Question: Do you fulfill any mitzvah when you only partially perform Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum?

Short Answer: Depending on the reason for Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum (“SMVT”), the poskim disagree whether there is any fulfillment of a mitzvah when only part of SMVT is performed.



I. The Source

The Gemara (B’rachos 8a-8b) states that “l’olam” (“always”) a person should recite Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum in order to “complete” the weekly Torah leining together with the community. The Gemara elaborates that one who recites SMVT will be rewarded with long life.

Thus, simply put, SMVT is some form of obligation (or advice, see below) for a person to recite the weekly parshah two times and the “targum” (Onkelos) one time in advance of k’rias HaTorah on Shabbos. The Gemara, however, is unclear when – and precisely how and why – SMVT should be fulfilled. The Rishonim interpret this Gemara in two different ways.

The Raavan (1090-1170, siman 88) understands that the Gemara is only introducing SMVT for a person who is not davening with a minyan, i.e., he will not hear k’rias HaTorah on Shabbos. Such a person must perform SMVT privately at the same time that the community recites k’rias HaTorah in shul. However, a person who attends k’rias HaTorah in shul has no need to perform SMVT, as he is being “yotzei” k’rias HaTorah in shul. The Raavan does acknowledge that the minhag is for everyone to perform SMVT, but he suggests that this minhag only developed because of the fear that people would not listen properly to k’rias HaTorah in shul. Fundamentally, though, SMVT is unnecessary for those who listen carefully to k’rias HaTorah on Shabbos in shul.

The Rambam (Hilchos T’filah 13:25), on the other hand, writes that a person “is obligated” to perform SMVT even if he hears k’rias HaTorah in shul on Shabbos. Indeed, the Hagahos Maimoniyos (Hilchos T’filah 13:25) defends the opinion of the Rambam and attacks the Raavan based on a midrash that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi commanded his sons to perform SMVT, and presumably they davened with a minyan and heard k’rias HaTorah on Shabbos. Likewise, the Gemara (B’rachos ibid) writes that Rav Bibi completed his SMVT at the end of the year, and presumably Rav Bibi also davened with a minyan and heard k’rias HaTorah on Shabbos.


II. Obligatory or Recommended?

But is it obligatory to perform SMVT or merely recommended? The Gemara used the language “l’olam” – a person should “always” perform SMVT. But is it obligatory?

Notably, the Rambam (ibid) uses the language “chayav” – one is obligated to perform SMVT. The Tur (Orach Chayim 285:1) states that “v’tzarich li’zaheir” – one should be “careful” to perform SMVT – but the Shulchan Aruch (ibid) adopts the Rambam’s language, that one is “chayav” (obligated) to perform SMVT. The Sheivet HaLevi (8:46) explains that the Rambam switches the language of the Gemara (“l’olam”) and uses “chayav” (obligated) to highlight that it is not just a “good idea” to perform SMVT but rather it is an obligation. Indeed, the Mishnas Yosef (6:81) writes that SMVT is an obligation, albeit a Rabbinic obligation.

The Sheivet HaLevi (ibid) elaborates that in the times of the Sanhedrin, it is possible that a beis din could “force” someone to perform SMVT, as it may force for any positive commandment. He notes, however, that this is not entirely clear, as the reward for SMVT – long life – is written in the Gemara, and thus SMVT may fall into the category of mitzvos that we do not force, since the reward is written. Regardless, the Sheivet HaLevi concludes that SMVT is extremely important, and we should continue to teach and train our children to perform this mitzvah.

Likewise, Ohel Yaakov (SMVT 1:1) cites many g’dolim who note that many are unfortunately lax about SMVT. This is an incorrect attitude; we should perform SMVT not only for reward, but rather because it is a mtzvah. In fact, Rav Gamliel Rabinovich (Gam Ani Odeka, SMVT) asked Rav Chaim Kanievsky if SMVT is an obligation, and Rav Chaim responded: “chiyuv gamur” – an “absolute obligation.”


III. Why?

Why must SMVT be performed? In other words, what is the reason behind this Rabbinic enactment?

The T’rumas HaDeshen (23) explains that SMVT was enacted so that a person would become “ragil” (accustomed) with the weekly Torah reading and finish the Torah along with the community. In other words, it is a part of k’rias HaTorah, perhaps a preparatory assignment on each individual.

The Levush (cited in Gam Ani Odeka), on the other hand, understands that SMVT enables a person to become proficient in Torah. Indeed, the Ritva (Avodah Zarah) understands SMVT as an adult’s fulfillment of his obligation to learn Torah. Accordingly, SMVT is a fulfillment of the mitzvah of Talmud Torah.

The Aruch HaShulchan (285:2) initially writes that he “doesn’t know the reason” for SMVT and rejects the reason of the Levush. He concludes that perhaps SMVT is the fulfillment of Moshe’s enactment that the B’nei Yisrael perform both “lishmoa v’lilmod” – to hear and learn the Torah on a weekly basis. We “hear” the Torah on Shabbos by k’rias HaTorah, and we “learn” the Torah by performing SMVT. Accordingly, SMVT is a part of k’rias HaTorah (similar to the T’rumas HaDeshen).


IV. Only Perform Half

But what if a person only has time to perform half of SMVT each week; does he fulfill any mitzvah? For example, one only does the “Sh’nayim Mikra” part of SMVT and not the “targum.” Or, one only recites SMVT for half of the parshah. Does he get “half” the mitzvah?

Rav Gamliel Rabinovich (ibid) asked this question to numerous poskim. Rav Mazuz responded that, yes, one fulfills a mitzvah for every word of SMVT that he reads. Every word of Torah is a mitzvah. Rav E.Y. Schlesinger agreed, especially according to the poskim who hold that there is “chatzi shiur” of mitzvos, i.e., one may fulfill “half” of a mitzvah. Likewise, Rav B.S. Schlesinger responded that the person does fulfill part of the mitzvah, as he is partially fulfilling the reason behind the mitzvah (at least according to the reason of the T’rumas HaDeshen), i.e., to become “ragil” in Torah.

On the other hand, Rav Haberfeld responded that perhaps there is no partial fulfillment of SMVT, as the person did not “complete” the parshah with the community, as is required according to the T’rumas HaDeshen. Similarly, Rav Y. Roth held that there is no partial fulfillment of SMVT, based on the Tzlach’s novel reason for SMVT. The Tzlach (B’rachos 8b) explained that the “three times” of SMVT (two of p’sukim, one of targum) cause a person to “remember” the parshah. This memory trick of three times, however, only works when the parshah is recited three times. Thus, if someone only does Sh’nayim Mikra (but does not do Echad Targum), he is not yotzei anything.

Next Week’s Topic: Are women obligated to perform Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum? If not, may they still perform this mitzvah?

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Associate Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..