Fast Days: The Torah Reading

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

One will notice that in the course of the Fast Day Torah reading there are verses that are first recited out loud by the congregation which are then repeated by the ba’al koray. This happens during the Kohen aliya with the verse: “shuv m’charon apecha…” and then again in the Yisrael aliya with the verse: “Hashem Hashem…” and the verse “v’salachta l’avoneinu“. However, in the Levi aliya there is no such verse. There is no interaction. There is no audience participation. Why is this?

It is explained that this is because both Kohanim and Yisraelim participated in the sin of the Golden Calf which is from where the Fast Day Torah reading is taken from. It was Aharon, the Kohen Gadol, who actually called for and fashioned the Golden Calf while it was the Yisraelim who worshipped it. The Leviim, however, did not participate in the sin in any way. Therefore, there is no need to emphasize any of the verses of admonishment during the Levi aliya. Indeed, the emphasis and repetition of these verses during the other two aliyot is intended to embarrass the community and stir them to repentance. 

See also: Sefer Kushiot #85; Sefer Chassidim #250; Yosef Ometz #47; and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 78:4 for more on this custom.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot.


  1. R. Enkin:

    (cough, cough). where were the leviyim shivat tziyon?

  2. ….I dont get it.

    Ari Enkin

  3. r. enkin:

    fast days are primarily about churban, during the rectification of which (shivat tziyon) the leviyim were absent

  4. I dont think it touches on the Torah reading at all. It’s a completely seperate matter.

    Ari Enkin

  5. More substantively, this is one of the rare Torah readings with a “jump” in the middle between two different locations. Why where the two different segments chosen for fast day Torah reading, and why were the boundaries of the segments chosen in the way they were? When added to the question of why the congregation reads certain lines, you have the answer to why no lines are read in Levi.

    I don’t think any of these questions are especially hard – you just have to look at the verses and think a bit to get a general idea of the answers. But first you have to make sure you are asking the right questions.

  6. r. enkin:

    my understanding (based on ignorance and never having looked into the matter) is that this is the leining for taanis tzibbur because it is bene yisroel’s first (or at least most prominent) sin as a nation and first act of davening to hashem for teshuvah. not because it invokes memory of the cheis ha-eigel per se (perhaps excepting 17 tammuz).

    so my objection to your post is that while it is a nice drash, it isn’t really relevant to our fast days and moreover implies the leviyim don’t require the same level of mourning and teshivah as the rest of klal yisroel (which i assume was not your intention). (and so my reference to the relative absence of levite activity in shivat tziyon was to illustrate that wrt churban, which is for us mostly the reason for these fasts, here the levites require more communal atonement)

  7. “wrt churban, which is for us mostly the reason for these fasts”

    perhaps unknow to some readers is that 10 tevet is the day established by the rabbanut as the general memorial day for the shoah.* this is day for candles, kadish, mishanayos, etc. for those whose yahrzeits are unknown.

    *not 9 av and not yom hashoah, although r. lau saw yom hashoa and 17 tammuz as complementary

  8. agh
    r. lau saw yom hashoa and 10 tevet as complementary

  9. Abba-

    Haynu hach.

    …and no, the Leviim do not need any teshuva.

    See the sources for more on the custom. But the post is extremely accurate and loyal to all the sources.

    Ari Enkin

  10. Good questions, Shlomo.

    Sounds like Ill have to pick up my “Taamei Haminhagim” to find the answer.


  11. r. enkin:

    what is the hanynu hach here?
    and so leviyim get a free pass in every situation because of exemlary behavior in one case?
    (i didn’t doubt your accuracy in presenting the sources, just asking for clarification)

  12. Abba-

    Please forgive me. I just dont undertand what you are saying.

    The Leviim were innocent with regards to the sin of the Golden Calf.

    Ari Enkin

  13. What Abba is saying is, why are we only focussed on the fact that the Levi’im were innocent of the chet ha-egel. Equally, if not more, important relative to ta’anit tzibbur is their behavior in the churban/galut baval/shivat tzion, which is, after all, what the ta’aniyot are most directly about. In this case, the levi’im did not act well, based on their minimal return from Bavel.

  14. Hi R Enkin,

    When the yisroel is called up to the Torah, is he meant to say the pesukim “Hashem Hashem” aloud with the Kehila or is he meant to say it together (in a whisper) with the baal koreh.


  15. Avrohom-

    Good kashe!

    Ill look it up and get back to you.

    Ari Enkin

  16. With the baal koreh, certainly. The latter is fulfilling the oleh’s obligation to layn.

  17. I looked into it. The halacha is as Nachum says.

    Ari Enkin

  18. Whew. Thankee, and an easy fast!

  19. Sorry, but I can’t let this one pass – “cheis” ha-eigel???? (From the Abba’s Rantings at 12:02 pm.)

  20. abba's rantings


    out of curiousity i googled my pronounciation. this is the only hit. i hope i don’t start a trend.

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