In the Introductory Shiur
and at the Shamash
, I presented various approaches to the Mitzva of K'riat
Sh'ma as presented by the Rishonim.
Among them, the Tosafot, Raavan and Rabbenu Yonah all suggested
(in different formulations) that K'riat Sh'ma is essentially a
specific "kiyyum" (fulfillment) of the Mitzva of Talmud Torah -
using a specfic text. There are several Gemarot (Nedarim 8a,
Menahot 99b) which I quoted there which support this approach to
K'riat Sh'ma. Keep in mind that the elementary obligation of
Talmud Torah is "day and night" - e.g., at least one "Parasha"
during the day and one at night.
As I mentioned, this represents a "specific" piece of Talmud
Torah. Usually, when we speak of the Mitzva of Talmud Torah, we
do not demand specific content - you can fulfill this Mitzva by
studying a chapter of Rambam, a commentary of the Netziv on the
Humash or a detailed discussion of the K'tzot haHoshen. The
"Talmud Torah" dimension of K'riat Sh'ma is more specific.
Depending on the approach, either the Torah or the Rabbis
mandated that twice a day, we read certain sections from the
Torah (the 3 paragraphs of the Sh'ma). This is, no doubt, due to
the "fundamental" content of these sections - affirming God's
unity, our committment to loving God, studying His Torah and
keeping his Mitzvot etc.
There may be room to consider a general question with regard to
Talmud Torah. It is true that the Mitzva of study is fulfilled
regardless of which Massekhet of Gemara or Sefer of T'nakh is
being studied. Nevertheless, we may wish to posit another
"level" of Talmud Torah, at which the content, along with the
depth of study and pursuant application, affects the "kiyyum".
For instance, the Rabbis consider study which is deliberately
detached from action in an unfavorable light (JT Berakhot 1:2;
Shabbat 1:2). The Gemara considers someone who is engaged in the
laws of certain offerings as if he has brought them to the Beit
HaMikdash (BT Menahot 110a). The value of "Torah liShma" - Torah
for its own sake - is well documented (e.g. BT Ta'anit 7a), as is
the value of Torah which is studied with intent to teach it (BT
Sukkah 49b). Perhaps K'riat Sh'ma should be considered a "higher
level" of Talmud Torah, on account of the content of the
Parashiot. Something to consider.
K'RIAT SH'MA AT THE BEGINNING OF THE DAY
There are several references in the Gemara and Midrash to the
"immediately upon waking up" nature of K'riat Sh'ma. The Gemara
in Shabbat (119b) states: "R. Abbahu says: Yerushalayim was
destroyed because they (the residents) neglected K'riat Sh'ma in
the morning and evening, as it says: 'Ah, you who rise early in
the morning in pursuit of strong drinkÉ' (Yeshaya [Isaiah]
5:11)." The implication is that instead of arising and
immediately reading the Sh'ma, they arose and immediately ran
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 20:20 and Tanhuma Balak #14) makes
this point in a stronger fashion: " 'Look, a people rising up
like a lioness'(Bamidbar [Numbers] 23:24) - there is no nation
in the world like [Israel]; although they sleep from Torah and
Mitzvot; they arise like lions and grab K'riat Sh'ma, crowning
Here, the Midrash depicts a component of Israel's greatness, as
seen by the heathen Bil'am, in the immediacy of our declaration
- upon waking - of God's kingdom.
There is good reason for this notion - as well as support from
the Mishna. In Berakhot (2:2), R. Yehoshua b. Korha explains the
order of the three Parashiot: We begin with Sh'ma, because that
includes "Kabbalat Ol Malkhut Shamayim" - accepting God's
kingdom. That is followed by the second Parasha, because it
includes "Kabbalat Ol Mitzvot" - the committment to fulfilling
Mitzvot. The sense here is that the declaration of God's rule is
a necessary prerequisite to accepting Mitzvot (see Ramban, Shemot
20:2); it follows that K'riat Sh'ma is the beginning of the day
(or perhaps the preface to the day) of Mitzva fulfillment. We
find a similar approach in R. Yohanan's description of the ideal
start of the day (Berakhot 14b-15a).
This approach - K'riat Sh'ma as the "kickoff" of the day, may
explain why the Rabbis "expanded" K'riat Sh'ma to include the
B'rakha of Yotzer, in which we praise God for the daily light of
When we consider this approach, we are immediately drawn to the
primary source - "when you lie down and when you rise up." In
spite of the Rabbinic interpretations which utilize this verse to
define the times for K'riat Sh'ma, the simplest sense of the
verse is that we should recite these words immediately upon
arising (and directly before going to sleep). The general time
boundaries - from the first time that visual acuity is possible
in the morning until the last group of people has risen - is the
"generalization" of this concept. (See the previous shiur).
K'RIAT SH'MA AS A PREFACE TO TEFILLA
We have already dealt with "S'mikhat Ge'ula liT'filla" (attaching
Sh'ma to Tefilla) in previous Shiurim - and it will get a fuller
treatment in Hilkhot Tefilla - but there is one component of that
law which directly affects us here. According to many Rishonim
(including Rambam), the ideal time for Tefilla is immediately at
sunrise. Since K'riat Sh'ma must be said directly before Tefilla
- in order to attach the two - it follows that, in order to say
Tefilla in its most ideal fashion, K'riat Sh'ma should be said
just before sunrise. I dealt with the various approaches to this
in last week's shiur; however, this Halakha points to K'riat
Sh'ma serving an ancillary function - as the preface to Tefilla.
DIMENSIONS AND TIMES
Depending on which dimension of K'riat Sh'ma we are viewing, the
time-boundaries may differ.
If we see K'riat Sh'ma as being the minimalistic "kiyyum" of
Talmud Torah - then it is simply a "daytime" Mitzvah, bounded by
dawn and dusk (see Mishna Megilla 2:4,6). As the "bottom-line"
Talmud Torah, however, Sh'ma is still the necessary content
piece; it would not be sufficient to read "Beresheet" or study
"Tokfo Kohen" sometime during the day to fulfill the minimal
Talmud Torah demanded of us, which we fulfill through reciting
Since this component of K'riat Sh'ma is clearly found in the
Gemara, Rambam rules that the essential Mitzva may be performed
all day - hence, the B'rakhot, which are (according to Rambam)
the Rabbinic extension/expansion of the Mitzva, are said along
with the Sh'ma, up until the end of the day. (It should be noted
that R. Hai Ga'on's approach is that the time for Birkot K'riat
Sh'ma is consistent with that of Tefilla - 4 hours or 1/3 of the
Once we discuss K'riat Sh'ma "in its time" - we are now
connecting with the basic presentation of the Torah - "when you
rise up"; defined as the general "rising time" of people.
Nevertheless, there is, within the "time" for Sh'ma, a minimal
and an ideal; the ideal is for Sh'ma, with all of its power and
glory, to be a preface to Tefilla, said at its proper time.
Hence, Rambam utilizes the terms "K'riat Sh'ma in its time" and
"the Mitzva of K'riat Sh'ma" - i.e. the ideal form, in which all
three dimensions - Talmud Torah, Kabbalat Ol Malkhut Shamayim
and preface to Tefilla - are realized.
now, to the questions:
Q1: Why would we think that if someone was *Anoos*, the time
for K'riat Sh'ma would be extended?
A: We extended nighttime K'riat Sh'ma past dawn for someone who
is Anoos - we might have thought to do the same here. The reason
we don't is because past dawn, there are still some people (a
reasonable percentage of the population) in bed. Therefore, it
may be considered "when-you-lie-down" time. Here, on the other
hand, once we have passed the time when everyone is arisen, it is
in no way considered "when-you-rise" time.
Q2: What is the obligation of "K'riat Sh'ma in its time"?
A: To say K'riat Sh'ma at the beginning of the day - as a preface
(and maybe a necessary prerequisite - in Kodashim language, a
"Matir") to the other Mitzvot we perform during the day.
Q3: If the time for K'riat Sh'ma has passed, is there any value
to reading it? What if he substituted other words of Torah?
A: Although any Torah study is valuable, these words form the
foundation of our relationship with God and our committment to
belief and Mitzvot. Therefore, these words must be recited, even
if later in the day.
Q4: Why should the B'rakhot still be recited if the time has
A: Rambam views K'riat Sh'ma at any time during the day as a
minimal kiyyum of the Mitzva. Since Rambam (unlike Rashba and R.
Hai Ga'on) understands Birkot K'riat Sh'ma to be part and parcel
of K'riat Sh'ma (Rabbinically), the B'rakhot may be said whenever
the most basic component of the Mitzva is realized.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project