ABSTRACT: Blessings and Curses are Read before Rosh Hashana

Sinai, 110 (1992), pp. 29-35  Meir Bar-Ilan


The purpose of this paper is to analyze a small unit in m. Sota 7:2 concerning the subjects in the Torah that, according the Tannaim, should be read in "The Holy Language" (=Hebrew), that the blessings and curses are among them. According to the Mishna these blessings and curses are those that were said on Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, an explanation that relates to the past without the character of the Mishna of making rules for the future.

It is argued that these blessings and curses (in Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28) were read in public not in the regular cycle of reading and (therefore) were not allowed to be translated into the vernacular like the regular reading. It is assumed that the Tanna said his rule in regard to the beraita (b. Megila 31b): 'R. Shimon ben Elazar said: Ezra ordained Israel that they will read the curses in Leviticus before Aseret and those in Deuteronomy before Rosh HaShana'.

It is argued that this beraita reflects a custom of reading blessings and curses out of the regular cycle (and in Hebrew), as part of preparations for the holidays, just like the four Parshioth near Purim and Pesah. These two halakhot, in the mishna and in the beraita, complete each other and show a custom that no longer exists.