Hirhur k’Dibbur

Is hirhur k’dibbur: Are thoughts the equivalent of speech?

In OC 62:3, the Shulchan Aruch writes, “One must hear the words that come out of one’s mouth. If one’s prayer was not audible, one still discharges one’s obligation, as long as one at least articulated the words with one’s mouth.”

This seems to imply hirhur lav k’dibbur dami, that thoughts are not the equivalent to speech. (See also OC 47:7 with Biur Hagra).

However, in the very next halacha, OC 62:4, the Shulchan Aruch writes, “…but if one is sick, or is otherwise forced to recite shema ‘in one’s heart,’ one discharges one’s obligations.”

This seems to imply that hirhur k’dibbur dami, and that, in extenuating circumstances, one can discharge the mitzvah of shema by means of hirhur.

How do we reconcile this contradiction?

Some want to suggest that according to Torah law, hirhur k’dibbur dami, thoughts are considered to be the equivalent to speech. The rabbis, however, required that one articulate the prayers that one recites. As such, one must certainly endeavor to articulate all prayers, though ultimately, one still discharges one’s obligations with hirhur alone.