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)
RECITING SHEMA: HOW EARLY? HOW LATE?
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:
CORRECT TIMES FOR RECITING SHEMA
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
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).
CORRECT TIMES TO RECITE SHACHRIS SHEMONEH ESREI
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
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
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.
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.