Why I Wrote About Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum

I’m a big fan of Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum, the obligation to review the weekly Torah portion twice each week in the original Hebrew text followed by once in translation/commentary (optimally Targum Onkelos). Accordingly, I have occasionally addressed this topic in brief Torah Blogs but it has long been my intention to write a full article, or series of articles, delving more deeply into this mitzvah. This I have finally done but one might ask: why now?

The time I would normally address such a thing would optimally be before Simchas Torah, when we begin reading the Torah again. If I missed that, I would save it for parshas Shemos, which starts the second Book of the Torah. There are two reasons for this. The first is because the name “Shemos” is an anagram for “Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum.” The second is because it sends a message about second chances. But I didn’t release my series at either of these junctures. I released it midway through sefer Shemos. Why?

It’s semi-common knowledge by now that I have been hospitalized with Covid-19 since January 2; I’m writing this Torah Blog on my thirty-third day in the hospital. A few weeks ago I felt the need to write some divrei Torah as a segulah for myself and I settled on my back-burnered Shnayim Mikra project even though the timing wasn’t perfect. But I still had a reason.

The Gemara in Brachos (8a-b) says, “One should always complete his Torah portions with the congregation, twice in the original text and once in translation … because one who completes his Torah portions with the congregation is rewarded by having his days and years extended.”

So here I was, in the hospital, suffering from a disease that has caused more than 2.26 million deaths to date and cost the Jewish community many of our most important leaders. It simply felt right to promote something whose stated raison d’etre is to extend life. (I was in the mindset of the Mechilta, in which Rabbi Shimon ben Eliezer explains that the altar is intended to extend man’s life, while iron is used to shorten a person’s life. It is for this reason that we’re not permitted to raise iron – which shortens life – on the altar – which extends life.)

All About Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum” runs a total of seven installments, all of which are available now. These include:

Introduction to Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum, which sets up the entire series;

All About Targum Onkelos, which explains the importance of this oft-misunderstood work;

When to Learn Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum, which helps us understand our options vis-à-vis finishing the sedra “with the community”;

Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum During Kriyas HaTorah, which helps to shape some important parameters;

Twenty Questions Part 1: Women, Mourners, Bar Mitzvah Boys and More, focusing primarily on questions facing individuals;

Twenty Questions Part 2: Simchas Torah, Yom Tov on Shabbos, Americans in Israel and More, focusing primarily on various situation that may arise; and

Conclusion: Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l on the Neglect of Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum, in which a surprising phenomenon is discussed.

Baruch Hashem, I seem to be out of the woods. I hope to be home for Shabbos but even if that doesn’t happen [update: it looks like such will not be the case after all], I’d say it’s more as a precaution than because of any imminent danger. But there are many others suffering from this terrible plague. I encourage whoever is able to join me in embracing a mitzvah designed to extend life. In the merit of our doubling down on Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum, may we help to stem the tide of this devasting mageifah.