who reads from the Torah? An answer was not readily available to him. He came and asked Rabbi Yitzḥak Nappaḥa, who said to him: After them read the Torah scholars who are appointed as leaders [parnasim] of the community. And after them read Torah scholars who are fit to be appointed as leaders of the community, even if in practice they received no such appointment. The Sages said that a Torah scholar who knows how to answer any question asked of him is fit to be appointed as leader of the community. And after them read the sons of Torah scholars whose fathers were appointed as leaders of the community. And after them read the heads of synagogues, and after them any person.
The people of the Galilee sent a question to Rabbi Ḥelbo: What is the halakha with regard to reading from ḥumashim, i.e., scrolls containing only one of the five books of the Torah, in the synagogue in public? Is this permitted, or is it necessary to read from a complete Torah scroll? An answer was not readily available to him. He came and asked Rabbi Yitzḥak Nappaḥa, but an answer was not readily available to him either. Rabbi Yitzḥak Nappaḥa came and asked this question in the study hall, and they resolved the difficulty from that which Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says: With regard to a Torah scroll that is missing even one sheet of parchment, one may not read from it in public. This indicates that an incomplete Torah scroll may not be used for a public Torah reading.
The Gemara rejects this argument: But that is not so, i.e., this cannot serve as a proof to the matter at hand. There, it is lacking part of the matter it is addressing, as a sheet of parchment is missing, whereas here, it is not lacking part of the matter it is addressing, as it contains a complete book. Rabba and Rav Yosef both say: One does not read from ḥumashim in the synagogue out of respect for the community.
And Rabba and Rav Yosef both say: It is prohibited to publicly read the haftara, the portion from the Prophets that is read after the weekly Torah portion, on Shabbat, from a scroll containing only the haftarot. What is the reason for this? It is because this type of scroll may not be written, as the words of the Prophets must also be written as complete books.
Mar bar Rav Ashi said: To handle such a scroll on Shabbat is also prohibited. What is the reason for this? It is because it is not fit to be read. Consequently, it is treated as set-aside [muktze] on Shabbat. The Gemara rejects this argument: But that is not so; rather, it is permitted to handle such a scroll and it is permitted to read from it.
And a proof for this is that Rabbi Yoḥanan and Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish used to read from a scroll of aggada containing the words of the Sages on Shabbat. But such a scroll may not be written, for in principle, the statements of the Oral Law may not be committed to writing. Rather, since it is not possible to remember the Oral Law without writing it down, it is permitted to violate the halakha, as indicated by the verse: “It is time to act for the Lord; they have nullified your Torah” (Psalms 119:126). Here too, in the case of a haftara scroll, since it is not always possible to write complete books of the Bible, due to the expense, it is permitted to apply the reasoning of “It is time to act for the Lord; they have nullified your Torah.”
Abaye raised a dilemma before Rabba: What is the halakha with regard to whether it is permitted to write a scroll containing only one portion of the Torah for the purpose of enabling a child to study it? The Gemara notes: Let the dilemma be raised according to the one who says that the Torah was given from the outset scroll by scroll, meaning that Moses would teach the Jewish people one portion of the Torah, and then write it down, and then teach them the next portion of the Torah, and then write that down, and continue in this way until he committed the entire Torah to writing. And let the dilemma also be raised according to the one who says that the Torah was given as a complete book, meaning that the Torah was not written down incrementally, but rather, after teaching the Jewish people the entire Torah, Moses committed it to writing all at once.
The Gemara explains the two sides of the dilemma according to each opinion: Let the dilemma be raised according to the one who says that the Torah was given scroll by scroll. On the one hand it is possible to say that since the Torah was originally given scroll by scroll, today as well one may write the Torah in separate scrolls. Or on the other hand, perhaps one should say that since it was ultimately joined together to form a single scroll, it was joined together and can no longer be written in separate scrolls.
And let the dilemma also be raised according to the one who says that the Torah was given as a complete book. On the one hand it is possible to say that since it was given from the outset as a complete book, one may not write it today in separate scrolls. Or on the other hand, perhaps one could say that since it is not always possible to write a complete Torah, one may write it in separate scrolls. Rabba said to him: One may not write the Torah in separate scrolls. And what is the reason? Because one may not write a scroll that is only part of the Torah.
Abaye raised an objection to his opinion from a mishna (Yoma 37b) where it was taught: Queen Helene also fashioned a golden tablet as a gift for the Temple on which the Torah portion discussing a sota was written. When the priest would write the scroll of a sota in the Temple, he would copy this Torah portion from the tablet, so that a Torah scroll need not be taken out for that purpose. This indicates that it is permitted for one to write a single portion of the Torah. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says in the name of Rabbi Yannai: There is no proof from this mishna, as the tablet prepared by Queen Helene was not written in an ordinary manner, but rather it consisted of the letters of the alef-beit, i.e., only the first letter of each word was written on the tablet, and by looking at it the priest writing the sota scroll would remember what to write.
The Gemara raised an objection from a baraita that teaches: When the priest writes the sota scroll, he looks at and writes that which is written on the tablet, which indicates that the full text of the passage was written on the tablet. The Gemara rejects this argument: Emend the baraita and say that it should read as follows: He looks at and writes like that which is written on the tablet. The tablet aids the priest in remembering the text that must actually be written.
The Gemara raised an objection from a different baraita: When he writes, he looks at the tablet and writes that which is written on the tablet. And what is written on the tablet? “If a man lay with you…and if he did not lay with you” (see Numbers 5:19). Apparently, the full text of the passage was written on the tablet. The Gemara answers: With what are we dealing here? The tablet fashioned by Queen Helene was written by alternating complete words and initials. The first words of each verse were written there, but the rest of the words in the verse were represented by initials. Therefore, this contribution of Queen Helene does not resolve the question of whether writing a scroll for a child is permitted.
The Gemara comments: The question of whether or not writing a scroll for a child is permitted is subject to a dispute between tanna’im, as it is taught in the following baraita: One may not write a scroll containing only one portion of the Torah for the purpose of enabling a child to study, but if the writer’s intention is to complete the scroll, it is permitted. Rabbi Yehuda says: In the book of Genesis he may write a scroll from the beginning until the generation of the flood. In Torat Kohanim, the book of Leviticus, he may write a scroll from the beginning until “And it came to pass on the eighth day” (Leviticus 9:1).
The Gemara returns to discuss the previously mentioned dispute. Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Bana’a: The Torah was given from the outset scroll by scroll, as it is stated: “Then I said, behold, I come with the scroll of the book that is written for me” (Psalms 40:8). King David is saying about himself that there is a section of the Torah, “the scroll of the book,” that alludes to him, i.e., “that is written for me.” This indicates that each portion of the Torah constitutes a separate scroll. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: The Torah was given as a complete book, as it is stated: “Take this scroll of the Torah” (Deuteronomy 31:26), which teaches that from the outset the Torah was given as a complete unit.
The Gemara asks: And according to the other Sage, Rabbi Yoḥanan, as well, isn’t it written “take,” indicating that the Torah scroll was given whole? How does he explain this verse? The Gemara answers: That verse is speaking about the Torah after it was joined together to form a single unit.
The Gemara asks: And according to the other Sage, Reish Lakish, as well, isn’t it written: “With the scroll of the book that is written for me,” indicating that the Torah was given scroll by scroll? How does he explain this verse? The Gemara answers: That verse teaches that the entire Torah is called a scroll. This is indicated in another verse as well, as it is written: “And He said to me: What do you see? And I said: I see a flying scroll” (Zechariah 5:2).
Alternatively, this verse serves to allude to the sections of the Torah discussed in that statement of Rabbi Levi, as Rabbi Levi says: Eight sections were said on the day that the Tabernacle was erected, on the first of Nisan. They are: The section of the priests (Leviticus 21:1–22:26); the section of the Levites (Numbers 8:5–26); the section of the impure (Leviticus 13:1– 14:57); the section of the sending away of the impure (Numbers 5:1–4); the section beginning with the words “After the death” (Leviticus, chapter 16);