Laws relevant to the congregation during the Torah reading

Laws for congregation during reading:

A. General laws:

Paying attention to the reading: One is to have a Chumash open in front of him and follow the reading during Kerias Hatorah.[1] Some are accustomed to read along silently with the Baal Korei to help them concentrate.[2] Others[3], however, rule that one is to remain silent, and read along in his mind.

Standing: The congregation is not required to stand during the reading[4], although some are stringent to stand.[5] Some Poskim[6], however, learns that if the Sefer Torah rests on a table and not on a Bima, then one is required to stand from the letter of the law, and may only sit between the Aliyos. However, those who are weak and cannot concentrate properly on the reading, may sit. Whatever the case, it is best for the congregation to stand when the blessings before and after the Torah reading are recited, although according to Kabalah one may remain sitting also during the blessings. It is forbidden for one who stands for Kerias Hatorah to sit down when the blessings are recited. One is not to sit opposite the Olah.[7]

Leaving Shul:[8] It is forbidden to leave the Shul [once] the Sefer Torah is opened [until the completion of the reading, even if there are another ten people in Shul and he already heard the reading]. [In a time of great need[9], however], one may leave in-between Aliyos.

Covering head with Tallis: It is the custom of those particular in Mitzvos, and of all the Chassidim[10], to cover their head with the Tallis Gadol throughout the entire period of time that they are wearing it, in order so their head is not uncovered for even one moment.[11] Doing so humbles ones heart and leads to fear of heaven.[12] One who removes his Tallis from his head is like one who passes over the chance to perform a Mitzvah.[13] One is not to uncover his head from the Tallis even if he is very hot.[14] The Tallis is to remain on one’s head from the beginning of Davening until the end.[15] Seemingly, this applies likewise during Kerias Hatorah. Nonetheless, the Rebbe Rashab was not accustomed to cover his head during the Keriah.

B. Talking during Kerias Hatorah:[16]

Once the reader has begun to read the Torah it is forbidden for the congregants to speak.[17] [Furthermore, some Poskim[18] rule that even prior to the start of the reading, once the Sefer Torah is opened, it is forbidden to speak.]

Words of Torah:[19] It is even forbidden for them to speak words of Torah. This applies even if the congregant has already read the Parsha to himself [Shnayim Mikra Echad Targum[20]]. 

Between Aliyos:[21] It is forbidden to speak even between the Aliyos, [even when the Mi Shebeirah is recited[22], and hence from the commencing of the reading until the conclusion of the final reading, speech is prohibited[23]].[24] This applies even to words of Torah.[25] It is however permitted for one to be lenient to learn Torah quietly to himself in between the Aliyos.[26] However, once the blessings are recited he must be quiet and listen.[27]

Shnayim Mikra Echad Targum:[28] There are those[29] which permit to read Shnayim Mikra Echad Targum [to themselves[30]] during the reading of the Torah on Shabbos.[31] [Others[32] however forbid doing so. Practically one is not to do so, as it is proper to listen to the words being read by the Baal Koreh.[33] One may however read along with the Baal Koreh, and doing so is praiseworthy.[34] It is likewise allowed to read Shnayim Mikra between the Aliyos.[35]]

Halachic rulings: It is forbidden for a Rav to give Halachic ruling to an asker during the reading of the Torah[36], although he may do so between the Aliyos.[37] If however the matter involves stopping a person from currently doing a sin then it is allowed for him to answer even in middle of the reading.[38] Nevertheless one is to first try to stop the person through a hint, and only if he is unable to do so should he actually speak during the reading.[39]



Once the reader has begun to read the Torah it is forbidden for the congregants to speak at all, even words of Torah, until the conclusion of the final reading. Some Poskim rule that even prior to the start of the reading, once the Sefer Torah is opened, it is forbidden to speak. It is forbidden to speak even between the Aliyos, and even when the Mi Shebeirah is recited. It is however permitted for one to be lenient to learn Torah quietly to himself between the Aliyos. However once the blessings are recited he must be quiet and listen.



May one speak during Kerias Hatorah if he already heard the reading in a different Minyan, or plans to hear it later on?

It is forbidden to speak to others during the reading even if one already heard Kerias Hatorah with a Minyan, being that this will disturb others. Furthermore, some Poskim[40] rule one may not even learn Torah quietly to himself during the reading and is thus required to listen to the reading a second time. Practically however, if there are ten people other than him listening to the reading then he may learn Torah quietly to himself during the reading. He should also make it apparent that he has already heard the Torah reading or plans to do so in a different Minyan.[41] 

May a Rav give a Drasha between Aliyos?[42]

A Rav may give a Drasha which involves the Mitzvah of Tzedaka in order to motivate the congregants to donate money to the Shul upon them receiving their Aliyah.



The severity of the sin of speaking during Kerias Hatorah:

Speaking during Kerias Hatorah is a very severe sin. It causes one’s prayer to be an abomination and not be acceSee Piskeiy Teshuvosed by Hashem.[43] It belittles the Torah and Hashem, and one’s punishment will be sure to come.[44] It banishes the Shechina from the Shul, and causes death and poverty amongst the Jewish people.[45] On the other hand one who respects the Torah and its reading causes that the Torah arouses Divine mercy upon him and his family in both spiritual and material matters.[46]

Free Translation of the words of the Rebbe Rayatz on the severity of speaking during the Torah reading:[47]

It is thus incumbent upon the reader of the Torah to be well versed in all the laws of Kerias Hatorah, as this matter touches one’s very soul. On this the verse states that life and death is in the hands of the tongue. Just as the reward is very great for one who reads the Torah properly, according to law, so too is the great and immense retribution against one who belittles the reading of the Torah properly and does not place vast effort to know all the tunes of the reading. One who does not do so is Heaven forbid considered like one who causes the masses, which are the listeners of his incorrect reading, to sin. On this the verse states that life and death is in the hands of the tongue. Now, this likewise applies to those that listen to the reading of the Torah, that they need to listen to the reading from a Sefer that is in their hands, and they need to hear each and every word. It is known the great and immense consequences in this world and the next to those who are not careful in this. It is explained in Sefarim that listening to the Torah reading properly affects the blessings one receives in Banaiy/children; Chayaiy/Health; and Mezoni/Parnasa. One who demeans the listening of the Torah is a brazen person which expels the king from his own palace. One who speaks to a friend is causing the masses to sin and increases Heaven forbid and Heaven forefend, death and poverty amongst the Jewish people.     


C. What is one to do if he is in middle of Shemoneh Esrei, and the congregation began to read Kerias Hatorah?

It is debated amongst the Rishonim and Poskim as to whether one is to stop and listen to a Davar Shebekdedusha in the midst of Shemoneh Esrei, or not, and practically we rule that one is to stop and listen silently.[48] However, some Poskim[49] write that this ruling does not apply to Kerias Hatorah, and it is thus better to continue with the Davening then to stop and listen to the Keria in middle of Shemoneh Esrei.[50] This applies even if one will not be able to hear Kerias Hatorah again that day.[51] However, other Poskim[52] rule that one may [and should] stop and listen to the Keria.[53] [Practically, it is best to avoid this situation and not begin Shemoneh Esrei at a time that will conflict with Kerias Hatorah. However, Bedieved if one did so, or must do so due to the passing of Zman Tefila, then those who stop and listen have upon whom to rely. This especially applies if one cannot properly concentrate on his Shemoneh Esrei in the midst of Kerias Hatorah.[54]]

Women: According to most Poskim[55], and the final ruling[56], women are not obligated to hear Kerias Hatorah and hence they may continue Shemoneh Esrei rather than to stop and listen to Keiras Hatorah. Nonetheless, if a woman cannot properly concentrate on her Shemoneh Esrei in the midst of Kerias Hatorah then she may stop and listen, as stated above.


[1] Sefer Haminhagim p. 30 [English]

[2] M”A 146; M”B 146:15


[4] Michaber 146:4

[5] Rama 146:4

The Chabad custom: The Rebbe Rashab was accustomed to stand during Kerias Hatorah. In Hayom Yom  says to stand by Shiras Hayam and Aseres Hadibros, implying that by other times one may sit.

[6] Siddur Rav Shabsi; Rebbe Rashab in Siddur Torah Or p. 488 printed in Siddur Im Dach p. 640; The Rebbe in Igros Kodesh 24:120 referenced the asker to look in the gloss of the Rebbe Rashab in response to whether one must stand by kerias Hatorah.

[7] Rebbe Rashab in Siddur Torah Or p. 488 printed in Siddur Im Dach p. 640

[8] Michaber 146:1; See also 149:1; Ketzos Hashulchan 25:11

[9] M”A 146:2

[10] Toras Menachem 18:106

[11] Bach 8; Taz 25:2; Olas Tamid 8:3; Matzos Shmurim p. 23b “The main ourpose of the Tallis Gadol is to cover the head. Unlike those the few Shotim which only garb their body in the Tallis Gadol and not their head, and it is a great mistake in their hands, and they are saying a blessing in vain, as how can they say the blessing of Lihisateif, if they are not garbing their head”; Radbaz 1:343; Shaareiy Teshuvah 8:3; M”B 8:4; Ketzos Hashulchan 7:4; Toras Menachem 18:106 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 11:36]; See Shaareiy Teshuvah 8:3 and Kaf Hachaim 8:9 for different customs in this regard

[12] Bach ibid

[13] Taz ibid

[14] Magen Gibborim 91:3 in name of Meiri; Chavos Yair 53:1

[15] Elya Raba 8:4; Poskim in Kaf Hachaim 8:10; Ketzos Hashulchan ibid

[16] Michaber 146:2; Sotah 39a; Zohar Vayakhel p. 206

[17] This prohibition applies according to all opinions regarding mundane words, as it is only regarding words of Torah in which there is a dispute.

[18] M”A 146:3 based on Gemara ibid; Gr”a; Soles Belula 146:3; M”B 146:4

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule the prohibition of speech only begins from the time that the reading commences. [Michaber ibid as explained in Beis Yosef; Rashi on Gemara ibid; Elya Raba 146:3; Mateh Yehuda146:3; Derech Hachaim 3; Shaareiy Efraim 4:11; Kaf Hachaim 146:8]

[19] 1st opinion of Michaber ibid and his final ruling; Peri Chadash; Shelah 77, brought in M”A 146:5; Gr”a in Maaseh Rav; Aruch Hashulchan 146:6; M”B 146:15; Achronim as brought in Kaf Hachaim 146:13; Rebbe Rashab in Modaah Raba [printed in Siddur Im Dach p. 644]

Background and other opinions in Michaber: The Michaber records five opinions regarding learning Torah during the reading. 1) It is forbidden to do so in any circumstance; 2) Some opinions [Rashi] permit one to learn quietly. 3) Some opinions [Bahag] rule that if there are ten other people listening to the reading, it is permitted for one to speak [words of Torah-Rama]. 4)  Some opinions [Rif] rule if one’s occupation is Torah learning he may learn Torah. 5) Some opinions [Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah] rule that it is permitted for one to learn Torah during the reading if prior to the opening of the Torah he turned his face away from the Torah and made himself appear that he does not desire to hear the reading but rather to learn, and he began to learn. In the Beis Yosef 146 he concludes that it is valid to rely on all of the above Sages. However the Michaber ibid concludes “The proper ruling to follow is that by all the Parshiyos it is befitting for a meticulous Jew to pay attention and listen to the reading.” The Rebbe Rashab in Modaah Raba [printed in Siddur Im Dach p. 644] explains that based on the Kelalei Haposkim it is evident that the Michaber rules like the first opinion. So is also the ruling of all the Achronim to be mentioned below that one may only be lenient to learn quietly between the Aliyos. [Kaf Hachaim 146:13] The Shelah ibid concludes that the Torah Scholars that learn Torah during the reading indirectly cause others to speak during the reading and will be punished for doing so.

Parshas Zachar and Parah: According to all opinions the reading of Zachar and Parah must be listened and heard by the congregants [even by one who desires to learn Torah based on one of the above allowances], as the reading of these Parshiyos with a Minyan are Biblical. [Michaber ibid]

[20] Olas Tamid 146:3; Beis Yosef in name of Rashba; Kaf Hachaim 146:12

[21] Michaber ibid

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is permitted to speak even mundane words between the Aliyos. [Peri Chadash 146:2; Bach as brought in Beir Heiytiv 146:3; P”M 146 A”A 7]

[22] Mareh Yichezkal 26; Kaf Hachaim 146:15

A long Mi Shebeirach: In today’s times that the Mi Shebeirach can take quite some time, some justify those that are lenient to speak necessary words during this time, even if they are of mundane content. This however only applies to a short interjection that will not turn into a long conversation that will interfere with the reading. [See other opinions in previous footnote; Aruch Hashulchan 146:3; Shulchan Hatahor 146:1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 146:3] The Kaf Hachaim 146:10 completely negates their opinion.

[23] Beis Yosef 146

[24] The reason: As we suspect the person will continue his conversation even after the reading resumes. [Beis Yosef; M”B 146:6]

[25] Drashos Maharil; Kneses Hagedola 146:1

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is permitted to speak words of Torah between the Aliyos, and that so is the custom. The reason for this is because the entire reason for the prohibition during the reading is in order not to disturb others, and hence in-between the reading there is nothing to suspect for. [Bach 146, brought in M”A146:3; M”B 146:6; Peri Chadash 146:2] According to this opinion it is permitted for one to learn even aloud. [Kaf Hachaim 146:10]

[26] Seder Hayom; Elya Raba 146:4; M”B 146:6; Chesed Lealafim 146:13; Kaf Hachaim 146:10 and 13

Other opinions: From the Maharil ibid it is implied that he forbids learning even quietly to oneself.

[27] Elya Raba ibid

[28] Admur 285:8

[29] Michaber 146:2 as rules Murdechaiy; Hagahos Ashriy; Reb Yehuda Hachasid; Terumas Hadeshen.

The Elya Raba rules that not only is this allowed but it is a mitzvah Min Hamuvchar. However the Mamar Murdechaiy argues on the ability to call this leniency a Mitzvah Min Hamuvchar, See Biur Halacha 285 “Yachol”.

[30] So as not to disturb the listeners. [Peri Megadim, brought in M”B 146:11]

[31] It is permitted to read even a different section in that Parsha than the section which the Baal Korah is reading. The reason for this allowance is because at the end of the day the reader is involved within the same topic as is the Baal Korah. [Peri Megadim, brought in M”B 146:11] This allowance applies even if he is part of the 10 listeners. [Magen Avraham 146:5 in name of Terumas Hadeshen]

[32] Peri Chadash; Magen Avraham [146:5] in name of Shalah is stringent in this. [M”B 146:15]

[33] Final ruling of Michaber 146:2 as explained in M”B 14 to be referring also to Shnayim Mikra; M”B 285:14

[34] Mateh Moshe; Magen Avraham 146:5; M”B 146:15

[35] Poskim ibid; M”B 146:15; 185:14

[36] M”A 146:4 in name of Rif; M”B 146:5

The reason: As one can delay the ruling until after the reading. [P”M 146 A”A 4]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is permitted to temporarily recite a Halacha or give a Halachic ruling during the reading. [Darkei Moshe 146:1]

[37] Elya Raba 146:4; Derech Hachaim 3; Shaareiy Efraim 4:11; M”B 146:6; Kaf Hachaim 146:9

[38] P”M 146 A”A 4; Levushei Serud ibid; Derech Hachaim ibid; Shaareiy Efarim ibid; M”B 146:5; Kaf Hachaim 146:9 and 11

[39] Shaareiy Efarim ibid; M”B 146:5;

[40] M”B 146:7 in name of P”M 146 and Gr”a

[41] Piskeiy Teshuvos 146:4 based on the lenient opinions in Michaber ibid

[42] Kaf Hachaim 146:11

[43] Biur Halacha 146:2 “Vehanachon”

[44] Shelah Hakadosh p. 132

[45] Rebbe Rayatz in translated Mamar brought next

[46] Rebbe Rashab in Modaah Raba [printed in Siddur Im Dach p. 644]

[47] Sefer Hamamarim 1937 p. 263

[48] Admur 104:5; Michaber 104:7; Tur 104:7 in name of Rabbeinu Chananel; Tosafus Brachos ibid that so is the custom; Rashi Sukkah 38b; Bahag Brachos ibid; Haeshkol p. 31 in name Rav Haiy Gaon; Ran 19b; Ravayah; Bach 104 in name of Mordechai and that so is custom; Levush 104; Soles Belula 104:2; Chayeh Adam 25:10; Beis Oved 57; Kitzur SHU”A 18:14; Ben Ish Chaiy Mishpatim 5; Kaf Hachaim 104:36

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule one is to continue Davening, as hearing is like answering, and is considered a Hefsek. [2nd opinion in Tur ibid in name of Rabbeinu Tam and Ri; Tosafus Brachos ibid in name of Rabbeinu Tam and Ri and Geonim; Hagahos Maimanis Tefila 10; The Rosh Brachos 18 and Rabbeinu Yona 13b bring both opinions and give no arbitration; See Beis Yosef 104:7] Other Poskim rule that although it is not considered a Hefsek, one is not Yotzei being that he is not allowed to speak, and hence there is no point of stopping to listen. [Darkei Moshe 104:1 in name of the Iggur that the custom of the Ashkenazi Rabbeim is not to stop and listen; Beis Yosef 25 in name of Rashba and Iggur; Shagas Aryeh 6 in name of Shivlei Haleket; Abudarham, brought in Erech Hashulchan 104:3 and 55:1; See P”M 104 A”A 7] Due to the above opinions. Kaf Hachaim ibid concludes that if stopping to listen will ruin one’s concentration of the prayer, or if he anyways cannot hear the Chazan properly, then one may continue his Davening and rely on the other opinions.

[49] Koveitz Mibeis Levi 12; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:70; Piskeiy Teshuvos 104:15 and 135 footnote 13; See Orchos Rabbeinu 3:215 in name of Chazon Ish that if one went ahead and did so he is nevertheless Yotzei; See also Michaber 146:2 for the five opinions regarding learning Torah during the reading.

[50] The reason: As the above matter of stopping for a Davar Shebekedusha is debated amongst the Poskim and we are only lenient due to the custom. Now, regarding Kerias Hatorah, it was not mentioned in the above Poskim who say to stop and listen, and there was never a Minhag to stop and listen. Therefore, it is better to abstain and not stop to listen to suspect for the Poskim who rule it is an interval. [Piskeiy Teshuvos 104:15] Furthermore, most Poskim rule there is no obligation for every individual to hear Kerias Hatorah, and it is rather an obligation on the congregation. [See Poskim in Piskeiy Teshuvos 135:2 footnote 12]

[51] Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid

[52] Az Nidbaru 14:29

[53] The reason: As we rule that one should stop and listen for a Davar Shebekedusha, and if we rule this way regarding a matter that requires answering, certainly we should rule this way regarding a matter that does not require answering. [Az Nidbaru ibid] Furthermore, some Poskim rule it is an obligation upon every individual to hear every word of Kerias Hatorah [See Poskim in Piskeiy Teshuvos 135:2 footnote 12], in contrast to Kaddish and Kedusha which is not an actual obligation for everyone to hear, and only if one is with a Minyan is he required to answer.

[54] See Admur 98:1 “If he gets a foreign thought during Davening [Shemoneh Esrei] he is to be quiet until the thought leaves him.”; Shaareiy Teshuva 104; Ketzos Hashulchan 20:20 regarding a child crying

[55] Maharsham 1:158 that so is explicitly ruled in Ran Megillah 4; Hisorerus Teshuvah 1:5; Beir Moshe 8:86; Piskeiy Teshuvos 135:2

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule women are obligated in Kerias Hatorah. [M”A 282:6, brought in M”B 282:12]

[56] M”B 282:12 that so is the custom

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