should be destroyed immediately - The Be'ur Halachah (152) states that this applies even if the community does not have another place to pray.

and [then, efforts to] rebuild it should be begun immediately throughout the day and night lest times become difficult and it remain destroyed. - Bava Batra 3b relates that Rav Ashi saw a dangerous flaw in the synagogue of Mata Machsia. He ordered the building destroyed and then took his bed into the ruins to make sure that the community would rebuild it quickly. He did not remove his bed until the final fixtures of the building were completed.

Commentary Halacha 14

It is permitted to transform a synagogue into a house of study. - Megillah 27a describes a house of study as "a great house," "a house where Torah is developed."

However, it is forbidden to transform a house of study into a synagogue because the sanctity of a house of study exceeds that of a synagogue - since Torah study takes precedence over the performance of all other mitzvot (See Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:3). See also Chapter 8, Halachah 3; Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:9.

and one must proceed to a higher rung of holiness, - Our translation is based on the opinion of Rabbenu Nissim who maintains that it is forbidden to exchange a sacred article for another of an equal level of holiness. There are other opinions who maintain that it is permitted to do so. The Mishnah Berurah 153:11 states that even according to those opinions, the permission to do so is after the fact (בדיעבד), but not a priori.

but not descend to a lower rung. - This principle applies in a number of different halachic contexts, for example, the practice of adding a new Chanukah candle each night (Shabbat 21a).

Similarly, the inhabitants of a city - Megillah 26b explains that this only applies to a synagogue in a village as explained in Halachah 16.

who sold a synagogue - The Rambam's use of the past tense appears to imply that this is a only question בדיעבד. TheMishnah Berurah 153:3, however, presents as להתחילה (a priori), the possibility of selling an article of lesser sanctity in order to purchase an article of greater sanctity.

The sale of a synagogue is a complicated matter. See Halachot 16-20 and also the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 153:7 and commentaries.

may purchase an ark - See Halachah 3.

with the proceeds. - The Lechem Mishneh emphasizes that a synagogue may only be sold for such a purchase if there is another synagogue in the city.

If they sold an ark, they may purchase a mantle - In Ashkenazic communities, it is customary to hold a Torah scroll in a mantle.

or a case - as is customary in Sephardic communities. Hilchot Sefer Torah 10:4 describes the sanctity of these ritual articles.

for a Torah scroll with the proceeds. If they sold a mantle or a case, they may buy chumashim - In Talmudic times, the expression chumash referred to a scroll on which only one of the five books of Moses was written. Since it contained only one book, its holiness was on a lower level than that of a complete Torah scroll.

with the proceeds. If they sold chumashim, they may buy a Torah scroll with the proceeds. If they sold a Torah scroll, the proceeds may only be used to purchase another Torah scroll, - There is a some difficulty with the Rambam's statements when compared to Hilchot Sefer Torah 10:2, where the Rambam writes:

It is forbidden for a person to sell a Torah scroll even if he has nothing to eat. [It is even forbidden] to sell an old scroll in order to purchase a new one. A Torah scroll should never be sold except for [one of] two purposes, so that one can use the money to study Torah or in order to marry.

Perhaps here the Rambam is speaking about a question that arose after the fact, once the Torah scroll has already been sold, while in Hilchot Sefer Torah, he is describing an a priori condition. Alternatively, he may be referring to circumstances where the new Torah scroll has already been written and all that is necessary is to pay for it. In such a case, one may sell an old Torah scroll (Rabbenu Manoach, Hilchot Sefer Torah).

for there is no level of holiness above that of a Torah scroll. - In Hilchot Sefer Torah (loc. cit.), the Rambam writes, "A kosher Torah scroll should be treated with special holiness and great honor."

The same [laws apply] to [any money] which remains - i.e., if one sold many chumashim to purchase a Torah scroll and some of the proceeds from the sale remained, those monies should not be used to purchase anything on a lower level of holiness.

Commentary Halacha 15

Similar [principles apply] if a congregation collected money to build a house of study or a synagogue or to purchase an ark, a mantle or a case [for a Torah scroll], or a Torah scroll, and desired to change [the purpose for which] all the [funds] had been [originally] collected. - Just as it is forbidden to sell sacred articles in order to purchase articles of lesser sanctity...

It is forbidden to change [the purpose for which the funds will be used] - Hilchot Matnot Aniyim 8:11 mentions an exception to this principle:

If the inhabitants of a city collected money for the construction of a synagogue and a matter involving a mitzvah arises, they may use the money for it. If they already bought stones and beams, they should not sell them for the sake of another mitzvah, except for the redemption of captives.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 153:6) states that a synagogue - and even a Torah scroll - may be sold for the purpose of supporting Torah studies or for other needs associated with mitzvot. Nevertheless, this measure should only be taken when there is no other way to cover these expenses (Mishnah Berurah 153:24). See also Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 252:1) which explains that one is only allowed to sell a synagogue for such purposes if the buyer will continue to have it used as a synagogue.

except from a matter of lesser sanctity to one of greater sanctity. - Rav Moshe Cohen questions the Rambam's decision, asking why it is forbidden to make a change of this nature. Even bricks intended for use in constructing a synagogue can be used for other purposes as long as they have not been actually built into the synagogue (See Megillah 26b).

The Turei Zahav (Orach Chayim 153:2) explains that money collected for the purchase of religious articles does not possess the sanctity of those articles. However, since the donors intended that the money be used to purchase religious articles, its use is constrained by the terms of an implicit vow that it be used for this purpose. Despite this limitation, the congregation may use these funds for another purpose associated with a mitzvah and substitute other funds to accomplish the purpose for which these funds were originally collected. (Note the Magen Avraham 153:5, who does not accept the latter conclusion.)

The Be'ur Halachah (153) supports the Turei Zahav's position based on Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 1:20, which states that a sacred utensil made with the intent that it be used in the Temple is not considered as "sacred" until it has actually been used for its intended purpose.

However, if [the congregation accomplished the purpose for which they had [originally] collected [the funds], - e.g., they collected funds to purchase a Torah scroll and were able to purchase it for less money than they had collected.

they may use the remainder for whatever they desire. -Megillah 27a mentions this leniency based on the principle that the money itself does not have the sanctity of the religious articles for whose purchase it was donated, but is merely designated to be used for their purchase.

Once the religious articles have been purchased, the Mishnah Berurah (153:14) states that these funds can be used for any purpose of benefit to the community, even if it has no association with a sacred article. However, there are authorities who require the money to be used to purchase an article which has some degree of sanctity.

All the components of a synagogue - e.g., the platform from which the Torah is read or its benches (Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 3:1)

are considered - to be on the same level of holiness

like the synagogue itself - and can only be sold for similar purposes.

Our Sages placed certain restrictions on the sale of the components of a synagogue. In Hilchot Matnot Ani'im 8:6, the Rambam writes:

If someone donates a light or a candle to a synagogue, it is forbidden to exchange it [for something else]. If [the sale] concerns a matter which is a mitzvah, it may be exchanged.... If the name of the donor has been forgotten, it is permitted to exchange [the object] even for a mundane matter.

In Hilchot Sefer Torah 10:4, the Rambam states that the platform "has no sanctity at all." However, this statement should be interpreted to mean that the platform is not considered a "sacred article" like the others mentioned in that halachah.

The curtain hanging before the ark - it is not clear whether the Rambam is referring to the tevah (the movable ark) or the heichal (the fixed ark). Rabbenu Nissim interprets the reference as to be to the tevah.

is considered like the mantle of a Torah scroll - since from time to time, it is placed under the Torah scroll (Megillah 26b).

If a condition - allowing the use of the curtains for mundane purposes

was made concerning them, - when they were originally purchased

the terms of the condition are binding - and there is no prohibition against using them for such purposes.

Commentary Halacha 16

When do the above statements permitting the sale of a synagogue apply? In regard to a synagogue in a village. Since it was constructed for the sake of the inhabitants of that village alone, - even if the money for its construction was donated by people from outside the city (Ramah, Orach Chayim 153:7).

so that they can pray inside it, - Based on this statement, the Mishnah Berurah 153:25 explains that the main determinant is not the size of the village, but whether the synagogue is also frequented by people from the outside. According to this understanding, a synagogue in a small village where large trade fairs are held is bound by the same laws as the synagogues of a large city. By the same token, a synagogue used by a private group of people in a large city may be comparable to a village synagogue. An example of such a case, cited by the Mishnah Berurah, is the custom once common that craftsmen of different professions would build synagogues for themselves.

they are permitted to sell it if they all desire to do so. - The Ramban states that the consent of the majority of the village's inhabitants is sufficient. His opinion is accepted as halachah by the Mishnah Berurah 153:24.

In contrast, a synagogue in a metropolis, since it was constructed for the sake of all the people in the world, [i.e.,] so that anyone who comes to that country can come and pray in it, - For this reason, even if the money to build the synagogue was donated by the inhabitants of the city alone, they do not have the authority to sell the synagogue (Rabbenu Asher, Megillah 26a).

it is considered as [the property] of [the entire] Jewish people and it can never be sold. - Halachah 19 mentions an exception to this principle. Also, the Magen Avraham 153:12 relates that if a synagogue in a city is no longer used for prayer, it may be sold. Based on this decision, the Rabbis (See Iggeret Moshe, Orach Chayim, Vol. I, 50) have permitted the sale of synagogues located in neighborhoods no longer inhabited by Jews.

Commentary Halacha 17

The inhabitants of a village - See the previous Halachah.

who desire to sell their synagogue in order to build another synagogue with the money, or to buy an ark or Torah scroll with the money, - in keeping with Halachah 15

must establish as a condition [of the sale] that the purchaser not use the building for a bathhouse, a leatherworks, a mikveh, or a laundry. - The translation of the Hebrew, בית המים, is based on Rashi's commentary to Megillah 27b. He also offers an alternate translation, "a latrine." The Kessef Mishneh favors the translation "laundry" since the prohibition against using the synagogue as a latrine is self-evident. Nevertheless, in his Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 153:9), Rav Yosef Karo mentions a latrine, but not a laundry.

The sanctity of the synagogue is transferred to the money received from its sale and the building itself is no longer considered as "holy." Nonetheless, using the premises for such purposes is considered degrading.

As support for the prohibition against using premises that had previously served as a synagogue for such purposes, the Or Sameach cites II Chronicles 8:11: "I will not have a woman dwelling in the house of David... for the [places] where the ark of God has come are holy." Although the ark had already been placed in the Temple, it was not becoming to the ark for Pharaoh's daughter to be allowed to live in a place where it had been kept.

If, at the time of the sale, the seven officials of the community - In a responsum, the Rambam explains that there is no obligation to appoint seven officials to lead the community. Our Sages' use of that term merely implies that the governing communal body should not be a small group. Since the number seven is often used in the Bible, our sages employed it in this context.

In the same responsum, the Rambam defines the expression 18יבוט ריעה to mean "sages, men of Torah and good deeds, [people of whom it can be said] 'pleasant are the words spoken by those who fulfill them.'

made a condition in the presence of the entire community - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 153:7) states that a public announcement of the sale is sufficient for it to be considered as if all the inhabitants of the city were present.

that the purchaser be allowed to use the building for the above purposes, he may. - Megillah 26a,b states that the restriction against selling a synagogue for an unbecoming purpose does not apply when the building was sold by the communal officials in the presence of the community. When it is sold in this manner, it can be "used even as a tavern."

The Meiri explains the rationale for this decision as follows: Even if an explicit statement was not made to the effect that the synagogue could be used for an unbecoming purpose, it is understood that the village's inhabitants consecrated the synagogue with the understanding that it be subject to the decisions of the community's officials. Therefore, they have the right to sell the synagogue for whatever purposes they wish.

The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's decision and maintains that the license granted by Megillah (loc. cit.) only applies to the money received from the sale, while the building that was used as a synagogue can never be used for a purpose which is unbecoming. Though the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) quotes the Rambam's view, the Be'ur Halachah suggests following the Ra'avad's decision, quoting the law (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 21:2), which forbids using a tallit for an unbecoming purpose even after its tzitzit have been removed.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Responsa, Orach Chayim, Vol. II, 45) mentions this halachah in regard to the sale of synagogues in neighborhoods where Jews no longer live. Unfortunately, the natural clients for the purchase of an abandoned synagogue are churches. Rav Moshe states that selling a synagogue for use as a church is definitely forbidden. Using a synagogue for such purposes is more demeaning than using it for the purposes mentioned by the Talmud. He maintains that even according to the Rambam, selling a synagogue for this purpose could not be permitted.

Commentary Halacha 18

Similarly, if the seven officials of the community made a condition in the presence of the entire community that [after the community accomplished the purpose for which they sold the synagogue], - as explained below.

the remainder of the funds could be used for mundane purposes, they may be used for such purposes. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 153:7) accepts the opinion of Rashi, the Ra'avad, and Rabbenu Asher, who differ with the Rambam and maintain that the entire proceeds from the sale of a synagogue can be used for mundane purposes if the sale was carried out in the above manner.

In his Kessef Mishnah, Rav Yosef Karo explains the difference between these positions as follows. These authorities do not accept the Rambam's interpretation of Megillah 26a-b mentioned in the previous Halachah, and maintain that a certain measure of sanctity always remains in the synagogue. The Rambam maintains that the sanctity is transferred to the money received for the synagogue. Therefore, the condition made by the city officials can never effect the entire sum of money. Rather, the major portion must always be used for a sacred object.

[Interestingly, in his Kessef Mishnah, Rav Yosef Karo points out the advantages of the Rambam's position. However, in hisShulchan Aruch, he accepts the decisions of the other authorities.]

Thus, after the money has been used for building another synagogue, for purchasing an ark, a mantle or case [for a Torah scroll], chumashim, or a Torah scroll, - as mentioned in Halachah 14.

the remainder may be used for mundane purposes in accordance with their condition, and may be used for whatever they please. -Megillah 27a describes such a situation and states that the remainder of the funds may be used even to hire a messenger for the city.

Commentary Halacha 19

Similarly, if all the inhabitants of a city - The passage from Megillah 26a quoted below indicates that this law applies even to a synagogue in a metropolis. Though the Rambam's placement of this law in this context does not lead to this conclusion, it is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 153:7.

or a majority of them - accept [the authority of] a single individual, - Note the Mishnah Berurah 153:35 which states that this applies only when the inhabitants of the city donated the money for the synagogue's construction themselves and accepted the authority of the person involved from the beginning of the synagogue's construction.

whatever actions he takes [in regard to a synagogue] are binding. - Megillah 26a relates:

Rav Ashi said: "Even though people from all over the world come into the synagogue of Mata Machsia to pray, since the people donated the money for its construction subject to my decisions, allowing me to do what I want, I am permitted to sell it if I so desire."

He may sell [the synagogue] - as mentioned in the previous halachot

or give [it as a gift] - as mentioned in the following Halachah.

alone, - This expression appears to indicate that the sale may be conducted even without a public announcement as is required of the city officials in the previous halachot. Rabbenu Nissim (and the Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit.) disagree, stating that the sale must be made with the consent of the community.

as he sees fit, and establish whatever conditions he desires - in regard to the use of the premises or the proceeds from the sale.

Commentary Halacha 20

Just as it is permitted to sell a synagogue - in a village, and afterwards, use the premises for mundane purposes

it is permitted to give it away as a present - to an individual to use as he sees fit. The Magen Avraham 153:26 states that the gift must be made by the community officials in the presence of the inhabitants of the village. However, the Pri Megadim does not require these conditions. Since the Rambam equates giving the synagogue as a present to a sale, it is not likely that he would make such limitations.

Megillah 26b states, "a gift is like a sale," because

If the community had not received any benefit from giving it as a gift, it would not have given it. - This principle is also reflected in questions of business law, e.g., Hilchot Gezeilah 9:9.

The Ritbah states that even when the community has not yet received any benefit from a person, it may give him a synagogue in the expectation of receiving such benefit.

However, it cannot be rented or given as security. - In the Talmudic era, when property was given as security, the person who received the property would have the right to use it throughout the term of the loan. [This practice raises questions in regard to the prohibition against taking interest. See Hilchot Malveh U'Loveh, Chapters 6 and 7.]

When a synagogue is sold, its sanctity is transferred to the money received for it and does not remain within the building itself. However, if a synagogue was rented or given as security, there is nothing to which the sanctity is transferred. Hence, it remains within the building and the person who rents it or receives it as security is forbidden to use it for his own purposes.

Note the Ramah (Orach Chayim 153:11) who states that the prohibition only applies when the person who receives the synagogue wants to use it for mundane purposes. If he continues to use it as a synagogue there is no difficulty.

Similarly, when a synagogue is being torn down so that it can be rebuilt, - Note Halachah 12 which states that the new synagogue must be built before the old one is torn down.

it is permitted to sell the bricks, timber, and soil, exchange them, - even if the articles given in return are received later (Mishnah Berurah 153:68)

or give them as gifts. - in return for benefit, as explained above.

However, it is forbidden to lend them, - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 153:11) states that this prohibition applies even when the loan is made by the community officials in the presence of the community.

Though the community officials have the power to nullify the sanctity of a synagogue as mentioned in Halachot 17 and 18, that provision only applies when they do so completely. In this instance, since the building materials have to be returned, their sanctity is not nullified. Hence, no one has the right to lend them to anyone for mundane use.

since their sanctity only departs in return for money or benefit which is equivalent to money. - Similar principles apply in regard to the redemption of other articles endowed with sanctity, e.g., Ma'aser Sheni (the second tithe) or articles dedicated to the Temple (הקדש).

Commentary Halacha 21

Although the people pray in a city's main street on fast days - Hilchot Ta'anit 4:1 states:

On each of the seven days of fasting for rain... the ark is taken out to the main street of the city and the entire populace gather together wearing sackcloth. Ashes are placed on the ark and the Torah scroll... and each person places [ashes] on his head.

and ma'amadot, - The mention of ma'amadot in this context in Megillah 26a (the source for this halachah), and here, in the Mishneh Torah, has raised questions. In Hilchot Klei HaMikdash 6:1-2, the Rambam describes the ma'amadot as follows:

The early prophets ordained that honest people who fear sin should be chosen to stand over the sacrifices. They are called anshei ma'amad. They were divided into 24 different watches....
Each week, the anshei ma'amad of that watch would gather together. Those who lived in Jerusalem or close to it would come to the Temple.... Those who lived far away... would gather together in the synagogues of their locale.

In no source other than Megillah (loc. cit.) is it mentioned that the anshei ma'amad would pray in the street.

because too many people gather to fit within a synagogue, - Note Ta'anit 16a which states that the people would pray in the street as an expression of shame and embarrassment; alternatively, because leaving one's normal place of prayer is a form of exile which brings atonement. Interestingly, the Rambam ignores both these reasons and offers a reason which is not mentioned in previous sources.

[the street] does not possess any quality of sanctity, because [praying there is only a temporary measure] and it is not established as a place of prayer.

Similarly, buildings and courtyards where people gather to pray - even for communal prayer, e.g., a room in an office building where people gather for prayer.

do not possess any measure of sanctity, - Thus, it is also permitted to perform mundane activities (those mentioned in Halachah 6) in these buildings.

because they were not designated for prayer alone. Rather, [people] pray within them as a temporary measure, as a person prays within his home. - The Shulchan Aruch 153:8 mentions a situation in which a building is designated as a synagogue temporarily, for merely a limited period. During that time, it has the holiness of a synagogue. However, once it is no longer used as a synagogue, it has no holiness.

Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Twelve

Halacha 1

Moses, our teacher, ordained that the Jews should read the Torah publicly on the Sabbath and on Monday and Thursday mornings, so the [people] would never have three days pass without hearing the Torah.

Ezra ordained that [the Torah] should be read during the Minchah service on the Sabbath, because of the shopkeepers. He also ordained that on Mondays and Thursdays, three people should read [from the Torah], and that they should read no fewer than ten verses.

Halacha 2

These are the days when the Torah is read publicly: Sabbaths, festivals, Rashei Chadashim, fast days, Chanukah, Purim, and Mondays and Thursdays each week.

The haftarah is read only on Sabbaths, festivals, and Tish'ah B'Av.

Halacha 3

The Torah is never read in public in the presence of fewer than ten adult free men. No fewer than ten verses are read. Vayedaber is counted as one of them. No fewer than three men should read.

[When] beginning a passage from the Torah, [one should read] at least three verses, and one should not conclude less than three verses from the conclusion of a passage. Each reader should not read fewer than three verses.

Halacha 4

[When] three people read ten verses: Two read three [verses each] and one, four [verses]. It is praiseworthy regardless of whether the one who read four [verses] is first, last, or in the middle.

Halacha 5

Each one of the readers opens the Torah scroll and looks at the place from which he is to read. Afterwards, he declares, Barchu et Ado-nai hamevorach, and all the people answer: Baruch Ado-nai hamevorach le'olam va'ed. He then recites the blessing:

Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all the nations and given us His Torah. Blessed are You, God, the Giver of the Torah.

All the people respond: "Amen." Afterwards, he reads until he completes the reading, rolls the scroll [closed] and recites the blessing:

Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has given us His Torah, the Torah of truth, and implanted eternal life in our midst. Blessed are You, God, the Giver of the Torah.

Halacha 6

The person reading the Torah is not allowed to begin reading until the congregation ceases responding "Amen." If one erred while reading, even regarding the careful pronunciation of one letter, [the reader] is forced to repeat [the reading] until he reads it correctly.

Two people should not read at the same time. Rather, one should read alone. If one was reading and lost the ability to speak, another should replace him. He should begin from the place where the one who lost the ability to speak began, and recite the blessing after concluding.

Halacha 7

The reader is not permitted to [begin] reading until the person of greatest stature within the community tells him to [begin] reading. Even the chazan or the gabbai should not begin reading on their own initiative until the community [as a whole] or the person of greatest stature begins to read.

[When the chazan reads from the Torah,] another person should stand with him while he reads, just as the chazan stands together with the other readers.

Halacha 8

The reader may skip from place to place in one subject - for example, from Acharei mot... to Ach be'asor, in the portion Emor el Hacohanim - provided he does not read by heart. It is forbidden [for a reader] to say even one word [without looking at the text]. [When] skipping [in this fashion, the reader] should not wait longer than it takes for the translator to translate one verse.

Halacha 9

Once the reader begins reading the Torah, it is forbidden [for the congregants] to talk, even regarding matters of Torah law. Rather, everyone should listen, remain silent, and pay attention to what is being read, as [Nechemiah 8:3] states: "The ears of all the people were [attentive] to the Torah scroll."

It is forbidden to leave the synagogue while the reader is reading from the Torah. However, one is permitted to leave between aliyot. A person who is constantly involved in Torah study, and Torah is his occupation, is permitted to involve himself in Torah study while the Torah is being read.

Halacha 10

From the time of Ezra, it was customary that a translator would translate to the people the [passages] read by the reader from the Torah, so that they would understand the subject matter.

The reader should read one verse alone and remain silent while the translator translates it. Afterwards, he should read a second verse. The reader is not permitted to read to the translator more than one verse [at a time].

Halacha 11

The reader is not permitted to raise his voice above that of the translator, nor should the translator raise his voice above that of the reader. The translator is not permitted to [begin] translating until the reader completes reading the verse, nor may the reader [begin] reading another verse until the translator has completed the translation.

The translator should not lean on a beam or on a pillar. Rather, he should stand with awe and fear. He should not translate from a written text, but rather should recite the translation by heart.

The reader is not permitted to assist the translator, lest people say: "The translation is written in the Torah scroll." A person of lesser stature may serve as a translator for a person of greater stature. However, it is not befitting the honor of a person of greater stature to serve as a translator for a person of lesser stature. Two people should not serve as translators simultaneously; rather, one person should read and one should translate.

Halacha 12

Not all passages from the Torah are translated in public. All [of the following passages] should be read, but not translated: the incident involving Reuven, the priestly benediction, [the passage describing the sin] of the golden calf from "And Moses told Aharon" (Exodus 32:21) until "And Moses saw the people" (Exodus 32:25) and one other verse, "And God set a plague upon the people" (Exodus 32:35).

In the [description of] the incident concerning Amnon (II Samuel, Chapter 13), the verse which states, "Amnon, the son of David" (13:1) should be neither read nor translated.

Halacha 13

The person who reads the haftarah must read from the Torah first. Even three verses [are sufficient]. He should read again the passage that had been read previously.

He should not [begin] reading the haftarah until the Torah scroll has been rolled closed. He should not read fewer than twenty-one verses [as the haftarah]. However, if a concept is completed in fewer [verses] than that, he need not add more. If he read only ten verses, but the haftarah is translated, it is sufficient even if the concept is not completed.

[When reading] from the prophets, one reads and even two may translate. One may skip from one concept to another. However, one should not skip from one prophet to another, except among the twelve prophets. Furthermore, [even within a book from a single prophet,] one should not skip from the conclusion of the book until its beginning. Whenever one skips, one should not wait longer than it takes the translator to complete his translation.

Halacha 14

A person reading from the prophets may read three verses to the translator at one time, and the translator translates them one after another. If the three verses are three separate passages, [the reader] should read them to the translator only one at a time.

Halacha 15

The person who reads the haftarah recites one blessing before [beginning his reading]: Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who chose prophets....

After [completing the reading], he recites four blessings. He concludes the first blessing: "the God who is faithful in all of His words." He concludes the second blessing: "who builds Jerusalem." He concludes the third blessing: "the Shield of David." He concludes the fourth blessing with the mention of the sacred aspect of the day, as he does in the Shemoneh Esreh. Similarly, if Rosh Chodesh falls on the Sabbath, the one who reads the haftarah mentions Rosh Chodesh in this blessing, as he does in the Shemoneh Esreh.

Halacha 16

How many readers [are called to the Torah]? On Sabbath morning, seven; on Yom Kippur, six; on festivals, five. This number may not be reduced. However, it may be increased.

On Rashei Chadashim and on Chol Hamo'ed, four people [are called to read [from the Torah]. On the Sabbath and Yom Kippur during the Minchah service, on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the entire year, on Chanukah and Purim in the morning service, and on fast days in the morning and Minchah services three people [are called to] read [from the Torah]. This number may not be reduced, nor may it may be increased.

Halacha 17

A woman should not read the Torah publicly, as a token of respect for the community. A minor who knows how to read and is aware of the One who is being blessed may be counted as one of the required number [of people called to the Torah].

Similarly, the one who recites the haftarah is counted as one of the required number [of people called to the Torah], because he also reads from the Torah. [However,] if the leader of the congregation interrupted [by reciting] Kaddish between the conclusion of the Torah reading and the reading of the person who recites the haftarah, [the latter] is not included as one of the required number [of people called to the Torah].

If there is only one person in the community who knows how to read [from the Torah], he should be called to the Torah, read, descend [from the platform], return and read again a second and a third time until he completes the number of aliyot designated for that day.

Halacha 18

In all of these [Torah] readings, a priest reads first; after him, a Levite; and after him, an Israelite. It is common custom at present that even a priest who is a common person is given precedence and allowed to read before a wise man of great stature in Israel.

Whoever is greater than his colleague in wisdom is given precedence regarding the reading [of the Torah]. The last person who rolls the Torah scroll closed receives a reward equivalent to that of all the others. Therefore, even the person of the greatest stature in the community can receive the concluding aliyah.

Halacha 19

When there are no priests present, an Israelite is called to the Torah and a Levite should not be called after him at all.

When there are no Levites present, the priest who received the first aliyah returns and reads [from the Torah] a second time in place of the Levite. Another priest should not read [from the Torah] after him, lest others say that there is a blemish in the first's lineage, and, therefore, another priest was given the aliyah.

Similarly, one Levite should not read [from the Torah] after another Levite, lest others say that there is a blemish in the lineage of one of them.

Halacha 20

What is the order [of the service] when the Torah is read after prayer? On a day when there is a Musaf service, after the leader of the congregation completes the morning service, he recites Kaddish and takes out the Torah scroll. He calls the members of the community, one by one, and they ascend and read from the Torah. When they have completed the reading, he returns the Torah scroll to its place, recites Kaddish, and then the [congregation] recites the Musaf service.

On days when the haftarah is read and there is a Musaf service, it is customary to recite Kaddish before the person who reads the haftarah ascends [for his aliyah]. There are places where it is customary to recite Kaddish after the person who reads the haftarah [completes his Torah reading].

Halacha 21

During the Minchah service on the Sabbath and on Yom Kippur, after the leader of the congregation completes Tehillah l'David and the order of Kedushah, he recites the Kaddish, and takes out a Torah scroll. [Those called to the Torah] ascend and read and then, [the Torah scroll] is returned [to its place. The leader of the congregation] recites Kaddish, and the [congregation] recites the Minchah service.

Similarly, on a fast day, the Torah is read [before] the Minchah service. Afterwards, Kaddish is recited, and the Minchah service is recited. On festivals, it is not customary to read [the Torah] in the Minchah service.

Halacha 22

[When the Torah is read on] a day when Musaf is not recited, after the morning Shemoneh Esreh is completed, [the leader of the congregation] recites the Kaddish and takes out a Torah scroll. [After the portion is] read from it, [the Torah scroll] is returned [to its place. The leader of the congregation] recites Tehillah l'David and the order of Kedushah, as is the practice every day. [Afterwards,] he recites the Kaddish and the people depart.

Halacha 23

It is not proper to read from chumashim in synagogues, as a token of respect for the community.

A Torah scroll should not be rolled [from one portion to another portion] in the presence of the community, because of the difficulty it would cause the people, forcing them to remain standing while the Torah scroll is being rolled. Therefore, if it is necessary to read two separate concepts, two Torah scrolls are taken out. [However,] one person should not read one concept from two Torah scrolls, lest people say that the first scroll was invalid and, therefore, they read from the second.

Halacha 24

When a person rolls a Torah scroll [closed], he should roll it from the outside. When he ties it, he should tie it from the inside. He should leave the stitching [in the center], so that it will not rip.

In a place where a Torah scroll is taken [from the synagogue] to another room where it is kept, the congregation is not allowed to leave until the Torah scroll is taken. They should accompany it, following it to the place where it is kept.

Commentary Halacha 1

Moses, our teacher, ordained that the Jews should read the Torah publicly on the Sabbath - See also Chapter 13, Halachah 8.

and on Monday and Thursday - Tosafot, Bava Kama 82a relates that these days are days of Divine favor.

mornings - The Mishnah Berurah 135:1 states that, although ideally the Torah should be read in the morning service, if one fails to do so, it may be read the entire day.

so the [people] would never have three days pass without hearing the Torah. - Bava Kama 82b quotes Exodus 15:22: "And they travelled three days without finding water," and explains:

Water refers to the Torah, as [implied by Isaiah 55:1]: "May all the thirsty go to the water." Since they travelled three days without Torah, they complained. The prophets among them arose and ordained that they read [Torah] on the Sabbath, refrain [from reading] on Sunday, read on Monday, refrain [from reading] on Tuesday and Wednesday, read on Thursday, and refrain from reading on Friday, so that they will not spend three days without [reading from] the Torah.

Ezra ordained that [the Torah] should be read during the Minchah service on the Sabbath, because of the shopkeepers. - The Hebrew, יושבי קרנות, literally means "those who sit on the street corners." Our translation is based on Rashi's commentary (Bava Kama, loc. cit.). He explains that during the week, these people were involved with their businesses and could not attend the Torah reading. Therefore, Ezra instituted a special Torah reading for them on the Sabbath, when work is prohibited.

Rav David Arameah interprets the phrase literally, explaining that on the Sabbath, since work is prohibited, people would gather in the afternoon in the marketplace, and spend their time in idle conversation. Therefore, Ezra ordained the public Torah reading to draw them into the synagogue.

He also ordained that on Mondays and Thursdays, three - Megillah 21b relates that the number three reflects the three divisions among the Jewish people: priests, Levites, and Israelites; alternatively, the three divisions in the Written Law (the Torah, Prophets, and Holy Writings).

people should read - In Talmudic times, the person called to the Torah would read from the Torah himself. Our custom of having one reader is discussed in the commentary on Halachah 17.

[from the Torah] - Bava Kama (loc. cit.) explains that originally either one person would read three verses, or three people would read three verses.

and that they should read no fewer than ten verses. - Megillah (loc. cit.) states that the ten verses allude to the ten commandments and the ten utterances of creation; alternatively, they represent the ten people who attend a synagogue at all times. (See Halachah 3.)

Commentary Halacha 2

These are the days when the Torah is read publicly: Sabbaths, festivals - including Chol Hamo'ed, the intermediate days of the festival. (See Chapter 13, Halachot 8-16.)

Rashei Chadashim - Soferim 10:1 attributes the introduction of the practice of reading the Torah on all the abovementioned days to Moses. (See Chapter 13, Halachah 4, regarding the Rosh Chodesh Torah reading.)

fast days - See Chapter 13, Halachah 18.

Chanukah, Purim - See Chapter 13, Halachah 17.

and Mondays and Thursdays each week.

The haftarah - The Pardes states that the reading of the haftarah was instituted on the days when work is forbidden because the people had more time then and were able to devote themselves to Torah study. The Avudraham relates that the reading of the haftarah was instituted when the Greeks forbade the public reading of the Torah. To compensate, the Jews instituted the reading of parallel portions from the prophets. Even after the decree was nullified, the custom remained.

is read only - In Hilchot Ta'aniot 1:17, the Rambam states that on fast days declared because of communal distress, the haftarah is read in the afternoon service. However, the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 574) explains that the laws concerning the reading of the Torah and the haftarah are discussed primarily in this and the following chapter of the Mishneh Torah. Hence, the decision here should be followed and the haftarah should not be recited.

on Sabbaths, festivals - when work is not permitted

and Tish'ah B'Av. - Although work is permitted on Tish'ah B'Av, as mentioned in Hilchot Ta'aniot 5:10, Torah Sages have accepted the custom not to work on that day, and our Sages declared that no one will see a sign of blessing from work done on that day. Hence, there is no difficulty in reading the haftarah in the morning. (See Chapter 13, Halachah 18.)

In Ashkenazic communities, it is also customary to read the haftarah on fast days in the Minchah service (Ramah, Orach Chayim 566:1).

Commentary Halacha 3

The Torah is never read in public in the presence of fewer then ten adult free men. - See Chapter 8, Halachot 4-6.

No fewer than ten verses are read. - See Halachah 1. Hagahot Maimoniot notes that the reading for Purim contains only nine verses, but explains that since this passage discusses a complete subject, an exception is made. (See also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 137:1.)

Vayedaber - i.e., a verse beginning "And God said to Moses:...." Although it is merely an introductory phrase, it...

is counted as one of them - i.e., one of the required ten verses. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 137:4) states that, after the fact, if only nine verses were read, it is sufficient.

No fewer than three men should read. - See Halachah 1.

[When] beginning a passage - In addition to the 54 weekly Torah portions, the Torah is divided into 290 smaller passages (parshiot). (See Hilchot Sefer Torah, Chapter 8.)

from the Torah, [one should read] at least three verses - A person who begins a new passage in the midst of his aliyah should read at least three verses, lest another person enter when he begins that passage and think that he has read fewer than three verses (Megillah 22a).

The 14Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, loc. cit.) states that if a person read only two verses, they must be read again.

and one should not conclude less than three verses from the conclusion of a passage - lest someone who leaves before the next person reads from the Torah come to the mistaken conclusion that he has read fewer than three verses (Megillah, loc. cit.). (See Chapter 13, Halachah 4. See also Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 138.)

Each reader should not read fewer than three verses. - The three verses allude to the threefold division of the written law (Megillah 24a). Even when an entire passage has only two verses, the reader must add at least three more verses from another passage.

From this halachah, it appears that the custom of reading the first aliyah of the portion to be read on the following Sabbath on Mondays and Thursdays was not fixed in the Rambam's time. Hence, these ground rules were necessary. (See Mishnah Berurah 137:4.)

Commentary Halacha 4

[When] three people read ten verses: Two read three [verses each] and one, four [verses]. It is praiseworthy regardless of whether the one who read four [verses] is first - for the most important person is called to the Torah first (Megillah 21b).

last - based on the principle to "always proceed higher in holy matters" (loc. cit.).

or in the middle - regarding the Menorah, the middle branch was most important (loc. cit.).

Commentary Halacha 5

Each one of the readers opens the Torah scroll and looks at the place from which he is to read. - Megillah 32a mentions a difference of opinion between Rabbi Yehudah, who maintains that the blessings for the Torah should be recited while the Torah scroll is open (as quoted by the Rambam), and Rabbi Meir, who maintains that the Torah scroll should be closed, lest the people err and think that the blessings are written in the Torah.

Although the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 139:4) quotes the Rambam's decision, the Be'ur Halachah explains that Rabbi Yehudah maintains that one is not obligated to close the Torah scroll before reciting the blessing. However, there is nothing wrong in doing so. Therefore, in many communities the custom is to roll the Torah closed before reciting the blessing.

Note the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit., 140:3) regarding the ruling when one looks at the wrong passage in the Torah before reciting the blessing.

Afterwards, he declares - The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit., 139:6) emphasizes how Barchu and the blessings for the Torah should be recited in a loud voice.

Barchu et Ado-nai hamevorach, and all the people - the person reciting the blessing also joins in reciting the following phrase (Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit.:7)

answer: Baruch Ado-nai hamevorach le'olam va'ed. - See Chapter 9, Halachah 1.

He then recites the blessing: - Note the description of Ezra's reading of the Torah, in Nechemiah, Chapter 8, which relates how "Ezra opened the scroll... and blessed God."

Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all the nations and given us His Torah. Blessed are You, God, the Giver of the Torah. - This is the third of the blessings of the Torah mentioned in Chapter 7, Halachah 10. Even someone who had just recited the blessings before the Torah as part of his individual prayers recites this blessing as a gesture of respect for the community.

As mentioned in the commentary on that halachah, the Ramban considers the obligation to recite the blessings before the Torah as one of the 613 mitzvot. Some later commentaries explain that this refers only to the blessings recited before reading the Torah in public.

All the people respond: "Amen." - Note Rashi's commentary, Berachot 21a. Note also the comments of the Hagahot Maimoniot, Chapter 7, Halachah 15, that a person can fulfill his requirement of reciting one hundred blessings on the Sabbath by answering "Amen" to these blessings.

Afterwards, he reads until he completes the reading, rolls the scroll [closed] - The Kessef Mishneh states that this is done in deference to Rabbi Meir's opinion mentioned above. The Lechem Yehudah explains that it is a gesture of respect for the Torah.

and recites the blessing: Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has given us His Torah, the Torah of truth, - This is the text usually recited in Sephardic communities. In Ashkenazic communities, the word, תורתו (His Torah), is not included in the blessing. Interestingly, the Yemenite manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah also omit this word.

and implanted eternal life - Our translation follows the printed text of the Mishneh Torah. Note the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit. 139:10), which follows the text - חיי העולם (adding a ה as a modifier) - "the life of the world (to come)."

in our midst. - It is proper to recite this phrase only once the Torah has been read. Only after it has been studied, does the Torah serve as a source of life (Avudraham).

Blessed are You, God, the Giver of the Torah.

Commentary Halacha 6

The person reading the Torah is not allowed to begin reading until the congregation ceases responding "Amen" - so that their recitation of "Amen" will not drown out the Torah reading. Today, in communities where the Torah is read by a person other than the one reciting the blessings, it is customary for the reader to prolong his recitation of "Amen" slightly, so that everyone will know when the Torah reading begins (Mishnah Berurah 141:17).

If one erred while reading, even regarding the careful pronunciation of one letter - Rabbenu Manoach explains that this law reflects a fundamental philosophical principle. Sanhedrin 99a states that anyone who says that even one letter of the Torah was not given by God is considered as "one who scorned the word of God." Therefore, every letter in the Torah must be pronounced correctly.

[the reader] is forced to repeat [the reading] until he reads it correctly. - This applies even if one has already read other verses or even recited the blessing over the verse which was read incorrectly (Mishnah Berurah 142:2).

Two people should not read at the same time. Rather, one should read alone - for the voice of two people cannot be heard at the same time. Note the Rambam's decision, Hilchot Shofar 3:6. See also a contrasting decision in Hilchot Megillah 2:7.

In communities where the Torah is read by a person other than the one who recites the blessings, the person reciting the blessings should be careful not to read out loud (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 141:2).

If one was reading and lost the ability to speak, another should replace him. He should begin from the place where the one who lost the ability to speak began - In his responsa, the Rambam cites the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 5:3) to explain why this law differs from the law mentioned in Chapter 10, Halachah 4, which states that if a chazan cannot continue the recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh, the person who replaces him begins from the point where he left off. The Rambam explains that it is necessary for the second person reading the Torah to repeat the verses, because otherwise, the verses read by the initial reader will not be included in the concluding blessing.

and recite the blessing after concluding. - Nevertheless, according to the Rambam, the second reader need not recite the blessing before the Torah reading. Rabbenu Asher (whose opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit., 140:1) does not accept this decision, and requires the person who continues reading to recite the first blessing before he begins reading the Torah.

The difference between the two opinions is that the Rambam considers the blessings to be associated with the Torah portion and not with the reader. In contrast, Rabbenu Asher considers the blessings as the personal responsibility of the reader in preparation for reading from the Torah.

Rabbenu Asher's opinion is accepted by the later authorities. Even in communities where a person other than the one who recites the blessings reads from the Torah, this law applies (Ramah).

Commentary Halacha 7

The reader is not permitted to [begin] reading until the person of greatest stature within the community - the Rabbi or spiritual leader.

tells him to [begin] reading. - Though this law is apparent from the Tosefta referred to below, no explicit source is mentioned by the commentaries.

Even the chazan or the gabbai - Our translation is based on Rashi's commentary (Yoma 68b), which describes the rosh hak'nesset as the one who appoints the leader of prayer and gives out the aliyot.

should not begin reading on their own initiative until the community [as a whole] or the person of greatest stature begins to read. - This law is quoted from the Tosefta, Megillah 3:21, which explains that this restriction was instituted to prevent the synagogue functionaries from taking advantage of their position, and thus create a rift between them and the other congregants.

[When the chazan reads from the Torah,] - As discussed in the commentary on Halachah 17, the Rambam requires the person who receives an aliyah to read from the Torah himself. Thus, the chazan would read only when he, himself, received an aliyah.

another person should stand with him while he reads, just as the chazan stands together with the other readers. - The Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 4:1) explains the source for this practice. Just as an intermediary was involved with the giving of the Torah - as Deuteronomy 5:5 states: "I stood between you and God, your Lord" - so, too, another person should stand together with the reader at the reading of the Torah.

Note Soferim 14:14 (quoted by the Mishnah Berurah 141:16), which mentions the custom that two other people stand by the reader while the Torah is read, one on his right and one on his left.

Commentary Halacha 8

The reader may skip from place - from one passage in the Torah

to place - to a different passage in the Torah

in one subject - However, skipping from one subject to another subject is forbidden, because it may confuse the listeners. (See the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 144:1.)

for example - The Rambam chooses as his example the passages read by the High Priest in the Temple on Yom Kippur. However, as explained in the Mishnah (Yoma 7:1), the High Priest, himself, would not skip from passage to passage in the Torah.

from Acharei mot... - Leviticus, Chapter 16, which describes in detail the Yom Kippur offerings.

to Ach be'asor, in the portion Emor el Hacohanim - Leviticus 23:26-32, which describes the mitzvah to fast and the prohibition of work on Yom Kippur.

provided he does not read by heart. It is forbidden [for a reader] to say even one word [without looking at the text]. - Rav Kapach cites the Midrash Tanchuma, Va'era 5, which states:

A reader is forbidden to take his eyes off the Torah scroll, for the Torah was given only in writing, as [Exodus 34:2] states: "And I will write the words on the tablets."

Note also Gittin 60b, which mentions a general prohibition against reciting verses from the written Torah by heart.

[When] skipping [in this fashion, the reader] should not wait longer than it takes for the translator - See Halachah 10.

to translate one verse - because waiting any longer would be an affront to the congregation (Yoma 69b).

At present, it is customary to skip from passage to passage in the reading of the Torah on public fast days alone. (See Chapter 13, Halachah 18.) Even then, the transition is made between the first and second aliyot, so that it will not be noticeable to the listeners.

Commentary Halacha 9

Once the reader begins reading the Torah, it is forbidden [for the congregants] to talk - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 146:1) states that the prohibition applies even between aliyot.

even regarding matters of Torah law. - The Mishnah Berurah 146:5 mentions that if it is necessary to prevent a person from committing a sin, one may speak even while the Torah is being read.

Rather, everyone should listen, remain silent, and pay attention to what is being read, as [Nechemiah 8:3] states: "The ears of all the people were [attentive] to the Torah scroll." - This describes Ezra's reading of the Torah to the people who returned to Zion on Rosh HaShanah.

It is forbidden to leave the synagogue while the reader is reading from the Torah. - This prohibition applies even though one has already heard the Torah reading oneself and there are ten other people listening to the Torah reading (Mishnah Berurah 146:1).

Berachot 8a interprets Isaiah 1:28, "Those who turn away from God will be destroyed," as a reference to a person who leaves the synagogue when the Torah scroll is open.

However, one is permitted to leave between aliyot - provided there are ten others who will remain to hear the Torah reading, and one has fulfilled (or will be able to fulfill) one's obligation to hear the Torah. Even under these circumstances, leaving the synagogue is not desirable (Mishnah Berurah 146:2-3).

A person who is constantly involved in Torah study, and Torah is his occupation - The license for such a person to ignore the Torah reading in order to concentrate on his studies is taken from Berachot (loc. cit.), which relates that while the Torah was being taken out, Rav Sheshet would turn his back and occupy himself in his studies, saying, "Let them be occupied in what concerns them, while we will be occupied in what concerns us."

See Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:4, which states that the mitzvah of Torah study takes precedence over all other commandments. Based on this principle, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his disciples would not interrupt their studies even for prayer (Shabbat 11a - see Chapter 6, Halachah 8). However, the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit. 106:3) states that this applies only to scholars like Rabbi Shimon, who never interrupt their studies at all. However, at present, even scholars whose occupation is Torah must interrupt their studies for prayer, for they make other interruptions as well.

The Rabbis question whether the law under discussion applies only to scholars of Rabbi Shimon's level, or whether it is also relevant to scholars of the present day. The Kessef Mishneh notes that the citation of the behavior of Rav Sheshet as a source for this halachah appears to support the latter opinion. Rav Sheshet, like the other Amoraim of the Talmudic period, was not considered to be on the same level as Rabbi Shimon. In contrast, the Mishnah Berurah 146:9 maintains that, at present, we have no scholars who have the level of devotion to Torah study that would permit such a leniency.

is permitted to involve himself in Torah study while the Torah is being read. - The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit. 146:2) and the Mishnah Berurah 146:8-10 place various restrictions on this license. There must be ten others listening to the Torah, the person must study quietly, and he should turn away and begin his studies before the Torah reading is begun.

Commentary Halacha 10

From the time of Ezra - when the Jews who returned from the Babylonian exile did not speak Hebrew fluently. (See Chapter 1, Halachah 4.)

it was customary that a translator would translate to the people the [passages] read by the reader from the Torah, so that they would understand the subject matter. - The Book of Nechemiah, Chapter 8, describes Ezra's reading of the Torah to the people on Rosh HaShanah. Verses 7 and 8 explain that "they caused the people to understand the reading." Megillah 3a explains that this refers to the translation of the Torah.

The reader should read one verse alone and remain silent while the translator translates it. - For the two voices will prevent the people from hearing either of them.

Afterwards, he should read a second verse. The reader is not permitted to read to the translator more than one verse [at a time] - lest the translator become confused.

The Tur (Orach Chayim 145) writes that even in Talmudic times, it was not customary to translate the Torah in all communities. He explains that, in his age, the custom of translating the Torah had already been ceased because the people did not understand the Aramaic translation traditionally used. The rabbis did not want to translate the Torah into the languages which the people did understand, because of the possibility of error and misinterpretation. Such fears had not existed in regard to the Aramaic translation, since it had been composed with Ruach Hakodesh (Divine inspiration).

[The Tur, however, also mentions the opinion of Rav Natrunai Gaon, who maintains that the translation should be done freely, so that the people can understand, without referring to the traditional text.]

The Tur's opinion is accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 145:3) and in nearly all contemporary Jewish communities, the custom of using a translator during the Torah reading is no longer practiced. For this reason, rather than present a running commentary on Halachot 11 and 12, we have limited our comments to short footnotes.
1. Berachot 45a states that this principle is derived from the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. God, "the Reader," did not lift his voice over that of Moses, "the translator."

It was also customary to use a מתורגמן in teaching the oral law. Hence, parallels to many of the laws mentioned in this halachah can also be found in Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:3.
2. The Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 4:1) mentions that we should approach the Torah reading with awe, reflecting the awe experienced by the Jews at Mount Sinai.
3. Rabbenu Nissim maintains that this prohibition only applied before Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi permitted the oral tradition to be recorded. Afterwards, it was permitted for the translator to use a written text. Rabbenu Nissim's position is somewhat difficult to accept, since the Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah, loc. cit.), the source for this law, was written several hundred years after Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi granted this leniency. Nevertheless, Rabbenu Nissim's view was widely accepted.
4. The Tosefta, Megillah 3:21, cites the example of Aharon, who served as a spokesman for Moses. See also Kessef Mishneh.
5. Genesis 35:22. The direct translation of this verse would be unbecoming to both Reuven and Jacob (Rashi, Megillah 25a).
6. The third of the priestly blessings states: "May God turn His countenance to you...." This appears to be a direct contradiction to the description of God (Deuteronomy 10:17) as "not turning His face...." Though our Sages resolved that difficulty (Berachot 20b), a problem might come up in a simple translation of the verse.

Rav Kapach notes that the Yemenite texts of Targum Onkelos lack a translation for the three verses of the priestly benediction.
7. Were the common people given the opportunity of hearing the full story of the golden calf, they might believe that it had spiritual power (Rashi, loc. cit.). Alternatively, the narrative places a major burden of responsibility on Aharon (Tosafot, Megillah, loc. cit.).
8. The commentaries note that this passage is not read as a haftarah at present. Rav Kapach states that the need to make this statement indicates that in Talmudic times, the passages that were read as haftarot were not fixed and there was some room for choice.
9. Verses from the Torah cannot be skipped in a public Torah reading. However, it is permitted to skip verses from the prophets while reading the haftarah (Tos'fot Yom Tov, Megillah 10:3).

Commentary Halacha 13

The person who reads the haftarah - See the commentary on Halachah 2 for a description of the origin of the custom of reading the haftarah.

must read from the Torah first. - This was instituted as a token of respect for the Torah reading. Reading from the prophets without reading from the Torah would imply an equivalence between the seven people who read from the Torah and the one who reads from the prophets (Megillah 23a).

Even three verses [are sufficient]. - As mentioned in Halachah 3, each person called to the Torah must read at least three verses.

He should read again the passage that had been read previously - i.e., the concluding three lines of the Torah reading.

Note Tosafot, Megillah 23a, which states that in Talmudic times, the person who recited the haftarah would read a separate portion from the Torah. It is our custom that on festivals and in the special circumstances described in Chapter 13, Halachot 20-24, that the person who reads the haftarah reads a separate Torah portion.

He should not [begin] reading the haftarah until the Torah scroll has been rolled closed. - Rashi, Sotah 39b, states that the person reading the haftarah should wait to allow the person who rolled the Torah closed also to hear the haftarah. Others explain that it is not respectful to the Torah for it be open while the haftarah is being read.

He should not read fewer than twenty-one verses [as the haftarah]. - Since an aliyah has a minimum of three verses, the twenty-one verses of the haftarah will parallel the seven aliyot of the Torah reading (Megillah 23a).

However, if a concept is completed in fewer [verses] than that, he need not add more. - Megillah (loc. cit.) cites the eight concluding verses from Jeremiah, Chapter 7, which were read as the haftarah for Parashat Tzav. (At present, it is customary to add a number of other verses to that haftarah. The haftarah read for Parashat Ki Tetzey has only ten verses.)

If he read only ten verses, but the haftarah is translated, it is sufficient even if the concept is not completed. - Rabbenu Nissim explains that after the final verse is translated, one should repeat the verse in its original to conclude with the words of the prophet. Thus, the ten verses, the ten translations, and the repetition of the verse will reach the sum of twenty-one.

[When reading] from the prophets, one reads and even two may translate. - Though Halachah 11 prohibits two people to serve as translators for the Torah simultaneously, this restriction is not enforced regarding the haftarah. Rashi, Megillah 21b, explains that the prohibition was instituted to prevent confusion. However, since the haftarot are concerned more with ethics than halachic concepts, the Sages did worry that much about the possibility of confusion arising.

One may skip from one concept to another. - Here, the same principle is involved. Though skipping in this manner in a Torah reading is forbidden (Halachah 8), there is no such restriction for the haftarah. Indeed, in many of the haftarot read at present, it is customary to skip certain verses.

However, one should not skip from one prophet to another - for this would be too confusing (Megillah 24a).

except among the twelve prophets - for they are considered to be a single book.

Furthermore, [even within a book from a single prophet,] one should not skip from the conclusion of the book until its beginning - for it is improper to reverse the order of the verses as they are mentioned in the Bible.

Whenever one skips, one should not wait longer than it takes the translator to complete his translation. - Megillah (loc. cit.) explains that this is a practice of respect for the congregation, to prevent them from being forced to wait in silence.

Commentary Halacha 14

A person reading from the prophets may read three verses to the translator at one time - Though verses from the Torah should be read to a translator one at one time (see Halachah 10), as mentioned in the previous halachah, more leniency is taken regarding verses from the haftarah.

and the translator translates them one after another. If the three verses are three separate passages - Megillah 24a cites the verses from Isaiah 52:3-5 (included in the haftarah of Parshat Shoftim) as an example of such a phenomenon. [It must be noted that these verses are included in two passages (and not three as stated by the Rambam) in all texts of the Bible. Note the commentary of Rabbenu Nissim, who explains two passages as "two different concepts."]

[the reader] should read them to the translator only one at a time - to prevent confusion.

Commentary Halacha 15

The person who reads the haftarah recites one blessing before [beginning his reading]: Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who chose prophets.... - The full text of this blessing is found in the Order of Prayers for the Entire Year. This blessing is considered to be one long blessing, which begins with Baruch and concludes with Baruch (Rav David Arameah).

After [completing the reading], he recites four blessings. - Thus, he recites a total of seven blessings, corresponding to the seven people called to the Torah (Soferim 14:1).

He concludes the first blessing - which begins: "Blessed are You..."; the entire prayer is considered to be one blessing.

"the God who is faithful in all of His words." - The Avudraham explains that since the object of most of the prophecies is "Zion, Elijah, and David" (i.e., the Messianic redemption), after praising God as faithful to fulfill His prophecies, we begin the second blessing, which centers on the return to Jerusalem.

He concludes the second blessing: "who builds Jerusalem" - as in the grace after meals. This text is also found in the siddurim of Rav Amram Gaon and Rav Sa'adiah Gaon. Soferim 13:12 concludes the blessing "who causes Zion to rejoice in her children." The Ra'avad and the Kessef Mishneh suggest concluding the blessing in this fashion. This is the commonly accepted practice today.

He concludes the third blessing: "the Shield of David." - Pesachim 117b compares this to the conclusion of the first blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh, "the Shield of Abraham."

He concludes the fourth blessing - which centers on the Sabbath or festival celebrated

with the mention of the sacred aspect of the day, as he does in the - fourth blessing of the

Shemoneh Esreh. - See Chapter 2, Halachot 5 and 7.

Similarly, if Rosh Chodesh falls on the Sabbath, the one who reads the haftarah mentions Rosh Chodesh in - the middle of

this blessing, as he does in the - middle of the fourth blessing of the Musaf

Shemoneh Esreh. - However, he does not conclude the blessing with the mention of Rosh Chodesh, as he would in the Musaf prayer. (See Chapter 2, Halachah 11.)

Shabbat 24b questions whether Rosh Chodesh should be mentioned in this blessing. On one hand, when Rosh Chodesh falls during the week, the haftarah is not read. Hence, one might assume that there is no connection between the two and, hence, there is no need to mention Rosh Chodesh in the blessings. However, on the other hand, we find that when Yom Kippur falls on the Sabbath, the Sabbath is mentioned in the Ne'ilah service, despite the fact that the Ne'ilah service would otherwise not be recited on the Sabbath.

Though Rashi and Rav Yitzchok Alfasi interpret the passage in the same manner as the Rambam, Rabbenu Asher and Rabbenu Nissim rule that no mention should be made of Rosh Chodesh in this blessing. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 284:2 follows the latter position.

[The siddurim of Rav Amram Gaon and Rav Sa'adiah Gaon include mention of Rosh Chodesh in the conclusion of the blessing as well. The text of the authoritative Yemenite manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah also accept this view.]

Commentary Halacha 16

How many readers [are called to the Torah]? On Sabbath morning, seven; on Yom Kippur, six; on festivals, five. - This reflects a descending order of holiness. Working on the Sabbath is punishable by execution; working on Yom Kippur by כרת (premature death by the hand of heaven); and on festivals, certain labors are permitted.

This number may not be reduced. - In order to distinguish each day with the measure of holiness which it is due.

However, it may be increased. - This statement is quoted from the Mishnah (Megillah 3:2). Rabbenu Nissim explains that the license to increase the number of people called to the Torah applies only on the Sabbath, in order to clearly differentiate between the different holy days. However, Rashi (like the Rambam, here) explains that it refers to all three occasions. Since working at one's occupation is prohibited on all three occasions, there is no difficulty in adding to the number of people called to the Torah.

The Ramah (Orach Chayim 282:1) states that it is customary to follow Rabbenu Nissim's opinion.

On Rashei Chadashim and on Chol Hamo'ed, four people [are called to] read [from the Torah]. - These days are put in a category of their own, because although they are distinguished by the recitation of the Musaf service, work (albeit with restrictions on Chol Hamo'ed) is permitted

On the Sabbath and Yom Kippur during the Minchah service, on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the entire year, on Chanukah and Purim in the morning service, and on fast days in the morning and Minchah services, - See Chapter 13, Halachah 18.

three people [are called to] read [from the Torah]. This number - three or four, respectively

may not be reduced - since, as stated in Halachot 1 and 3, a minimum of three people must be called to the Torah, and a distinction must be made between the days when Musaf is recited and when it is not recited.

nor may it may be increased. - On all these occasions, with the exception of the Minchah services of the Sabbath and Yom Kippur, work is permitted, and the Rabbis did not want to have people lose time from work by calling extra people to the Torah. On the Sabbath no additions were made, since it was customary to hold study sessions during the afternoon. Since the reading on Yom Kippur afternoon was instituted as parallel to that of the Sabbath afternoon, no additions are made then.

Commentary Halacha 17

A woman should not read the Torah publicly, as a token of respect for the community. - This decision (quoted from Megillah 23) implies that a woman could receive an aliyah and recite the blessings over the Torah. However, as a gesture of respect to the community, women were not given this privilege.

Note the comments of the Magen Avraham 282:6, who states that women are obligated to hear the weekly Torah reading.

A minor - i.e., a male under thirteen

who knows how to read - since, as stated below, according to the Rambam, only a person who knows how to read can be called to the Torah.

and is aware of the One who is being blessed - i.e., understands that reciting the blessings and reading the Torah is part of the service of God. See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Berachot 7:2.

may be counted as one of the required number [of people - There is a question among the commentaries if this refers only to the number of seven readers who must be called to the Torah on the Sabbath, or if this also refers to the three readers whom Ezra established as the minimum required to read from the Torah at all times. Rav Kapach relates that in the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Megillah 4:6), he originally accepted a child as one of the seven, but not as one of the three. However, afterwards, he amended the text so that it appears that he accepts a child even as one of the three.

called to the Torah]. - However, the Magen Avraham (ibid.) states that a child should be called only for maftir and even that custom is not practiced in most communities at present.

Similarly, the one who recites the haftarah is counted as one of the required number [of people called to the Torah], because he also reads from the Torah - although, as mentioned in Halachah 13, he reads a portion that has already been read.

[However,] if the leader of the congregation interrupted [by reciting] Kaddish between the conclusion of the Torah reading and the reading of the person who recites the haftarah - See Halachah 20.

[the latter] is not included as one of the required number [of people called to the Torah] - because the Kaddish marks the conclusion of the required Torah reading. In such an instance, since the required number of people were not called to the Torah, the entire Torah reading must be repeated (Rav David Arameah).

If there is only one person in the community who knows how to read [from the Torah], he should be called to the Torah, read, descend - to distinguish between aliyot

[from the platform] - The Torah was read on a platform in the center of the synagogue. See Chapter 11, Halachah 3.

return and read again a second and a third time until he completes the number of aliyot designated for that day. - TheTur (Orach Chayim 141) explains that, at present, the custom is to have the chazan read for everyone. If only those who knew how to read from the Torah were given aliyot, two problems would arise:
a) Many people who do not know how to read from the Torah would be embarrassed;
b) People who do not know how to read correctly would claim that they do know how to read, and arguments might crop up between them and the synagogue officials.

Nevertheless, since there is a question whether it is acceptable for a person to recite the blessings when he does not actually read from the Torah, it is desirable that the person who recites the blessings read along with the chazan in an undertone. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 141:2, and commentaries.) Yemenite custom, even at present, is that each person called to the Torah reads himself.

Commentary Halacha 18

In all of these [Torah] readings, a priest reads first; - Though our practice has its origins in the decrees of the Sages as explained below, there is also a Torah command (see Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment 32) to give precedence to a priest regarding the Torah reading. However, according to the Torah, this commandment applies only when the two are equal in wisdom (as mentioned below).

after him, a Levite; and after him, an Israelite. - Gittin 5:8 states that this practice was instituted by the Sages to establish peace among the people. Originally, the first aliyah would be given to the sage of greatest stature in the community. However, strife and contention would frequently break out concerning the designation of the person deserving of that honor.

It is common custom at present - However, in Talmudic times, if a sage was obviously of a higher stature than the priests who were present, he was called first. Thus, Megillah 22a relates that Rav would receive the first aliyah in the presence of Shmuel, although Shmuel was a priest and Rav was not.

that even a priest who is a common person is given precedence and allowed to read before a wise man of great stature in Israel. - In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Gittin, loc. cit.), the Rambam writes:

Know that the practice which is widely accepted everywhere, that a priest reads first in the synagogue regardless of whether he is a sage or a commoner, regardless of whether there is someone of greater stature there or not, is a matter which has no basis in the Talmud.... I wonder where this blemish came from....

The Rambam continues to explain that even at present, it is proper to call a sage of greater stature to the Torah before a priest of lower stature. Though the Rambam's opinion has been supported by many commentaries, in practice the commonly accepted custom has been allowed to be continued. The reason for this is quite clear. The strife and contention that existed in Talmudic times would surely return (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 135).

Whoever is greater than his colleague in wisdom is given precedence regarding the reading [of the Torah]. - Gittin 60a states that after the priest and the Levite, the aliyot should be given to "Torah sages who serve as community leaders, the sons of Torah sages who serve as community leaders, the heads of the community, and then all people."

The last person who rolls the Torah scroll closed receives a reward equivalent to that of all the others. - Megillah 32b states that the gollel - the one who rolls the Torah closed - receives a reward equivalent to that of all the others who read from the Torah.

Apparently, the Rambam interprets this statement as referring to the person who receives the final aliyah, or on Sabbath and festivals, the one who reads the haftarah. He should also roll the Torah closed. The Mishnah Berurah (147:5-6) quotes a different view, explaining that the term גולל refers to the person who lifts the Torah up (what we refer to as Magbiah). It is customary that the person who receives this honor need not read from the Torah beforehand.

Therefore, even the person of the greatest stature in the community can receive the concluding aliyah. - Because of the principles mentioned above, one might think that the sage of greatest stature should receive the third (or the first) aliyah. However, since the reward received by the גולל is greater, the sage may be given this honor.

Commentary Halacha 19

When there are no priests present - or the priest is at a point in prayer where he is forbidden to make an interruption (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 135:5).

an Israelite is called to the Torah - Our translation follows the statements of Rav Sa'adiah Gaon, who writes that the honor should be given to an Israelite and should not be given to a Levite. However, the Ramah (Orach Chayim 135:6) states that the honor may also be given to a Levite.

and a Levite should not be called after him at all - lest one think that the person called to the Torah before him is a priest (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 135).

Note the statements of Rav Sa'adiah Gaon, who maintains that in such circumstances, the Levite may be given one of the later aliyot. His opinion is quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.:10). However, the Ramah maintains that a second priest or Levite should not be given one of the first seven aliyot.

When there are no Levites present, the priest who received the first aliyah returns and reads [from the Torah] a second time in place of the Levite. - An Israelite should not be called, for this would create the impression that the first person called to the Torah was not a priest (Mishnah Berurah 135:28).

Another priest should not read [from the Torah] after him, lest others say that there is a blemish in the first's lineage - even if his father was known to be a priest, it is possible that his mother was unfit to marry a priest.

and, therefore, another priest was given the aliyah. - In contrast to the situation involving two Levites mentioned below, the second priest's lineage would not be doubted, for were he not a priest, he would not be given this aliyah either (Mishnah Berurah 135:28).

Similarly, one Levite should not read [from the Torah] after another Levite, lest others say that there is a blemish in the lineage of one of them - i.e., even if his father was a Levite, it is possible that he married a women who is a ממזרת, and thus their children are also ממזרים (Mishnah Berurah 135:30).

Commentary Halacha 20

What is the order [of the service] when the Torah is read after prayer? - Having outlined the halachic principles governing the reading of the Torah, the Rambam turns to explaining the order of the prayer service on the days when the Torah is read. Thus, this and the following two halachot complete the description of the order of communal prayer begun in Chapter 9.

On a day when there is a Musaf service - but when the haftarah is not recited - i.e., Rosh Chodesh or Chol Hamo'ed

after the leader of the congregation completes the morning service, he recites Kaddish - full Kaddish, to indicate the completion of the morning service

and takes out the Torah scroll - The Mishnah Berurah 141:25 states that the Torah scroll should always be taken to the platform on the right side, as the reader faces the platform.

He calls the members of the community, one by one, and they ascend - to the platform on which the Torah is read. Hence, the name aliyah (ascent) is used to refer to a person called to the Torah.

and read from the Torah. When they have completed the reading, he returns the Torah scroll to its place - as mentioned in Chapter 9, Halachah 14, here the congregation recite Tehillah l'David and U'va l'Tzion.

recites Kaddish - half-Kaddish. The Rambam's statements are based on Soferim 21:6. It is our practice to recite Kaddish after the Torah reading and then, again, as an introduction to the Musaf prayers.

and then the [congregation] recites the Musaf service.

On days when the haftarah is read and there is a Musaf service - i.e., Sabbaths and festivals

it is customary to recite Kaddish before the person who reads the haftarah ascends [for his aliyah]. - Thus, the Kaddish differentiates between the Torah reading, which is obligatory, and the portion read by the person who recites the haftarah, which was instituted only as a token of respect for the Torah (Soferim, loc. cit.).

The Rambam does not state whether the Torah scroll should be returned before the morning service or afterwards. In one of his responsa, he writes that there is no advantage to one practice over the other, and everything depends on local custom.

There are places where it is customary to recite Kaddish after the person who reads the haftarah [completes his Torah reading]. - Halachah 17 describes the consequences that result from this difference in custom.

Commentary Halacha 21

During the Minchah service on the Sabbath and on Yom Kippur, after the leader of the congregation completes Tehillah l'David and the order of Kedushah - i.e., U'va l'Tzion. See Chapter 9, Halachah 13. On Yom Kippur, it is our custom to recite these prayers before the Ne'ilah service, and not before Minchah.

he recites the Kaddish - a half-Kaddish

and takes out a Torah scroll. - The congregation should stand while the Torah scroll is being taken from the ark (Kiddushin 33b). Soferim 14:14 states that the congregation should walk after the Torah scroll while it is being taken from the ark to the reading platform and when it is returned.

The Ramah (Orach Chayim 149:1) mentions the custom of training children to kiss the Torah scroll as it is taken out.

[Those called to the Torah] ascend and read and then, [the Torah scroll] is returned [to its place. - The congregation should rise and accompany it back to the ark (Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, Orach Chayim 149:1).

The leader of the congregation] recites Kaddish - half-Kaddish

and the [congregation] recites the Minchah service.

Similarly, on a fast day - after the recitation ofTehillah l'David and half-Kaddish

the Torah is read [before] the Minchah service. - See Chapter 13, Halachah 18.

Afterwards, Kaddish is recited - a half-Kaddish

and the Minchah service is recited. On festivals, it is not customary to read [the Torah] in the Minchah service. - As explained in Halachah 1, the Torah reading on Sabbath afternoons was instituted for יושבי קרנות. According to the interpretation that this refers to idle people who sit on the street corners, Rabbenu Manoach explains that this reason would not apply on the festivals, when the people are involved in the preparation of their festive meals. Even according to the interpretation of the term as "shopkeepers," it is possible that in consideration of the time spent preparing the festive meals, the Rabbis did not institute the reading of the Torah in the Minchah service.

Commentary Halacha 22

[When the Torah is read on] a day when Musaf is not recited - i.e., on Mondays and Thursdays, Purim, Chanukah, and fast days

after the morning Shemoneh Esreh is completed - and the supplicatory prayers have been recited

[the leader of the congregation] recites the Kaddish - half-Kaddish

and takes out a Torah scroll. [After the portion is] read from it, [the Torah scroll] is returned [to its place. - Interestingly, this is the custom in some Ashkenazic communities. However, in Sephardic communities, it is customary to return the Torah scroll to the ark after the recitation of the full Kaddish mentioned below (Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, Orach Chayim 25:13).

The leader of the congregation] recites Tehillah l'David and the order of Kedushah - U'va l'Tzion

as is the practice every day. - See Chapter 9, Halachah 13.

[Afterwards,] he recites the Kaddish - the full Kaddish, to indicate the completion of the service.

and the people depart.

Commentary Halacha 23

It is not proper to read from chumashim - In the Talmudic era, the term, chumashim, referred to scrolls that contained only one of the five books of Moses. Hence, it would be proper to read from them were it not for the honor of the community (Rabbenu Nissim). In contrast, our chumashim cannot be used for reading the Torah at all. Even if a community does not have a Torah scroll, a blessing may not be recited over a reading from a printed chumash (Ramah, Orach Chayim 143:2).

in synagogues, as a token of respect for the community - i.e., it is proper that a community possess a complete Torah scroll. The Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 3:1) states that this prohibition was instituted so that the community would be upset that they were prevented from hearing the Torah readings, and therefore buy a Torah scroll. (See also Chapter 11, Halachah 1.)

A Torah scroll should not be rolled [from one portion to another portion] in the presence of the community, because of the difficulty it would cause the people, forcing them to remain standing while the Torah scroll is being rolled. - Rashi, Yoma 70a, offers another reason: because the congregation is forced to stand idly while the scroll is being rolled.

Therefore, if it is necessary to read two separate concepts, two Torah scrolls are taken out. - See Chapter 18, Halachot 22-24.

[However,] one person should not read one concept from two Torah scrolls - See Hilchot Avodat Yom HaKippurim 3:10, which describes the portions read by the High Priest in the Temple on Yom Kippur. He would read one passage by heart, rather than roll the Torah scroll.

The Merkevat HaMishneh explains that if the passages read from the two scrolls deal with two different subjects, one person may read from two scrolls. See Chapter 13, Halachah 4.

lest people say that the first scroll was invalid and, therefore, they read from the second. - Interestingly, the Rambam does not mention at all the laws which apply when a Torah scroll is found invalid. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 143.)

Commentary Halacha 24

When a person rolls a Torah scroll [closed] - Apparently, in Talmudic times, one person would both lift the Torah up and roll it closed. (This practice is followed today among Chabad Chassidim.)

he should roll it from the outside. - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 147:4) interprets this statement (a quote from Megillah 32b) to mean that when a Torah scroll is rolled closed, the blank side of the parchment should face the outside, and the writing should face the person holding the Torah scroll.

When he ties it, he should tie it from the inside. - Tosafot (Megillah, loc. cit.) explains that if the knot is on the outside, when the Torah scroll is opened it would have to be turned over to be untied.

He should leave the stitching - between the different columns of the Torah scroll

[in the center], so that it will not rip. - i.e., if the Torah scroll is torn because one person pulled one etz chayim (one of the rods on which the Torah scroll is mounted) from the other, the scroll will tear on the stitching and not on the text.

In a place where a Torah scroll is taken [from the synagogue] to another room where it is kept, the congregation - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 149:1) interprets the following prohibition to apply only to the community as a whole. One or two individuals are allowed to leave.

is not allowed to leave until the Torah scroll is taken. - The Tur, Orach Chayim 149, interprets Sotah 39b, the source for this prohibition, as forbidding one to leave from the same exit through which the Torah will be taken, but allowing one to leave through another exit, because it is improper for a person to walk in front of the Torah scroll.

The Rambam does not allow this leniency, since abandoning the Torah does not show respect. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 149:1) quotes the Tur's opinion.

They should accompany it, following it to the place where it is kept. - Sotah 39b derives this law from Deuteronomy 13:5: "Follow after God, your Lord." The Ramah (loc. cit.) states that similar practices should be followed when the Torah is kept in the ark, as is customary today. (See also the commentary on Halachah 21.)

Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Thirteen

Halacha 1

The common custom throughout all Israel is to complete the [reading of] the Torah in one year. [The cycle] is begun on the Sabbath after the Sukkot festival, reading the sidrah, Bereshit. On the following Sabbath, [the sidrah,] Eleh toldot [is read]; on the third, [the sidrah,] Vayomer Ado-nai el Avram. We continue reading according to this order until the Torah is completed, during the Sukkot festival.

There are those who finish the Torah reading in a three-year cycle. However, this is not a widely accepted custom.

Halacha 2

Ezra instituted the practice of having the Jews read the "curses" found in the Book of Leviticus before Shavuot, and those found in the Book of Deuteronomy before Rosh HaShanah.

It is common custom to read [the sidrah,] Bemidbar Sinai before Shavuot, [the sidrah,] Va'etchanan after Tish'ah B'Av, [the sidrah,] Attem nitzavim before Rosh HaShanah, and [the sidrah,] Tzav et Aharon before Pesach in an ordinary year.

Therefore, there are Sabbaths on which two sedarim are read: for example, [the sidrah,] Ishah ki tazria and [the sidrah,] Vezot tih'yeh torat hametzora [are often combined. Similarly, the sidrah,] Im bechukotai [is often combined] with [the sidrah,] Behar Sinai, so that [the reading of the Torah] will be completed in a year, and the sedarim will be read at the appropriate times.

Halacha 3

At the point [in the Torah] where the Sabbath morning [reading] was completed, the reading [is begun] on the Sabbath afternoon, on Monday, on Thursday, and on the following Sabbath.

What is implied? On the first Sabbath, we read [the sidrah,] Bereshit in the morning. In the afternoon, ten or more verses from [the sidrah,] Eleh toldot Noach are read. The same practice [is followed] on Monday and Thursday. On the coming Sabbath, we begin from Eleh toldot Noach, and read until the conclusion of the sidrah. This pattern is followed throughout the year.

On each Sabbath, a haftarah is recited that reflects the Torah reading.

Halacha 4

On Rosh Chodesh, the first reader reads three verses from the passage (Numbers 28:1-15) Tzav. The second reader reads the third verse which was read by the first reader, and the following two verses, so that three verses will remain in the passage. The third reader reads the three verses that were left [unread] by the second reader, and the passage "And on the Sabbath day...." The fourth reader reads [the passage] "And on your new months...."

If Rosh Chodesh falls on the Sabbath, two Torah scrolls are taken out in the morning. The sidrah of that particular Sabbath is read from one, and the person who concludes the reading reads [the passage] "And on your new months...."

The person who reads the haftarah reads the passage concerning Rosh Chodesh, and then reads [the passage (Isaiah 66:1-24) that concludes:] "And it will be from month to month..." as the haftarah.

If Rosh Chodesh Av falls on the Sabbath [the passage, Isaiah 1:14-31, beginning:] "My soul hates your new moons and your festivals" is read as the haftarah.

If Rosh Chodesh falls on Sunday, on the preceding Sabbath [the passage (I Samuel 20:18-42), beginning:] "And Jonathan told him: 'Tomorrow is the new month...'” is read as the haftarah.

Halacha 5

Whoever is called to read from the Torah should begin [his reading] with a positive matter and conclude with a positive matter.

However, in Parashat Ha'azinu, the first [person called to the Torah] reads until Z'chor y'mot olam (Deuteronomy 32:7). The second begins from Z'chor y'mot olam [and continues] until Yarkivehu (ibid.:13). The third [reads] from Yarkivehu until Vayar Ado-nai vayin'atz (ibid.:19). The fourth [reads] from Vayar Ado-nai vayin'atz until Lu chachmu (ibid.:29). The fifth [reads] from Lu chachmu until Ki essa el shamayim yadi (ibid.:40). The sixth [reads] from Ki essa el shamayim yadi until the conclusion of the song (ibid.:43).

Why is the Torah reading ceased at these points? Because these are [verses of] rebuke, [and the intent is that] that they motivate the people to repent.

Halacha 6

The eight verses at the conclusion of the Torah may be read in a synagogue when fewer than ten people are present. They are indeed all Torah and were related by Moses from the Almighty. However, since, on the surface, they appear to have been recited after Moses' death, the [rules governing them] are different. Therefore, it is permissible for an individual to read them.

Halacha 7

The "curses" in Leviticus should not be interrupted. Rather, a single person should read them [in their entirety]. He should begin with the verse preceding them and conclude with the verse following them.

The "curses" in Deuteronomy may be interrupted if one desires. However, the people have already adopted the custom of not interrupting [this reading]. Rather, a single person reads them [in their entirety].

Halacha 8

[The cycle of Torah readings] is interrupted for the festivals and Yom Kippur. [On these occasions,] we read [a passage that] concerns the festival and not the sidrah of [that] Sabbath.

Moses instituted [the practice that], on each festival, the Jews should read [a passage] appropriate to it. Also, it [is proper] on each festival to ask about and explain the subjects [pertinent] to that festival.

Which [passages] are read? On Pesach, [we read] the passage concerning the festivals in Leviticus (23:4-44). [However,] the people have already adopted the custom of reading Mishchu uk'chu lachem (Exodus 12:21-51) on the first day. The haftarah is [the description] of the Pesach celebrated in Gilgal (Joshua 5:2-15).

On the second day, we read Shor o kesev (Leviticus 22:26-23:44). The haftarah is [the description] of the Pesach celebrated by Josaiah (II Kings 1-9, 21-25). On the third day, we read Kadesh li kol b'chor (Exodus 13:1-16); on the fourth day, Im kessef talveh (Exodus 22:24-23:19); on the fifth day, P'sol lecha (Exodus 34:1-26); on the sixth day, Vaya'asu Bnei Yisrael et hapesach b'mo'ado (Numbers 9:1-14).

On the final festival, [we read] from Vay'hi beshalach until the conclusion of the song [sung at Red Sea] until [the verse,] Ani Ado-nai rof'echa (Exodus 13:17-15:26). The haftarah is Vayedaber David (II Samuel 22:1-51).

On the eighth day, [we read], Kol hab'chor (Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17). The haftarah is Od hayom (Isaiah 10:32-4, 11:1-16, 12:1-6).

Halacha 9

On Shavuot, we read [the passage, containing the reading] Shiv'ah shavuot (Deuteronomy 16:9). However, it is common custom to read [the passage,] Bachodesh hash'lishi (Exodus 19:1-20:23) on the first day of the festival. [The vision of God's] chariot (Ezekiel 1:1-28) is read as the haftarah.

On the second day, the passage describing the festivals, Kol hab'chor (Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17) is read, and [a passage from] Chabbakuk (3:1-19) is read as the haftarah.

Halacha 10

On Rosh HaShanah, we read [the passage including the verse]: Uvachodesh hash'vi'i b'echad lachodesh (Numbers 29:1). However, it is common custom to read [the passage,] VAdo-nai pakad et Sarah (Genesis 21:1-33). [The passage,] Vay'hi ish echad min haramatayim (I Samuel 1:1-2:10) is read as the haftarah.

On the second day, [the passage,] V'HaElo-him nisah et Avraham (Genesis 22:1-24) is read, and [the passage including the verse] Haven yakir li Efrayim (Jeremiah 31:1-19) is read as the haftarah.

Halacha 11

On Yom Kippur, in the morning, we read [the passage,] Acharei mot (Leviticus 16:1-34) and read [the passage,] Ki koh amar ram v'nisa (Isaiah 57:14-58:14) as the haftarah.

In the afternoon, [we read the passage] in Acharei mot that is concerned with forbidden sexual relations, in order that anyone who has violated one of these sins will remember, become embarrassed, and repent. The third person [who] reads from the Torah recites [the Book of] Yonah as the haftarah.

Halacha 12

On Sukkot, on the first two days, we read the passage that concerns the festivals: Shor o kesev o eyz (Leviticus 22:26-23:44). The haftarah read on the first day is [the passage,] Hiney yom ba l'Ado-nai (Zechariah 14). On the second day, [the haftarah is the passage,] Vayikahalu el hamelech Shlomo (I Kings 8:2-21).

On the final day of the festival, we read [the passage,] Kol hab'chor (Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17). For the haftarah, we read [the passage,] Vay'hi k'chalot Shlomo (I Kings 8:54-66).

On the following day, we read [the sidrah,] Vezot haberachah (Deuteronomy 33-34). For the haftarah, we read [the passage,] Vaya'amod Shlomo (I Kings 8:22-53). There are those who read [the passage,] Vay'hi acharei mot Moshe (Joshua 1) as the haftarah.

On the other days of Sukkot, we read [the passages that describe] the sacrifices [offered] on the festival.

Halacha 13

What is implied? On each of the days of Chol Hamo'ed, we read two passages. [For example,] on the third day [of the festival], which is [the first day of] Chol Hamo'ed, the priest reads [the passage,] Uvayom hasheni. The Levite reads [the passage,] Uvayom hash'lishi. The Israelite repeats [the passage,] Uvayom hash'lishi, and the person called for the fourthaliyah repeats [both passages:] Uvayom hasheni and Uvayom hash'lishi.

Similarly, on the fourth day [of the festival], which is the second day of Chol Hamo'ed, we read the passages Uvayom hash'lishi and Uvayom harevi'i. The same pattern is followed on all the [other] days.

Halacha 14

In the morning [service] on each and every one of the festivals, on Yom Kippur, and during the seven days of Pesach, two [Torah] scrolls are taken out. We read the passages mentioned above from the first scroll, and from the second scroll we read the description of the sacrifices [offered on] that day, in the Book of Numbers. The person who reads the description of the sacrifices recites the haftarah from the prophets.

Halacha 15

On any day when two or three [Torah] scrolls are taken out: if they are taken out one after the other, when the first scroll is returned, Kaddish is recited and the second scroll is taken out. When the second scroll is returned, Kaddish is also recited.

We have mentioned above that the common custom is to recite Kaddish after the reader concludes the reading at all times, and then to recite the haftarah from the prophets.

Halacha 16

When the Sabbath falls during Chol Hamo'ed - whether during Pesach or during Sukkot - [the passage,] R'ey Attah omer elai (Exodus 33:12-34:26) is read on that Sabbath. On Pesach, [the passage describing Ezekiel's vision of] the dry bones (Chapter 37) is read as the haftarah. When [the Sabbath] falls in the midst of Sukkot, [the passage,] B'yom bo Gog (Ezekiel 38:18-39:16) is read as the haftarah.

Halacha 17

On Chanukah, [the following passages are read:] On the first day, we read from the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:38-42) until the conclusion of the sacrifice offered on the first day (Numbers 7:17). On the second day, we read [the passage describing] the sacrifices of the Nasi who brought the offering on the second day. This practice is continued until the eighth day. On the eighth day, we read [the descriptions of] all the [remaining] sacrifices until the end of the portion.

On the Sabbath of Chanukah, the haftarah is Zechariah's [vision of the Menorah (2:14-4:7)]. If two Sabbaths are celebrated during Chanukah, on the first Sabbath, Zechariah's [vision of the Menorah] is read as the haftarah; on the second, [the description of] Solomon's [Menorah is read as the haftarah (I Kings 7:40-50)]. The one who reads the [passage designated for] Chanukah is the one who recites the haftarah from the prophets.

On Purim, [the passage,] Vayavo Amalek (Exodus 17:8-16) [is read].

Halacha 18

On Tish'ah B'Av, in the morning, [the passage,] Ki tolid banim (Deuteronomy 4:25-40) is read, and [the passage,] Asof asifem, n'um Ado-nai (Jeremiah 8:13-9:23) is read as the haftarah. During the Minchah service, we read [the passage,] Vay'chal Moshe (Exodus 32:11-14, 34:1-10), as on other fast days.

On the other days when we fast [to commemorate the bitter events] that occurred to our ancestors, we read the [above-mentioned passage,] in the morning and Minchah services [in the following manner]: The first person called to the Torah reads four verses, [beginning] Vay'chal Moshe. The second and the third read from P'sol lecha until asher ani oseh imach.

On the fasts that are declared by the community because of difficulties like famine or plague, we read blessings and curses, so that the people will repent and humble their hearts when they hear them.

Halacha 19

It is customary on the three Sabbaths before Tish'ah B'Av to read haftarot of rebuke. On the first Sabbath, we read [the passage,] Divrei Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah 1:1-2:3) as the haftarah. On the second [Sabbath], we read [the passage,] Chazon Yishayahu (Isaiah 1:1-27). On the third [Sabbath], we read [the passage,] Eichah hay'ta l'zonah (Isaiah 1:21).

Similarly, on the Sabbath after Tish'ah B'Av we read [the passage Nachamu, nachamu, ami (Isaiah 40:1-26) as the haftarah. It is the common custom in our cities to read the comforting prophecies of Isaiah as the haftarot from Tish'ah B'Av until Rosh HaShanah.

On the Sabbath between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we read [the passage,] Shuvah Yisrael as the haftarah.

Halacha 20

When Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on the Sabbath, we read Parashat Shekalim (Exodus 30:11-16), and read as the haftarah [the passage concerning] Yehoyada, the priest (II Kings 11:17-20, 12:1-17). If Rosh Chodesh Adar falls in the middle of the week - even if it falls on Friday - Parashat Shekalim is read on the previous Sabbath.

On the "second Sabbath," we read Parashat Zachor (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), and read as the haftarah, [the passage,] Pakad'ti et asher asah Amalek (I Samuel 15:1-34). What is meant by the "second Sabbath"? The Sabbath before the week in which Purim falls - even if Purim falls on Friday.

On the "third Sabbath," we read [the passage describing] "the red heifer" (Numbers 19:1-22), and read as the haftarah [the passage,] V'zarakti aleichem (Ezekiel 36:16-38). Which is the "third Sabbath"? The one preceding the fourth.

On the fourth Sabbath, we read [the passage,] Hachodesh hazeh lachem (Exodus 12:1-20), and read as the haftarah [the passage,] Barishon b'echad lachodesh (Ezekiel 45:16-25, 46:1-18). Which is the "fourth Sabbath"? The Sabbath of the week when Rosh Chodesh Nisan falls - even if it falls on Friday.

Halacha 21

Thus, there will be times when there is an interruption between the first [of these] Sabbaths and the second, or between the second and the third. At times, there will be two interruptions - between the first and the second and between the second and third. However, an interruption is never made between the third and fourth [Sabbaths].

Halacha 22

Each one of these four passages should be read from another Torah scroll, after reading the sidrah of that Sabbath from the scroll that was taken out first.

If Rosh Chodesh Adar fell on the Sabbath and the sidrah to be read that week was V'attah tetzaveh, six people read from V'attah tetzaveh until V'asita kiyor nechoshet.The seventh person reads from the second scroll and repeats the reading of Ki tissa until V'asita kiyor nechoshet.

If the sidrah to be read that week was Ki tissa itself, six people read from Ki tissa until Vayakhel. The seventh person reads from the second scroll and repeats the reading of Ki tissa until V'asita kiyor nechoshet.

Halacha 23

[When] Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on the Sabbath, three Torah scrolls are taken out. The sidrah of the day is read from the first scroll. The passage concerning Rosh Chodesh is read from the second scroll, and Ki tissa is read from the third scroll. Similarly, [when] Rosh Chodesh Nisan falls on the Sabbath, three Torah scrolls are taken out. The sidrah of the day is read from the first scroll, the passage concerning Rosh Chodesh is read from the second scroll, and Hachodesh hazeh is read from the third scroll.

Halacha 24

[Similarly, when] Rosh Chodesh Tevet falls on the Sabbath, three Torah scrolls are taken out. The sidrah of the day is read from the first scroll. The passage concerning Rosh Chodesh is read from the second scroll, and the passage for Chanukah is read from the third scroll.

[When Rosh Chodesh Tevet] falls during the middle of the week, three people read from the passage concerning Rosh Chodesh, and the fourth person reads the passage for Chanukah.

Halacha 25

Although a person hears the entire Torah [portion] each Sabbath [when it is read] communally, he is obligated to study on his own each week the sidrah of that week, reading it twice in the original and once in the Aramaic translation. [When] there is no Aramaic translation for a verse, one should read the verse three times in the original, so that one completes [the study of] one's [Torah] portions with the community.

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