Friday, January 05, 2007

Daf Yomi - Rosh Hashana 31 - Where to Stop and Where to Start

The Gemora discusses the hymns that were recited by the Leviim in the Beis Hamikdosh on Shabbos. The Gemora concludes that they would divide Parshas Haazinu into six segments and one segment was recited each week by the korban mussaf.

The Turei Even asks from a Gemora Brochos (12) which rules that any place in the Torah that Moshe Rabbeinu did not pause; we are forbidden to pause as well. How were the Leviim permitted to stop in places that Moshe did not stop? He answers that since they intended to complete it the next week, it is not regarded as interrupting the portion (even though there will be different Leviim the next week).

Magan Avrohom (O”C 282) asks this question as well as inquiring into different verses from the Torah that we recite during tefillah which are incomplete. He answers that we only apply the principle that one can not interrupt in middle of a verse when one is engaged in Torah study or reading from the Torah. If, however, one is reciting verses for the purpose of prayer or mitzvah observance, there is no prohibition of interrupting in middle of a verse.

Rav Nosson Grossman states that perhaps through this principle, we can answer the Turei Even’s question. The Leviim are not reciting these pesukim as Torah, rather they are being said on account of shirah, song and therefore it will not be subject to the prohibition of stopping in an incorrect place. However, it would seem evident that the Magen Avrohom will not concur with this since he states that principle and nevertheless does not apply it to the Leviim’s shirah.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky in his sefer Emes L’Yaakov in Parshas Ki sovo uses this principle to answer a Rambam. The Rambam in Hilchos Bikurim cites the pesukim that a person must recite when he brings his first fruits to the mizbeach. The commentators ask that the last words of this recital conclude in middle of a possuk and this is against the dictum of stopping in a place that Moshe did not stop. Reb Yaakov answers that this ruling does not apply by such mitzvos, such as bikurim. It is only a concern when pesukim are being recited because of Torah.

He uses this principle to explain why a kohen is not required to recite the Priestly Blessing while reading from a Torah. There is a halacha that when one recites verses from the Written Law, he is prohibited from saying them “by heart.” The explanation is that that this halacha applies only when someone is reciting verses because of Torah but here they are being recited because of a mitzvah and therefore there is no requirement that these pesukuim should be read from a Torah.

This principle is somewhat troubling as the source for the halacha is the Gemora Brochos which is discussing the mitzva of reciting krias Shema. The Gemora states regarding this mitzva that if Moshe did not stop there, we cannot. How can these Acharonim say that this halacha only applies by Torah and not by mitzvos?

It would seem that this would be a proof to the opinion of the Keren Orah in Sotah and the Brisker Rav who maintain that the mitzva of reciting krias shema every day is actually a mitzva of “Talmud Torah.” The obligation is to recite portions of the Torah twice daily. Obviously there is a mitzva of accepting the yoke of Heaven by reciting these portions but the commandment of the Torah is to learn these portions once in the morning and once at night. This explains why the halacha of stopping where Moshe didn’t stop does apply.

I noticed a piece of Torah regarding this issue from Efraim Stulburg on his blog here. It is extremely informative and thorough. Here it is in its entirety.

Ephraim Stulberg on Shavuot, 5764

As is well-known, there are two sets of notes for the reading of the Ten Commandments[1] recorded in P’ Yisro, usually referred to as Higher and Lower [טעם עליון וטעם תחתון) [2). Whereas the Higher notation seeks to divide the Torah passages according to the breakdown of the Commandments,[3] the Lower notation gives no regard to this aspect, but rather seeks to divide the verses according to more conventional, manageable lengths. There are different opinions as to which system is to be employed at which time. Some are of the belief that the Higher system is only operable on Shavuos, while others feel that any public reading ought to use that system, and that use of the Lower system is to be limited to individuals reading the Torah text on their own. The editor of Ein Ya’akov, in his commentary at the end of Sh’kalim (#30), notes that in his time some people had actually misunderstood the two parallel sets of notes, and had read both versions simultaneously: a phenomenon which does in fact occur occasionally in the Torah (e.g. Vayikra 10:4), but obviously not in this case. This observation certainly highlights some of the vagaries of the dual systems, and elicits a number of questions, notably: whence the two systems, and what do they represent?

The Chizkuni, in his commentary on Yisro, explains that the reason we read the Higher (“Greater”) cantillation on Shavuos is because that day is seen as commemorative of the day on which the Torah was given, “and because we translate the reading on that day,”[4] we reenact the way in which the Torah was actually given, i.e. in these ten separate messages. During the rest of the year, however, this reason is not applicable, and so we use the Lower system. Implicit in his words is the fact that whereas the division of the Torah into parshios, i.e. physically distinct “open” or “closed” paragraphs, is representative of the actual giving of the Torah to Moshe – each parasha represented a place where Moshe could take a break to ponder and internalize the Torah passage he had just received (see Sifra Vayikra 1:9) – the pasuk is not representative of any physical reality, but rather, perhaps, is the way chosen by Moshe to break up the Torah when it came to teaching it to the Jews.[5] One might also add that the more melodious Higher system - so designated because most of the notes therein appear above the letter, as opposed to the Lower system - is employed to commemorate the fact that the Ten Commandments were given in a musical format: see Mechilta Yisro (Ba-Chodesh 4).

In Shulchan Aruch Ha-rav (594:11), it is explained that the Higher system goes according to the “k’siv”, the way the words are actually divided into paragraphs in the written Torah text, while the Lower system follows the “k’ri”, i.e. the way it is supposed to be read. R’ Shne’ur Zalman adds that the real division of the verses, the “p’sukim”, follows the Lower system. Thus, for instance, regarding the prohibition that states that - “כל פסוק דלא פסקיה משה אנן לא פסקינן" “any stop [within a verse] not made by Moshe, we are forbidden to make” - (Megillah 22a), meaning that one may not break up a verse into two pieces, we follow the Lower system. In Mo’adim U-zmanim (7:234), Rav Sh’ternbuch writes that he’d heard of one authority who always read the Lower notes, for precisely this reason: the Higher system breaks up verses 20:13 and 20:14 in the middle. However, as we shall see, and as you can probably guess, this is really not a problem.

We have touched here on a couple of pregnant issues, which have been bothering me for quite some time now. The rule of “any stop [within a verse] not made by Moshe, we are forbidden to make,” and the question of the nature of the cantillary notes, and of the parasha and the sof-pasuk, have not been sufficiently explained, in my view. While I realize my attempt is likely to be less than satisfactory, at the very least I hope to provide the reader with a convenient repository of primary sources from which to for his or her own understanding

כל פסוק דלא פסקיה משה אנן לא פסקינן

The somewhat vague statement of the gemara (B’rachos 12b, Ta’anis 27b, and Megillah 22a), which says that “any stop not made by Moshe, we are forbidden to make,” confronts us with several issues. They may be conveniently be grouped under two categories.

1) One question is whether this applies only to a verse, or whether there is even a prohibition against breaking up an individual parasha, which usually consists of several verses. In B’rachos 12b, our rule is applied to an entire parasha. Thus, explains the gemara, we cannot use a couple of verses in P’ Balak (24:8-9) to fulfill our duty to remember the Exodus from Egypt, since they occur in the middle of a parasha; it would be too unwieldy to have to read the entire parasha. The other instances where this rule is invoked discuss only the prohibition of breaking up an individual verse, namely with regard to the Torah reading of Rosh Chodesh and of the ma’amados (see Megillah 22a).

There are some authorities (see Turei Even on Rosha Hashanah 31a) who seem to take these opinions to be in argument with one another, initially positing that the opinion expressed in Megillah takes no issue with allowing a stop to be made within a paragraph, so long as it comes at the end of a verse. Others (see Responsa Arugas Ha-bosem O.C. 22) feel that the real prohibition is only in splitting up a verse; but, since we are no longer sure as to the true position of each sof-pasuk (see Kiddushin 30a), we extend the prohibition to the level of the parasha, which, this opinion assumes, we can feel comfortable knowing also represents the end of a verse. [6]

Of course, there is a third option, which would be to say that the opinions don’t argue at all, but rather are simply speaking about two different cases. It is possible to be in the middle of a verse and yet at the end of a parasha (such as in the Ten Commandments) or to be in the middle of a parasha and yet at the end of a verse (the more usual scenario). Ultimately, as we shall see, the Turei Even concludes that there is no conflict between the two opinions, though not for this reason.

2) The other basic question is that in practice, it seems that these rules are constantly disregarded in the Jewish liturgy. We split up paragraphs almost every week when we read the Torah. Indeed, the very gemara which speaks of the prohibition of splitting up a single verse in the Rosh Chodesh reading implicitly allows us to end an aliyah in the middle of the parasha.

But even within a single verse, there are numerous examples where a seemingly prohibited stop is made. 1) During Kedusha, the congregation says “ve-kara ze el ze ve-amar”, and then waits for the chazan to say it as well, before concluding the verse in Yeshayahu (6:3) with “kadosh, kadosh, etc.” In fact, Arugas Ha-bosem notes the custom of some not to say “ve-kara zeh el zeh” until the chazan does, for precisely our reason, though he himself dismisses such a practice. In the kedusha that we recite during the first blessing before the Sh’ma, the situation is even worse, since we don’t mention the first half of the verse at all. 2) Following the Torah reading, when we lift the Torah, we say “and this is the Torah which Moshe placed before the Children of Israel…from the mouth of Hashem by the hand of Moshe.” The first part of this statement is from D’varim 4:44, while the second segment is from P’ Be-ha’alos’cha. In the Siddur Otzar Ha-t’fillos, it is recorded that R’ Chaim of Volozhyn used to recite the entire verse from B’midbar 9:23, though not because of our problem, but rather simply to make sense of why we use such a conclusion to the verse from D’varim. However, in Mo’adim U-z’manim (7:234) it is suggested that the reason for R’ Chaim’s custom was indeed so as to avoid our problem. I have adopted this practice, and I recently heard another fellow in shul who does the same. 3) When the Torah is brought back to the ark, the chazan says “yehal’lu es shem Hashem, etc.”, and the congregation concludes by saying “hodo al eretz ve-shamayim,” which are two halves of a verse (Tehillim 148:13). 4) During Hallel, the chazan says “ana Hashem, hoshiah na”, then says it again, before completing the verse (Tehillim 118:25). 5) In kiddush on Friday night, we begin with the words “vayhi erev vayhi voker yom ha-shishi.” There are other examples, but these are some of the better known.

Most of these cases have already been dealt with in the commentaries, and it is interesting to note what they have had to say, for they tend to shed some light on the parameters of the halacha. There seem to be nine factors which have been suggested that have a bearing on the rule under discussion:

1) The Kolbo (# 52), cited in Magen Avraham (422:8), writes that the rule which states that “any stop [within a verse] not made by Moshe, we are forbidden to make,” might perhaps apply only to Torah and Prophets, but not to the Kesuvim. This seems to make little sense, however: if his point is to take literally the phrase “not made by Moshe,” which can realistically be applied only to the Torah, then why does he include the Prophets in the prohibition as well? Moreover, it is clear from Tosafos on Succah 38b that the rule extends to Kesuvim as well. In truth, Kolbo seems rather lukewarm on this suggestion.

2) In Magen Gibborim (Shiltei Gibborim 51:3), it is argued that the “stop” referred to by the gemara includes an esnachta or a zakef katon. Thus one may break up a verse whenever one sees even one of these lesser stop symbols. Since these notes are also of Mosaic origin (see Nedarim 37b), just like the sof-pasuk, they can also be described as stops made by Moshe. According to this, there would perhaps be no problem reading the Higher cantillation system, if we extend this rule to the tipcha under the word “tirtzach.” However, as the Chasam Sofer notes (O.C. 10) this is also clearly a difficult answer to accept; if it were true, then the argument in Megillah regarding where to divide the aliyas on Rosh Chodesh would have been moot. We would simply break up the third verse at the esnachta.[7]

3) Tosafos (Succah 38b), dealing with the verse “ana Hashem, hoshiah na, ana Hashem hatzlichah na” suggest that since, as the gemara says (P’sachim 119a), the two halves of the verse were originally said by two different entities (David’s brothers and then David), we may read it as two verses. A similar logic is presented in Rokeach (#319), where he discusses, among other examples, the issue of the verse “yehal’lu es sheim Hashem” which we say when replacing the Torah. The verse contains two “voices” as it were, and is meant to be read responsively by two individuals or groups. The same applies to the first portion of kedusha.

4) The Magen Avraham (282:1) suggests that if one is going to continue reading within the parasha – he makes no mention of within a pasuk – then it is okay. Otherwise, he asks, how could we make seven aliyas out of P’ Vayetze or Miketz, which contain no new paragraphs at all? This loophole, he writes, extends even to a scenario in which on intends to complete the parasha the next day, or over the course of several days, so long as one is proceeding in order, without going back over previous ground (thus he is still troubled by the procedure used in the Monday/Thursday Torah reading, where we don’t continue where we leave off. However, see Megillah 31b, where R’ Meir is of the opinion that the Torah reading never overlaps, but rather we continue where we leave off the previous time. Might this be the reason for R’ Meir’s opinion?). The Turei Even (Rosh Hashanah 31a) is explicit in saying that whether one is going to continue reading eventually is relevant only within a parasha; within a verse, however, no stop is allowed at all.

5) Magen Avraham (ibid.) also suggests that if the partial parasha is read as a supplication, as in the daily prayers, then there is also no problem. I guess this loophole doesn’t apply to the proposed addition to the Sh’ma mentioned in B’rachos 12b, which is not recited as a supplication, but rather as a means of fulfilling a commandment of recitation, i.e. to remember the Exodus in words (see Responsa Sha’agas Aryeh #13). He compares this to the permission granted by some commentaries to recite verses from memory if this is done not in order to learn but rather as prayer: see Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona on 5a of the Rif’s pagination in B’rachos, and Abudarham in his commentary of the Eizehu M’koman chapter recited before Shacharis. This comparison made by the Magen Avraham is suggestive, insofar as it seems from his explanation that the reason one cannot break up paragraphs of Torah text is because one might arrive at erroneous conclusions, similar to one who recites from the Written Torah by heart, who is not aware of the forms or spellings in which words are written. However, according to his comparison it is not so clear why the Sh’ma should be considered as Torah learning: the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 49:1) explicitly includes it among the passages which one may recite from memory. I just don’t see how this distinction really holds.

6) This approach of Magen Avraham is also adopted by the Chayei Adam regarding even a partial verse (Ch. 5 in Nishmas Adam #2): if it’s a supplication, then it’s okay. Rav Shternbuch makes a similar point, writing that using the Higher note system, and thus splitting up verses, is permissible only if we assume that the Torah reading of Yom Tov was instituted not as a means for Torah study (as was the case with the regular reading – see Bava Kama 82a), but rather as an act of commemoration. In my own opinion, however, his argument seems difficult to accept. After all, in the Rosh Chodesh reading, Rav, whose opinion we follow, doesn’t allow us to break up verses. And there should be no fundamental difference between Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov. (However, see the final mishnah in Megillah 32a, which doesn’t mention Rosh Chodesh.)

According to reasons 2), and possibly 3), 4) and 6) as well, there is reason to allow the reading of the Higher cantillation on Shavuos or any other time.

7) A key text in any attempt to understand the rule we are discussing is found in B’rachos 14b. There, the gemara relates that in the Land of Israel, during the evening prayers, they used to begin the third paragraph of the Sh’ma, reciting up to the words “speak unto the Children of Israel, and say unto them, “I am Hashem your God, the Truth”,” after which they would proceed to say the blessing of “emes ve-emunah.” In this way, they would skip over the passage dealing with tzitzis, which is not relevant to the nighttime. When informed of this practice, Abbaye was puzzled, since Rav had already said that if one begins a passage, he must complete it in its entirety, i.e. without skipping out the middle section, and Rav had also said that whereas if one just read up to the words “speak unto Israel”, it would not have been considered a beginning, by adding “and say unto them” one has begun the passage, and can no longer skip out the middle. Rav Pappa suggests that in Israel, it was felt that, contrary to Rav’s opinion in the matter, one is not considered to have begun the passage until he recites “and they should make for themselves tzitzis.” Abaye concludes by saying that we follow the practice of the Israeli scholars in beginning the passage up to the words “and say unto them.” And since we have begun (according to Rav), we must conclude by reading the entire paragraph.

The Rashba is bothered by this gemara. He wonders how, even if the Israelis felt that “and say unto them” did not constitute the beginning of the parasha, they have broken up the parasha in the middle, and begun again at the end with the words “I am Hashem, your God”? He answers that just as “and say unto them” does not constitute the beginning of a parasha, since the main content of the parasha, i.e. the commandment of tzitzis and the exodus from Egypt, has not yet been engaged with, so too these final words are also not considered a fragment of a parasha, since in these words no mention of the parasha’s topic has been made. He adds that the reason that only these final few words of the parasha, rather than the entire last pasuk, were mentioned, even though this means that we don’t get any reference to the Exodus until the blessing afterwards, is to avoid citing a fragment of a parasha.

The implication of this Rashba seems to be that it is only problematic to split up a parasha if the segment one is mentioning is actually traceable back to the source parasha. If one wishes to mention the verses relating to tzitzis, one must mention all of them. However, to take a few words unrelated to the main thrust of the parasha is okay. Moreover, there seems not to be any problem with taking even portions of verses in this regard; Rashba seems to imply that if we had mentioned the whole final verse, it would have been worse than simply mentioning the final few words, even though these are only a fragment of a single verse. The smaller the fragment, the better.[8] The logic seems to be that what we are really concerned about is citing things out of context. Therefore, if one mentions only a few words, unrelated to the topic of the parasha, indeed to the extent that they form a completely new sentence, one has not violated this prohibition.

Several authorities seem not to have had this understanding of the Rashba’s words, and are troubled by the fact that although he addresses the issue of the partial paragraph, he does nothing to solve the fact that the Israelis have recited two half-verses. They resolve this difficulty by noting that the words recited by the Israelis in fact comprise a complete verse in P’ Acharei Mos (18:1-2). Thus there is no problem regarding having recited a partial verse either. But don’t we simply reencounter the issue of the partial paragraph, this time in the context of Acharei Mos?

8) The Netziv (M’romei Sadeh on B’rachos 12b) writes that whereas it is permissible to end a parasha that one began properly even in the middle, to begin a parasha in the middle is prohibited. Thus there is no problem of reciting these two verses from Acharei Mos, since they are the first two sentences of the parasha.

9) Finally, we would be remiss not to mention the words of R’ Ya’akov Emden, in his notes at the back of the gemara (Kiddushin 30a), where he writes that since we see from that gemara that we are no longer certain of the correct breakdown of the verses of the Torah, the rule of “any stop not made by Moshe…” is not such a practicable one, and that this rule is not strong enough to overturn an established custom. For a similar line of reasoning, albeit concerning a different topic – i.e. the issue of whether or not to leave extra space between verses in the writing of T’fillin – see Magen Avraham on O.C. 32 (#45).

In sum, it seems to me that most authorities feel that there are two separate prohibitions, one relating to paragraphs and one to verses. Certain types of verses are amenable to division, though most are not. In the course of one’s learning, one should be especially careful not to stop within even a single paragraph, unless one intends to carry on at a later point.

Among those scholars who suggested a reason behind this prohibition, one theme is common, which is the need for context in learning. The heart of the problem seems to lie in suggestively quoting Scripture out of context, which might very well lead to misleading understandings. But if the full context will emerge soon enough, there is no problem in pausing momentarily. Indeed, viewed from this vantage point, perhaps it makes sense to differentiate between institutionalized breaks and continuations – i.e. if the Rabbis have instituted that we will continue with the next aliyah momentarily, or if we will recite the next verses from Ha’azinu next Shabbos (see Rosh Hashanah 31a) – and ad hoc ones, such as an individual who wishes to learn Torah and studies a few verses, but is not sure to continue.

* * * * *

All this discussion would seem to lead us into a more general debate over the nature of the pasuk. According to our understanding so far, the pasuk seems to be a way of dividing the Torah so as to make it easier to understand, in that it groups together mutually relevant ideas in manageable sentences. We also suggested that whereas the parasha represents the way in which the Torah was received by Moshe from Hashem, by indicating each new dictate from God, the pasuk seems to have been a Mosaic invention, designed as a teaching mechanism by which he would instruct Israel. Magen Gibborim adds that the notes with which the Torah is read are of a similar status, and that therefore one may make a stop even on a zakef katon or esnachta.

Is this true? What is the relationship between the notes and the sof-pasuk? When were they instituted? In researching the topic of the five verses which have no definitive direction for the email relating to P’ Vayechi, we noted that the cantillation notes written in the Torah were received by Moshe at Mount Sinai along with the rest of the body of the Torah, that they were subsequently forgotten, and that Ezra reestablished a definitive version of them. This is how things are described in Machzor Vitry (# 424). But it isn’t so simple.

The gemara (Nedarim 37a) states that although a teacher is allowed to accept payment for instructing his disciples in “mikra,” the written Torah, he is not permitted to accept compensation for teaching “midrash, halachos and aggados.” It explains that we learn from the example of Moshe Rabbeinu, who was commanded by Hashem to teach the Torah to the Jews for free, that Torah instruction should always be free. So why then is it permitted to accept money for teaching the “mikra”? On this point the gemara brings two opinions: that of Rav, who says that “mikra” is different in that it is usually taught to minors, and that therefore a teacher of “mikra” can be seen as a teacher/babysitter, and can therefore accept payment for the latter task – “s’char shimur”; and that of Rabbi Yochanan, who feels that one can accept recompense not for the teaching of the actual words of the written Torah, but for the teaching of the “pisuk ta’amim,” the notes.

The gemara goes on to ask why it was that Rav didn’t use the reasoning of Rabbi Yochanan to explain the permissibility of accepting a salary for “mikra”; it answers that Rav believed that the “pisuk ta’amim” was a biblical aspect of the Torah, no different from the words themselves which were given to Moshe at Sinai, and which must therefore also be taught for free. At first glance, this would seem to imply that Rabbi Yochanan, who felt that one was justified in accepting payment for the “pisuk ta’amim”, was of the opinion that the ta’amim, the notes, were of a lesser status, perhaps even of rabbinic origin. This understanding is adopted explicitly by the Ran on 37a, and is implied in Tosafos and Rosh as well. And since the rule is that when Rav and R’ Yochanan argue, we follow the opinion of the latter, this would suggest that the notes are of later origin. This is not an idle point: as the Ran points out, the difference between the opinion of Rav and Rabbi Yochanan is that in a case where babysitting was not an issue, i.e. teaching the “mikra” to an adult, Rav would prohibit accepting payment, while Rabbi Yochanan would not, and indeed the halachic authorities do not differentiate between minors and adults in this regard – see Rambam, Talmud Torah 1:7.

Yet there are several rishonim – see Machzor Vitry # 424 (p. 462) and Sefer Chassidim (#302), who state quite simply that the notes are “halacha le-moshe mi-Sinai”, and indeed this seems to be the suggestion of the gemara in a number of other places (see below). So let’s analyze the situation a bit more.

A simple answer to our difficulty is suggested by the Torah T’mimah on D’varim 4:5. He takes exception to the suggestion of the Ran that Rabbi Yochanan could be of the opinion that the notes are not of biblical origin. He notes that all of the “dikdukei soferim,” the minor details of the commandments later expounded upon by the rabbis, were all revealed to Moshe at Sinai anyway (see Megillah 19b). So if Hashem told Moshe, as he did, that the Jews had a right to the same sort of free Torah education that he, Moshe, had received, then would this not include the notes as well?[9] Rather, he suggests that Rabbi Yochanan allows the mikra to be taught, along with the notes, for a fee, is because the notes are not essential to understanding the meaning of the verse, and thus learning the notes is not really considered “learning” in the same way that learning the mikra or the midrash is.

It is interesting that the Yerushalmi, in its discussion of the mishna in Nedarim (4:3), adopts a different approach in explaining why it is permitted to teach the mikra for a fee. It says the laws, the “chukim and mishpatim” referred to in the verse (Devarim 4:5) which teaches us the law of “just like I [Moshe] must teach for free, so too you”, does not include the mikra and targum. The Chasam Sofer[10] in his novellae on Nedarim, explains the Yerushalmi as meaning to say that the obligation to teach for free was only for those bodies of the Torah which were not yet written down – the Oral Torah, as it is called – which necessarily involved a teacher of some sort. The written Torah, by contrast, was open to anyone who cared to read it, as was the Targum (i.e. in the time of the Mishna. This latter assertion is not so obvious, however). Thus the notes, the ta’amim, though they are surely of biblical origin, would come under the same category of something that is available to the public, which could be taught for a salary. While the Bavli is obviously still in disagreement with the Yerushalmi, and the Chasam Sofer’s attempt to say that according to the Yerushalmi even Rabbi Yochanan feels the ta’amim are de’oraisa seems strange to me, still, since the laws regarding other aspects of teaching for pay are derived from that Yerushalmi, perhaps we might view it as being authoritative in this other matter of the ta’amim as well.

In spite of these attempts to disprove the assertion that the notes are of rabbinic provenance, in light of all we’ve said so far, it seems legitimate to state that in all likelihood, the ta’amei ha-mikra are not considered to be a “halacha le-Moshe mi-Sinai.” This raises two interesting questions. First of all, one might wonder whether this is true of all notes, or might we distinguish between the notes and the sof-pasuk, which is perhaps of earlier origin? Furthermore, what halachic ramifications would such a distinction have?

The verse in the book of Nechemiah (8:8) states: “And they read from the Book, from God’s Torah, explained and giving understanding, and they analysed the text.” (Or some translation similar to that.) This verse is explained in a number of places as referring to several different aspects of the Torah. The following represents a summary of the different versions of this analysis.

“And they read from the Book, from God’s Torah”:
1. This is the “mikra” (Bereishis Rabbah (36:8))
2. This is the “mikra” (Yerushalmi Megillah (4:1))
3. This is the “mikra” (Nedarim 37b/Megillah 3a)

1. This is the Targum (Bereishis Rabbah (36:8))
2. This is the Targum (Yerushalmi Megillah (4:1))
3. This is the Targum (Nedarim 37b/Megillah 3a)

“and giving understanding”
1. These are the “ta’amim” (Bereishis Rabbah (36:8))
2. These are the “ta’amim” (Yerushalmi Megillah (4:1))
3. The pesukim (i.e. the sof pasuk) – see Ran (Nedarim 37b/Megillah 3a)

“and they analysed the text.”
1. These are the “rashei pesukim”, Rav Huna ben Luliani says these are the “hach’raos and ra’ayos”, and the Rabbis of Caesarea say this refers to the masores. (Bereishis Rabbah (36:8))
2. This is the masores, and some say the “hach’raos”, and some say the “rashei pesukim” (Yerushalmi Megillah (4:1))
3. This is “pisuk ta’amim”, or some say the masores (Nedarim 37b/Megillah 3a)

There are a number of points to be made here. First of all, one sees here a distinction between the idea of a “sof-pasuk” and the “pisuk ta’amim”, which are counted separately by the Babylonian Talmud. It seems as though the sof-pasuk is seen by the Bavli as being of greater explanatory value than the notes; therefore, it is mentioned earlier on in the verse. Conversely, the Yerushalmi seems to believe that the sof-pasuk – for this is what is meant by “rashi p’sukim,” as the Karban Ha-eidah explains – is of lesser importance than the ta’amim. However, both Talmuds seem quite clear on the fact that these are two different things.

Halachically speaking, I don’t believe there is a difference between the ta’amim and the sof-pasuk. However, once we understand that these are two different things, we can perhaps explain the words of Rema in O.C. 142:1, where he seems to say that we only make the one who reads the Torah repeat a mistake if it involves a misread letter – “afilu be-dikduk os achas,” to cite the words of R’ Y. Caro. If it involves a botched note, however, or it came in the “nikkud”, i.e. “the dots”, then he need not correct himself. Mishnah B’rurah (#4), understanding the word “nikkud” to refer to the vowelization of the word, writes that if the notes or vowels involve a change in the meaning of the verse, then he must also repeat it. Yet it is very difficult to square this with what the Rema actually says.

However, if we understand “nikkud” as referring to the two dots of the sof-pasuk (see Ran on Nedarim 37b), then we can say that Rema is telling us that the notes and the sof-pasuk are not of Mosaic origin, and are therefore less “official” than the actual text of the Torah. As R’ Mordechai Breuer notes in the final chapter of his work, Ta’amei Ha-mikra, there are several situations in which the accepted understanding of a verse contradicts that suggested by the notes. E.g. D’varim 26:5, according to Ibn Ezra. It seems to me that rather than dictating what the explanation of a verse ought to be, the real function of the ta’amim, according to the opinion that they were not given to Moshe at Sinai, was to enshrine the commonly accepted explanation of the verse by punctuating it appropriately. They are descriptive rather than prescriptive. And thus, we cannot definitively say that someone is wrong for mispronouncing the notes on a verse, though we may certainly chide him ("גוערין בו"). Similarly, if the sof-pasuk is not of Mosaic origin, then it makes little sense to speak of “kol pasuk d’la p’sakeh Moshe…” and it is perhaps suggestive that Rav, who holds that the notes are of biblical origin, also believes in the concept of “kol pasuk…” more strongly than does Sh’muel, who says that when necessary, one can divide the verses in novel ways.

By way of conclusion, I would just say that this is a very broad topic that requires much study. I would be very appreciative of any comments people might have, and I thank you for your pertinacity in reading this to its conclusion. When we commemorate our acceptance of the Torah, we ought to know precisely what we received back then.

[1] A more precise translation of “Aseres Ha-d’varim” (Sh’mos 34:28) would of course be “Ten Edicts,” “edict” being based on its Latin etymology meaning “something spoken out”, and also having the connotation of a commandment. However, I will bow here to popular convention and employ the word “commandment” throughout this email.

[2] This is in fact not the only place in which a dual note system is employed: see B’reishis 35:22, and comments of the Minchas Shai ad loc.

[3] The identity of the Ten Commandments is something which has frequently been pointed out to me as being in dispute. If we look at the number of paragraphs, i.e. “parshios”, in the Ten Commandments, we find the number to be ten. The First and Second Commandments seem to have been written in one parasha, while the commandment against coveting is split into two parshios. It has been suggested by Rabbi M. Breuer that there is a possibility that the prohibitions against making idols (verse 4) and bowing to them (verse 5) constitute the actual First and Second Commandments, with verse 2 (“I am Hashem, Your God, etc.”) serving as a preamble. However, from the Targum “Yonasan” and from Yerushalmi B’rachos (1:5) - not to mention Makkos 24a, it seems clear that “I am Hashem, etc.” is #1 and that “there shall be no other gods, etc.” is #2. The reason that the First and Second Commandments are written in a single parasha, as the Be’ur Halacha explains, is because these two Commandments were given straight from Hashem to the Jews, not through the intermediation of Moshe. Why the final commandment is divided into two parshios is unclear to me.

[4] It certainly seems from the Targum “Yonasan” on the Ten Commandments in Yisro that a big deal was made of the targum of these verses. However, see Maseches Sof’rim 18:4, where it seems as though the Targum was in fact not recited on Yom Tov at all, but only on Shabbos. It is possible that there were two types of Targum, one during the Torah reading and one at the end of the service done specifically for the women and children; but I’ve never heard of such a thing. One might suggest that on Shavuos there is a special custom to reiterate the Commandments by translating, for that seems to be precisely the way it occurred at Sinai – see B’rachos 45a: “R’ Shimon ben Pazi said: How do we know that the Meturg’man cannot raise his voice above that of the reader? It says: “Moshe would speak, and Hashem would answer him with a voice” (Sh’mos 19)…why does it say “with a voice? In the same voice as Moshe.” For a general overview of the idea of the Targum in relation to the Torah reading, see Tur and Shulchan Aruch O.C. 145.
[5] We find several instances in which a single verse is split into two paragraphs. See, for instance, B’reishis 35:22, Yehoshua 4:1. I’m not sure of the significance of this, especially in the second example.
[6] The fact that we end aliyos in the middle of a paragraph, explains Arugas Ha-bosem, is to be accounted for by the fact that the sages who instituted those stops knew that they did not occur in the middle of a verse. According to this reasoning, he concludes that it is forbidden to create a “hosafa” by stopping in the middle of a paragraph. However, this whole line of reasoning appears to me to be faulty, since it is hardly clear that the current division of the aliyos is as ancient as he makes out. The gemara (Megillah 29b) relates that the custom in Israel was to complete the Torah on a three-year cycle.

[7] The Magen Gibborim answers this question, saying that the real objection of Rav to splitting the verse at the esnachta is that such a half verse does not constitute the third verse of the aliya, and we would still have the problem of having stopped within two verses of a parasha. (This explanation is also given by S’fas Emes).

[8] See also Responsa Rav Pa’alim O.C. Vol. 1 # 11.

[9] This is based on a particular understanding of what “dikdukei soferim” actually means. Mahara”tz Chayes writes in his notes on the gemara in Megillah, as well as in a number of his other works, that the term refers to laws “built into” the Torah text through the mechanism of the thirteen hermeneutic principles by which we permitted to analyze the Torah; in this regard, an institution of purely rabbinic invention, such as reading the megillah, or, potentially, the ta’amim, would not necessarily have been explicitly revealed to Moshe at Sinai. See the introduction of the Netziv to his commentary of the She’iltos (Kidmas Ha’emek) for a similar understanding of the gemara in Megillah.

[10] See the commentary of the Netziv, “Ha’amek Davar”, on Vayikra 18:5 for a lengthy explanation of this Yerushalmi and similar treatments of “chukim and mishpatim”, which he says usually refer to: 1) the thirteen hermeneutic principles and 2) laws learned from those thirteen principles, respectively. Though this approach differs from that of the Chasam Sofer, it nonetheless yields a similar conclusion, namely that the ta’amim are also excluded from the prohibition against teaching for pay.


Ari Kinsberg said...

i'm interested in taam elyon/taam tahton. i am printing this post and i look forward to reading it over shabbat.

shabbat shalom!