Eighteen Treatises from the Mishna, by D. A. Sola and M. J. Raphall, , at sacred-texts.com
§ 1. The Meguillah may be read either sitting or standing, by one person only, or by two persons at the same time, they alike fulfil their obligation. In places where it is usual to say a blessing [after reading it], it is obligatory to say it, but not where it is not customary. Three men are called [to read in the Holy Law] on Mondays and Thursdays; and in the afternoon of the Sabbath, neither more nor less than that number may be called, nor shall any section from the Prophets then be read. 1 He who commences the reading of the Holy Law, shall say the [first] blessing before reading it, and he who concludes the reading, shall say the last blessing to be said after reading it. 2
§ 2. On the feast of new moon, on the middle-days of the festivals, four men are to be called; this number may neither be added to, nor diminished, nor shall any section in the Prophets then be read. The first of these [men] shall say the [first] blessing before reading, and the last, who concludes the reading, shall say the last blessing after reading. This is the rule: on all days when an additional offering is prescribed, and which are not festivals, four men are to be called; five on festivals; six on the day of atonement; and seven on the Sabbath; this number may not be diminished, but it may be increased, and a section from the Prophets must be read on those days. The first of those who then read in the Holy Law, shall say the blessing before reading, and he who concludes the reading, shall say the last blessing after reading.
§ 3. When ten men are not present in the synagogue, the Shemang may not be repeated, 3 nor may any one then go before the
reading-desk [to act as minister], nor may priests raise [then] their hands [to say the priest's blessing], nor may they [then] read in the law, nor read a section from the Prophets; and when there are not ten persons present at a burial, the customary sittings, and stoppages with the corpse 4 may not take place, nor may the blessing for mourners be said, nor the forms used as condolence to mourners, 5 nor the seven blessings said on the celebration of a marriage, neither may the persons who join to say the grace after meals mention the Divine name. 6 And on an occasion of redeeming land that has been consecrated, it is necessary that at least nine Israelites and a Cohen [priest] shall be present, and the same also at the valuation of a man. 7
§ 4. Not less than three verses of the Holy Law may be read in the synagogue to each person [called to read]. One verse only of the law may at one time be read to the meturgeman, or interpreter, 8 but it is lawful to read three consecutive verses to him from the Prophets, 9 but if each verse should form a separate section, one verse only may be read to the meturgeman at a time. Passages may be
skipped over [מדלגין] in the reading of the Prophets, but not in that of the Holy Law. What time may be suffered to elapse to skip from one passage to another? While the meturgeman does not conclude his interpretation. 10
§ 5. Whoever is accustomed to say in the public [synagogue] the section from the Prophets, in [the] public [synagogue] shall also there publicly recite the Shemang, 11 and act as minister before the tebah [reading-desk], and [if a cohen] shall say the blessing of the priests; if a minor, his father, or teacher, shall act for him.
§ 6. A minor may read in the law [in the synagogue], and act as meturgeman, but may not publicly recite the Shemang, nor act as minister at the tebah, nor [if a priest] say [by himself] the blessing of priests. A פוחח [that is, one whose clothes are torn, so that his arms and legs appear, or, as others explain it, one whose legs and arms are quite bare,] may repeat the Shemang, and act as meturgeman, but he may not read in the Holy Law, nor act as minister before the tebah, nor [if a priest] say the blessing of priests; a blind person may repeat the Shemang, 12 and act as meturgeman; but R. Jehudah says, "One who never beheld the light [that is, was born blind], may not repeat the Shemang."
§ 7. A priest whose hands are deformed, may not raise them [to bless the people]. R. Jehudah also prohibits it to a priest whose hands are stained with woad or with madder roots, because the people stare at him. A person who should say, "I will not minister at the tebah in coloured clothes," may not be permitted to do so in white ones; if he refuses to minister with sandals to his feet, he may not be permitted to minister barefooted. 13 A person who makes the tephilin round, 14 endangers himself, 15 and has not properly observed the commandment; a person who places them [low down] on his forehead, or on the palm of his hand, acts in a heretical manner: if he cover them with gold, he imitates the opponents of tradition.
§ 8. A person who, in his prayers to the Almighty, says, "The
good shall [alone] bless thee," acts in a heretical manner; 16 if he says, "Even to birds’ nests were thy mercies extended," or, "For thy goodness be thy name remembered," or one who says twice, "Modim" [in the Amidah], he shall be silenced [by authority]. Also, whoever explains the text (Lev. xviii. 21), ומזרעך לא תתן להעביר למולך) to mean, "Thou shalt not give thy seed to an Aramite [heathen] woman," 17 and those who explain figuratively the section in the law relating to the prohibition of carnal intercourse between relatives (Lev. xviii), shall be silenced, and publicly reprimanded. The occurrence of Reuben with Billah is to be read without being interpreted; that of Tamar [and Amnon] is to be read and interpreted. The [first part of the] occurrence with the golden calf is to be read and interpreted; but the second part [commencing Exod. xxxiv. 21] is to be read, without being interpreted. The blessing of the priests, and the occurrence of David and Amnon, are neither to be read nor interpreted; the description of the Divine chariot (Ezek. i.), is not to be read as an Aphtorah [section from the Prophets], but R. Jehudah permits it; R. Eleazar says, neither (Ezek. xvi.), "Cause Jerusalem to know her abomination," &c.
188:1 In order not to detain the people too long in the synagogues.
188:2 And those who are called between, shall not say any blessing; this has, however, been altered subsequently, on account of people who might have entered the synagogue in the interval, and who had not heard the first blessing.
188:3 The original expression אין פורסין את שמע, has given rise to various interpretations. According to Rashi and Bartenora, it is derived from פרס, splitting or division: i.e. the Mishna here contemplates the case of ten persons having entered a synagogue after the congregation had already said the Shemang, when one of them says Kadish and ברכו, and only one of the two blessings ordered to be read before the Shemang (see Treatise Berachoth), thus splitting or cutting off one of these two blessings.
189:4 It was the custom, in the time of the Talmud, to set down the corpse seven times on its way to the grave, when the mourners sat down, and when either a funeral oration [הספד] was pronounced, or compliments of condolence were made; between each of these seven pauses, they used to say to them, "Rise ye good people, rise," or, "Sit down good people, sit down." (Rashi, Bartenora, and Rishbam, in chap. V. of Baba Kammah).
189:5 On returning from the grave, the persons present, excepting the mourners, used to place themselves in rows, through which the mourners passed, to whom they addressed some words of condolence; these rows might not consist of less than ten persons.
189:6 That is, to say נברך אלהינו; this last word is added when ten men are present. See Treatise Berachoth, chap. IX. § 7.
189:7 That is, in case a person had said, "I vow the value of my person to the sanctuary," he must pay to it the amount he would bring if he were sold as a slave.
189:8 It was customary ever since the time of Ezra, that at the public readings of the law, each verse was translated by a person called the meturgeman, or interpreter, who translated each verse as it was read in Hebrew into the vernacular [which then was Chaldee], in order that the people should understand what was read. The Mishna here directs that only one verse should be read to the meturgeman at a time, in order not to confuse him, and cause him to make errors, as he was bound to translate the Hebrew text extempore. (See more about this custom in Maimonides, chap. XII. of Hilchoth Tephilah, vol. I. page 78, of the Amsterdam edition.)
189:9 This is Only if the meturgeman desires it.
190:10 This is rendered according to the commentary of Maimonides; but this passage is variously explained.
190:11 See Note 3, page 188.
190:12 It is prohibited to look at the priests whilst saying the blessing ברכת כהנים.
190:13 Because it is supposed that these persons are hypocrites or heretics.
190:14 That is, that for the head.
190:15 By accidental contact with any hard substance.
191:16 Because the faith of Israel is, that the prayers of both good and bad should be jointly offered to God, even as it is prescribed in the composition of the incense offered to God, to blend the ill-smelling galbanum with the other odoriferous aromatics.
191:17 So as to procreate children for idolatrous worship.