The Need for Voice with Respect to the Amida Prayer (II)

  • Harav Aharon Lichtenstein

 

            The law that the words of one's prayer should be audible to oneself is not explicitly mentioned in the Bavli. It is, however, discussed in other rabbinic sources, and from there, in the Rishonim and in the Posekim. I wish to present the main points and clarify the principles underlying this law.

 

            It is taught in the Tosefta (Berakhot 3:9): "You might say that a person should sound his voice. It is explicitly stated regarding Chana: 'Now Chana spoke in her heart.'" This – or similar to this: "You might say that a person should sound his voice (in his prayer)" – is the reading found in most manuscripts of the Tosefta and apparently cited in the Bavli (Berakhot 31a) and in the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 4:1).[1] According to this reading, the beraita is not necessarily dealing with the issue at hand. For it may be understood – and according to the Yerushalmi's reading, "You might say that a person should raise his voice and pray," this is clear – as dealing with sounding one's prayers to other people, rather than to the petitioner's own ears.

 

In MS Erfurt, however, the beraita reads as follows: "You might say that a person should sound his voice to his own ears." This is also the way the Rashba (31a, s.v. ve-kolah) cites the beraita in the name of the Tosefta.[2] According to this reading, le-khatchila a person is forbidden to make his prayers audible to his own ears. This is also the implication of the gemara in Yoma 19b: "'And you shall speak of them,' but not of prayer," according to Rashi (ad loc.): "'Of them' – you must make audible what you utter with your mouth. 'But not of prayer' – for prayer is in a soft tone, as it says: 'But her voice could not be heard.'[3] This also follows from the words of the midrash in Tanna de-Bei Eliyahu (chap. 28): "Whoever reads Shema and makes his voice audible to his ears is praiseworthy. But whoever prays [the Amida service] and makes his voice audible to his ears is offering false testimony." The Vilna Gaon (Orach Chayim 101, no. 4), however, suggests that there might be a scribal error here, and that the words "to his ears" should be omitted.

 

It should also be added that according to the Bet Yosef (101), this is also the position of the Zohar (Vayakhel 202, ed. Margaliyot, cited by the Bet Yosef, 141): "That prayer rises and is heard by all those who are called 'the eared ones.' And if that prayer is overheard by another man, no one will accept it above." The Vilna Gaon rejects this proof as well, arguing that this passage is dealing with sounding one's prayer to others, and not just to oneself. And, indeed, this is implied by the previous line in the Zohar: "They are called 'ears,' since they listen to all those who whisper their prayers, in silence, with devotion, so that the prayer is not heard by anyone else."

 

See, however, the Rashba (ad loc.), who, before citing the Tosefta, writes: "'But her voice could not be heard' – from here we learn that one who prays should not sound his voice. It stands to reason that this means that he should not sound his voice to others… but to sound it to his own ears is permissible and a mitzva le-khatchila. As it says in the Yerushalmi in chapter Haya kore, for we learn there (2:4): 'It was taught: If a person prayed but did not sound the words to his ears, he has fulfilled his obligation. According to whom is this necessary? For R. Yose. Which R. Yose? That which we learned: If one read the Shema, but did not sound the words to his ears, he has fulfilled his obligation. Rabbi Yose says: He has not fulfilled his obligation. This implies that a person fulfills his obligation be-di'avad, but le-khatchila he must sound the words to his ears, as with Shema." So too rules the Rambam (Hilkhot Tefila 5:9): "Modulation of the voice. How so? One should not raise his voice during prayer, nor should he pray in his heart, but rather he should pronounce the words with his lips and softly sound them to his ears."

 

We see, then, that according to the Rambam, based on the Yerushalmi, a person is obligated to sound the words of the Amida prayer to his ears, whereas, according to the Rashba, based on the Tosefta, this is forbidden. There is, of course, a third possibility, that sounding one's prayers to one's ears is neither obligatory nor forbidden, but rather optional. So indeed writes the Meiri (31a): "Nevertheless there are those who say that this was only said regarding Shema, but regarding [the Amida] prayer a person does not have to sound the words to his ears." The clear implication is that one is not obligated, but is nevertheless permitted to do so. This is also the ruling of the Tur, who, after citing the Tosefta in accordance with the Rashba's reading, writes as follows: "Our Gemara, however, only excludes sounding one's voice, namely, where he sounds his voice to others, but he may make it audible to his own ears… And it stands to reason that it is preferable that a person make his prayers audible to his own ears, for then he can concentrate better."

 

To clarify this issue we must understand 1) the general law of sounding words to one's ears in light of the passage in Berakhot 15, on the one hand; and 2) the unique nature of the Amida prayer with respect to this issue, on the other.

 

            The primary source for the law of sounding words to one's own ears is a talmudic passage regarding Shema, from which we learn as follows:

 

1)     According to Rabbi Yose, a person must sound the Shema to his own ears, this being an indispensable element for fulfilling one's obligation, apparently by Torah law.

 

2)     Regarding other mitzvot involving speech, the Amoraim disagree about the law according to Rabbi Yose: According to the beginning of the passage, in those cases as well a person does not fulfill his obligation unless his words are audible to his own ears, whereas according to Rav Yosef, in those cases, even Rabbi Yose agrees that he fulfills his obligation.

 

3)     According to Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, le-khatchila a person must sound his words to his ears, both in Shema and in other mitzvot,[4] but be-di'avad he fulfills his obligation even if he fails to do so.

 

4)     According to Rabbi Meir, there is no need to sound the words to one's ears, even lekhatchila.

 

Now regarding the position of Rabbi Yose, it is possible to propose three understandings:

 

1)     We are dealing here with a law regarding the cheftza of a voice, that if a voice is not heard it is not regarded as a voice.

 

2)     Hearing is an entirely independent factor. It was established that in order to fulfill one's obligation regarding Shema or reading the megila, a person is obligated both to read the text and to hear what he is reading.[5]

 

3)     Hearing is a measure in the act of speaking. Reciting and speaking are defined as uttering words that are audible to the speaker. If a person fails to hear his words, it is as if he has not has not recited them.

 

The Gemara states that according to Rabbi Yose a deaf person does not fulfill his obligation, even if he is capable of speech, and he recites the words in a loud voice that is audible to others. Clearly then the first possibility is wrong, for if other people hear what he is saying, we can certainly not say that there is no cheftza of a voice. Thus, we are left with the two other possibilities. Let us examine them more carefully.

 

The law of sounding the words of Shema in such a way that they are audible to one's own ears appears in the Mishna together with the law governing one who reads the Shema without exercising care in enunciating the letters, and with the law governing one who reads the Shema out of the correct sequence. These two laws are certainly laws relating to the act of reading, and not an additional fulfillment. This suggests that sounding the words to one's ears is an element in defining the act of reciting the Shema. This indeed is the Meiri's understanding: "The intention of the fourth mishna… is to explain the nature of the reading, how it is fit. It says that a person who reads Shema without sounding the words to his ears, but rather in silence, so that even he himself does not hear what he says – such a reading is similar to silent meditation, and le-khatchila one should not read in this manner." This, however, is not an absolute proof, for perhaps each law stands on its own, and so there is still room for further examination.

 

At first glance, this question parallels the disagreement between Rav Yosef and the beginning of the passage. For if hearing is an additional fulfillment that stands on its own, it stands to reason that it is only required in a place where it is specifically mentioned, as in Shema. If, however, hearing is a measure of speech, it is possible - though of course, not necessary – that the law governing Shema can be extended to the rest of the mitzvot in the Torah.

 

See, however, the beginning of the passage, which states: "What is the reason of Rabbi Yose? For it is written: 'Hear' – sound to your ear that which you utter with your mouth." This formulation suggests that sounding the words to one's ears is an independent fulfillment. If so, it should be unique to Shema. And indeed, the Tosafot (ad loc., s.v. iy) write that even according to those who disagree with Rav Yosef, sounding the words to one's ears is required by Torah law only in the case of Shema, but regarding Birkat ha-Mazon it is only necessary by rabbinic decree. According to this, it is possible that all agree that hearing is a separate fulfillment. And the rabbis enacted that this additional fulfillment is necessary, and even indispensable, even with respect to blessings and megilah reading  i.e., regarding all mitzvot involving speech and reading.

 

See, however, the Tosafot in Megila (19a, s.v., ela) who raise the same question as the Tosafot here in Berakhot, s.v. iy, but offer a different solution: "You can say that he maintains that we learn Birkat ha-Mazon from Shema." This is more clearly explained in Tosafot Rabbenu Yehuda he-Chasid (in Berakhot), which states: "There is a question: How is Birkat ha-Mazon likened to Shema? Granted, terumah, mentioned above, and megilah, mentioned below, which are by rabbinic decree, can be likened to Shema, that [the Sages] ordained that one must sound the words to one's ears as in Shema. But Birkat ha-Mazon which is by Torah law - where do we find that one must sound the words to one's ears? Surely it does not say in its regard, 'hear'? And why should the Sages have ordained that a person does not fulfill his obligation if he fails to sound the words to his ears, if by Torah law he has fulfilled his obligation? You can say that it was obvious to him that we learn Birkat ha-Mazon from Shema. And even though in Sotah… we learn from two verses that if a person recited Birkat ha-Mazon or Shema in any language, he has fulfilled his obligation; 'hear' – in any language that you hear, and regarding Birkat ha-Mazon it is written: 'And you shall eat, and be sated, and you shall bless' – in any language that you bless – that was only necessary because they are two verses coming as one so that we don't learn other things from them[6]… Alternatively, since they enacted that one must sound the words to his ears as in Shema, they enacted that he does not fulfill his obligation if he doesn't sound the words to his ears, as in Shema." The Rosh in his Tosafot writes the same thing as well.

 

What we have here are two answers: The second answer, like the printed Tosafot, maintains that the requirement to sound Birkat ha-Mazon to one's ears is only by rabbinic decree, and it explains why the Sages ordained this as an indispensable element. This first, however, sees Shema as a prototype from which we learn about Birkat ha-Mazon, that there, too, if one did not sound the words to his ears, he has not fulfilled his obligation by Torah law, according to Rabbi Yose. If this is the law regarding Birkat ha-Mazon, the same applies to other Torah mitzvotBirkat ha-Torah according to the Ramban, or daily prayer according to the Rambam. This is evident from the continuation of the answer, which explains that, regarding the law governing other languages, we do not learn the other mitzvot from Shema, because there is also a verse regarding Birkat ha-Mazon, and they are two verses that come together which do not teach about other matters. But as for sounding the words to one's ears, where there is only a single verse regarding Shema, we can learn from there to all the other mitzvot in the Torah.

 

As stated above, it stands to reason that this position is based on the assumption that sounding the words to one's ears is connected to the act of the mitzva and not just to its fulfillment.[7] This connection is also reflected in the course of the talmudic passage. For it follows from the passage that according to Rabbi Yose a deaf person cannot read the megila for others. We are of course dealing with a deaf person who can speak. Regarding all the mitzvot of the Torah, such a person is considered obligated in the mitzva and can discharge the obligation of others. For the mishna states (Terumot 1:2): "The deaf person about which the Sages speak in all places is one who neither hears nor speaks," and only he is likened to an insane person and a minor. Nevertheless, since the mitzva requires hearing, and he does not hear, we say, as was explained by the Ran (Megila 19b; 6b in Alfasi): "And he, too, since he cannot sound the words to his ears does not fulfill his obligation, and since he does not fulfill his own obligation, he can also not discharge the obligation of others."

 

Now, if we assume that hearing is a separate fulfillment and the speaking in itself is absolutely valid, only that the fulfillment of hearing is indispensable for fulfilling the mitzva - it is difficult to understand why the deaf person cannot discharge the obligation of others with respect to the reading, and the hearing they can do on their own without him. What difference should it make that he himself does not fulfill his own obligation because he lacks a certain indispensable fulfillment? Surely, if Levi heard half the megila from Reuven and the other half from Shimon, and they only heard what they themselves read, Levi has fulfilled his obligation, even though Reuven and Shimon who read the megila for him have not fulfilled their own obligations.

 

If, however, we define hearing as a measure with respect to speaking, the matter is simple.[8] Since this law appears in the passage according to the opinion that the other mitzvot can be likened to Shema, according to which it, in fact, stands to reason that reading without sounding the words to one's ears constitutes a flaw in the reading, we understand why a deaf person cannot discharge the obligation of others. But according to Rav Yosef, it stands to reason that a person fulfills his obligation if he hears Shema from a deaf person – assuming that the principle that hearing is equivalent to actual speaking applies even to Shema[9] - even though the deaf person himself does not fulfill his own obligation.

 

What follows from this discussion is that according to the printed Tosafot, all accept the position of Rav Yosef that by Torah law the obligation to sound the words to one's own ears was only stated with respect to Shema. And the Amoraim disagree whether the Rabbis ordained a similar obligation regarding the other mitzvot. According to this view, both of the aforementioned explanations are possible according to all the Amoraim. For on the one hand, even if we are dealing with a measure with respect to speaking, it might only apply to Shema, and it is not necessary to say that the definition of an act of speech is the same in all cases. On the other hand, even if hearing is a separate fulfillment, it is possible that, by rabbinic decree, it is necessary even with respect to the other mitzvot. According to the first answer in Tosafot Rabbenu Yehuda he-Chasid and the Rosh, the Amoraim disagree about the Torah law, and it stands to reason that at least the Amoraim in the beginning of the passage maintain that hearing constitutes a measure with respect to speaking.

 

Regarding the mishna that states that a deaf person who is capable of speaking should not set aside terumah, but if he did, it is a valid terumah, the Yerushalmi says (Terumot 1:2): "According to whom is this necessary? For R. Yose. Which R. Yose? That which we learned: If one read the Shema, but did not sound the words to his ears, he has fulfilled his obligation. Rabbi Yose says: He has not fulfilled his obligation. Rav Matana said: It is Rabbi Yose. Rabbi Yose said: We thought to say that Rabbi Yose and the Sages disagree about Shema, about which it is written, 'Hear.' But the rest of the mitzvot, not. From that which Rav Matana said: It is Rabbi Yose, this means that the same applies to Shema and to the rest of the mitzvot in the Torah. What is Rabbi Yose's reason? 'And you shall listen to His commandments, etc.' – hear with your ears what your mouth speaks." According to Rabbi Yose (the Amora), it turns out that Rabbi Yose (the Tanna) requires that a person must sound the words to his ears in all the mitzvot. This accords with the position of Rabbi Yehuda he-Chasid and the Rosh. Only that, according to them, and based on the Bavli, the law regarding the other mitzvot is learned from Shema, and therefore, as was stated above, it stands to reason that the law of hearing is a measure in the speaking. But according to the Yerushalmi, the source is the verse, "And you shall listen to his commandments," which applies to all mitzvot involving speech. It is clearly possible, according to this, that hearing constitutes an additional fulfillment, and not a definition of the act of speaking.

 

All that was was said above was said according to the position of Rabbi Yose. But the Gemara (15b) states explicitly that the law is in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, and not Rabbi Yose. It seems, however, that whatever was said above according to Rabbi Yose regarding fulfilling one's obligation be-di'avad can be said according to Rabbi Yehuda regarding the law lekhatchila. And also, according to Rabbi Yehuda, we must consider whether the law of sounding the words to one's ears is connected to the act of the mitzva or to its fulfillment,[10] and – is this necessary only in the case of Shema or in all the mitzvot of the Torah?

 

As to the law, the Rishonim disagree. The Ra’avya (vol. I, no. 52, p. 30) writes: "And we maintain that a person must sound the words of Shema to his ears, and that if he failed to do so, he has not fulfilled his obligation… And it is here where there are verses, but as for the other mitzvot, e.g., Birkat ha-Mazon and megila reading, it is not necessary to sound the words to one's ears." It is clearly implied here that with respect to the other mitzvot, there is no need to sound the words to one's ears even le-khatchila. This seems also to have been the position of the Rif, who brings the mishna and afterwards the words of Rav Yosef. The Ra'avad raises the following objection (in his hasagot on the Ba'al ha-Ma'or, ad loc.): "As for Rabbi [Alfasi], z'l, we ask why it was necessary for him to record the words of Rav Yosef. Surely even regarding Shema the law is in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda, who spoke in the name of Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, and like both of them to be lenient. It is possible that the Rif wrote this to exclude the first version of Rav Yosef." Talmidei Rabbenu Yona write in similar fashion, but they seem to understand that, according to the Rif, Rabbi Yose be-di'avad corresponds to Rabbi Yehuda le-khatchila, and thus we can learn from Rav Yosef that with respect to the other mitzvot, even le-khatchila there is no need to sound the words to one's ears. And even though in Megilah 19b, the Rif brings the mishna that a deaf person, an insane person, and a minor are unqualified to read the megilah, the Beit Yosef (no. 689) already raised the objection that the Gemara asserts that the mishna was taught according to Rabbi Yose, but the law is not in accordance with him. We must either say, as the Beit Yosef suggests there, "that [the Rif] maintains that megilah [reading] is different because we require that the miracle be publicized, and when one fails to sound the words to one's ear the miracle is not publicized"; or alternatively, and as seems more likely (the Beit Yosef himself describes his answer as "forced"), in accordance with the Yerushalmi (ad loc., Megila 2:5): "Rav Chisda said: A deaf person does not belong here. He was taught only because we are accustomed to associate him with the others." That is to say, the law of the mishna really applies only to an insane person and a minor, and the deaf person is mentioned incidentally because the three of them are always mentioned together.[11] And indeed, the mishna was taught even according to Rabbi Yehuda. Accordingly, we cannot prove from the Rif in Megilah that it is necessary to sound the words of the megilah to one's ears. And once again, we can assume that he brings the words of Rav Yosef here in Berakhot in order to establish that indeed this is not necessary.[12]

 

But the Ra'avad, who raises an objection against the Rif, apparently understands that Rabbi Yehuda's le-khatchila does not parallel Rabbi Yose's be-di'avad, and it is not connected to it, but rather he has a different source, and therefore he asks why the Rif cited the words of Rav Yosef.[13] And indeed this is what explicitly emerges from his words as they are brought in Chidushei ha-Rashba (ad loc., s.v. amar): "The Ra'avad, z"l, asked: According to Rav Yosef who says that bedi'eved he fulfills his obligation, and 'Listen and hear' refers to words of Torah, why is it necessary le-khatchila to sound the words to his ears. And he answered that that which it says that it refers to words of Torah relates exclusively to 'listen.' That is to say, listen so that you will observe them. But hearing with the ear is needed le-khatchila because it says 'and hear.' And they disagree about Shema, for Rabbi Yose maintains that since hearing with the ear is necessary in the other mitzvot because it says 'and hear,' why then does it say, 'Hear, O Israel,' regarding Shema. Infer from this that it is indispensable. And Rabbi Yehuda maintains that 'hear' written with respect to Shema teaches that [Shema may be recited] in any language that you understand, and hearing with the ear le-khatchila is learned from the other mitzvot, regarding which it says, 'and hear.'" We see from here that according to the Ra'avad, le-khatchila one must sound the words to one's ears in all mitzvot, even according to Rav Yosef; moreover, the obligation appears to be by Torah law.

 

The Rashba himself rejects the Ra'avad's understanding of the talmudic passage, and suggests an alternative explanation: "We must say that they disagree about 'listen and hear' itself, for Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Yehuda in the name of his teacher interpret 'and hear,' that the words must be sounded to the ear, and le-khatchila. Whereas Rabbi Yehuda himself and Rabbi Meir interpret it with respect to the words of the Torah. That is to say, 'listen and accept.' And regarding 'Hear O Israel,' they also disagree, for Rabbi Yehuda learns from it hearing with the ear and le-khatchila, whereas Rabbi Meir learns from it [that Shema may be recited] in any language that you understand. But there is no need for the words to be heard by the ear, for it says, 'on your heart,' referring to the intention of the heart." As for the law, however, he too accepts the position of the Ra'avad, that according to Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, whose position was explicitly accepted as law, a person must sound the words to his ears in all mitzvot, and apparently by Torah law.

 

The positions of the Ra’avya and the Rif, on the one hand, and those of the Ra'avad and the Rashba, on the other, are two extremes: Either there is no need whatsoever to make the words audible to one's ears in the other mitzvot or there exists such an obligation by Torah law. In light of the words of the Tosafot cited above, a third possibility may be suggested. For the Tosafot (s.v. hi) write that according to Rabbi Yose the need to sound the words to one's ears in the other mitzvot is by rabbinic decree. They seem to imply that not only is the be-di'avad law by rabbinic decree, but even the le-khatchila obligation is only by rabbinic decree. For they explain that since the rabbis required hearing, they modeled their enactment after Shema, saying that hearing is necessary even be-di'avad. If this is true according to Rabbi Yose, all the more so according to Rabbi Yehuda. Only that according to Rabbi Yehuda, there is room to ask whether even with respect to Shema the obligation to hear the words is only by rabbinic decree, or whether with respect to Shema one must hear the words le-khatchila, and it is only with respect to the other mitzvot that this is only by rabbinic enactment. And if we assume that the Tosafot rule against Rav Yosef – for the entire passage here and in Megilah, and so, too, the words of Rav Matana and Rabbi Yose (the Amora) in the Yerushalmi contradict his position – we would have a third position as to the normative law, and this itself would take one of two forms. See the Meiri (ad loc., s.v. ke-shem) who rules: "Just as we said regarding Shema that le-khatchila one must sound the words to one's ears and enunciate the letters with precision, but be-di'avad one fulfills one's obligation even if one does not do this, so, too, regarding the other mitzvot, e.g., Birkat ha-Mazon and other blessings that constitute mitzvot," but he doesn't say that this is by Torah law. Perhaps he maintains that the entire obligation, even with respect to Shema, is only by rabbinic decree according to Rabbi Yehuda.

 

In light of the aforementioned discussion, let us approach our specific question: Is a person obligated to make his Amida prayer audible to his own ears? At first glance, the answer is simple. All that we must do is apply the aforementioned positions to the issue at hand, for prayer too is included among the mitzvot of speech. The law regarding prayer should be the same as the law regarding megilah. Upon closer examination, however, we see that it is possible that prayer sets a place for itself, and in various senses.

 

1)     On the one hand, the Rashba maintains that in all mitzvot a person is obligated to sound the words to his ears based on the verse of "Listen and hear." With respect to prayer, however, he seems to rule in accordance with the Tosefta (following his reading), and against the Yerushalmi, that it is preferable not to sound the words to one's ears. And while this is not his initial inclination, in the end he accepts this position, and does not raise an objection from prayer to the rest of the mitzvot. He seems to maintain that there is room to distinguish between them. And the truth is that a distinction of this sort is brought in the Yerushalmi cited above. For the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 2:4) asserts that according to Rabbi Yose, "If a person prayed but did not sound the words to his ears, he has fulfilled his obligation," and this is despite the fact that the Yerushalmi concludes that the words of Rabbi Yose apply both to Shema and to the other mitzvot. To explain this distinction, it may be suggested that sounding the words of prayer to one's ears is excluded from the verse regarding Chana. This seems to be implied by the baraita: "You might say that a person should raise his voice and pray. It is stated with respect to Chana: 'Now Chana spoke in her heart.'" It seems, however, that a rationale may be offered for this distinction, and especially, if we assume that the law of sounding the words to one's ears relates to the fulfillment of the mitzva, and is not a measure of speech. For it can be argued that the law of sounding the words to one's ears was stated with respect to mitzvot such as Shema, blessings, or megilah, regarding which both their acts and their fulfillment are defined in terms of speech or reading. With respect to prayer, however, while the act of the mitzva involves speech, the fulfillment is in the heart and not in the mouth, as we explained earlier in the name of the Rav. Accordingly, there is no need to hear the words, inasmuch as the act of speech was performed in perfect manner, and the added fulfillment of hearing has no place in a mitzva whose entire fulfillment is service of the heart.[14]

 

2)     On the other hand, it may be argued that sounding the words to one's ears should be more necessary in prayer than in other mitzvot. For according to those who say that in the case of prayer a person must sound the words to his ears, it was explained above that this should be seen as an application of the rule established with respect to all mitzvot of speech, for prayer is also included in this category. But the Rambam seems to think otherwise. For regarding several mitzvot involving speech or reading – Hallel, mikra bikkurim, viddui ma'aser, and others – he does not mention the law of sounding the words to one's ears. He only requires this with respect to Shema  (Hilkhot Keri'at Shema 2:8), the Amida prayer (Hilkhot Tefila 5:9), and blessings (Hilkhot Berakhot 1:7, and Hilkhot Terumot 4:4). Even with respect to megilah, which is explicitly discussed by the Gemara, the Rambam makes no mention of such an obligation, and only disqualifies from reading – according to the prevailing reading of his words – an insane person and a minor (Hilkhot Megila 1:2), without mentioning a deaf person.[15] This is apparently because we can't be dealing with a deaf-mute, and as for a deaf person who can speak, he is qualified to read the megilah even le-khatchila. Thus, it seems that this law is unique to Shema, prayer and blessings. We must understand, however, why these are different from the rest of the mitzvot involving speech. As for Shema, there is no difficulty, for we can rely on the verse, "Hear, O Israel," and it is possible that this is by Torah law, as mentioned above. But prayer and blessings require explanation. It may be suggested that prayer is defined as si'ach (conversation) – "Here sicha refers to prayer" (Berakhot 26b) – and conversation is something that is heard, and is heard by the speaker. It is only through speaking and hearing that a person is a full participant, physically and emotionally, in a conversation. And even though the person is conversing, as it were, with God who knows man's thoughts and listens to his silent meditations, nevertheless, from the perspective of the petitioner, something is missing from the conversation if he cannot hear his own words, even if technically he fulfills the obligation of speech or reading. This explanation suffices for prayer, but it is difficult to propose it for blessings which do not involve a fulfillment of standing and talking before the King, and all the laws that stem from it (standing, the disqualification of one who is drunk, and the like). Perhaps it may be argued that according to the Rambam, even blessings, since they are partially formulated in second person ("Blessed are You"), have the character of a conversation. And while this character is only partial, and the blessings – apart from the blessings of Shemoneh Esreh – end in third person (e.g., "Who has commanded us…"), this suffices to establish an obligation to sound the words of the blessings to one's ears. According to this, however, we must go back to mikra bikkurim and viddui ma'aser, which are also formulated by the Torah in second person, and yet the Rambam does not mention that one must sound them to one's ears. Perhaps it may be suggested that while the biblical passages are formulated in such a way that the words are directed to God, nevertheless when a person comes to read them, he relates directly to the biblical passage, and his fulfillment is that of reading and not conversation. This matter, however, requires further clarification.

 

Thus far we have dealt with one point: must a person reciting the Amida prayer sound the words to his ears, whether based on a general law of sounding words that applies to all mitzvot involving speech, or whether as a special fulfillment in prayer, as conversation. There is, however, a second question: Is there a reason not to sound the words of prayer to one's ears? As we have seen, according to the Rashba and in light of his reading of the Tosefta, the answer is, of course, yes. Here, however, we are clearly dealing with a factor that is unique to prayer, for regarding the other mitzvot even if there is no obligation to sound the words to one's ears, one is certainly permitted to do so. And it stands to reason that this law is part of the prohibition to raise one's voice in prayer. The discussion of this issue will have to wait until the next section of this shiur. There I hope also to reach a conclusion regarding the law in actual practice.

 

(To be continued.)

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 

[1] It should be noted that while both the Bavli and the Yerushalmi omit the word, "le-oznav" ("to his ears"), the Yerushalmi reads: "You might say that a person should raise his voice," but nevertheless the intention seems to be one and the same.  

[2] See Tosefta ki-Peshuta, p. 30.

[3] According to this reading in Rashi, it is possible that he is relating to the obligation to sound the words, and not the option of doing so. So, too, write the Talmidei Rabbenu Yona (Berakhot 16a, 9b in Alfasi) in the name of "the Rabbis of France." Perhaps, then, according to him, sounding the words is indeed permitted. The Bach, however, writes:  "you are permitted to make audible," according to which it is clear that in the case of prayer this is forbidden. Of course, our reading can be understood in similar fashion. It should be noted that the proof from the words of Rashi is brought by R. Akiva Eiger in his strictures to Orach Chayim, no. 101, and it is based on his understanding that Rashi is talking about making the words audible to one's own ears. The Bach (Orach Chayim, 101), however, understood that the Ri – and, as it would seem, Rashi as well – is talking about sounding the words to other people's ears. According to this, of course, Rashi is irrelevant to our present discussion.

[4] On this point, perhaps even Rav Yosef agrees; see below.

[5] Clearly, however, even according to this understanding, if a person reads the Shema without sounding the words to his ears, and afterwards he hears the Shema from another person – in such a manner that the rule of shome'a ke-oneh does not apply, e.g., where the reader had no intention of discharging his obligation, or if shome'a ke-oneh never helps regarding the Shema – he has not fulfilled his obligation, for the two fulfillments must come together.

[6] Following Tosafot in Sotah 33a, s.v. birkat, that the law that Birkat ha-Mazon can be recited in any language requires a special derivation, contra Rashi, ad loc.

[7] See Keren Orah (in his discussion of this passage, printed in his novellae to the first chapter of Berakhot) who raised an objection against the view of Tosafot that regarding the rest of the Torah the requirement to make the words audible to one's ears is only by rabbinic decree, and concluded: "Thus, it seems to me, to answer Tosafot's objection, that Rav Chisda maintains that we learn about all the mitzvot from Shema by way of an analogy, that just as Shema is a mitzva involving speech and the Torah says that a person only fulfills his obligation if he sounds the words to his ears, but without sounding the words to his ears there is no speech and it is regarded like silent meditation, so too regarding all mitzvot that depend on speech." We see from here that he, too, saw a connection between the scope of the law and its nature.

[8] See in the continuation of the Keren Ora (ibid.) that he infers from the passage regarding megilah - contra Tosafot - that sounding the words to one's ears in the rest of the Torah is obligatory by Torah law, based on analogy, and not merely by rabbinic enactment. For according to the Tosafot, "here, regarding a deaf person who speaks but does not hear, where there is no other way, from where do we know that the Rabbis enacted that he should not read at all, so that he is a person who is not obligated in the matter and therefore cannot discharge the obligation of others?"

[9] Following the Sha'agat Aryeh, no. 6, and against the Ramban (in his likkutim on Berakhot 1, s.v. ve-achar zeman, and the Vilna Gaon (Shenot Eliyahu, Berakhot 1:1, s.v. korin).                                                 

[10] It seems from the Keren Ora, however, that he understood that according to Rabbi Yose, be-di'avad, reading without hearing the words is considered like silent meditation, so that there is no act of reading, whereas according to Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, there is no deficiency in the act of reading, only that le-khatchila a person must hear the words in order to fulfill the obligation of "Hear," and Rabbi Meir answers that the validity of his words depends on the intention of the heart.

[11] The Yerushalmi does not mean to say that the wording of the mishna is imprecise, for the law is true even with respect to the "deaf person" about whom the Sages spoke in general, namely, someone who neither hears nor speaks. Only that with respect to such a person, there would have been no need to discuss him here, and he is mentioned only incidentally together with an insane person and a minor. See Meiri, Berakhot 15a.

[12] One might ask: The mishna in Terumah states that le-khatchila a deaf person who speaks should not set aside terumah, and the Yerushalmi there (1:2) explains that this is because he does not hear the blessing. According to Rav Yosef, in accordance with which Tanna was this mishna taught? The answer is that even according to Rav Yosef, who distinguishes between Shema and the other mitzvot according to Rabbi Yose, be-di'avad a person fulfills his obligation with respect to the other mitzvot even if he does not sound the words to his ears, whereas according to Rabbi Yehuda, he need not sound the words to his ears even le-khatchila. But according to Rabbi Yose, le-khatchila a person must sound the words to his ears even with respect to the other mitzvot, for the Sages ordained that they are like Shema, and the mishna in Terumah follows his position.

[13] It should also be noted that the answer proposed above does not help for the Ba'al ha-Ma'or, who cites the view of Rav Yosef as law, but nevertheless rules that le-khatchila a deaf person should not read the megilah.

[14] A distinction between the mitzvot, though of a different sort, must also be proposed according to the gemara's initial assumption that according to Rav Yosef in the case of other mitzvot, a person does not fulfill his obligation if he did not hear the words, whereas in the case of Shema, he does fulfill his obligation. At first glance this is difficult, for why shouldn't Shema be included in the all-embracing Scriptural decree of "Listen and hear"? It may be suggested that since the essence of Shema is acceptance of the yoke of God's kingdom by way of recitation, a person can fulfill this internally, without sounding the words to his ears. Even though this initial assumption is rejected in light of the beraita, the possibility of distinguishing between the various mitzvot may not have been rejected, so that even according to the conclusion it may be proposed with respect to the Amida prayer.

[15] See Kesef Mishneh, Hilkhot Megila 1:2, who brings two readings on this matter. But even according to his reading, according to which a deaf person is disqualified together with an insane person and a minor, it stands to reason that were are dealing with a deaf person who neither hears nor speaks, and that he is mentioned only by the way, similar to the Yerushalmi cited above. This is against the Kesef Mishneh, who understands that we are dealing with a deaf person who speaks.