There are two solutions. Rav says he should repeat a verse and Shmuel says he divides a verse into two, thereby creating six verses.
Rav did not allow dividing the verse because he held that the division of the Torah into verses was from Moses, and if he did not divide the verse, we are not allowed to do so.
Shmuel holds that in times of great need we are allowed to divide verses that were not divided by Moses. Just as R. Hananiah divided up verses when teaching them to children, so too a Torah reader may divide them up when it is necessary.
Shmuel doesn’t allow the repetition of verses lest someone goes out or comes in between the readings and thinks that the person before he came in read only two, or that the person who is reading after he leaves is going to read only two.
In yesterday’s section we learned that on Rosh Hodesh in order to fulfill all of the rules of Torah reading (how much of a passage must be read, how much may be left over at its end, and how many verses each reader must read), Rav says that they would repeat a verse and Shmuel says that they would split a verse in half. Today’s section raises some difficulties on these exceptional solutions.
The baraita cited here is raised as a difficulty on both Rav and Shmuel. It describes a regular Torah reading. As I stated earlier, what exactly a person was to read was not determined in the Talmudic period. So if he had an Aliyah and the section had six verses, the first reader could read three and the next could read three. No problem. But if there were only five, then the best option would be for the first reader to read them all. But if he read only three, one opinion holds that the second reader could read the remaining two of this section, and the first verse of the next section. But others say that the second reader would have to read three of the next section, because one does not begin a section by reading less than three verses.
In any case, neither opinion holds that we do what Rav and Shmuel would suggest—read a verse twice or divide a verse in half. Therefore the baraita is a difficulty on both opinions. [It seems more of a difficulty against Rav, because according to Shmuel if the first reader read the entire third verse, the next reader would not have the option of dividing it. Some commentators do read it this way.]
The Talmud resolves the difficulty by stating that in this case it was possible to continue with the next section, because the baraita refers to a regular Torah reading. In the case of Rosh Hodesh (and the ma’amad, see yesterday’s section) there are prescribed sections to read. One cannot continue with the next section.
Tanhum says that the halakhah follows the opinion attributed to “the others say”—once one begins reading a section, he must read at least three verses.
He also says that just as one may not begin a passage without reading three verses, so too one must not leave less than three verses in a section.
The Talmud thinks it obvious that one should not leave less than three verses and explains why. The first tanna in the baraita said that one could start a section and read less than three verses. The alternative opinion was stricter. But when it came to leaving verses at the end of a passage the first opinion said that if there were five verses the reader should read them all. Even he was strict on this issue because he doesn’t want one to leave less than three verses. If the usually lenient first opinion is strict, all the more so we would know that the alternative opinion is strict.
So why did R. Tanhum need to tell us something we could have figured out on our own?
This section answers what we might have thought had R. Tanhum not told us that we don’t leave less than three verses in a section. The reason we don’t leave less than three verses is that someone might go out after the first person had read and think that the next reader would read only two verses, which is not sufficient for a Torah reading. The reason we don’t begin with less than three, is that someone who came in and heard the third verse of a section being read as the first verse of an Aliyah might have thought that the previous reader had read only two. We might have thought that it is common for people to come in late, but not common for them to walk out in the middle of a Torah reading (anyone who has been to my shul would never think such a thing). Therefore, we shouldn’t allow people to read less than three in the beginning of a section, but we could allow them to leave less than three. They won’t walk out so they’ll hear the next reader reading at least three verses. To let us know that people do come in late and leave early, R. Tanhum states that one should not begin a passage with less than three verses.
The Talmud now asks why the first opinion allows one to begin with less than three verses, but not end leaving less than three.
The answer is that he assumes that when someone comes in late to the synagogue he will ask what the previous person read. He won’t just assume they read only one or two verses for the entire Aliyah. Since people won’t make a mistake, one is allowed to begin a passage and read less than three verses.
This ends the passage about Rosh Hodesh, and reflects how we observe the halakhah today. The halakhah accords with Rav who says that we repeat a verse. R. Joseph says that it is the middle reader, the second one, who goes back a verse and repeats the third verse said by the first reader. Thus the first reader reads the first three verses, the second reader reads verses 2-5. The third reader reads verses 6-8, completing the first passage, and the next passage which has only two verses. The fourth reader reads the final passage.
The Mishnah does not tell us how many people read on a public fast day. In the Talmud a “public fast day” refers mainly to fasts called due to lack of rain. However, the word can also be used in reference to Tisha B’av and the other fasts, not including Yom Kippur, on which six people read, as we learned in the Mishnah.
The question is what category do we put public fast days in? On the one hand, there is no additional sacrifice on public fast days, so they are lesser than Rosh Hodesh and Hol Hamoed. This would indicate that three should read. On the other hand, there are additional prayers on public fast days. This might indicate that like Rosh Hodesh and Hol Hamoed which also have an additional prayer (the musaf prayer).
This section seems to just prove that we can’t learn one way or another from the mishnah. If we deduce from the absence of public fast days in the second section listing days on which we read four, we would conclude that we read three. But if we were to deduce from the previous section and its absence from the list of days on which three are read, we would conclude that we read four. So we can’t learn anything.
In order to understand this section, we must remember that in the time of the Talmud (or at least in the beginning of this period) the first reader would bless and the last leader would bless. Those reading the intermediate aliyot would not bless at all. We hear in this story that Rav came to Babylon and blessed in the beginning and not at the end. Since we know that Rav was not a Kohen, we can assume that he did not read the first or second Aliyah. He assumedly read the third Aliyah. The fact that he didn’t bless after is for now explained by the fact that there will be a fourth reader on a public fast day.
[For now put aside the question of why Rav would bless before if he was reading the third Aliyah. Also put aside the issue of “falling on the face”. The Talmud will do with this later on this page of Talmud].
The Talmud rejects the idea that Rav read the third Aliyah. Rav read the first Aliyah, usually reserved for kohanim. The same is true for R. Huna who also read the first Aliyah despite his not being a Kohen.
The Talmud notes that only a rabbi to whose authority all other rabbis are subject should read the first Aliyah. Rav doesn’t seem to fit this category, because he showed deference to Shmuel, his contemporary and also a Kohen. He should not be reading the Kohen Aliyah.
.The answer is that Shmuel was subject to Rav’s authority, but Rav nevertheless showed him deference. However, he would do so only when in front of Shmuel. When not in front of him, he did not show such deference and thus he would read the Kohen Aliyah.
The Talmud now bolsters our assumption that Rav read the first Aliyah. As I stated above, originally only the first person said the blessing before reading. Since we know that Rav blessed before reciting the Aliyah, we can assume that he read the Kohen (first) Aliyah.
Now the Talmud retracts this last statement by asserting that Rav may have lived after the “enactment.” This refers to the enactment to bless before and after each Aliyah as we do to this day. The reason for this was lest people who leave early or come late miss out on the blessing before or after and don’t realize that one blesses before and after reading the Torah in public. The Talmud posits that Rav may have lived after the enactment, and therefore may have blessed before reading the third Aliyah. Of course, now we have to figure out why he didn’t bless after. The answer the Talmud provides is that Rav didn’t have to worry about people leaving where he was. They might come in late, therefore the rabbis instituted that everyone should bless before reading. But once in they would stay till the end, therefore only the last reader needed to bless.
I should note that the Talmudic editors are willing to play with history to solve difficulties. Talmudic historians know that Rav lived before this change in halakhah, and that is why he said only one of the blessings. But the Talmud wants to raise all possibilities for explaining his behavior. This is typical of the Talmud. It wishes to explore all theoretical possibilities and is less concerned (if concerned at all) with what actually happened.