OF VERSES AND VERSETS "KOL PASUK D'LO PASAK MOSHE"

 

The kiddush that is recited on Friday nights begins in a most curious manner. The opening paragraph comes from Bereishit 2:1-3, an appropriate enough selection, as those verses describe the very first Shabbat in creation. However, there is some debate as to how this paragraph should begin. Common practice is to follow the view cited by the Chatam Sofer (responsa 1:10) and others and begin with the words "Yom HaShishi" the sixth day. The main reason for this addition is that the first letters of those two words and of the two words that begin Bereishit 2:1 ("Vayechulu HaShamayim") spell out the ineffable tetragrammaton the four-letter name of Hashem. This is a common practice is Jewish literature, perhaps most famously in the opening words of Rambam's Yad haChazakah, and it reflects our desire to allude to Hashem in as many ways and as often as possible.

However, there is a further practice to begin not with "Yom HaShishi," but rather four words earlier with "Vayehi erev vayehi boker" and it was evening and it was daybreak. Those four words precede Yom HaShishi in the last verse of Genesis 1 and thus these six words form a complete phrase (as opposed to having Yom HaShishi rendered meaningless in the context of kiddush and inserted merely for the purpose of the acronym).

There is a greater issue at play here, and that is the subject of this week's Chabura. We begin with the gemara in Berachot 12b, which discusses the various parshiyot that were made a part of the daily recitation of Shema. The gemara notes that the Sages wanted to institute the recitation of the story of Balak and Bilaam (Bamidbar 23 and 24) since it includes the phrase "they crouch, they lie down like a lion, like the king of beasts; who dare rouse them! (referring to the Jews)." Just as our version of Shema speaks about laying down and getting up, so too do these verses and thus there was a movement to include them. However, as their inclusion would render the Shema prohibitively long and thus create an unnecessary burden on the community (tircha d'tzibura), they were left out. The gemara then asks why that one verse could not have been left in, and it responds that any parasha that Moshe himself did not define, we cannot come along and define ourselves. Thus, since this verse is part of a greater section in the Torah, we may not extract it to form its own entity.

This idea is given further expression in Ta'anit 27b and Megilla 22a. The discussion there focuses on how many people get called up to read the creation story. When the gemara suggests that two people get called up to read the first day of creation, a problem ensues. There are only five verses in the story of the first day, and we have a law that each person must read at least three verses! Thus, Rav suggests that one person be called up to read verses one through three, and the second person begin his reading at verse three and continue through verse five (similar to our current practice on Rosh Chodesh). Shmuel disagrees, and claims that we can read half of verse three for the first person and half of it for the second. The gemara then asks why Rav does not adopt the view of Shmuel, and it responds that Rav held that any verse that Moshe did not define, we cannot define for ourselves ("kol pasuk d'lo pasak Moshe anan nami lo paskinan"). Since Moshe did not have this split in verse three, we may not artificially divide the verse. 

While this concept of not breaking verses in half seems to have solid basis in the gemara, it is interesting that it is not cited in any context by Rambam, the Tur, or the Shulchan Aruch, and it is barely dealt with, if at all, by any of the major Rishonim. While the position of Rav is codified by the Tur and Shulchan Aruch in the context of the Torah reading on Rosh Chodesh (O.C. 423:2), this concept is not mentioned explicitly, either by the codifiers themselves or the commentaries that surround them. Nevertheless, there has been some degree of discussion of this principle over the past few centuries, and thus we will look at those views.

First, we should distinguish between the two gemaras cited above. The gemara in Berachot speaks about a problem of breaking up parshiyot, entire sections of the Torah, while the gemara in Ta'anit and Megilla speaks about breaking up verses. Anyone familiar with even the smallest amount of Jewish liturgy is aware of the fact that we constantly recite single verses out of their contexts, and thus it seems that the gemara in Berachot is all but ignored. In a shiur given in honor of the yahrzeit of his father, Rav Yoseif Dov Soloveitchik ("the Rav") addressed this issue. He noted that there is another issue with regard to Shema. Our third paragraph contains two elements the mitzva to wear tzitzit and the mitzva to remember the Exodus form Egypt. During the daytime recitation of the Shema, it makes sense to say the entire paragraph. However, at night one is not obligated to wear tzitzit and thus only the verse that speaks of the Exodus should be recited! Citing out gemara in Berachot, the Rav notes that we must keep the entire parasha in tact and thus we cannot extract the one verse that we need. However, he then notes that we are never strict to not break up parshiyot, so why are we doing so here? He thus notes that there are two laws one law is to not break up verses, while the second law is that of reading the paragraphs as they are written in the Torah. This second law, based on the gemara in Berachot, applies only to Shema. Thus, it governs the exclusion of the story of Bilaam and the recitation of the entire third paragraph at night. However, outside of Shema, there does not seem to be any other time when we are concerned about an entire parasha. (for more on this topic, see the Rav's "Shiurim L'Zecher Avi Mori z"l," volume 1; see also the Zohar cited by Magen Avraham O.C. 282 and Turei Even to Rosh HaShana 31a concerning being able to continue reciting a parasha at a later point and how that aspect differentiates a parasha from a pasuk)

Now that we have narrowed our scope to focus solely on individual verses, we have to ask which verses are included in this law? Based on the wording of the gemara, it would seem that only verses in the Torah itself, and not those in the prophets (nevi'im) and writings (ketuvim), are included, since only the Torah was written by Moshe. This matter is subject to debate as brought down by the Magen Avraham (O.C. 422:8). According to Tosafot in Succah, there is a problem with splitting up verses in the recitation of Hallel, even though it is composed entirely of chapters from Tehillim. The Kol-Bo disagrees and says that there is no such issue with ketuvim (we rely on this view in splitting up the verse "ana Hashem hoshia na, ana Hashem hatzlicha na" by repeating each half separately, we recite only half of a verse at a time). While the Magen Avraham seems to lean towards the view of the Kol-Bo, the Maharsham (responsa 3:359) favors the view of Tosafot. Similarly, the Chayei Adam (5:2) says that this law applies to nevi'im and ketuvim as well, and the Rav introduces the formulation "any verse that David did not define we may not define ourselves" to stress this point (see the aformentioned shiur, page 15).

This being the case, how do we deal with the fact that there are many times in prayer that we do split up verses? The paragraph of "yehi kevod" that is recited before Ashrei in the morning is rife with half-verses and even verse fragments! Several answers have been suggested for this difficulty. The Maharsham (loc. cit.) suggests that it is permissible to recite parts of verses if it is done as a form of praise to Hashem, a view based on the comments of the Magen Avraham (O.C. 282, based on the Zohar in Vayakel), who allows such broken verses to be recited if it is done for supplication. Daniel Shperber, in Minhagei Yisrael volume 2, cites Rav Reuven Margoliyot, who suggests that while there is a problem with beginning a verse and stopping in the middle, it is permitted for one to begin a verse from the middle and recite it to its conclusion. As proof, he cites the laws of bikkurim (the first fruits), where the owners had to recite the verses in Devarim 26, beginning with the middle of verse four.

In an appendix in volume four of his work, Shperber cites Rav Avraham Nadav, who offers four possible exceptions to this rule. First, it does not apply to verses in ketuvim. Second, it does not apply to verses recited as prayers or supplications. Third, it does not apply if the phrase is only two words long (such as "Hashem melech"). This is based on the gemara in Gittin 6b which allows a person to write two words of a Torah without the requisite underlines (sirtut) being scratched into the parchment. Tosafot there note that Riva rules that while it is forbidden to write a verse without the lines for the purpose of exposition, it is permitted if the verse is merely being cited as part of a letter (and it was extremely common practice throughout the Middle Ages and beyond for Torah scholars to write letters borrowing heavily from the well-known phraseology of Tanakh). Finally, Nadav claims that according to the responsa Rav Pe'alim, one may divide a verse by an 'etnachta,' loosely described as a cantillation comma, since an etnachta has similarities to the punctuation used at the end of a verse ('sof pasuk'; for example, both would render the word 'kesef' as 'kasef').

There is one more exception that is noted. The Tzitz Eliezer (9:17:10) cites the Sfat Emet asks how the Hagadah used on Pesach can cite so many fragments of verses (most famously "avadim hayinu")? The Sfat Emet claims that it is not considered to be breaking a verse if the verse contains the words "le'emor" or "v'amarta" "and you should say" or "so saying." Since the verse describes something tat one should say, one only has to say that part, and does not have to recite as well the command to say it. The Tzitz Eliezer gives a more technical answer, claiming that when the hagadah cites such verses, it is sure to alter a word or two so as to avoid this problem.

One of the more famous applications of this concept is the verse recited when the Torah is raised (hagbaha) after being read. The version found in most Ashkenazi siddurim is "v'zot haTorah asher sam Moshe lifnei Bnei Yisrael al pi Hashem b'yad Moshe." Sefaradi siddurim mainly leave out the part beginning with "al pi Hashem," as it comes from a different verse, and it only part of a verse at that. Rav Chaim Volozhin was therefore very careful to recite all of Bamidbar 9:22 (the source of the fragment), and this text is found in the siddurim of the Shelah and Ya'avetz. Interestingly, Rav Hershel Schachter, in Nefesh HaRav (p. 142), notes that Rav Yoseif Dov Soloveitchik followed Rav Chaim's warning, but instead of reciting the entire verse, he simply omitted that fragment and only recited the first verse (I have heard this orally from Rav Binyamin Tabory as well).

Finally, we return to our initial discussion, the beginning of Friday night kiddush. While we noted the practice of beginning from the words "vayehi erev vayehi boker," that solution may still be problematic, as those words are only the second half of the verse. Along the lines of Rav Chaim by hagbaha, it would therefore seem that one should recite all of Bereishit 1:31 "va-yar Elokim et kol asher asah v'hinei tov me'od, vayehi erev vayehi boker yom hashishi." However, the Chatam Sofer cites the Medrash in Bereishit Rabba 9 which claims that the words "tov me'od" are a reference to death and thus should not be made part of kiddush. Rav Schachter (Nefesh HaRav p. 159) claims that the Rav rejected this view, and he in fact did recite the entire verse, although he did recite it quietly (which Shperber suggests doing to solve the problem from all sides).

There are a few more answers given to solve the issue by kiddush. Rav Menachem Kasher, in Torah Sheleimah (1:418) brings an answer from the Yerushalmi. While the phrase "vayehi erev vayehi boker yom..." is part of a verse by the sixth day, it is an entire verse in other places in creation (days three, four, and five). Thus, even though here it is only part of a verse, it can be viewed as still having some status as a full verse due to the analogous formulations elsewhere in Bereishit 1.

Finally, the Iyun Tefillah (commentary to the Otzar HaTefillot) believes that there was a time when the practice was to recite the entire verse at the beginning of kiddush. As proof, he adduces a line in the Friday night song "kol mekadesh shvi'i." In that song, the poet writes "tehorim yirashuha vikadeshuha b'ma'amar kol asher asah" the holy ones (the Jews) will inherit it (Shabbat) and will sanctify it with the statement of 'kol asher asah.' He makes note of the fact that the Sages claim that the world was created with ten ma'amarot, or divine utterances, the last of which ends with the end of the sixth day. The last verse of the sixth day of creation is the verse that we are discussing, and the last words before the familiar formulation of "vayehi erev..." are "kol asher asah v'hinei tov me'od." Thus, the Iyun Tefillah suggests that this line in the song was based on the fact that the kiddush ("vikadeshuha") once upon a time included the line of "kol asher asah," in accordance with the view that it should be recited to avoid the problem of splitting the verse.

 


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