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P A R A S H A - P A G E
by Mordecai Kornfeld
of Har Nof, Jerusalem
Founder of the Dafyomi Advancement Forum

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"To serve Hashem with all your heart" (Devarim 11:13) -- What service is done with the heart? Prayer! (Sifri, Devarim #41)

Originally, when a Jew prayed to his Creator he did not follow a standard text. Eventually the daily prayers were canonized in the Siddur, or Jewish prayer book. Nonetheless, the liturgy has evolved considerably over the years. It is interesting to note that until today, various phases in the Siddur's development remain preserved literally "between the lines" of today's Siddur. In a number of places, seemingly inexplicable breaks between prayers have their roots in liturgical customs of old. (For the sake of simplicity, I will limit our discussion to the Ashkenazi, Nusach Ashkenaz prayerbook. Page numbers listed here refer to the "Tefillat Kol Peh" Siddur (TKP), Jerusalem 1980 , and the "Rinat Yisrael" Siddur (RY) Jerusalem 1976.)


One would expect that a new paragraph in the Siddur would indicate the beginning of a new prayer. Although this is often the case, there are a number of notable exceptions to this rule in which a break mysteriously divides a single prayer in two. Conversely, unconnected prayers are often joined. What are the factors that determine when there is or is not a break between prayers? (Lest one thinks that the breaks are random, it should be noted that Tosafot (Pesachim, 104b s.v. Chutz) was bothered by an extraneous break in the written text of the blessings for the Haftorah.)

In general, the breaks in the Siddur appear to have been wrought by the insertion of comments or instructions that were not part of the liturgy between the prayers. These added lines, which were printed in a different font or pitch in order to differentiate between them and the prayers themselves, caused a brek between the paragraph before and the one after the instructive comment. A cursory glance at the Siddur will suffice to prove the integrity of the following rules:

1) After a blessing, a new paragraph is always started. Presumably the prayer book originally included comments such as, "Amen is to be said here," after blessings (as some prayer books still do today). The comments have since disappeared, but the paragraphs remain. Some examples are: All the pre-prayer blessings known as "Birchot HaShachar" (TKP 6-8,13-15, RY 15-17, 23-25); "Baruch She'amar" and "Yishtabach" (TKP 30,48, RY 43,57); the blessings before and after "Keriyat Shema" (TKP 52,57, RY 60-61, 66); and the "Shemoneh Esrei" blessings (TKP 58-69, RY 67-78).

2) *Before* an extended quote (i.e., not just a grouping of non-consecutive verses or two consecutive verses) there is a break. The printer originally must have added the source for the quote and thus separated it from the previous paragraph. Again, the sources have been left out in many Siddurim but the breaks remain. Examples of this are: "Mizmor Shir" (TKP 29, RY 41); "Hodu" (TKP 31, RY 44); "Ashrei" and the "Hallelukahs" (TKP 37-43, RY 48-53);"Vayevarech David," "Vayosha" and "AzYashir" (TKP 43-46, RY 53-55 -- although "Az Yashir" follows "Vayosha" in the Torah, it starts both a new chapter and a new parasha) and the parshiot of "Shema" (TKP 53-54, RY 62-64).

It should be noted that there is no need for a break in the prayer book *after* the quotes, only before them. Indeed, we find in numerous instances that no break is made between quotes and the prayers that follow them -- for example, following "VeHallel LaHashem" at the end of "Hodu" (TKP 33, RY 45) and following "LeOlam Va'ed" at the end of "Az Yashir" (TKP 47, RY 56).

3) A third situation where paragraphs are inserted involves poems and songs. In order to accent the metre and poetic form, songs are always separated from the preceding and the following sections. Examples of this are: "Adon Olam" (TKP 11, RY 22); "Yigdal" (TKP 12, RY 23); and "Kel Adon" (TKP 212, RY 252).

We are now ready to review the rest of the morning prayer and analyze the mysterious breaks that do not fit into the above categories.


A) BIRCHAT HATORAH (TKP 7, RY 16-17): We recite a blessing upon learning Torah before the morning prayers. This double blessing has a seemingly uncalled for break right in middle of the first of the two blessings (--before "VeHa'arev"). In fact, many Siddurim include a comment in the break saying that since the blessing is not yet over, "Amen" should not be answered here. Would it not have been simpler to leave out both the break and the comment!

The answer to this lies in an argument between the early halachic authorities. Although we consider "VeHa'arev" to be no more than a continuation of the first blessing for the Torah (O.C. 47:6), this was not always taken for granted. In fact, most of the early authorities considered it to be the beginning of another, third blessing for learning Torah -- according to them, "Amen" is to be said before "VeHa'arev" (see Bet Yosef ad loc., Berachot 11b). We combine "Ve'Ha'arev" with the bracha that precedes it based on Rabbeinu Tam's (12 cent. France) assertion that if "VeHa'arev" is actually a separate blessing, it should start with "Baruch Atta." (Tosafot Ketubot 8a s.v. SheHakol).

Apparently the break in our Siddurim reflects the other, non-halachic opinions, that "Amen" is chorused before "VeHa'arev." According to Rabbeinu Tam, the break was apparently added by an ignorant printer or scribe, who (unaware of Rabbeinu Tam's reasoning) mistook "Ve'Ha'arev" (or "Ha'arev") to be the beginning of a new blessing due to its unusual form.

The exact same logic explains the break that appears in our Siddur following "HaMa'avir Sheina" (TKP 15, RY 25) -- see O.C. 46:1, Tosafot Berachot 46a s.v. Kol. B)

EZRAT (TKP 55, RY 65): In the blessing that follows "Shema" we find a number of strange breaks. After the word "Zulatecha" (before "Ezrat Avoteinu") a new paragraph starts, at which most congregations wait for the Chazan (cantor). Why should "Ezrat" mark the beginning of a paragraph if it continues the theme of the previous paragraph!

This can be explained with a look at any Machzor, or holiday prayer book. It was customary in times gone by to insert special prayers, known as "Zulat"s, in the holiday prayers before "Ezrat." Although these "Zulat"s can still be found in today's Machzorim, they are recited only by a few staunch holdouts (such as the Breuer community in Washington Heights, New York) since they were blacklisted by the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 68).

The original Siddurim included a line of instruction before "Ezrat," informing the congregants to turn to their "Zulats" on holidays. The break before "Ezrat" remains until today, long after the instructions and "Zulats" were forgotten. The same logic explains the break between "Az Yashir" and "Yishtabach" (TKP 48, RY 56-57), where instructions once informed the congregants to turn to "Nishmat" (which *is* still recited today) on Shabbatot and holidays. (See Siddur Chassidei Ashenaz for an alternate reasoning for the break before Ezrat.)

C) AL HARISHONIM: A slight variation on this theme explains one of the most mysterious of breaks: that between "Avodecha" and "Al HaRishonim" (a few lines before "Ezrat" -- TKP 55, RY 65). For no apparent reason, almost every Ashkenazi Siddur in print has an inexplicable paragraph break right in the middle of a sentence at this point! Let us first turn to some more easily understood breaks before returning to the "Al HaRishonim" mystery.

All Siddurim have "Yehi Chavod" (TKP 36, RY 47) and "Uva L'Tzion" (TKP 88, RY 98) as separate paragraphs. Why were they separated from "Mizmor LeTodah" and "La'menatzeach," the psalms that precede them? The answer is that "Mizmor LeTodah" and "La'menatzeach" are skipped on occasion. Because of this they were printed as separate paragraphs, usually with a different size print, so that the reader could easily see where to pick up on the days that these prayers are skipped.

The same explanation may be applied to the breaks before "HaMeir La'Aretz" and "Titbarach" (TKP 50, RY 58). On Shabbat, this section is skipped and replaced by another prayer. In order to let the reader know what is to be skipped, the weekday selection was written/printed as a separate paragraph with a different pitch.

We can now return to the "Al Harishonim" puzzle. When "Zulat"s were recited, some congregations would start the holiday "Zulat" hymns before "Al Harishonim," substituting a different prayer in its stead. Since "Al Harishonim" until "Ezrat" would be skipped on holidays, it was printed as a separate paragraph, with a break before and after it!

D) THE BLESSING OF "YOTZER" (before "Shema"), provides two more cases of breaks that appear to be uncalled for. In all Siddurim, the verses "Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh," and "Baruch Kevod" appear as separate, one-sentence paragraphs (TKP 51, RY 60). This is particularly strange as that blessing is quoting the angels who "say Kadosh" and "say Baruch." Why should there be a stop between the word "say" and the verse "Kadosh?"

A similar question may be asked of the blessing following "Shema," where the verses "Mi Chamocha" and "Hashem Yimloch" appear as individual paragraphs. (TKP 56-57, RY 66). In this latter instance, the words of the Tur (quoting from his father, the Rosh -- O.C. 49) are enlightening.

The Gemara tells us "that which is written in the Torah may not be recited by heart (Temurah 14a)." According to Tosafot (ad loc.) and the Rosh (Tur, ibid.), this prohibition only applies when the words are being recited by a Chazan in order to exempt those who are attending the services from reciting the verses themselves. It was once customary for the Chazan to read aloud all the blessings that precede and follow Keriyat Shema, thereby exempting the attending congregants from saying them. However, the Chazan could not exempt them from reciting Hashem Yimloch and Mi Chamocha unless he was reading the verses from a written Torah, which was not always convenient. The Ashkenazi community found a solution to this problem, says the Tur. When the Chazan reached these verses, he would stop reading out loud and the entire congreation would read them together.

It now becomes clear why these verses were make into separate paragraphs. These verses were originally preceded by a comment bidding the entire congregation to join the Chazan in their recitation, and they were printed/written apart from the rest of the blessing in order to denote the extent of the selection that is read jointly! (See Tosafot Pesachim 104b s.v. Chutz, who uses a similar form of logic to explain a break in the blessings for the Haftorah.)

Although the Chatam Sofer (Hagahot to O.C. 59:3) suggests that "Kadosh" and "Baruch Kevod" were read with the cantor for the same reason, doubt can be cast on this assumption. Tosafot's ruling, that each individual must read biblical verses for himself, only applies to verses from the Five Books of the Torah and not to verses from the Prophets or Ketuvim (Tosafot, ibid). Today, this is witnessed by the fact that "Le'oseh Orim Gedolim" (towards the end of "Birchat Yotzer," TKP 51, RY 60), from Tehillim 136, is not printed as a separate paragraph.

However, the Rema (O.C. 59:3) quotes from early sources that the verses "Kasosh" and "Baruch Kevod" should be read in a louder voice than the rest of the prayers. (In his days, the entire congregation appears to have recited the blessings as we do today). To inform us of the unique status of these verses, they were written as separate paragraphs.

Alternatively, wherever the Siddur tells us, "They would all say the words together..." it became customary for the entire congregation to recite the verse that followed in unison, to act out the prayer. This would explain why all four of the verses we are discussing ("Kadosh," "Baruch," "MiChamocha," and "Yimloch) were recited by the entire congregation in unison and were therefore written as individual paragraphs.

E) What remains to be explained are the most mysterious of the breaks.

1) "VE'KAROT IMO HABRIT" (TKP 45, RY 54). Why is this a new paragraph? Not only does it not start a new subject, it does not start a new *verse* -- it is the end of the preceding verse!

The answer to this is really rather simple. It was once customary for a Mohel who was scheduled to perform a circumcision (Brit Milah) to lead the congregation in the recitation of part of the prayers verse by verse. He would begin with the words, "Ve'Karot Imo Habrit," because of the mention of Brit (Magen Avrohom 51:9). The Siddur had a break before Ve'Karot with a comment telling the Mohel where to start the public recitation.

2) An interesting question is why *isn't* there a break between the extended quote from Divrei Hayamim starting "VAYEVARECH DAVID" and the following quote from Nechemya, beginning with "Ata Hu Hashem Levadecha" and ending with "Bemayim Azim?" Wouldn't rule #2 (section II) require a break between them?

According to the Arizal (quoted by Magen Avraham 51:9), we stand when reading the quote from Divrei Hayomim until the middle of the quote from Nechemya ("Ata Hu Hashem Ha'Elokim"). A friend, Rav Dovid Zussman, suggested that this is why no break was inserted before the quote from Nechemya -- so that people should not think that they are to sit down upon reaching that break.

3) One of the strangest breaks is the one before "ET SHEM" (TKP 51, RY 59) in Birchat Yotzer, which again comes in the middle of a sentence. Chatam Sofer (Hagahot to O.C. 59:3) offers a simple explanation for this break.

The Tur (O.C. 61) warns us that we must pause for a second wherever the word "Et" follows a word ending with a "Mem" because if the two words are read quickly it may sound like "Met" -- dead. One example the Tur provides is "Mamlichim -- Et Shem, the break which we are discussing. The Chatam Sofer suggests that originally, Siddurim had a comment warning the congregation to pause for a second after "Mamlichim" and before "Et Shem." (As Chatam Sofer points out, we must be particularly careful not to combine these words, as there are others who actually are "Mamlich" (crown) a "Met" (dead man) as their lord!) Eventually, "Et Shem" became a new paragraph. Another plausible explanation for the break is that, as Mateh Moshe informs us, there was once a custom to stand when reciting "Et Shem" (until "VeHanora"), in order to honor Hashem's Holy Name. Perhaps instructions to that effect once separated "Et Shem" from the preceding paragraph.

4) One puzzle remains unsolved. Most Ashkenazi Siddurim present the last verse of "V'Haya im Shemo'a (L'MA'AN YIRBU...") as a separate paragraph. (TKP 54, 127, 176, 215). This uncalled for break is truly enigmatic. The verse "U'Ktavtem... U'Vish'arecha" is the last verse of the paragraph which begins "Shema Yisrael," but the *next* to the last verse of the paragraph beginning "V'Haya." Did a confused printer put a break after this verse, thinking that it was the end of the "V'Haya" paragraph? So far, none of the Torah scholars I have asked have offered any explanation for this break. I would appreciate hearing any suggestions on this matter!


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