Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

מִזְמוֹרֵי תְהִלִּים וְכֵן שְׁאָר פָּרָשִׁיּוֹת מִתּוֹרָה נְבִיאִים וּכְתוּבִים שֶׁאֵינָם שְׁגוּרִים בְּפִי הַכֹּל, אָסוּר לְאָמְרָם בְּעַל פֶּה. אֲפִלּוּ מִי שֶׁהוּא יוֹדֵעַ לְאָמְרָם בְּעַל פֶּה, יֶשׁ לוֹ לִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא לְאָמְרָם בְּעַל פֶּה. וְסוּמָא מֻתָּר

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:6

According to this law, one cannot say a section from Tanach without the text unless it is something that people often say by heart. What falls under this category? For example, would the portion of the Torah (the commandment for the Kohanim to bless the Children of Israel) that follows the Blessing on the Torah count as something we often say by heart? What about Shema?

share|improve this question
up vote 8 down vote accepted

In the words of the Shulchan Aruch (OC 49:1),

אף על גב דקיימא לן דברים שבכתב אי אתה רשאי לאומרם על פה כל דבר שרגיל ושגור בפי הכל כגון קריאת שמע וברכת כהנים ופרשת התמיד וכיוצא בהן מותר

So Shema and the blessings of the kohanim are OK to say by heart since "everyone is fluent in them". Many poskim discuss what is considered "everyone is fluent in", and many other leniencies that apply here as well. See here for examples and sources.

share|improve this answer
the shulchan aruch's examples are clearly outdated as 90% of religious Jews (myself excluded) probably don't say parashat hatamid daily. – Double AA Jan 26 '12 at 4:15
@DoubleAA I wouldn't say 90% because most Sefaradim do. – Hacham Gabriel Jan 31 '12 at 4:11
@DoubleAA, (to add to HachamGabriel's comment,) chasidim do, too. – msh210 Feb 13 '12 at 22:14
@msh210 , HachamGabriel : I recognize that others have it more prominently in the siddur, but I wonder whether all of them actually say it regularly. (It's in the artscroll ashkenaz siddurim too, but I'm afraid that hasn't motivated too many people to say it.) Also, most shuls in Israel (of whatever variety) start from Hodu/Baruch Sheamar and half of Jews live there. Maybe 90% is a little exaggerated, but it's much higher than the Shulchan Aruch was expecting. – Double AA Feb 13 '12 at 22:24

Just to add an opinion to the many valid ones that were already presented, the GR"A (quoted in Mishnah Berura 49:6) holds that this prohibition only applies when you are being motzi other people.

share|improve this answer
Indeed, and this does seem to be the majority opinion among rishonim. – Double AA Feb 13 '12 at 21:25

R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi writes in Likkutei Torah that in order to cleave to Hashem constantly, one should learn all of Chumash by heart.

Moreover, the Hayom Yom says that

Among my father's regular Torah-study sessions: A parsha of Chumash with Rashi daily; reciting Tanach by heart - a chapter each of Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim; a chapter of Mishnayot; a regular session in profound study of Gemara - two folio pages weekly, another in rapid study of Gemara - three pages daily; a session of study of the Jerusalem Talmud; a regular period for Codes, but not daily. During the course of the year he would conclude the entire Midrash Raba, "borrowing" from the long sedrot and "repaying" on the shorter ones

Emphasis mine.

share|improve this answer
And say it by heart? – msh210 Jul 13 '11 at 3:43
@msh210: he doesn't mention that. – Alex Jul 13 '11 at 18:29
Extremely novel! Do you know by what reasoning he allows that? – Double AA Mar 26 '12 at 17:48
@DoubleAA IDK, but it would be permitted according to the Gra mentioned in I's answer. – Shmuel Brin Mar 26 '12 at 17:50
@DoubleAA you wrote there that most Rishonim agree to that, so what is so extremely novel? – Shmuel Brin Mar 26 '12 at 17:51

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.