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Shabbat Parashat Va'eira| 5768

Ask the Rabbi

Question: Sometimes I have seen ba’alei k’ri’ah who, when they make a mistake in a pasuk in which Hashem’s Name is mentioned, repeat the whole pasuk. Can you tell me whether the practice is necessary and how it is done, as I have noticed a lack of consistency?

Answer: There are mistakes in reading that are serious enough to require repeating words (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 142:1 with commentaries). Where the mistake was caught impacts on the extent to which the repetition is problematic. Two major issues have to be considered in this regard. One is that we want to avoid repeating Hashem’s Name. If, for example, the Name is found once in a given pasuk it may be a disgrace to the Name to be read twice. Another issue is that we are not supposed to read only a part of a pasuk without sufficient justification (Megilla 22a). The question is when fixing up a pasuk that has been read improperly justifies these two things.

The earliest source we have seen referenced on this topic is the Chayei Adam (written only about 200 years ago). He writes (2:5) that while one may not read only part of a pasuk for no particular reason, even if Hashem’s Name is not found within, one may repeat part of a pasuk if he wants to fix a mistake (apparently even when it is not critical) even if it entails repeating a Name. His explanation for this leniency is that it is not viewed as reading part of a pasuk or inappropriately reciting a Name but rather completing a pasuk that had been incomplete because of a mistake. Various poskim have cited the Chayei Adam’s ruling as the authoritative opinion on the matter (see Magen Haelef (619:54) and Afarkasta D’anya (II, OC 23)).

Strangely, two respected yet not commonly found sefarim introduce a different ruling based on their understanding of the Chayei Adam. The Chesed La’alafim and Sha’arei Rachamim (cited by the Tzitz Eliezer XII, 40) say that if one wants to return to the beginning of a pasuk in order to repeat Hashem’s Name in the context of a full pasuk, he may do so. The chiddush behind this ruling is that we are not concerned that retroactively we are leaving the part of the pasuk that was read before the mistake was caught as an unfinished pasuk. It is in fact permitted because it is done in order to prevent repeating Hashem’s Name improperly, which would occur if one would just repeat a few words including Hashem’s Name without restarting the pasuk.

The Tzitz Eliezer (ibid.) claims convincingly that the Chayei Adam should be understood as we originally cited. Thus, it is never necessary to restart a pasuk because of Hashem’s Name. The other sources may have understood the Chayei Adam differently because of the minhag to return to the beginning of the pasuk. The Tzitz Eliezer actually concedes that the minhag is not like the Chayei Adam but to restart the pasuk, and he instructs to conform to the minhag. However, he says to first complete the pasuk before returning to the beginning so as not to leave it unnecessarily incomplete. Admittedly completing the pasuk may not have full value if the mistake renders the pasuk invalid. Considering this, we can understand his distinction, that if one has to recite more Names in order to complete the pasuk, he should rather “cut his losses” and revert immediately to the beginning of the pasuk, like the Chesed La’alafim’s system.

Since all of the systems one can employ are reasonable, a gabbai can allow the ba’al k’ri’ah to do as he is accustomed and not confuse him. (Banging civilly on the bima or otherwise indicating to the confused congregation that something out of the ordinary will be occurring is often advisable.) Those who correct should also consider whether the correction they are contemplating is worthwhile, especially under the circumstances.


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