Redundant Recitation: Repeating words and phrases in prayer, Part II

As discussed previously in detail, the need to maintain liturgical integrity –to recite the prayers of the Siddur according to their strict original text – sometimes limits the musical license of a melodious chazzan.  This restriction on repetition is limited to the set and formally established part of the Siddur text but does not curtail repetition of the many prayers that are merely customarily recited.  Therefore a chazzan may recite many of these less-official parts of the prayer service while repeating words or phrases to fit in with the length of a tune – or for any other reason[1].  There is, however, an additional consideration that may limit repetition of these parts of the Siddur text as well.

cut in halfA Talmudic discussion regarding the option of starting and stopping a public Torah reading in an unusual location in the Torah is relevant to a chazzan’s repetition of verses as well[2].  Normally, each aliyah of a Torah reading starts with the beginning of a verse and ends only upon the completion of another.  Can an aliyah ever begin or end somewhere in the middle of a verse?  In a rare Torah reading in which there is a need to split a verse into two parts, Shmuel allows it due to the circumstances[3].  Rav finds another way to structure that rare Torah reading that he finds acceptable and he therefore prohibits splitting the verse.[4]  From the Talmudic discussion it seems absolutely clear that, as a rule, aside from the singular disputed case above one may only recite a complete verse aloud but one is not permitted to recite only part of it.[5]  From another venerable Jewish text, however, it emerges that the application of this rule is far from straightforward.

It is fascinating that the Siddur itself gives the contrary and unequivocal impression that one may recite verse fragments out loud without any concern whatsoever.  A partial list of examples:

  • עַל-פִּי יְהוָה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה recited when the Torah scroll is lifted up and shown to the congregation after the Torah reading, is the very end of a longer verse.[6]
  • יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי recited at the very beginning of the Friday night Kiddush, is actually the very end of a longer verse.[7]
  • עַל-כֵּן, בֵּרַךְ יְהוָה אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת—וַיְקַדְּשֵׁהוּ recited during the Shabbat morning Kiddush, is actually the end of a longer verse as well.[8]

contradictionThe contrary messages of the Siddur and the Talmud regarding the issue of reciting verse fragments are an example of communal practice – as documented in the Siddur – which appears to directly contradict Talmudic consensus.  How does the Halachic system relate to this type of conflict?  We will examine this question, and its relevance to repetition of parts of the prayers, in next week’s article.


[1] Provided, of course, that the congregation is not burdened by the extended services that this practice will inevitably result in (tircha d’tzibura).

[2] Megillah 22a

[3] The issue at hand, which has little relevance to the topic of this article, is how to maintain the minimum of three verses per aliyah when there is a maximum of five verses total available to split between two aliyot.

[4] His solution involves reciting the third and middle verse for the second aliyah as well as the first.

[5] The one exception mentioned there is splitting it for educational purposes.

[6] These words appear in several Biblical verses:

עַל-פִּי יְהוָה יַחֲנוּ, וְעַל-פִּי יְהוָה יִסָּעוּ:  אֶת-מִשְׁמֶרֶת יְהוָה שָׁמָרוּ, עַל-פִּי יְהוָה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה Bamidbar 9:23

אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי מִשְׁפְּחֹת הַקְּהָתִי, כָּל-הָעֹבֵד בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד, אֲשֶׁר פָּקַד מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, עַל-פִּי יְהוָה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה Bamidbar 43:37

אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי, מִשְׁפְּחֹת בְּנֵי מְרָרִי, אֲשֶׁר פָּקַד מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן, עַל-פִּי יְהוָה בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה Bamidbar 43:45

[7] The full text of the verse reads: וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וְהִנֵּה-טוֹב מְאֹד; וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי It is clear that the common custom of whispering the preceding words וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר doesn’t solve the problem since the entire verse has still not been recited.

[8] The full text of the verse reads: כִּי שֵׁשֶׁת-יָמִים עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֶת-הַיָּם וְאֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-בָּם, וַיָּנַח, בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי; עַל-כֵּן, בֵּרַךְ יְהוָה אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת—וַיְקַדְּשֵׁהוּ Although many are particular to start at the beginning of the paragraph, there is a widespread custom to recite only this fragment.

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