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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Vayigash

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.

He appeared before him, fell on his neck, and he wept on his neck excessively... (46:29)

Yaakov, however, did not fall upon Yosef's neck... for as our Sages say, Yaakov was reciting Shema at that moment (Rashi)


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? Harav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik of Yerushalayim (1) gave the following answer: Yaakov met Yosef just before sunrise. L'chatchilah, one should recite Shema at that time, as Yaakov did. B'dieved, however, one may recite Shema for the first three hours of the day. Since Yosef was preoccupied with 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 elaborate:


There are five different time slots in which Shema may be recited:

The B'dieved time: After alos amud ha-shachar.

Alos amud ha-shachar, the crack of dawn, is generally defined by the poskim as 72 minutes (2) before sunrise (3). One is not allowed to recite Shema at this time. However, one who did recite Shema that early, fulfills the mitzvah b'dieved (4). If this happens more than once a month, however, he does not fulfill the mitzvah even b'dieved (5). Under extenuating circumstances (b'she'as ha-d'chak), one may regularly recite Shema at this time even l'chatchilah (6).

The correct time: When it is light enough "to be able to recognize an acquaintance" (7).

Different poskim have different calculations (8), ranging from 60 minutes before sunrise (9) to 35-40 minutes before sunrise (10).

The preferred time: Immediately before sunrise.

Since the preferred time to recite Shemoneh Esrei is immediately after sunrise, the preferred time to recite Shema is immediately before sunrise so that one can lead into Shemoneh Esrei without interruption (11). This is known as tefillas vasikin.

The questionable but accepted time: Until three hours of the day have elapsed.

If one recites Shema after sunrise, or at any time before three hours of the day have elapsed, he has performed mitzvas Kerias Shema. Many poskim maintain that l'chatchilah, this is not the proper time to recite Shema (12), but for various reasons it has become commonly accepted even by those who are meticulous in their mitzvah observance (13). Still, some poskim refer to one who recites Shema at this time as fulfilling the mitzvah only b'dieved (14). According to these poskim, one should recite Shema before sunrise even if he is not wearing tefillin (15). Also, according to some poskim, one should recite Shema before sunrise even if he is unable to recite birchos Kerias Shema (16).

The too-late time: After three hours of the day have elapsed.

There is a basic and well-known dispute among the poskim as to how to figure these three hours. Some maintain that the three hours are counted from alos amud ha-shachar, while other poskim rule that the three hours are counted from sunrise (17). Most authorities rule leniently, like the second view, and this is the practice followed in most places (18).

Although one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of Kerias Shema after three hours have elapsed, one should still say Kerias Shema at the time he says birchos Kerias Shema and Shemoneh Esrei (19). Birchos Kerias Shema may be recited until the end of the fourth hour of the day (20).


There are five different time slots in which Shemoneh Esrei may be recited:

The b'she'as ha-d'chak/b'dieved time: After alos amud hashachar.

When absolutely necessary, e.g., before embarking on a trip or going to work or school, one may daven at this time l'chatchilah (21). Otherwise, one is not allowed to daven at this time (22). A retired person who was formerly permitted to daven before sunrise due to his work schedule, should now daven after sunrise only. B'dieved, if one davened before sunrise, he has fulfilled his obligation and does not need to repeat Shacharis (23).

The preferred time: Exactly at sunrise.

This is known as tefillas vasikin.

The correct time: After sunrise.

The b'dieved time: After four hours of the day have elapsed.

L'chatchilah, one must daven before this time. If he failed to do so, he must still daven now, although his davening is not considered as if he davened on time.

The forbidden time: After chatzos (midday).

After chatzos, it is forbidden to daven Shacharis (24). Under certain circumstances, a tashlumin [makeup tefillah] may be said (25).


1 Quoted in Rinas Yitzchak al ha-Torah pg. 230.

2 There are opinions who maintain that in order to correctly figure alos amud ha-shachar we must take the degree of illumation that occurs at the equinox in Jerusalem 72 minutes before sunrise, and calculate the angular depression of the sun at that instant. It is almost exactly 16 degrees. Then one takes the instant at which the sun is 16 degrees below the horizon for each place and season, and that is the appropriate time to take. Working with this, the intervals for Jerusalem are 72 minutes at the equinox, 77 in midwinter and 87 in midsummer.

3 Beiur Halachah 89:1 quoting the Rambam. See further in Beiur Halachah who recommends waiting a few minutes past alos amud ha-shachar--so that the "face of the east lights up."

4 O.C. 58:4.

5 Mishnah Berurah 58:19.

6 O.C. 58:3 and Mishnah Berurah 19.

7 O.C. 58:1.

8 Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky is quoted (Tefillah K'hilchasah pg. 68) as saying that it is difficult to estimate this time without a daily visual inspection.

9 The custom in Eretz Yisrael, as quoted by Harav Y.M. Tikutinsky in Sefer Eretz Yisrael, pg. 18. There are other times as well.

10 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:6. Harav Y. Kamenetsky calculated the correct time as 36 minutes before sunrise (oral ruling quoted in Emes l'Yaakov, Berachos 8b).

11 O.C. 58:1.

12 This is the view of Rif, Rambam and Gra, and it is quoted without dissent by Mishnah Berurah 58:3 and 4. This is also the ruling of Aruch ha-Shulchan 58:6 and Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Avnei Yashfei on Tefillah, 2nd edition, pg. 103).

13 The basis for this leniency is in the wording of Shulchan Aruch 58:1 which rules that the time to recite Shema is from when it is light enough to be able to recognize an acquaintance, until three hours of the day have passed; it does not differentiate between l'chatchilah and b'dieved. See Shulchan Aruch Harav 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.

14 See above note.

15 Shulchan Aruch Harav 58:4; Beiur Halachah 58:1. See, however, Kaf ha-Chayim 58:8.

16 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Avnei Yashfei on Tefillah, 2nd edition, pg. 103) based on Shulchan Aruch Harav 58:4.

17 Both views are quoted in Mishnah Berurah 58:4 without a decision. See also Beiur Halachah 46:9.

18 Aruch ha-Shulchan 58:14; Chazon Ish O.C. 13:3; Igros Moshe O.C. 1:24; Minchas Yitzchak 3:71; Yalkut Yosef pg. 100. There are also those who are stringent and rule like the first view (see Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:56 quoting Harav A. Kotler and Orchos Rabbeinu 1:53 quoting Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky). Many shuls in Eretz Yisrael conduct themselves in accordance with the first view.

19 O.C. 60:2. See Mishnah Berurah 4 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 2.

20 O.C. 58:6.

21 O.C. 89:8; Igros Moshe O.C. 4:6.

22 This is the general consensus of all poskim. Note, however, that there is a minority view, the Pri Chadash, who rules that it is permitted l'chatchilah to daven before sunrise, as long as it is light enough to recognize an acquaintance. Beiur Halachah 89:1 rules that although it is preferable not to do so, (possibly) we should not object to those who are lenient.

23 Mishnah Berurah 89:4. Note, however, that tefillin may not be put on until it is light enough to recognize an acquaintance.

24 Rama 89:1. Men and women are included in this--see Halachah Discussion on Parashas Va'eira.

25 See O.C. 108 for details.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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