2. Everybody [may] read [K'riat Sh'ma] *K'darkan* (in their own
way); whether standing, walking, lying down or riding on the back
of an animal. It is forbidden to read K'riat Sh'ma while he is
laid out with his face in the ground or laying down on his back
with his face facing up. However, he may read while lying on his
side. If he was obese and could not turn on his side, or was
sick, he may lean a bit on his side and read.
[RABD: "It is forbidden...he may read". The RABD wrote - it is
better if he lies down and he must do so if possible]
BODY POSTURE DURING K'RIAT SH'MA
*Teach them to your children and talk about them when you sit at
home *uv'lekh't'kha vaderekh* (when you are on the way), when you
lie down and when you rise*
The verse clearly obligates us to speak/recite these words
(either Talmud Torah in general, or specifically the words of
K'riat Sh'ma - see Introductory Shiur) as we walk on our way,
along with the other circumstances mentioned.
Beit Hillel (Berakhot 11a), following the lead of this verse,
rule that "People stand and read [K'riat Sh'ma], sit and read,
*Matin* (recline OR lie down) and read, walk on the way and read
or engage in work and read." This is in opposition to Beit
Shamai's demand that "in the evening, everyone must recline and
read; in the morning, everyone must stand up and read", based on
the verse "when you lie down and when you rise up."
The Gemara then cites a Tosefta (Berakhot 1:6) in which R.
Yishma'el and R. Elazar b. Azariah were together, R. Yishma'el
reclining and R. Elazar b. Azariah sitting up. When the time for
K'riat Sh'ma arrived, R. Elazar reclined. In response, R.
Yishma'el sat up. The Gemara explains that whereas R. Yishma'el
was already reclined and intended to stay in that position to
read, R. Elazar intentionally reclined in order to read -
seemingly a Beit-Shammai move. (This was after the Halakha had
been decided in favor of Beit-Hillel's position). This led to the
second problem - the students present might have concluded from
their actions that the Halakha follows Beit Shamai's position.
The Gemara then presents three approaches:
(a) You may follow Beit Hillel OR Beit Shammai in this case,
because Beit Hillel certainly allow for a reading in the style
that Beit Shammai mandate;
(b) If you read in accordance with Beit Shammai's ruling, you
have not fulfilled the Mitzva; ("Lo Yatza");
(c) If you read in accordance with Beit Shammai's ruling, you are
liable for the death penalty. To support this position (no a
literal judicial ruling) - they cite the Mishna (1:3) where R.
Tarfon recalls that he reclined in accordance with Beit Shammai's
position and ended up risking his life as a result - to which his
colleagues responded: You were liable for that, since you
violated the teaching of Beit Hillel.
The second position is the most intriguing (since the third is
clearly non-literal). Rabbi S.R. Hirsch (commentary to Devarim
[Deuteronomy] 6:7) explains as follows:
"The reason for this might perhaps be that Hillel's teaching -
each person reads in his own way - is not to be taken simply as a
facility - a leniency - but as an essential characteristic of
K'riat Sh'ma which just by the fact that 'Each person reads in
his own way' is shown to be the thought that should fill our
minds in every situation and every position in life, whereas the
denial of the canon 'Each person reads in his own way' by
adopting a definite position in which to say it in the morning
and another at night would give K'riat Sh'ma the appearance of
containing a thought which one would have to get out of one's
ordinary course to take it to heart."
As mentioned above, *Matin* (reclining OR lying down) is listed
among Beit Hillel's acceptable body postures for K'riat Sh'ma.
This ruling is supported by the discussion in the Gemara
(Berakhot 24a) regarding the recitation of K'riat Sh'ma while in
bed with one's spouse. (The essential point of the sugya there
concerns issues of exposure/contact with one's own nakedness or
that of others while reciting K'riat Sh'ma. These Halakhot will
be discussed in greater detail when we get to K'riat Sh'ma
3:16-19) The very fact of the discussion implies that reciting
K'riat Sh'ma lying down (abed) is perfectly acceptable.
This position is apparently challenged by the statement of R.
Yosef (Berakhot 13b): A *Prakdan* should not recite K'riat Sh'ma.
Among the Rishonim, there are three translations of "Prakdan"
(a) Rashi (and Tosafot - Nidah 14a s. v. Aparkid) explains that
it means someone lying flat on his back.
(b) Arukh (quoted in Tosafot) - Prakdan means someone lying on
(c) Rambam (and R'ah - commentary on Berakhot, beginning of
Chapter 2) both here and in Hametz uMatzah 7:8 - Prakdan is
EITHER lying flat on the back or on the stomach.
In any case, a Prakdan seems to be excessively open to sexually
oriented thoughts - as is seen from the next piece in the Gemara:
[from R. Yosef we infer that reading K'riat Sh'ma is forbidden
while lying as a Prakdan, but] is sleeping in this fashion
permissible? After all, R. Yehoshua b. Levi used to curse anyone
who slept as a Prakdan!
Rashi explains the prohibition of sleeping this way: perhaps he
will become erect while he is sleeping and this will be seen by
others - which is disgraceful. (This may be why Rashi identified
"Prakdan" as specifically on your back - if sleeping on your
stomach, this problem would not occur. See, however, Rambam in
Issurei Bi'ah (cited below) for an apparent "combination" of
Tosafot (Nidah 14a s.v. Layit) explains, in the name of Rashbam,
that lying in that fashion as a tendency to increase *Hirhur*
(sexually exciting thoughts). Rambam adopts the same approach
(Issurei Bi'ah 21:19).
According to either approach, sleeping in the manner of Prakdan
is objectionable on Hirhur grounds.
The Gemara concludes: regarding sleeping, if he inclines a bit to
his side, it is permissible. This is not the case, however,
regarding K'riat Sh'ma.
In other words, R. Yehoshua b. Levi's "curse" applies to sleeping
flat on your back (or stomach) - but, if you lean a bit on your
side, that's acceptable. When R. Yosef mentions the prohibition
of reciting K'riat Sh'ma while a Prakdan, that applies even if
leaning a bit on the side. (The Gemara then makes an exception
for someone who is obese - that he may recline just a bit to
At this point, two questions come to the fore:
(a) If leaning over a bit is not sufficient for K'riat Sh'ma -
what type of posture is acceptable? Surely, in the light of Beit
Hillel's ruling (and the discussion about saying K'riat Sh'ma
while in bed with one's spouse), some type of lying down must be
a valid body posture for K'riat Sh'ma.
(b) Why does K'riat Sh'ma demand "more" leaning over than just
HOW MUCH IS ACCEPTABLE?
Tosafot (Nidah 14a s.v. K'riat Sh'ma) and Ra'aviah (#70) resolve
the conflict between the R. Yosef's law of Prakdan and the
discussion about K'riat Sh'ma in bed in the same way as Rambam
does in our Halakha: Lying totally on one's side is perfectly
acceptable. In other words, there are three body positions in
(a) Lying flat on your back or on your stomach - always forbidden
(this is not referring to lying down to read etc. - it's
specifically related to sleeping);
(b) Reclining a bit to the side - acceptable for sleeping, but
not for K'riat Sh'ma (except in an exigency);
(c) Lying totally on your side - acceptable even for K'riat
REASON FOR THE PROHIBITION OF PRAKDAN IN K'RIAT SH'MA
Is Prakdan a problem for K'riat Sh'ma for the same reason that
it's a problem for sleeping - but, due to the solemnity of K'riat
Sh'ma, the rule is extended further? Or is it for some other
R'ah (and Ritba) maintains that the same reason applies - Hirhur.
Whereas we are somewhat strict with regards to sleeping, when it
comes to K'riat Sh'ma, we are "more concerned" with Hirhur. This
certainly fits with other restrictions concerning K'riat Sh'ma -
such as not reciting K'riat Sh'ma while seeing another's
nakedness or some other sexually titillating sight (or sound).
Rashi (Berakhot 13b s.v. Ki Matzli) indicates that the problem
with reading K'riat Sh'ma while a Prakdan is that "he is
accepting upon himself the authority of God (*Malkhut Shamayim*)
in a manner of lordliness and haughtiness (*Ga'avah*). Most
Rishonim prefer this approach (e.g. R. Yonatan haKohen from
Lunel, commentary on Rif, Berakhot 13b).
A clear difference between these two approaches is how to deal
with the entire K'riat Sh'ma - if it is an issue of Hirhur, that
will apply equally to the first verse, the first Parasha and the
entire three Parashiot. On the other hand, if the problem is one
of "accepting God's authority in a manner of Ga'avah" - that
would only apply to the first verse (or, at the most, the first
Ra'aviah (#70) distinguishes between the first Parasha, where he
requires lying on the side - and the second (and, presumably the
third) Parasha - where he allows "normal" lying down. We will
assume that Ra'aviah adopts Rashi's reason for the prohibition -
which is why he makes that distinction.
A THIRD POSSIBILITY
I would like to suggest a third possible approach. I am very
hesitant to suggest it, as I could not find it in the Rishonim -
but I will offer it anyways and will welcome critiques and
In the beginning of the shiur, I quoted the Tosefta, which
related a story about R. Yishma'el and R. Elazar b. Azariah. In
that story, R. Yishma'el went out of his way to sit up (after R.
Elazar lay down) to say K'riat Sh'ma. His reason was to make
sure that no one thought that the Halakha follows Beit Shammai.
Even though Beit Hillel allows reading while *Matin* (which may
mean "reclining" and not "lying down"), if someone CHANGES their
body posture in order to lie down, that seems like a "vote" for
Beit Shammai's position.
Of all the body postures mentioned by Beit Hillel (which, if you
check their language carefully, apply to continuing the previous
body posture - i.e. keep walking, keep sitting etc. - and not to
changing body postures), the one which seems least appropriate
for a religious/meditative/study experience (K'riat Sh'ma) is
lying down. Someone would only recite K'riat Sh'ma lying down if
they held that that was the proper/ideal way to do so (unless
they were just lazy or unable to get up). Therefore, we have a
concern that someone reciting K'riat Sh'ma lying down is
implicitly supporting Beit Shammai's position - and therefore we
This approach would have some serious implications which are also
not mentioned in the Rishonim. First of all, we would likely
apply it only to nighttime K'riat Sh'ma -w hich is the recitation
about which Beit Shammai demand lying down. Second - it would
exclude any sort of lying down, even on your side. This last
issue stands in direct conflict with the ruling of many Rishonim.
The reason they most likely did not "go for" this approach is
that R. Yosef would surely have used a different term - *Shokhev*
or *Muteh* as opposed to *Prakdan*. This last objection was
raised by my teacher and Haver, R. Yisroel Miller.
now, to the questions:
Q1: Why is it permissible to read K'riat Sh'ma while walking,
riding on an animal etc.? Isn't this improper?
A: See Rav Hirsch's comments (in the first part of the shiur) -
it is a basic definition of K'riat Sh'ma that it be "accessible"
to us in all of our movements and circumstances and that it not
be "restricted" to specific positions and/or situations. By the
way, this is a significant difference between K'riat Sh'ma and
Tefilla. Tefilla requires standing, feet together, facing the
Mikdash, bowing at certain points etc. Tefilla is truly a step
away from our "normal" mode of existence; whereas K'riat Sh'ma
helps define and guide our "regular" lives and is thus a part of
Q2: If "lying down" is one of the specifically mentioned ways
in which reading K'riat Sh'ma is permitted, why does Rambam then
forbid reading while lying down, on your stomach and on your
A: Lying down is not inherently problematic to K'riat Sh'ma
(which it would be, for instance, to Tefilla). There is an
ancillary problem (Hirhur, Ga'avah or perhaps "Beit-Shammaism").
Therefore, Rambam lists *Matin* in his first clause - then gets
into the details of lying down afterwards.
Q3: Why is reading in these two ways forbidden?
A: Either because of Hirhur, for which we demand a greater level
of distance when reciting K'riat Sh'ma (R'ah); Because of Ga'avah
- that it is inappropriate to declare God's kingdom and accept
His rule while reclining (Rashi, Ra'aviah and most Rishonim) or,
perhaps, because it is a uniquely "Beit-Shammai" style of
Q4: What is the practical difference between how most people
may read (on their side) and the exception made for the obese and
A: Most people have to turn totally on their side; an obese or
sick person may lean just a bit, as long as he is not directly on
his back or stomach.
Q5: Considering this Halakha, what is the best way to read
bedtime K'riat Sh'ma?
A: As RABD says (see Kessef Mishneh's suggested emendation
below), sitting down. One might argue that lying down, totally on
your side, is "ideal" for bedtime Sh'ma - but there seem to be
significant considerations weighing against that and it seems
more appropriate to say it standing or sitting.
Q6: What is the meaning of RABD's gloss?
A: Kessef Mishneh emends the text (based on variant manuscripts)
from *YISHKAV* (lie down) to *YESHEV* (sit). In Hebrew, there is
a difference of one letter - a "minor" scribal error which, of
course, has major ramifications. Kessef Mishneh preffered the
other reading only because the reading we have makes absolutely
no sense in the context of our sugya.
Mazal Tov to Sandy and Paula Riemer
on the Bar Mitzvah of their son Daniel Simcha this past Shabbat,
Parashat VaYishlach. May his career in Torah be long and
prosperous, bring Nachat (Nachas) to haKadosh-Barukh-Hu, the
whole family and all of K'lal Yisra'el (p.s. he did a great