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Shabbat Parashat Vayeira | 5770

Ask the Rabbi: Talking when the sefer Torah is opened

Question: I know that one may not talk during kri’at hatorah, neither during the actual leining nor in between aliyot (bein gavra l’gavra = bglg). What I have not found in the Mishna Berura is when this halacha ends. After the seventh aliya? Maftir? Hagba? Haftara? Putting back the sefer Torah?


Answer: We will focus on the limitations on speech only regarding the special factors that relate to kri’at hatorah. Many topics and modes of discussion are forbidden at any time of the tefilla and in fact, in a shul at any time.

The gemara (Sota 39a) says: “Once the sefer Torah is opened, it is forbidden to speak even in matters of halacha.” Two sources from the nevi’im are cited: one focuses on being quiet and one mentions the need to listen. Bglg is not explicitly discussed, and according to several authorities (apparently the Rambam, Tefilla 12:9; Bach, Orach Chayim 146, cited by Magen Avraham 146:3 and others; B’er Sheva, Sota ad loc.) it is permitted to talk then. In fact, in regard to another matter of disgrace to the Torah, walking out in the middle, the gemara (Berachot 8a) says that it is permissible to go out bglg. It is Rabbeinu Yona (Berachot 4a of the Rif’s pages) who says that once the Torah is opened, it is forbidden to talk until the end, including bglg. The Beit Yosef (OC 146:2) explains that the prohibition must be based on our concern that the person will continue talking after the reading continues.

Poskim discuss how broadly to extend this concern. Most permit learning quietly by oneself bglg, where it may be easier to stop and he at least does not disturb others (see Ateret Paz I,3, EH 13). If there is an organized break, such as when someone says divrei Torah to the whole congregation at that time, the problem likely does not exist (Yecheveh Da’at V, 17). Distinctions are also raised regarding the length of the bglg break (Magen Avraham ibid.: Aruch Hashulchan OC 146:3).

Interestingly, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 146:2), while accepting Rabbeinu Yona’s stringency, adopts the Rambam’s timeline for the matter. The gemara and Rabbeinu Yona speak about from the time the Torah is opened; the Shulchan Aruch and Rambam posit that this is only from the time the reading actually begins. (The Ateret Paz tries to explain why it is easier to stop talking before the initial reading than bglg.) One could have explained Rabbeinu Yona's opinion to mean that it is disrespectful to speak during the entire unit of kri’at hatorah, including its breaks, but the Shulchan Aruch explains his ruling on more pragmatic grounds.

This point is important for the following reason. Other than the length of the break for Kaddish (during which one is anyway forbidden to speak) and hagba, there seems to be no difference regarding the chance of continuing talking from the beginning straight through the haftara (the Shulchan Aruch ibid.:3 forbids talking during the haftara). On the other hand, regarding the matter of a unit, there is a big difference. The original takana of leining on Shabbat did not include the haftara or maftir. Along with the institution of the haftara, it was instituted that he who gets the aliya to read from the Navi should read also from the Torah, so as not to equate an aliya for reading Navi alone to that of reading the Torah (Megilla 23a). We even separate between the two sections of Torah reading with Kaddish. Therefore, it makes sense that after the seven aliyot, it is no longer considered bglg. In fact, Rabbeinu Yona himself says that the prohibition is in place until he “finishes the parasha,” which implies after the seventh aliya. (We did not find Acharonim who discuss the matter.)

As hinted, there is logic to say that the Shulchan Aruch might argue. However, since he is trying to comply with Rabbeinu Yona, it makes sense to not extend the stringency to the less stringent section of kri’at hatorah. Considering that we did not find someone who forbids the matter (albeit, we did not find one who permitted it either), we do not feel that one can forbid appropriate speaking before the readings of maftir and the haftara.


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ben Yehudah Mayer

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