We would like to perform a minyan for the deaf. All the participants can speak verbally, but cannot hear, including the Torah reader. Can he sign the words that he is reading during Kri'at Hatorah, or is there a halacha that the Torah must be specifically oralized and only in Hebrew?

  • ASL or Hebrew sign language? (Not sure if this makes a difference.) Also, looks like three separate questions. 1. Oral/speaking, 2. Hebrew only, 3. Does HSL count as Hebrew?
    – Shmuel
    Apr 28, 2014 at 19:27
  • 2
    You should really consult a knowledgeable rabbi for this issue.
    – Shmuel
    Apr 28, 2014 at 19:32
  • I don't think it matters, as deaf people aren't obligated in this mitzvah. That being said, I'm still curious as to the halachic status of sign language. Apr 28, 2014 at 20:31
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    Is the obligation\mitzvah to "read" or to "hear?"
    – Shmuel
    Apr 29, 2014 at 4:47
  • I don't understand the question. the reader is not saying it by heart so what can be wrong with assembling a group of Jewish people to read from the torah?
    – ray
    Apr 29, 2014 at 12:31

1 Answer 1


Rabbi Dovid Stein of Beit Kenesset Chatam in Rehovot has a large group of deaf people come and read Parshas Zachor from the torah every year. Meaning that each individual comes to the torah and reads for himself. Presumably this is because "krias hatorah" needs to be just that - reading from the torah, and sign language is not considered to fit into the halachik category of reading.

There are those who say based on the Rambam in Tefila 12:1 that the requirement to read the torah is a requirement of the community, but not of any one specific individual, and therefore if one were to miss some of the reading he does not have to make it up, because he is not individually required to hear it. (This would be in distinction from hearing meggilas Esther on Purim.) If that is the case, the same would hold true for deaf people. They are not individually required to hear the reading, and so it would not be necessary to have the reading signed to them.

  • 1
    Nice answer. Sorry I'm accepting it just now. Incidentally, according to many opinions, someone wearing cochlear implants may blow the shofar and he can also read megilla for others, despite the fact that he is deaf once he removes them.
    – DanF
    Mar 1, 2019 at 20:19

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