1) HALACHAH: THE ORDER OF THE ALIYOS
QUESTION: The Gemara lists the order of the Aliyos and who takes precedence for being called to read from the Torah. Why is the Gemara's order not followed in practice today?
ANSWER: The ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN (OC 136:2) writes that today there no longer are Parnasim (community leaders) or Talmidei Chachamim who can answer a Halachic question in any area of Torah. Hence, the Gemara's order of Aliyos is not applicable today.
He adds that it is a Mitzvah to put an end to the common but mistaken assumption that certain Aliyos are a disgrace. When a person sees that others look down upon a certain Aliyah, he should go out of his way to get that Aliyah in order to prevent disgrace of the Torah and the development of disputes.
The prevailing custom is to give the Rav of the congregation the third Aliyah ("Shelishi"). In certain places, the custom is to give the Rav the last Aliyah. (See Aruch ha'Shulchan ibid., and Mishnah Berurah OC 136:5).
Although the Gemara implies that there is nothing special about the sixth Aliyah ("Shishi"), many people today consider that Aliyah to be a more honorable one, based on the words of the Zohar.
2) HALACHAH: READING FROM A SEFER TORAH THAT IS "PASUL"
OPINIONS: The Gemara states that the Parshah should not be read from a Sefer Torah that is missing a section of its parchment (Yeri'ah). Does this imply that a Sefer Torah is Pasul only when it is missing an entire Yeri'ah?
Moreover, does this imply that a Sefer Torah that is Pasul may not be used for the public reading of the Torah?
(a) TOSFOS in Megilah (9a) proves from the Gemara here that a Sefer Torah that is missing just one word is valid as long it is not missing an entire Yeri'ah.
(b) The RASHBA here writes that even if the Sefer Torah is missing one letter, it is Pasul. He explains that the Gemara does not mean to imply that if only one letter is missing, the Sefer Torah is valid. In his Teshuvos (1:611), the Rashba writes that the Gemara mentions that the Sefer Torah is Pasul when it is missing an entire Yeri'ah because in such a case one is not permitted even to read from another Chumash in that Sefer Torah. In contrast, when it is missing only one letter, one is permitted to read from another Chumash in that Sefer Torah.
(c) The RAMBAM (in a Teshuvah quoted by the KESEF MISHNEH, Hilchos Sefer Torah 10:1) maintains that a Sefer Torah which is missing even one letter is Pasul. He proves from the Gemara that a Sefer Torah that is Pasul may be used for the public Torah reading, and only if it is missing an entire Yeri'ah is it Pasul for the public Torah reading. This ruling, however, is not consistent with the Rambam's ruling in Hilchos Sefer Torah, where he writes that a missing letter renders a Sefer Torah unfit for public Torah readings.
HALACHAH: There are three basic approaches to what to do when a mistake is found in a Sefer Torah in the middle of an Aliyah.
1. The MAHARI BEI RAV maintains that the person who was called up for that Aliyah should not recite the blessing normally recited after the Aliyah ("Ashar Nasan Lanu Toras Emes..."). Rather, the reader must read at least three verses from a valid Sefer Torah, and then the person may recite the blessing. The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 143) rules in accordance with this opinion.
2. The MORDECHAI maintains that when the mistake is found at a point at which the reader may stop reading, the person called up for that Aliyah should recite the concluding blessing at that point, and the reading should continue from there (with the next Aliyah) in a valid Sefer Torah. If the reader cannot end the Aliyah there (due to the nature of the verses being read, or because he has not yet read the minimum number of verses), he should read by heart until he reaches a point at which he can end the Aliyah, and then the concluding blessing may be said.
3. The REMA makes a compromise between the opinions of the Mahari Bei Rav and the Mordechai. He writes that if the mistake is found at a point where the Aliyah can be concluded, the concluding blessing should be said at that point (like the Mordechai). If the Aliyah cannot end at that point, another Sefer Torah should be brought and the Aliyah finished the valid Sefer Torah, and then the concluding blessing may be said.
If a Sefer Torah is found to be Pasul in the middle of the Torah reading, it is not necessary to read again the previous Aliyos that were read before the error was found. One may rely on the opinions that a Sefer Torah that is Pasul is valid for use for the public Torah reading.
However, the MISHNAH BERURAH (OC 143:13) quotes Acharonim who rule that if a mistake is found after several Aliyos have been read, where it is possible to split the remainder of the Parshah into seven Aliyos it is preferable to do so.
The Mishnah Berurah (OC 143:29) discusses what should be done when the synagogue has no other Sefer Torah. According to some Acharonim, in such a case the rest of the Aliyos should be read with the blessings. However, the NODA B'YEHUDAH and the SHA'AREI EFRAIM write that no additional blessings should be said. Therefore, the one who received the Aliyah in which the mistake was found should remain standing at the Bimah and should not recite the concluding blessing. The Gabai should call up others for the rest of the Aliyos, but they should not recite the blessings. When the reading of the Parshah has finishes, the one who received the Aliyah in which the mistake was found should recite the concluding blessing.
3) MORE WRITTEN TORAH THAN ORAL TORAH
QUESTION: Rebbi Elazar maintains that the majority of the Torah is Torah she'Bichtav (the Written Torah). Rebbi Yochanan disagrees and maintains that the majority of the Torah is Torah she'Ba'al Peh (the Oral Torah).
What does Rebbi Elazar mean when he says that the majority of the Torah is Torah she'Bichtav? There are clearly many more volumes of Torah she'Ba'al Peh than Torah she'Bichtav.
(a) RASHI explains that Rebbi Elazar and Rebbi Yochanan are not comparing the Written Torah with the Oral Torah. Both are discussing the Oral Torah. Rebbi Elazar refers to the Halachos of Torah she'Ba'al Peh that are derived from Derashos from the verses in the Written Torah, while Rebbi Yochanan refers to the Halachos of Torah she'Ba'al Peh that were given to Moshe Rabeinu at Har Sinai and passed down from him, which do not have any apparent source in the Written Torah.
The MAHARSHA asks that according to Rashi's explanation, if Rebbi Elazar means that all Halachos derived from Derashos are included in the Written Torah, then it is obvious that the Written Torah is larger. Why does Rebbi Yochanan disagree? The Maharsha answers that perhaps the novel interpretations of the Chachamim are also included in the category of Oral Torah, and thus the Oral Torah is larger than the Written Torah.
(b) The BE'ER SHEVA explains that everyone agrees that if everything derived from Derashos (through the Thirteen Midos sheha'Torah Nidreshes ba'Hen) are included in the Written Torah, the Written Torah is larger. The disagreement is whether the laws learned from Derashos should be categorized as part of the Written Torah or as part of the Oral Torah.
The PRI MEGADIM (beginning of "Pesichah ha'Koleles") writes that this dispute has Halachic implications. The Gemara continues and mentions the prohibition against writing Torah she'Ba'al Peh. If Halachos derived from Derashos are included in Torah she'Ba'al Peh, those Halachos and Derashos should not be permitted to be written, but if they are included in Torah she'Bichtav, they may be written. (In practice, Torah she'Ba'al Peh may be written so that it not be forgotten ("Eis la'Asos la'Shem...") but not for other reasons.)
The Gemara cites the verse, "Echtav Lachem Rubei Torasi" -- "I wrote for him the great things (or majority) of My Torah..." (Hoshea 8:12), as support for the opinion that most of the Torah is Torah she'Bichtav. The Gemara says that Rebbi Yochanan -- who maintains that the Oral Torah constitutes most of the Torah -- understands the verse as a rhetorical question in which Hash-m asks, "Should I write the majority of the Torah? If so, the Jews will be the same as the other nations!" (This is according to Tosfos' explanation of the Gemara. Tosfos explains that if the Oral Torah would be written down, the other nations would copy it and say that it was also given to them.) Based on the Pri Megadim and Be'er Sheva, one may suggest that this interpretation of the verse also explains why Halachos that are derived from Derashos are considered part of the Oral Torah and thus may not be written: if this part of the Oral Torah would be written, the other nations would have access to all of the Derashos.