Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
The Tefillot recited after Yishtabach and before Shemoneh Esrei are referred to as the Bir’kat Shema blessings of Keri’at Shema. The Rabbanim instituted these Berachot as an integral entity with Keri’at Shema, since they reflect the important themes of Keri’at Shema.
When we recite the phrase “Ki Hu Levado Po’el Gevurot”, For He alone effects mighty deeds,” we are echoing the theme of G-d’s Oneness. The phrase “Vechulam Mekabelim Alei’hem Ohl Malchut Shamayim” All accept upon themselves…the yoke of the kingdom of heaven”, we are reflecting the obligation to accept upon ourselves the yoke of heaven as we recite the Shema. As we continue further with the prayer “Ahava Rabba, we are emphasizing the importance of Torah study which parallels the phrase of “Veli’madetem Otam Et Beneichem” And you shall teach these words to your children”. Finally, the theme of “Yetzi’at Mitzrayim” The exodus from Egypt in the third paragraph of Keriat Shema is reflected in the final Beracha of Ga’al Yisrael.
According to Rav Soloveitchik, unless one recites the Berachot of Shema, one has not completely fulfilled the Mitzvah of reciting Keri’at Shema. For this reason, R’ Chaim Soloveitchik held that it is preferable to daven without a minyan and to recite the Berachot of the Shema along with the Keri’at Shema itself, rather than to daven with a minyan that davens before or after the proper time which Keriat Shema should be recited. Furthermore, even if one recites the Shema in its proper time but without the Berachot, the Kiyum [fulfillment] of Keri’at Shema is deficient, even though b’di’eved one has fulfilled the mitzvah of Keri’at Shema.