Although the blessings before the Shema are called “Birchos Krias Shema,” they do not actually make any reference to the Shema. Most halachic authorities explain that these brachos are not blessings on Shema. This has a number of important ramifications for halacha.
The Torah writes that Krias Shema should be said when a person gets up in the morning and before he goes to sleep. Kings are generally the last to arise in the morning, and even they get up by the first quarter of the day. Consequently, Shema must be recited before the end of the first quarter of the day. The brachos before Krias Shema have different halachos, and may be said until the end of the first third of the day (Shulchan Aruch 58,6).
A person should make every effort to say the Shema with its blessing before the end of the allotted time. If for extenuating circumstances he was unable to do so, a person should say Shema without brachos before davening. He should repeat Shema with the brachos later, as long as he has time to do so before the end of the first third of the day. When saying the brachos, it is good to read Shema again, in order that his Shemoneh Esrei be preceded by these words of Torah (Shulchan Aruch 60,2). Just as the brachos are not directly related to the Shema, neither are they connected to each other. Even if one mistakenly mixes up the order, he still fulfills his obligation. (Mishna Berura 60,5).
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org