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What is the reason for שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום?

Why must it been done in that form of twice reading the verse and once reading the תרגום?

The Gemara in ברכות דף ח states that one who does שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום will merit "long days and long years". What is it about keeping this law that would yield such a consequence?

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3 Answers

Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 285:2) suggests that it is in commemoration of the three times that the generalities and the specifics (כללות ופרטות) of the Torah were repeated (Sotah 37b): once at Sinai, once by Hashem speaking to Moshe from the Tent of Meeting, and a third time by Moshe in the plains of Moav. The reason for doing the Targum one time, he says, is that it too was given at Sinai, and is necessary (or was, in Talmudic times) for the person to understand what he's learning.

The commentary Magen HaElef on Siddur R' Amram Gaon offers a different reason, and also uses it to explain why the reward for doing this is long life. It goes back to the time when people who got an aliyah were expected to read their own portion (as is still done in Yemenite communities); to do so takes prior preparation - reviewing the portion at least twice. If one is careful to do שמו"ת, then, he will always be able to receive an aliyah if one is offered to him, and will thereby merit the Torah's blessing of long life (Deut. 30:20).

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The Mord'chai on B'rachos (#19) implies that the reason for the practice is to familiarize oneself with the words of the Torah. Ramifications of this law include the automatic fulfilment of it by teachers of Torah to children and the fact that a commentary is a valid substitute for the translation. Others disagree, holding that there is special significance to Unkelus's translation and that meanings absent from the commentaries are conferred by it (cf. Tosafos s.v. sh'nayim mikra v'echad targum).

That this practice should enable one more than simple scheduled familiarity and actually preparation for the weekly public reading is implied by the Shibolei Haleket (#75) when it specifies that one should finish his reading before heading to shul in the morning. (Although it does state that failing to do so, one should still read it before eating anything later that day. Furthermore, Kol Bo (#37) even opines that in such circumstances one may read up until Wednesday.) It also may be the implication of Ramba"m in T'fila Un'si'as Kapayim 13:25 when he disqualifies hearing the weekly public reading from being a fulfilment of the obligation.

A very interesting limitation to this practice is made in a responsum (#88) of the Ra'ava"n when he explains that sh'nayim mikra v'echad targum applies (or was originally intended) only for individuals who live in secluded cities without a minyan. They are to emulate a fulfilment of public reading by reading once for each of the two people reading directly out of the Torah and once for the real-time translator who it was the custom to follow along for public comprehension at the exact time it was being read elsewhere in public.

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Thank you for providing these sources. Did you come across anyone that explains what the perfection is in this Mitzvah that merits the long life? Why more so than any learning Torah? Why this formula of twice mikreh and then once Tirgum? –  RCW Jun 12 '11 at 5:34
    
@RCW I did not see anywhere an explanation for the unique arichus yamim but I saw the answer given by Alex (reenacting matan Torah) and the Ra'ava"n's answer (reenacting being in shul) to explain the 2+1 pattern. –  WAF Jun 12 '11 at 12:34
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Two answers that were given here:

(a) The Gemara later (55a) says that if one refrains from reading the Torah when he is called upon to read, this "shortens one's days and years." If he prepares the Parshah two times, he becomes sufficiently familiar with the words and is able to read from the Torah in the event that he is called upon. He thereby avoids having his days and years shortened, and he merits long life. (RAV ELAZAR MOSHE HOROWITZ)

(b) One who disciplines himself and arranges his schedule in order to ensure that he has time to read the Parshah twice and its Targum once each week shows that he appreciates the value of time and uses it productively. He is granted more time in this world to learn Torah and do Mitzvos. (-As heard from Rav Kalman Weinreb, shlit'a.)

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A is really nice. –  avi Dec 31 '13 at 14:08
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