When to Learn Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum

As noted in part 1, the Shulchan Aruch (OC 285:3) tells us that reviewing the weekly Torah portion “with the community” means starting on Sunday, though Mishnah Brurah (285:7) clarifies that this really means from Shabbos afternoon, when the congregation begins reading the following week’s Torah portion. Other authorities, however, maintain that Sunday means Sunday and that one should optimally not begin Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum on Shabbos afternoon. (See, for example, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 72:11.)

The Shulchan Aruch continues (OC 285:4) with a number of times by which one should complete his review of Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum. These include: before dinner on Friday night; by mincha on Shabbos; until Wednesday of the following week; Shemini Atzeres (i.e., Simchas Torah). Tosfos on Brachos 8b (s.v. Yashlim), however, cite an interesting tale.

Pursuant to the Gemara introducing the subject of Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi exhorts his sons to be careful in this obligation. Commenting on this, Tosfos share a story of Rav Yehuda HaNasi. They write that the entire week appears to be an appropriate time to perform this practice, from Shabbos afternoon (when we begin reading the new Torah portion) through the following Shabbos. They then note that Rav Yehuda HaNasi charged his sons with three things on his deathbed; one of these was that they not eat bread on Shabbos until they have completed their review of the parsha. Tosfos infer from this that Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum should therefore be completed before the meal, though they conclude that doing so is not indispensable.

The question remains as to which meal is meant, with most authorities understanding it to mean lunch on Shabbos day. (See, for example, Mishnah Brurah 285:9.) The Chazon Ish is noteworthy in that he maintains that it refers to “shalosh seudos,” i.e., the third Shabbos meal.

There happens to be a prohibition against fasting on Shabbos, with the result that we may not delay eating past chatzos (halachic midday). Accordingly, the aforementioned Mishnah Brurah notes that, “It’s obvious that one should not push his meal off past midday because of Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum because completing before the meal is just the optimum way. However, if one didn’t complete Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum on Friday, it would be appropriate to arise early on Shabbos day in order to complete it before going to shul.”

A number of authorities echo the sentiment that Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum should optimally be completed before Shabbos. See, for example, Magen Avraham OC 285:6, where he writes that one should complete Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum before eating Shabbos lunch specifically in a case where circumstances prevented one from doing so before Shabbos.

As noted above, if one hasn’t completed his review of Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum by dinner on Friday night, the next checkpoint is by mincha on Shabbos. But what’s “mincha?” While we use the term for the afternoon prayer service, “mincha” is actually a halachic time, and there’s more than one of it.

·      Mincha gedolah (“greater mincha”) is one half-hour after chatzos (halachic midday). This is the earliest time at which one may recite the mincha prayer service.

·      Mincha ketana (“lesser mincha”) is two and a half halachic hours before sunset. According to some authorities, it is preferable to recite the mincha prayer after this time.

·      Plag hamincha – or simply plag mincha – is the midpoint between mincha ketana and sunset, which is one and a quarter halachic hours before the end of the day. Plag hamincha is the earliest time one may light candles and start Shabbos.

So which mincha is meant? Some authorities maintain that it means until one davens mincha (Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach), while others maintain that it refers to one of these halachic times (Mishnah Brurah 285:10, for example, maintains that it refers to mincha gedolah).

The final checkpoints on the road to completing Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum are by Wednesday of the following week and concluding by Shemini Atzeres (by which we mean Simchas Torah). These may seem more arbitrary and require some explanation.

Wednesday is the midpoint of the week, the point that lies opposite Shabbos. This has several interesting ramifications, such as that it makes Wednesday the point in the week at which one might start wishing others a good Shabbos. If one neglected to recite havdalah after Shabbos, one may do so until sunset of the following Tuesday, Tuesday night representing the start of Wednesday just as Friday night represents the start of Shabbos (OC 299:6). Finally, Psalm 94 is the song of the day for Wednesday but there is a widespread custom to append the first three verses of Psalm 95 to its end. There are several reasons for this practice but one of these is because Psalm 95 is “L’chu N’ran’na,” the first of the Psalms that we recite when welcoming Shabbos on Friday night. We see in many ways that Wednesday represents the dividing line between the Shabbos that has last departed and the Shabbos that is next to arrive.

As far as Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, remember that the obligation of Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum is to “complete the weekly Torah portion along with the community, twice in the original Hebrew and once in the Aramaic of Onkelos.” As Rema on OC 285:4 explains, Simchas Torah is when the community completes the Torah.

In Talmud Brachos (8b), Rav Bivi bar Abaye expressed a desire to complete his unfinished Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum on erev Yom Kippur but Chiya bar Rav miDifti taught him that erev Yom Kippur is reserved for eating and drinking and not for making up Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum. When Rav Bivi heard this, he resolved to get a jump on learning Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum early, in advance of the community. This plan was likewise revised when an unnamed elder taught him that one may not review the Torah portions earlier or later than the congregation. Rather, they must be read together with the congregation. Nevertheless, the Avudraham writes that one should complete his Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum for the year during the aseres y’mei teshuvah, the ten days of repentance (see Darchei Moshe 285:3).

We see that there are many opinions as to how and when to review Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum but this also means that there are many opportunities. By learning a little each day, one will find ample opportunity to fulfill this obligation. Whether that means starting Sunday and completing Friday, starting one Shabbos after mincha and ending the next Shabbos before mincha, or even by concluding on Simchas Torah, is ultimately “user’s choice.”