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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?

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  • It presumably varies with time and place. If so, there isnt really a definitive answer.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 1:40

4 Answers 4

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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.

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    the shulchan aruch's examples are clearly outdated as 90% of religious Jews (myself excluded) probably don't say parashat hatamid daily.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 4:15
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    @DoubleAA I wouldn't say 90% because most Sefaradim do. Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 4:11
  • @DoubleAA, (to add to HachamGabriel's comment,) chasidim do, too.
    – msh210
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 22:14
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    @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
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 22:24
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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.

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    Indeed, and this does seem to be the majority opinion among rishonim.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 21:25
  • What is a case where you’re being motzi someone with a passage of Tanach?
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 13:21
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    I'm not entirely sure this answers the question.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 17:10
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    @DoubleAA The chiyuv is the bracha, not the pesukim
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 17:48
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    @DonielF Certainly, both at night and during the day. But, assuming you're from a community that customarily says verses then, why don't you say the Pesukim also while the Mekaddesh is? Is it not because of Shomea keOneh?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 17:49
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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.

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  • And say it by heart?
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 13, 2011 at 3:43
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    @msh210: he doesn't mention that.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 13, 2011 at 18:29
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According to Rabbenu Hayyim Paltiel (Numbers 28:9) verses cited in prayer on Shabbat or even Rosh Hodesh are sufficiently frequent to not have the problem. Verses cited only on the holidays, are sufficiently rare to have the problem. As examples of frequently cited verses which may be recited be mentions Sh'ma and Az Yashir.

According to the Bach (OH 49:1) any text very familiar to an individual may be recited by that individual, regardless of whether it is popularly known.

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