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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tetzei| 5767

Ask The Rabbi

Question: What do we do if we find a mistake in the sefer Torah during the laining (reading)?
Answer: Many problematic mistakes that once existed in sifrei Torah have been caught by computer checks, which every shul should try to arrange. The halachot of when fading or cracking letters ruin a sefer Torah even bedieved are well beyond our scope (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 143).
 There are four main approaches to deal with the case where a sefer Torah is discovered to be pasul during laining. The simplest opinion, held by most Rishonim,is that all the laining to that point was worthless (Beit Yosef, OC 143 in the name of the Rashba, Rosh, and others). Thus, we would return to the beginning of the parasha with all of its aliyot. However, this opinion is rarely followed these days, and the reason begins with the Rambam.
 The Rambam (Shut, 294) says that the beracha recited during an aliyah read from a sefer Torah pasul is valid because the main mitzva is to read the Torah’s content, not to read from a kosher sefer Torah. The Rambam even allowed a place with only a sefer Torah pasul to read from it with berachot. We do not accept this ruling (Shulchan Aruch ibid.:3), and there are even indications that the Rambam retracted it (see Rambam, Sefer Torah 10:1). However, all the accepted opinions rely on his approach to a certain degree regarding situations of bedieved.
 The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.:4, based on the Mahari Bei Rav) rules that whatever was read before the mistake was discovered is valid, bedieved. However, if this occurs in the middle of an aliyah, we finish the aliyah (including at least three p’sukim- Mishna Berura 143:18) from a kosher sefer Torah before the oleh makes the concluding beracha. Otherwise, we would be relying on the sefer Torah, l’chatchila. Sephardim and a few Ashkenazic communities follow this ruling.
 The Mordechai (Megilla, 793) objects to taking out a new sefer Torah in the middle of an aliyah. He proves from the gemara (Yoma 70a) that when switching sefrei Torah in the middle, a new beracha is needed, but this is unnecessary according to the approach that the reading from a sefer Torah pasul is valid. Therefore, he instructs to finish the aliyah, if possible,at the point of discovery and recite the concluding beracha on that which was read. If we cannot end the aliyah there (e.g., we did not read three p’sukim or it is too close to a break in the Torah text), we continue reading from the sefer Torah pasul until we can stop. Some important Ashkenazic poskim say that this is the correct and prevalent minhag (see the Magen Avraham (143:4), Sha’arei Ephrayim (5:2), and Aruch Hashulchan (143:5)).
 The third major minhag is based on the Rama’s (143:4) compromise between the Mahari Bei Rav and the Mordechai. It is best to stop where the mistake is revealed, like the Mordechai says. However, if we did not yet read three p’sukim and thus cannot end the aliyah, we take out a kosher sefer Torah and read from it without making a beracha before continuing (Mishna Berura 143:22). If three p’sukim were read, making a concluding beracha appropriate, but we cannot stop for another reason, there is a further machloket. The Pri Megadim says that here the Rama agrees with the Mordechai that it is better to read from the sefer Torah pasul until we can stop. However, the Mishna Berura (ibid.) says that here too the Rama instructs to continue reading from a kosher sefer Torah. Unless the minhag is different, one should follow the Rama (ibid.:23) and Mishna Berura.
 We conclude with a few notes. Regarding a mistake uncovered in the last aliyah or beyond, Ashkenazic minhag is complicated (see ibid.). Also, validation bedieved applies to counting the previous aliyot toward the necessary seven as well, although having seven aliyot from a kosher sefer Torah may be preferable (ibid.:13). Finally, Ashkenazim return the sefer Torah pasul to the aron right away, whereas Sephardim leave it out until after kri’at hatorah.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
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