Reciting Shema and Shemoneh Esrei: Proper Times
Many commentators wonder why Yaakov was reciting Shema while Yosef was not.
If it was time for Shema to be recited, why, then, did Yosef not recite
Shema as well? Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik of Yerushalayim suggested the
following answer: Yaakov met Yosef just before sunrise. L'chatchilah, one
should recite Shema at that time, as Yaakov did. B'diavad, however, one may
recite Shema for the first three hours of the day. Since Yosef was engaged
in the mitzvah of honoring his father at the time, he reasoned that he could
recite Shema a bit later. Yaakov, who had no reason to delay the
l'chatchilah time of Shema, recited Shema at the preferred time. Let us
Correct Times for Reciting Shema
In order of halachic preference, there are several time slots in which Shema
may be recited:
1. Several minutes before sunrise. This is known as vasikin and it is the
preferred time to recite Shema and its blessing according to the
majority of the poskim.
2. From thirty-five minutes before sunrise (misheyakir ) until sunrise.
This time slot is l’chatchilah according to most of the poskim.
3. From after sunrise until a quarter of the day has passed. This is the
time slot in which most people recite Shema even l’chatchilah, even
though Mishnah Berurah and other poskim are critical of those who delay
until after sunrise in performing this important mitzvah.
4. From sixty minutes before sunrise until thirty-five minutes before
sunrise. This is the time of misheyakir according to a minority view of the
poskim, and may be relied upon even l’chatchilah in case of need.
5. From seventy-two minutes before sunrise (alos ha-shachar ) until sixty
minutes before sunrise. Neither Kerias Shema nor its blessings may be
recited at this time. If, however, one mistakenly did recite Shema or its
blessings during this time, he need not repeat them later on. Under
extenuating circumstances, e.g., one would be unable to recite Shema later
due to work, travel or medical reasons, it is permitted to recite Shema at
this time. The blessing of Yotzer ohr, however, is omitted, and
should be said later on by itself.
6. After a quarter of the day passed. One can no longer fulfill his Shema
obligation. How to calculate a quarter of the day is a subject of great
dispute: Magen Avraham rules that the day begins at alos ha-shachar and ends
at tzeis ha-cochavim, while the Gaon of Vilna maintains that the day begins
at sunrise and ends at sunset. While the prevalent custom follows the
second view, there are many individuals who are particular to recite
Shema in accordance with the first opinion.
Although one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of Kerias Shema after a quarter of
the day has elapsed, one should still say Shema at the time he says birchos
Kerias Shema and Shemoneh Esrei. Birchos Kerias Shema may be recited
for the first third of the day. In case of an emergency, Birchos Kerias
Shema may be recited until chatzos.
Correct Times for Reciting Shacharis Shemoneh Esrei
In order of halachic preference, there are several time slots in which
Shemoneh Esrei may be recited:
1. Exactly at sunrise. This is the known as vasikin and it is the preferred
time for reciting Shemoneh Esrei.
2. After sunrise until a third of the day has passed. This is the time slot
in which most people recite Shemoneh Esrei l’chatchilah.
3. From seventy-two minutes before sunrise until sunrise. When necessary,
e.g., before embarking on a trip or going to work or school, one may daven
at this time l'chatchilah. Otherwise, one is not allowed to daven at
this time. A retired person who was formerly permitted to daven before
sunrise due to his work schedule should now daven after sunrise only.
B'diavad, if one davened before sunrise, he has fulfilled his obligation and
does not need to repeat Shacharis.
4. After a third of the day has passed until chatzos. L'chatchilah, one must
daven before this time, as this time is considered after zeman tefillah. But
if one failed to daven earlier for any reason, he must still daven during
this time period, although his davening is not considered as if he davened
“on time. ”
5. After chatzos. It is no longer permitted to daven Shacharis at this
time. If his failure to daven Shacharis earlier was due to
circumstances beyond his control or because he forgot, a tashlumin (makeup
tefillah) may be said during Minchah. If he failed to daven Shacharis
because of negligence, however, tashlumin may not be davened.
Question: As stated earlier, one should not daven before sunrise
l'chatchilah. What should one do if an early minyan needs him to join in
order to have the minimum number of men required for a minyan?
Discussion: Contemporary poskim debate this issue. Some rule that he
may join to form a minyan but he may not daven with them. Since a minyan
requires a minimum of six men who are davening (in addition to at least
another four who must be present but are not required to daven together with
them), if there are only five people davening besides him, he should not be
the sixth one, even though that will in effect preclude the formation of a
minyan. If, however, there are nine other people davening besides him, he
may join them—in order to complete the minyan with his presence—but he may
not daven along with them.
Other poskim hold that if his refusal to join will preclude the formation
of a minyan, he should daven with them so that they, too, will daven with a
minyan. But this may not be relied upon on a regular basis.
Question: What should one do if the only minyan in town recites Shemoneh
Esrei after misheyakir but before sunrise—is it better to daven without a
minyan after sunrise or to daven at an improper time but with a minyan?
Discussion: If the choice is to daven without a minyan but exactly at
sunrise, thus gaining the advantage of vasikin, then one should do so. If he
cannot do so, some poskim rule that he should daven with the existing
minyan, while other poskim maintain that he should wait for the proper
time and daven without a minyan.
1. Quoted in Rinas Yitzchak al ha-Torah, pg. 230.
2. Mishnah Berurah 58:6.
3. Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:6. Rav Y. Kamenetsky calculated the correct time as
36 minutes before sunrise (Emes l'Yaakov, O.C. 58:1). There are other
opinions as well; see Halichos Yisrael 1:8.
4. O.C. 58:1. A minority view in the Rishonim holds that Shema may not be
recited before sunrise, but this is not practical halachah.
5. Based on Shulchan Aruch 58:1 who does not mention that l'chatchilah one
should recite Shema before sunrise. See Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 58:4 and Kaf
ha-Chayim 58:8 who quote two views on this issue and tend to be lenient.
Note also that neither Chayei Adam 21:3 nor Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 17:1
require that l'chatchilah one recite Shema before sunrise.
6. This is the view of Rif, Rambam and Gra, quoted without dissent by
Mishnah Berurah 58:3-4, and it is the ruling of the Aruch ha-Shulchan 58:6
and Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Avnei Yashfei, Tefillah, pg.
103). According to these poskim, one should recite Shema before sunrise even
if he is not wearing tefillin and even if he is unable to recite birchos
Kerias Shema at that time.
7. See Kaf ha-Chayim 18:18, Rav Y.M. Tikutinsky in Sefer Eretz Yisrael,
pg. 18 and Rav Y. E. Henkin in Eidus l’Yisrael, pg. 115.
8. Beiur Halachah 89:1, s.v. v’im, quoting the Rambam. But others opinions
maintain that alos could be 90, 96 or even 120 minutes before sunrise. When
no other possibility exists, some poskim permit reciting Kerias Shema and
its blessings as much as 90 minutes before sunrise; see Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:6.
9. O.C. 58:4, provided that this “mistake” takes place infrequently (more
than once a month is considered too frequent); Mishnah Berurah 58:19.
10. O.C. 58:3 and Mishnah Berurah 12, 16 and 19.
11. Mishnah Berurah 58:17 and Beiur Halachah, s.v. belo. See Emes
l’Yaakov, O.C. 58:3.
12. Both views are quoted in Mishnah Berurah 58:4 without a decision. See
also Beiur Halachah 46:9, s.v. v’yotzei.
13. Aruch ha-Shulchan 58:14; Chazon Ish, O.C. 13:3; Igros Moshe, O.C.
1:24; Y.D. 3:129-3; Minchas Yitzchak 3:71; Yalkut Yosef, pg. 100.
14. See Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:56 quoting Rav A. Kotler and Orchos Rabbeinu
1:53 quoting Rav Y.Y. Kanievsky. Many shuls in Eretz Yisrael conduct
themselves in accordance with the first view.
15. O.C. 60:2. See Mishnah Berurah 4 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 2.
16. O.C. 58:6 and Beiur Halachah, s.v. kora’ah.
17. O.C. 89:8; Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:6. Tallis and tefillin, however, may
not be put on until at least sixty minutes before sunrise.
18. This is the consensus of most poskim. A minority view rules that it is
permitted l'chatchilah to daven after the time of misheyakir (Peri Chadash).
Beiur Halachah 89:1, s.v. yatza, rules that although it is preferable not to
do so, (possibly) we should not object to those who are lenient.
19. Mishnah Berurah 89:4.
20. O.C. 89:1. See Mishnah Berurah 6 who recommends davening a tefillas
nedavah if his failure to daven until this time was on purpose.
21. Rama, 89:1.
22. See O.C. 108 for details.
23. Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Tefillah K'hilchasah, pg. 78 and in Avnei
Yashfei, Tefillah, pg. 169).
24. Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Halichos Shelomo 1:5-13).
25. Peri Yitzchak 1:2; Yaskil Avdi 5:10; Minchas Yitzchak 9:10. Chazon Ish
is reported (Ishei Yisrael 13, note 21) as ruling like this view.
26. Responsa Sh'eilos Shemuel, O.C. 12; Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:6; Rav Y.S.
Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Avnei Yashfei, Tefillah, pg. 167); Rav O.
Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, pg. 137-139).
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org