- Question: [Sunday, 10th Kisleiv, 5782]
During Chazaras Hashatz, is it permitted for one to learn Torah in his mind without verbalizing the words, for example to review something by heart, or to look into a sefer without actually reading from it?
Although there exists a Limud Zechus for those who learn Torah in the back of their minds, without verbalizing the words, during Chazaras Hashatz, if they manage to still pay attention to the blessings and answer Amen, nevertheless, initially this is not to be done, especially if he is one of the nine answers, and especially if this is noticeable to others.
Explanation: In order for Chazaras Hashatz to remain valid it requires at least nine people listening to the blessings, otherwise it is considered close to being a blessing in vain. Accordingly, the Poskim rule that it is forbidden to learn Torah or pray during Chazaras Hashatz as this may cause for there not to be nine people listening to the blessings of the Chazan. This is aside for the issue of answering an orphaned Amen if one does not know which blessing the Chazan is holding by when one says amen. Now, while this issue is settled if the person makes sure to pay attention to the end of each blessing, it still does not help regarding the former issue which requires nine listeners, as the nine listeners must listen to both the beginning and end of each blessing in order for it to be valid for Chazaras Hashatz. Accordingly, Admur concludes that every person should make himself as if he is one of the nine listeners and concentrate on each one of the blessings from beginning to end. He writes that this especially applies to the Torah learner’s as if people see them learning during Chazaras Hashatz then they will learn to belittle it by talking and the like, and hence by doing so one is causing the public to stumble. Now, based on all the above it is possible to wiggle a justification for learning Torah silently during Chazaras Hashatz in the back of one’s mind in a way that nobody notices. One can argue and say that the above-mentioned prohibition is specifically against speaking words of Torah, while simply thinking in one’s mind is okay. If it is unnoticeable to the public, then there’s also no worry that this will cause others to stumble. Likewise, if one is multitasking and learning it in the back of his mind while still listening to the words of the blessings of Chazaras Hashatz, then seemingly he still counts as one of the nine listeners, and hence all the issues mentioned above are negated. Practically, however, one cannot escape the simple implication of Admur which is that one free his mind completely during Chazaras Hashatz and pay attention to the blessing from beginning to end, and not learn Torah even in his thoughts, and so conclude the Achronim that even glancing at a sefer is not to be done during Chazaras Hashatz.
Sources: See Admur 124:6; M:A 124:7; Rameh Mipuno 102, brought in M”A 124:8; Piskeiy Teshuvah 264; M”B 124:17, 26; Kaf Hachaim 124:16, 22; Igros Moshe 4:19; Piskeiy Teshuvos 124:8; Poskim who write to not even glance in Sefer momentarily [without verbalizing]: Ruach Chaim 90:4; Soles Belula 124:6 in name of Reishis Chochmah that even thinking Torah is forbidden; Kaf Hachaim 124:16