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Shabbat Parashat R'ei | 5764
Ask the Rabbi
There are areas where, if one does not repeat something every three years, it can be claimed that he does not stand by his original statement (Bava Batra 39b). We, therefore, felt it time to repeat our opinion on reading Hemdat Yamim during davening (from Parashat Bo, 5761).
Question: You and others publish parasha sheets, which are distributed in shul. You are probably aware that people read these at various times during davening. Is this proper?
Answers: Reading divrei Torah (to which we will limit this answer) during davening raises several issues: 1) hefseik - an interruption in the midst of a mitzva or text where it is improper; 2) lack of concentration on the matter that one should be involved with; 3) creating a negative atmosphere or precedent, which may be copied improperly; 4) derech eretz. Let’s now analyze each issue.
1) Interruption - One may not speak even divrei Torah in the following places: a) Psukei D’zimra (Shulchan Aruch, OC 51:4); b) Kri’at Shma and its berachot- (Rama, OC 68:1); c) Shmoneh Esrei (see Orach Chayim, siman 104).
However, according to most poskim, thinking or even reading is not considered a formal interruption. This is based on the rule “hirhur lav k’dibur” (thinking is not like speaking) - see Berachot 20b; Rama OC 68:1; Har Tzvi, OC 42. While it is proper to concentrate on tefilla during tefilla, reading is not a formal interruption (see a fascinating story about the Vilna Gaon, cited in Yabia Omer IV, OC, 8).
2,3) Lack of concentration, atmosphere – In the midst of Kri’at Hatorah (Shulchan Aruch 146:2; Biur Halacha, ad loc.), Kaddish, Kedusha, Shmoneh Esrei ... one should not be thinking about other things. Regarding Chazarat Hashatz (repetition of Shmoneh Esrei), Magen Avraham 124:8 brings two opinions as to whether it is permissible for one who will be careful to answer “amen” properly to learn. The Mishna Berura (124:17) prefers the strict opinion, out of fear that others will learn to abuse the leniency. Igrot Moshe (OC IV, 19) points out that there need to be at least nine people who are listening to every word in order to entertain such a leniency. In between aliyot one is permitted to learn, while being careful to stop as the next aliya begins (see Mishna Berura 146:6). Before the beginning of Chazarat Hashatz, most poskim permit silent learning.
4) As derech eretz kadma la’torah, it is improper to read during the d’var Torah of the rabbi or a fellow congregant.
In summary, while parasha sheets are sometimes read at times when it is forbidden or questionable, they seem to have replaced a lot of talking and less holy thoughts in many of our shuls. Therefore, on the whole, they seem to have added more to the spirituality of our batei knesset than they have detracted. (“Hemdat Yamim” oto karata - at the right time).
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