Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six

 

Introduction

This mishnah illustrates the important principle that one who is obligated to perform a given ritual may aid others in fulfilling their obligation.  It also deals with other reasons which might potentially disqualify a person from leading parts of the synagogue service.

 

Mishnah Six

1)      A child may read in the Torah and translate, but he may not pass before the ark or lift up his hands.

2)      A person in rags may lead the responsive reading of the Shema and translate, but he may not read in the Torah, pass before the ark, or lift up his hands.

3)      A blind man may lead the responsive reading of the Shema and translate.

a)      Rabbi Judah says: one who has never seen the light from his birth may not lead the responsive reading of the Shema.

 

Explanation

Section one:  In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that a child can read the haftarah.  Today we learn that a child may read from the Torah as well.  He may also serve as the translator of the Torah reading.  However, he may not pass before the ark, since he is not obligated in prayer (see yesterday’s mishnah).  He also may not lift up his hands to recite the priestly blessing if he is a priest because it was considered disgraceful for the community to have to be blessed by a minor. 

Section two:  A person in rags, meaning one who is dressed shabbily and whose flesh can be seen through his clothes, may still lead the responsive reading of the Shema because this was done from one’s seat.  One didn’t have to get up in front of the community.  Since he would not be seen by the entire congregation, he was allowed to fulfill this role.  He was also allowed to serve as the translator, since this was not considered all that important of a function.  However, he was not allowed to read from the Torah because it would be disgraceful to read the Torah while dressed in rags.  He was not allowed to pass before the ark or lift up his hands (if he was a priest) for the same reason—everyone would see him and his improper clothing.

Section three:  One of the blessings before the Shema is “who creates light.”  According to the first opinion in the mishnah, a blind man can recite this blessing even though he can’t see the light.  He may also translate the Torah because translating does not require one to read. 

Rabbi Judah holds that a person blind from birth cannot recite the Shema because he can’t thank God for having ever seen the light.    

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