Z'man K'riat Sh'ma baYom
Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Kriat Shema 1:11-12
11. And what is its time during the day? The Mitzva is to begin
reading [K'riat Sh'ma] before *Hanetz haHamah* (lit. "the
glittering of the sun" - sunrise) , such that he finishes reading
and reciting the final B'rakha with *Hanetz haHamah*. This time
is about one tenth of an hour before the sun rises. If he
delays and reads K'riat Sh'ma after the sun rises, Yatza; because
its time is until the end of three hours into the day - for
someone who delays.
12. If someone preceded [the time] and read morning K'riat Sh'ma
after Amud haShahar, even if he finished before Hanetz haHamah,
Yatza. In times of great need, for instance - if he was leaving
early on a trip, he may *leKhat'hila* (before the fact, ab
initio) read after Amud haShahar.
(The Time for Daytime K'riat Sh'ma)
The second Mishna in Berakhot states: "From what time is the
Sh'ma read in the morning? From the time that one can distinguish
"T'khelet" (a blue-purplish dye) from white; R. Eliezer says:
"T'khelet" from "Kartei" (a different shade of blue). [It is
read] until sunrise; R. Yehoshua says: until three hours, since
it is the custom of princes to arise at three hours." Again, as
with the first Mishna, we have both beginning and ending times
presented. Unlike the first Mishna, however, we find that there
are differences of opinion about both time-parameters. We find
an apparently minimal dispute (blue/white or blue/green) which
seems to be one of degree regarding the beginning time. On the
other hand, there is a much greater disagreement (sunrise or
three hours) regarding the ending time.
Although the disagreement is much greater with regards to the
ending time, most of this shiur will be devoted to the issues
associated with the beginning time. The Gemara (Berahot 10b)
rules like R. Yehoshua (that K'riat Sh'ma may be said until
"three hours") and there is no authority who disagrees with this
THE ENDING TIME
There are four issues related to R. Yehoshua's opinion worth
When the Halakha utilizes "hours", that may work in one of two
fashions. In some cases, it refers to clock hours, wherein we
divide the day into 24 equal parts, calling each one an hour. For
instance, according to most codifiers, Mincha (the afternoon
Tefilla) may be said after 1/2 hour after mid-day; the 1/2 hour
is a "regular" 30 minutes.
However, in most cases, the "hour" is not 1/24 of a day & night
cycle; rather it is 1/12 of the daytime. In other words,
"Tefilla may be said until 4 hours" means that it may be said
until 1/3 of the daytime has passed. Hence, when R. Yehoshua
says that K'riat Sh'ma may be said until 3 hours, that means
until 1/4 of the day has passed - or exactly halfway between the
beginning of the day and mid-day. These type of hours are called
"Sha'ot Z'maniot" by the codes, and will remain the "hour" we
refer to unless specified differently.
Magen Avraham and Gra
There is a major dispute among the Aharonim as to how to figure
Sha'ot Z'maniot - is the day reckoned from Amud haShahar (dawn)
until nightfall (Magen Avraham) or from sunrise to sunset (Gra)?
Magen Avraham's ending time for K'riat Sh'ma will always be
earlier than that of the Gra. For example, if sunrise is at 6:00
a.m. and sunset is at 6:00 p.m., the Gra's ending time for K'riat
Sh'ma will be 9:00 a.m., whereas the Magen Avraham's ending time
will be 8:24. There are many discussions about these timing
approaches, relating to specific details and the reasoning for
the dispute; I just wanted to sketch out the two basic approaches
and their ramifications.
R. Elazar of Metz
As mentioned above, all authorities rule according to R.
Yehoshua. With one exception, they all understand R. Yehoshua's
opinion as "until the END of the third hour". R. Elazar of Metz
(of the Tosafist school), in his Sefer Yeraim, holds that the
intent is "until the beginning of the third hour" - i.e., until
two hours into the day. The practical ramifications of his
approach are obvious. (For those who are interested: His
approach is based on the Gemara in Berakhot 3b, comparing King
David's sleeping habits with those of other kings - see there).
As I mentioned in earlier shiurim, Kessef Mishneh (R. Yosef
Karo), in his comments on MT K'riat Sh'ma 1:13, posits that
essentially the daytime K'riat Sh'ma may be read all day; the
Rabbis restricted it to three hours in order to append it to
Tefilla, which must be said within the first four hours of the
day. (This might explain Rambam's usage of "day" and "night" in
reference to the times - because, fundamentally, the time for
K'riat Sh'ma is all day and all night). Kessef Mishneh explains
R. Yehoshua's reasoning (princes sleep until three hours into the
day) as an "Asmakhta" - appending a Rabbinic ruling to a verse
("when you rise up"). Just as "when you lie down" refers to the
entire "lying down" time (nighttime), since we rule like R.
Gamliel (that nighttime K'riat Sh'ma is read all night),
similarly, "when you rise up" refers to the entire time we are
awake - all day.
THE BEGINNING TIME
The Tosefta (Berakhot 1:4) states: "From what time do we read
K'riat Sh'ma in the morning? Aherim say: From the time that you
could recognize your friend from a distance of 4 Amot.(app. 6-8
feet). The Mitzva is to read it with sunrise, such that you
append "Ge'ula" (the B'rakha after K'riat Sh'ma) to Tefilla and
are saying Tefilla during the day.." The Tosefta here brings
(arguably) a different opinion - from the time you could
recognize a friend from a short distance. This may be the same
time as either of the "distinguishing" times in our Mishna (blue
- white or purple/blue - green/blue); however, the addition of
"the Mitzva is..." indicates that there is an acceptable time and
an ideal time - which is not mentioned in our Mishna.
The Gemara (Berakhot 9b) quotes a Baraita which expands on the
Tosefta: "R. Meir says: From the time one can distinguish between
a dog and a wolf; R. Akiva says: Between a mule and a donkey;
Aherim say: From the time you could recognize your friend from a
distance of 4 Amot." Rav Huna rules like Aherim - to which Abaye
adds: "The Halakha is like Aherim in regards to Tefillin (i.e.
the earliest time to put on Tefillin); but [the Halakha is] like
Vatikin (Rashi: humble people who love Mitzvot) for K'riat Sh'ma,
as R. Yohanan taught: Vatikin would *Gomrin* [K'riat Sh'ma] with
sunrise, in order to attach Geula to Tefilla...and be saying
Tefilla during the day. R. Zera said: What verse [alludes to
this]? "They will fear You with the sun[rise]..."."
Up until this point, we have two basic approaches to the
(1) Sometime between dawn and sunrise, when a certain level of
visual distinction is possible (distinguishing between different
dyes, shades of one dye, closely related animals or recognizing a
friend from a short distance). This may be explained as an
interpretation of "when you rise up"; that the Torah commands us
to read K'riat Sh'ma from the time that "daytime" activities are
possible (which is why we rise up) - the ability to operate in
the world with a given level of visual acuity - which is best
tested in our ability to distinguish closely related things from
(2) Sometime around sunrise. The pregnant word *Gomrin*, which
may mean "finish" or "read", was intentionally left untranslated
in the citation from the Gemara above. The Vatikin may have read
K'riat Sh'ma just before sunrise, in order to finish (Gomrin in
Hebrew = finish) the last B'rakha of K'riat Sh'ma just at sunrise
and immediately begin Tefilla at the first possible moment which
is also a spiritually uplifting time. On the other hand, they
may have begun reading K'riat Sh'ma at sunrise (if *Gomrin*
follows the Aramaic meaning of "read"), which is a spiritually
uplifting time, appropriate for accepting God's kingdom - and
then attached it with the Tefilla. We will see these two
approaches adopted by different Rishonim futher on.
In the last posting, we looked at two Baraitot, quoted in
Berakhot 8b, which "stretch" the beginning of daytime K'riat
Sh'ma further than the above mentioned sources:
(1) R. Shim'on b. Yohai taught: 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.
(2) 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."
According to the first Baraita, immediately after Amud haShahar
(dawn), the daytime K'riat Sh'ma may be read. According to the
second Baraita, nighttime K'riat Sh'ma may be read after Amud
haShahar - until sometime before sunrise.
Rif rules according to both Baraitot - leading to the possibility
that someone could read K'riat Sh'ma after Amud HaShahar and
fulfill the nighttime reading and immediately turn around and
read K'riat Sh'ma again and fulfill the daytime requirement. The
difficulty with this approach will be examined in the next
Regarding Amud haShahar, the Mishna in Megilla (2:4) states that
some "daytime" Mitzvot may be done from sunrise, but, if done
after Amud Hashahar, it is valid (post facto). The Gemara
(Megilla 20b) seems to extend this rule to all daytime Mitzvot.
We might posit that K'riat Sh'ma "adopts" the time-barriers here,
therefore allowing a reading after Amud HaShahar to stand.
Conversely, K'riat Sh'ma may be unrelated to the general
time-boundaries for Mitzvot and, as the Gemara (Berakhot 9a)
explains, since some people are already arisen at that hour, it
is considered "when-you-rise-up"-time. This is a more likely
read, as the time-boundaries for K'riat Sh'ma are not defined by
the general day-and-night definitions used for other Mitzvot.
HAMA'OR & MILHAMOT
As mentioned above, Rif rules according to both Baraitot. The
Ba'al haMa'or (R. Zerahia haLevi, 12th century Provence)
challenges this rule, claiming that it creates an inherent
contradiction - either the "window" of time between dawn and
sunrise is "when-you-lie-down"-time or "when-you-rise-up"-time.
According to him, the two Baraitot are inconsistent with each
other and, since the Gemara rules like the second Baraita,
nighttime K'riat Sh'ma time extends until sunrise. He also
maintains that, since the second Baraita is now in conflict with
our Mishna (which ruled that morning Sh'ma may be said from
before sunrise), and the Gemara ruled like that Baraita, that our
Mishna has been rejected. Therefore, K'riat Sh'ma time begins at
Ramban (13th century Spain) composed a defense of Rif's Halakhot
against the Ba'al haMa'or's critique. He called this composition
"Milhamot Hashem" - lit. "The Wars of the Lord". Some of the
most famous and elegant disputes among the Rishonim -and those
which inspire much great discussion and debate - are "Mahlokot
Ba'al HaMa'or uMilhamot".
In the Milhamot, Ramban defends the "overlapping window" approach
as follows: (After citing all of the authorities in the Baraitot
and Gemara that support an earlier beginning time - and some
technical issues with R. Shim'on b. Yohai and R. Akiva, he
argues) Since R. Shim'on b. Yohai was willing to call it
"nighttime" until sunrise on account of a minority of people who
were still abed, all the more so that he should consider it
daytime - since a majority of people have already risen!
Ramban explains that since the Torah referred to "when YOU
(singular) lie down and when YOU rise up", the intent is to
"stretch" the time for K'riat Sh'ma to include practices of the
minority; in other words, since some people are still sleeping
after Amud HaShahar, it may be considered
"when-you-lie-down"-time, even though it is certainly
"when-you-rise-up"-time. There is no inherent contradiction,
because this is indeed a time of sleeping for some - although it
is also a time of getting up for most.
Accordingly, Ramban rules that Vatikin would perform the ideal
Mitzva and that they would "finish" K'riat Sh'ma just before
sunrise, in order to finish the B'rakha afterwards with sunrise
and immediately begin Tefilla.
The Ba'al haMa'or, for his part, agrees that the Vatikin
represent the ideal; he explains "Gomrin" as "read" and says that
they would begin reading K'riat Sh'ma at sunrise (the beginning
time) and then attach Tefilla to the B'rakha afterwards.
Rabbenu Tam (Tosafot s.v. Amar Abaye, Yoma 37b) agrees that the
proper time for K'riat Sh'ma is after sunrise. He interprets
Vatikin like Ramban (and Rambam); but claims that the Vatikin
read early in order to "beautify" Tefilla - but they were not
reading K'riat Sh'ma at the correct time.
In summary, there are two approaches to the beginning time
(1) It follows the standard daytime-Mitzva onset - ideally, from
sunrise; stretched back to Amud haShahar.
(2) It begins at sunrise (Ba'al haMa'or)
Within the first approach, there are several possibilities:
(1a) Unlike other Mitzvot, the ideal time for K'riat Sh'ma is
just before sunrise; the Vatikin were enhancing K'riat Sh'ma by
reading then. (Rambam, Ramban)
(1b) The "ideal" time for K'riat Sh'ma is from the time that some
level of visual recognition is possible. Reading like Vatikin
does nothing for K'riat Sh'ma; it is only an enhancement of
Tefilla (R. Yitzchak in Tosafot - Yoma 37b)
(1c) After sunrise is still the ideal time - reading like Vatikin
is only an enhancement of Tefilla (Rabbenu Tam).
now for the answers:
Q1: Why does Rambam refer to "day" (here) and "night" (Halakha
9, above) instead of "morning" and "evening"?
A: According to Kessef Mishneh, this is because the fundamental
Mitzva is for K'riat Sh'ma to be read during the daytime - not
specifically in the morning. Rambam may also be aligning K'riat
Sh'ma with the daily Mitzva of Talmud Torah (see the Introductory
shiur) - which is specifically "day and night" ("and you shall
meditate upon [Torah] day and night" - Yehoshua (Joshua) 1:8).
Q2: If the time parameter is from after Amud haShahar until 3
hours into the day - why does Rambam make any mention of "right
A: See Q5, below.
Q3: What is the value of finishing K'riat Sh'ma and its
B'rakhot just at sunrise? A: See Q5, below.
Q4: What does "3 hours into the day" mean? To what sort of
hours is Rambam referring?
A: 1/4 of the day (calculated from dawn to nightfall OR from
sunrise to sunset).
Q5: Following Q2, why does Rambam term the time until three
hours as "its time", but only for someone who delays and reads
A: K'riat Sh'ma is not just a Mitzva of reading certain words at
a certain time; it includes themes of God' Unity, our love for
God, our committment to Mitzvot etc. In its Rabbinically expanded
form, K'riat Sh'ma (and its B'rakhot) serves as the ideal
"lead-in" to Tefilla. In order to capture all of these elements
in the most Halakhically, spiritually and aesthetically ideal
fashion, the Vatikin would read K'riat Sh'ma just before sunrise
(Rashi, Rambam,Ramban) and finish the last B'rakha just at
sunrise and immediately begin the morning Tefilla as the sun
rose. Since this is the ideal way to fulfill the Mitzva of K'riat
Sh'ma, although the "three hours" is still its time, since people
are still abed until then, nevertheless, this is only for someone
who delays and misses the opportunity to fulfill it in the best
Q6: Again, if the Mitzva begins at Amud haShahar, why not
present this as a primary option?
A: As discussed in the shiur and at Q5 above, K'riat Sh'ma has
several dimensions to it; although it may be said after Amud
HaShahar, it has a more ideal fulfillment and "captures" other
dimensions if said at around the sunrise - IF we rule like
Vatikin (see R. Tam's opinion in the shiur).
Q7: Why is it only permissible leKhat'hila in times of need -
if this is a valid time, why should it be restricted to people in
A: Just as we "relied" on the minority of people still in bed
after dawn to allow nighttime K'riat Sh'ma to be read after dawn
(see previous posting), so we rely on the notion that daytime, in
its earliest Halakhic form, begins at dawn - but only for those
who won't be capable of reading K'riat Sh'ma later (e.g. someone
about to embark on a journey).
Q8: Since we learned (previous posting, from Halakha 10) that,
in some circumstances, nighttime K'riat Sh'ma may be read AFTER
Amud haShahar, aren't we allowing an internal contradiction -
defining the "window" between dawn and sunrise as both day AND
night? May someone read nighttime K'riat Sh'ma after Amud
HaShahar and immediately turn around and read it again for the
A: Since, according to many Rishonim, the two Baraitot of R.
Shimon b. Yohai are not mutually contradictory (as there is a
"window" time where some people have already risen and others are
still abed), there is no inherent contradiction in reading both
K'riat Sh'ma's during that time.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project