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

As noted in part II, the Talmud prohibits tampering with the integrity of a verse by splitting it in a way that is not recognized by the traditional punctuation of Moshe.  This would seem to definitively preclude a chazzan from repeating any parts of verses that are part of the Siddur text – since repetition of part of a verse entails either restarting[1] or aborting its recitation[2] somewhere in the middle[3]car split in half Practically speaking, however, it is difficult to limit a chazzan on this basis.  As demonstrated in part II, common practice (as seen, for example, in the standard Siddur text) is to freely recite verse fragments without any reservation – contrary to the consensus expressed in the Talmud.  This part of the series will discuss a suggestion towards resolution of this Halachic conundrum, the views of Modern Halachic authorities, and an analysis of the practical conclusions that must be drawn.

musicalThe question of how common practice can contradict seemingly explicit Talmudic guidelines has greatly bothered many authors.  There are many attempts at resolving this issue in contemporary Halachic literature.  The most common approach is that the Talmud’s restriction on splitting verses only applies during formal recitation of the Torah for the sake of scriptural reading or recitation.  When reciting the verse for other purposes e.g. to share the verse’s message or to utilize the wording for the sake of creative, poetic, or musical[4] expression, however, the restriction would not apply[5]poetry words One exemplar of this approach is the view of Aruch Hashulchan[6]. He addresses the issue when he mentions the widespread custom to recite a truncated verse that speaks about the blessings of Shabbat as part of the Shabbat morning Kiddush.  He writes that since the intention of reciting that verse fragment is not specifically to recite a verse but rather to preface the Kiddush blessing, it is permitted[7].

Although this lenient approach is adopted by a majority of authorities, it is not universally accepted.  A minority opinion championed by Mishnah Berurah[8] takes the Talumudic opinions at face value and rejects this line of reasoning.  Although he acknowledges the existence of the practice of reciting the truncated pre-Kiddush verse that Aruch Hashulchan justifies, he writes unequivocally that it is Halachically improper[9].  It is puzzling that although there are a number of other verse fragments in the Siddur[10], Mishnah Berurah does not voice any objection to their recitation as is[11].

As mentioned above, practically speaking, it is difficult to definitively forbid a chazzan from repeating words or phrases in verses due to the Talmud’s restriction on reciting verse fragments.   Although a significant group has adopted the strict approach of Mishnah Berurah, it is, at best, extremely rare for someone to follow this opinion through to its logical extreme[12].  Common practice regarding this law clearly follows the lenient approach that justifies, in various ways, recitation of verse fragments.  This approach is best summed up by Divrei Chaim: “There is no conclusive rule regarding this issue [which will explain in every circumstance how common practice to recite verse fragments doesn’t contradict the ruling of the Talmud], but nevertheless leave the Jewish people be [and don’t make them adhere to the apparent letter of the law, since] if they are not prophets themselves, they are descendants of prophets.  Therefore if you are not certain regarding a particular law, follow what is customary.[13]


[1] i.e. if it has already been completed

[2] i.e. if it has not yet been completed

[3] Repeating an entire verse would pose no problem vis-à-vis this issue.

[4] E.g. Tiferet Yisrael, Boaz, Brachot 5:3.  The author thanks Cantor Aryeh Samberg for sharing this reference.

[5] This is the approach of many poskim, see Piskei Teshuvot 51:19.  This is also the approach of Aruch Hashulchan, below.

[6] Published in the first third of the 20th century by R. Y.M. Epstein, 1829 – 1908

[7] Orach Chaim 289:3

[8] 289:2

[9] It is interesting to note that this disagreement between Mishnah Berurah and Aruch Hashulchan is a perfect example of their differing philosophies of halacha when the common practice of the observant community apparently contradicts the Halachic literature.  Are the two somehow harmonized and reconciled or is the textual stringency upheld?  See, for example, R. M. J. Broyde’s introductory comments at http://torahmusings.com/2013/01/mishnah-berurah-methodology/

[10] See Redundant Repetition Part II

[11] Mishnah Berurah would most likely apply this stringency universally.

[12] This author has never heard, for example, someone begin Friday night Kiddush before “vayehiv erev…” or recite the beginning of the verse “al pi Hashem b’yad Moshe” after hagbah (see part II notes 7 and 6, respectively).  It is possible, however, that even Mishnah Berurah would be lenient in the former case.  See Shut Chasam Sofer O.C. 10.

[13] YD, end of chapter 60, cited by Piskei Teshuvot, ibid.

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