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Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Kriat Shema 1:9-10

9. What is the time for K'riat Sh'ma at night? The Mitzva is from the time the stars come out until half the night. If he delayed and read before *Amud haShahar* (dawn), "Yatza"; since they [the Rabbis] only said "midnight" in order to keep people far from sinning.

10. If someone reads evening K'riat Sh'ma after Amud haShahar, before sunrise, he is not *Yotze* (same as "Lo Yatza") unless he was *Anoos* (under duress); e.g. drunk or sick etc. An Anoos who reads at this time should not say "Hashkiveinu".

Z'man K'riat Sh'ma baLayla
(The Time for Evening K'riat Sh'ma)
Yitzchak Etshalom


The first Mishna in Berakhot states: "From what time is the Sh'ma read in the evening? From the time that Kohanim [who have abstained from eating sancta due to impurity; on the last day of their period of abstinence, they perform ablution in a Mikveh and then, at nightfall, may again partake of these sanctified foods] enter to eat *Terumah* [sanctified food, given only to Kohanim, who must eat it in a state of purity] until the end of the first watch [1/3 of the night]; these are the words of R. Eliezer, however, the Hakhamim say - until *Hatzot* (mid-night). R. Gamliel says: until Amud haShahar...".

The Mishna here establishes the two time-parameters for nighttime K'riat Sh'ma - the beginning time (unanimously agreed upon - nightfall) and the ending time (seemingly 3 opinions: R. Eliezer - 1/3 of the night; Hakhamim - 1/2 of the night; R. Gamliel - all night). We will see that neither of these "bookends" is as clear as it seems from the Mishna.



The Tosefta (Berakhot 1:1) records a dissenting opinion - R. Meir - regarding the beginning time: "From the time that people begin to eat on Sabbath eves (Friday nights)". We already sense a break from the apparent unanimity regarding the earliest time of evening Sh'ma. The Gemara (Berakhot 2b) quotes a slew of variant opinions, including "From the time that poor people [Rashi: who have no candle by which to eat] begin to eat (their evening meal)"; from the time that Shabbat begins and from the time that Kohanim [who were impure and are about to become pure that night] perform ablution. On the one hand, we see a wide range of possible "starting times" for K'riat Sh'ma - yet, they all have one thing in common - they are associated with the evening meal (Friday night/weeknight, poor people/average people/Kohanim). We do not find a similar range - nor similar terminology used - in reference to other "nighttime" Mitzvot (e.g. eating Matza). This points to the unique nature of the beginning time of nighttime K'riat Sh'ma - which is a "nighttime" Mitzva and yet, is bounded by different times and considerations.

RITBA (Berakhot 8b s.v. Alma) explains that since the Torah did not command "day" and "night", rather "when you lie down and when you rise" - the considerations for the time-parameters are not necessarily defined by conventional day and night. This principle will affect not only the beginning time, but also the ending time of Sh'ma, as will be demonstrated further on.

There are two approaches in the Rishonim regarding the beginning of nighttime K'riat Sh'ma, both offered in response to the widespread custom, from the times of the Ge'onim (9th century) through the Middle Ages - of public evening prayer before sunset. Ma'ariv - the evening prayer - includes as one of its two "pillars", the recitation of K'riat Sh'ma. The almost universal practice of "early Ma'ariv", necessitated by the fear of going out at night, stands in direct conflict with the ruling of our Mishna, that the Sh'ma must be read after nightfall. In any such conflict, resolution will lie either in finding a more lenient ruling, or in reexamining the practice of early Ma'ariv.



Rashi (beginning of Berakhot), citing the Yerushalmi, says that the reason we say K'riat Sh'ma before Tefilla at an early Ma'ariv is not to fulfill the Mitzva of K'riat Sh'ma (which must be done later), but, rather, "to stand for Tefilla immediately from engagement in words of Torah" - like the Ashrei before Tefilla in the afternoon. Rashi goes on to "justify" the custom, ruling that the first paragraph of Sh'ma, which we read before retiring, fulfills the basic Mitzva - at the right time. Rif rules the same way. Rashba (Responsa 1:47, Hiddushim - beginning of Berakhot ) supports this view and cites several Ge'onim (R. Yitzchak Ibn Ge'at, R. Amram, R. Paltoi, R. Hai), along with Rashi, who concur. (It should be noted that, according to R. Yonah, R. Hai's opinion is that a person should say Sh'ma and Tefilla with the community and later, at home, reread Sh'ma with its B'rakhot after nightfall - this is also R'ah's opinion; however, for our purposes, the approach vis-a-vis K'riat Sh'ma is the same.) Ritba and R'ah also follow this general approach. Rambam clearly adopts this approach as well.


The first Tosafot in Berakhot takes a different approach to the problem of "early Ma'ariv". Rabbenu Tam rules that we rely on R. Yehuda's opinion, that Mincha may only be said until 1.25 hours before sunset - and that, from then on, is Ma'ariv time. Rabbenu Tam evidently feels that the time for evening Sh'ma is linked to the time for Ma'ariv - and therefore, evening Sh'ma may be said much earlier than nightfall. R. Yitzchak offers a similar approach, instead citing the alternate opinions in our Gemara (e.g. "from the time that a poor person begins his meal") and says that we rule like one of those earlier opinions.

(This is an ideal springboard for an investigation of Rabbinic attitudes towards Jewish customs and communal practices and how much inherent credence they are given. In other words, does the fact that the Jewish people regularly hold "early Ma'ariv" endow that with Halakhic significance; does it indicate that there must be Halakhic support for it which we must identify; or does it demonstrate "wrong" behavior which must, ideally, be rectified?)

The Piskei Tosafot (Menahot #118) supports this idea, going so far as to vilify anyone who delays reading K'riat Sh'ma (presumably until after dark).

Raaviah (#1) adopts Rabbenu Tam's approach and source - and takes it one step further. He states that anyone who delays reading K'riat Sh'ma and praying Ma'ariv at night is guilty of "Yohara" - (haughtiness - putting on airs as if he is more pious than others) - unless it is someone who is accustomed to other pietistic behaviors, in which case it is acceptable.

Raavan (#122) presents an interesting twist on this approach. He maintains that, mixed into the formulation of "when you lie down" is a Rabbinic concern, which the Gemara cites to explain the Hakhamim's opinion that we read until midnight "in order to keep people away from "sinning." The Gemara (4b), quoting Avot d'Rebbi Natan, says that the concern of the Rabbis was that a person will come home in the evening, knowing full well that he has all night to say K'riat Sh'ma and pray - and will say "I'll eat a bit, drink a bit, nap a bit, and then I'll awake and read K'riat Sh'ma and pray" - and he will sleep the night through. Therefore, with the "fence" of midnight staring him down, he will first say K'riat Sh'ma and pray and then eat.

Raavan infers (like many other Rishonim) that there is a prohibition against eating (a meal), from the beginning of K'riat Sh'ma time, until you have said K'riat Sh'ma. Therefore, he takes the next logical step - and rules that the beginning time for K'riat Sh'ma is, essentially, mealtime. He explains the various opinions as diverse understandings of "whose mealtime" should be considered - the Kohanim, the average person, the poor, etc. This, however, only applies to someone who isn't about to eat on his own - and the question is, whose mealtime should be used as the external standard. However, Raavan says, if you are about to eat your "nighttime meal" (no matter how early), that becomes "K'riat Sh'ma time" for you - for it fits the Rabbinic redefinition of "when you lie down" - i.e. when you begin the "lying down" steps - eating, drinking, sleeping. This opinion is an isolated one and, it should be remembered (from the Introductory shiur), Raavan is of the opinion that K'riat Sh'ma is a Rabbinically mandated Mitzva.

SUMMARY We find two approaches to the conflict between the rule of our Mishna and the common custom. Rashi, the Ge'onim and the Hakhmei S'farad held that the Mishna's ruling is authoritative and that, to a greater or lesser degree, there are justifications for the custom. Tosafot and other members of that school ruled against the Mishna, preferring other opinions in the Gemara, which establish the common custom as perfectly fitting the time for K'riat Sh'ma.

Although, as pointed out, there may be a general divergency here on how to approach customs vs. Halakha, there may also be a "local" explanation for the disagreement.

We know that the ending time of K'riat Sh'ma does not follow the usual limitations inherent in nighttime Mitzvot - it may, under exigent circumstances, be said past dawn. That may indicate that K'riat Sh'ma is not at all defined by the usual day and night parameters - in which case, nightfall is no more of an automatic time-boundary than mealtime. We then read our Mishna, which identifies the time for K'riat Sh'ma with the time that Kohanim begin to eat their Teruma, as one example of a "mealtime" - and, we are presented with another in the Tosefta and a few more in the Baraita - and all of Tannaitic origin. Following that, the Mishna's time is different only in degree, not general approach, from the other times. That being the case, we may prefer to adopt an earlier meal-time, one which coincides better with the time for Ma'ariv and with the common custom. This may be the approach of Tosafot.

On the other hand, we may prefer to view K'riat Sh'ma as a "nighttime" Mitzva with a small quirk - at the end of the time, we allow for a bit of flexibility on account of the unusual wording in the torah - "when you lie down" - and, since people are still in bed at that time, we can extend it beyond the usual dawn. However, the beginning of the time, as presented in the Mishna, is the usual nightfall, which signals the beginning time for all nighttime Mitzvot. The identification with the Kohanim's mealtime is not a deliberate connection with eating, rather a secondary lesson - that Kohanim may eat that night (see Berakhot 2a-b). In that case, the other opinions cited differ in more than degree with the Mishna; according to those opinions, K'riat Sh'ma is not bounded by "nighttime"; according to the Mishna, it is. Therefore, we follow the Mishna, as it is not offering one choice among many of various mealtimes, but is identifying the starting time with the usual time for night. This may be Rashi & Rambam's approach.




Although, at first blush, it seems that there are three different opinions in our Mishna regarding the ending time of K'riat Sh'ma, the Gemara (Berakhot 9a) clarifies that there are only two: R. Gamliel agree that the ending time is essentially dawn; the Hakhamim are presenting the "ideal" Halakha - ideally a person should say K'riat Sh'ma by midnight. R. Gamliel's statement reflects the "fall-back" position; in case you were unable to say it on time, be aware that midnight is just a protective time and that it may be said all night.

It follows that R. Eliezer stands alone in his "earlier" opinion. Some of the Rishonim (see, for instance, R'ah) suggest that the disagreement may be rooted in textual interpretation. When the Torah says *B'Shokh'b'kha* - "when you lie down" - does it mean "during the time that people are in the process of going to sleep" or "while people are lying down - i.e. as long as they are sleeping"? R. Eliezer prefers the former approach, while Hakhamim (and R. Gamliel) take the latter. In any case, the Gemara decisively rules like Hakhamim and R. Gamliel.


The Tosefta (Berakhot 1:1) offers the following in the name of R. Shimon (b. Yohai):

"It is possible for someone to read K'riat Sh'ma twice in one night, once before Amud haShahar and once after Amud haShahar, and thereby fulfill both the night and day obligations."

The Gemara (Berakhot 8b) records an alternate version of that Tosefta:

"R. Shim'on b. Yohai says in the name of R. Akiva: It is possible for someone to read K'riat Sh'ma twice in one day, once before sunrise and once after sunrise, and thereby fulfill both the obligations of night and day."

(There is a major dispute between R. Zerahiah haLevi and Ramban as to whether these two versions may be concurrently accepted or if they are mutually contradictory. We will discuss this next week, in the context of the shiur on daytime K'riat Sh'ma and its times.)

The Gemara (9a) states that the Halakha follows the statement of R. Shim'on b. Yohai in the name of R. Akiva (the second version). This means that the latest possible time for K'riat Sh'ma extends past Amud haShahar to sometime before sunrise.

The Gemara supports this ruling by retelling of the time that a pair of students got drunk at a wedding and came to R. Yehoshua b. Levi (apparently after dawn) and asked him about K'riat Sh'ma, and he replied: "R. Shim'on is great enough that we can rely on him (=his opinion) in time of need."

Based on this, the Ge'onim (Otzar HaGe'onim, Berakhot, Teshuvot, p. 22) rule that we may only rely on R. Shim'on b. Yohai, to permit reading after Amud haShahar, in case of need, such as drunkenness or sickness. However, someone who intentionally waits that long may no longer fulfill the Mitzva. This is a bit strange, having one ending time for everyone and an extension for a few "exceptions"; however, we might explain this as follows:

Someone who is physically unable to perform a Mitzva is exempt from it. Since the Anoos in question was, we assume, Anoos all night up until dawn, he was technically exempt. However, for two reasons, we would like to encourage his reciting Sh'ma in spite of this. First of all, the content of Sh'ma and its accompanying "charge" of affirmation of God's unity, love for God etc. are something we want to make sure that everyone experiences. Second, everyone has a "nighttime" and "daytime" during the normal course of a 24-hour period - even night workers have these periods, even if they are at the inverse times of everyone else. Since the Anoos didn't really experience a proper "when you lie down" until now, since he was, for one reason or another, exempt from Sh'ma, we have the opportunity to "attach" him to those who are still asleep and, rightfully, call it "when you lie down" - in his case only.

Now - to the answers:

Halakha 9:

Q1: Rambam's order is a bit strange; first he should define the basic parameter (all night) and then add the Rabbinic "fence" (midnight). Why the inverted presentation?

A: Since the Rabbis "fenced in" the Mitzva, that redefines it; one who reads before midnight, fulfills the Mitzva in a more proper way than one who reads later.

Q2: When is *Amud haShahar*?

A: Dawn - about 72-90 minutes before sunrise.

Q3: How does the Rabbinic "fence" of midnight keep people from sinning?

A: see answer at Q4.

Q4: Why did the Rabbis decide to erect a fence around this law, more than others (e.g. morning Sh'ma etc.)

A: Since this is a nighttime Mitzva which is both personal (not a communal obligation, but on every individual) and is common (every night), the concern that a person would "put it off" until after dinner and a short nap was great. That would also lead to "sleeping through the night" and not fulfilling the Mitzva at all. By putting "midnight" as a limit, people are more careful to read K'riat Sh'ma before getting into the dinner-drink-bed mode.

Q5: What was the particular concern about sinning here?

A: see answer at Q4.

Q6: Is there any significance to "midnight" as a "protection" for an all-night Mitzva?

A: Two possibilities: either its long enough to be maintainable, yet short enough to work; or, since the Rabbis always like to attach their enactments to Torahic law, the only time during the course of the night that has any Halakhic significance is mid-night - from the Pesach offering which, according to one opinion, must be consumed by then.

Halakha 10:

Q1: How can there be one time for "regular" people and another for "Anoosim"? If K'riat Sh'ma extends until sunrise, that should be valid for everyone; if not, not for anyone.

A: We are relying on a minority group - those still sleeping; just as we rely on a minority opinion in times of need, so we rely on a minority group's behavior. In other words, the agreed-upon time which is, for all concerned, a time of "when you lie down", ends at Amud haShahar. However, since there are some who are still sleeping until before sunrise, we rely on their "keeping alive" the sleep-time; but this is only granted to those who were unable to fulfill the Mitzva properly. Also, see the explanation at the end of the shiur.

Q2: Are there other Mitzvot where Anoosim are given more leeway than others?

A: Not the I know of...

Q3: Why is a drunk considered Anoos?

A: Even though he was alert when he decided to drink, at the time of fulfilling the Mitzva, he was not in control of his own faculties. However, see the Gemara in Eruvin (65) about Rabbinic attitudes towards this type of behavior.

Q4: What is "Hashkiveinu"?

A: The second B'rakha after K'riat Sh'ma at night. The first word means "Cause us to lie down" and is a petition to God to protect us as we sleep, keep us from harm, and bring us, alive and well, to a new morn. We will discuss this further at Tefilla 7:18.

Q5: Why shouldn't "Hashkiveinu" be read at this time?

A: The long night is not ahead - it is already gone. Interesting to note the opinion of R. Yitzchak Ibn Ge'at (quoted in RASHBA, RITBA and other Rishonim) that at this hour the B'rakha actually is said - but the first few words, which, obviously, begin with "Hashkiveinu", are omitted. This is not the consensus and the simple read of Rambam follows the approach that the entire Berakha is skipped.

Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.



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