Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Placement of the Torah Reading

by: Rabbi Ari Enkin

One will readily notice that whenever the Torah is read at Shacharit it is read after the central prayer, the Shemone Esrei, has been recited. Yet, on occasions when the Torah is read at Mincha, it is done so before the Shemone Esrei. Why the difference?

Ideally the Torah should always be read before the Shemone Esrei in order to fulfill the dictum "la'amod b'tfila b'toch divrei Torah", to stand in prayer after having first said words of Torah. Nevertheless, those who set the order of prayers took into consideration the unfortunate and widespread occurrence of late arrivals to the Shacharit service. Indeed, there are many shuls that inadvertently encourage this trend by posting two, or even three different start times for their Shacharit: the "Berachot" time, the "Hodu" time, and the "Barchu" time. There was a real concern that too many people would end up missing the Kriat Hatorah had it been placed before the Shemoneh Esrei.

At Mincha time however, everyone makes a special effort to come on time. That's because the primary reason for public prayer is to be able to recite the Shemone Esrei together with the minyan. Coming a mere few minutes late at Mincha would undermine the entire purpose for having come. Since people are in the habit of coming on time to Mincha it was felt "safe" to place the Torah reading immediately at the beginning of the service, its ideal slot.

Based on Minhag Yisrael Torah O.C. 135:1

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