Question: May an aveil perform Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum (“SMVT”) during the week of shiv’ah? What about on the Shabbos of shiv’ah?

Short Answer: While some poskim permit an aveil to recite SMVT during the weekdays of shiv’ah, many only permit it on Shabbos (or Erev Shabbos). There is a further dispute whether an aveil may learn Rashi.


I. Torah Makes You Happy

The Gemara (Moed Katan 15a) states that an aveil is forbidden to learn Torah, based on the pasuk in Yechezkel (24:17) of “hei’aneik dom” – demanding silence by the aveil. The Gemara (Moed Katan 21a) further elaborates and lists all the types of learning (i.e., Mishnah, Gemara, etc.) that the aveil is forbidden to learn. But, the Gemara adds a caveat, that such learning is permitted if “rabbim tzrichim lo” – the public needs him to teach them. Rashi explains that the aveil is forbidden to learn Torah because learning Torah makes a person happy.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 384:1) codifies this ruling that an aveil is forbidden to learn Torah unless the public needs him.

II. Shabbos Learning

The Tur (Yoreh Dei’ah 400:1) cites his father, the Rosh, who holds that learning Torah is forbidden on Shabbos because it is a “davar she’b’tzin’ah” – a private activity. The Beis Yosef (Yoreh Dei’ah 400:1) cites the Mordechai (Moed Katan 506) who notes a machlokes about this very issue – whether an aveil is permitted to learn Torah on Shabbos. Some rule that it is forbidden, like the Rosh, as learning Torah is a private activity. But the Ri holds that it is permitted because the aveil is required to make himself happy on Shabbos (presumably to fulfill mitzvas oneg Shabbos).

Nevertheless, the Tur (400:1) rules like his father that learning Torah is forbidden on Shabbos. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 400:1) rules similarly.

III. Chozeir the Parshah

Nevertheless, both the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch note an exception based on the Rosh: It is permitted for an aveil to “be chozeir” the parshah on Shabbos, as one must complete the parshah with the community each week. The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch explain that this is similar to the leniency for an aveil to recite K’rias Sh’ma in davening (which is technically learning Torah but is permitted as part of davening). At first glance, the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch are discussing SMVT, that an aveil may perform SMVT on the Shabbos of shiv’ah, as it is no different from reciting K’rias Sh’ma.

However, the Drishah (Yoreh Dei’ah 400:1) cites a machlokes whether an aveil may perform SMVT even during the weekdays of shiv’ah and concludes that an aveil may recite SMVT on Shabbos but not during the weekdays. This implies that the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch were discussing something else other than SMVT, which is confusing. Indeed, the Shach (Yoreh Dei’ah 400:4) cites the Drishah and explains that the Drishah is “adding” SMVT to the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch.

Regardless, it is clear that all these poskim (other than the strict opinion in the Drishah) permit SMVT on Shabbos, and one opinion in the Drishah even permits SMVT during the weekdays of shiv’ah. Notably, Rav Yisrael Rappaport (Kuntres on SMVT, p. 7) posits that the Rambam agrees to this point, as well, as he places the laws of SMVT in the laws of davening (as opposed to the laws of Talmud Torah), highlighting that SMVT is akin to K’rias Sh’ma.

IV. Explanation

Rav Rappaport further posits that you can explain this machlokes poskim (whether SMVT may even be recited during the weekdays of shiv’ah) based upon another machlokes related to SMVT: whether SMVT should ideally be performed on Shabbos or during the week prior to when that parshah is read on Shabbos. Poskim who allow SMVT for an aveil even during the week must hold like this latter opinion, that we are lenient and allow an aveil to do SMVT even during the weekdays of shiv’ah because this is the ideal time to recite SMVT generally.

The Nishmas Shabbos (2:349) further builds on this logic. He cites the sefer P’ulas Tzadik who rules that the aveil may certainly recite SMVT on Friday, because many poskim hold that this is the ideal time to perform SMVT.

V. Practically Speaking

Practically speaking, the sefer Gam Ani Odecha (SMVT, siman 5) asked certain g’dolim whether SMVT should be recited by an aveil during the week of shiv’ah. While Rav Chaim Kanievsky responded that the aveil should be machmir and not recite SMVT during the week of shiv’ah (he does not discuss Shabbos), Rav Yosef Lieberman ruled that it is permitted, as it is no different from an aveil reciting K’rias Sh’ma.

VI. Disagreements and Limitations

The Ben Ish Chai (sefer Rav Poalim 1:52) disagrees with the entire leniency of the Shulchan Aruch. In his view, the Shulchan Aruch never permitted SMVT on Shabbos, as the Shulchan Aruch only discussed to be “chozeir” the parshah. According to the Ben Ish Chai, this means that an aveil may read the parshah to himself if he is unable to go to shul on the Shabbos of shiv’ah. (Author: This is similar to the Raavan that we discussed in Article #1). SMVT, however, is never permitted for an aveil.

The Nishmas Shabbos (ibid) has another explanation of the language “chozeir” in the Shulchan Aruch. Based on an ancient minhag Worms, the Nishmas Shabbos explains that the Shulchan Aruch permits an aveil to recite partial SMVT on Shabbos, namely Chumash one time, together with the baal k’riah. It is only the Drishah and the Shach that add on that an aveil may recite the entire SMVT.

Finally, there is a discussion whether any leniency to learn SMVT applies in every scenario. Rabbi Akiva Eiger cites the P’ri M’gadim who rules that when the aveilus concludes on Shabbos, the aveil should refrain from learning SMVT in the morning until after his aveilus ends (i.e., after he leaves shul). Moreover, the Pischei T’shuvah (ibid 3) cites the Beis Hillel who extends this idea and rules that even if the aveilus is to end on Sunday or Monday, the aveil should not learn SMVT on Shabbos, as one can make up SMVT until Tuesday night. However, the Pischei T’shuvah cites others who disagree and rule that since Shabbos (or before Shabbos) is the ideal time to learn SMVT, it is permitted for the aveil to learn it on Shabbos.

VII. Regular Learning Seder

To conclude, there is a comment by the sefer Beis Lechem Yehudah (on the Shulchan Aruch ibid), which cites a fascinating ruling by the sefer Lechem HaPanim. The Lechem HaPanim rules that not only can the aveil learn “Sh’nayim Mikra” with the targum on Shabbos, but he may also learn “Sh’nayim Mikra” with the Rashi commentary if this is the aveil’s normal course of learning. In other words, the Rashi commentary becomes like K’rias Sh’ma for the aveil – as it is recited in the normal course of his daily activities – and thus it may be continued during the Shabbos of shiv’ah.

The Beis Lechem Yehudah himself disagrees. He rhetorically asks whether an aveil who has a set time daily to learn Rashi (not connected with the mitzvah of “Sh’nayim Mikra”) may also continue to learn Rashi during shiv’ah. Certainly not! Thus, the Beis Lechem Yehudah rules that an aveil may only learn an explanatory commentary (such as Tzenah U’R’enah), and definitely not Rashi, which is largely “d’rash.”

Next Week’s Topic: May one fulfill part of Sh’nayim Mikra V’Echad Targum (“SMVT”) by either listening to, or reading along with, the baal k’riah?

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..