by R. Daniel Mann
Question: My shul sometimes misses sof z’man Kri’at Shema (=szKS) by a few minutes. The rabbi instructs people to say the three parshiyot of Shema before davening, but I usually go ahead to make Kri’at Shema on time and wait during the following beracha for the tzibbur to catch up. Is that an improvement and/or a perfect system?
Answer: Those who listen to the rabbi do Kri’at Shema on time. They also repeat Kri’at Shema, and can say the berachot, based on the gemara (Berachot 10b). So the system of reciting Kri’at Shema before davening is responsible (see Rama, Orach Chayim 46:9). However, several Acharonim point out that the recital of Kri’at Shema that is used to fulfill the mitzva is best done along with its berachot (see Mishna Berura 46:31).
But there are two ways to understand that preference: 1. Like there is a full requirement to finish Kri’at Shema by szKS, so there is a preference to recite its accompanying berachot by then. 2. A complete Kri’at Shema requires being sandwiched by its berachot. Your practice’s advisability depends on this question. After doing Kri’at Shema at its time, you complete it with its final beracha only a few minutes later, so according to #2, you are fine. According to #1, you did not finish the last beracha in time. Another test case is if one recites Kri’at Shema before davening but the second time and its berachot end up being on time. The Acharonim (ibid.) say that it is still best to not have had intention to fulfill the mitzva the first time; this proves that #1 was their intention.
But could #2 also be true – that the berachot are best when done before szKS? Consider the machloket whether one has one more hour to recite the berachot, until chatzot, or all day (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 58). Rav Hai Gaon, accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (OC 58:6) takes the strict opinion. If the berachot need not be by szKS, why can’t they be all day? Many answer that it is parallel to the end time of tefilla (Mishna Berura 58:25), and very likely because the berachot are not as linked to Kri’at Shema as they are to tefilla (ibid.), whose time ends a (halachic) hour after Kri’at Shema’s (Shulchan Aruch, OC 89:1). If this is the whole story, your system solves the problem because you finish the berachot before the end time of tefilla. Yet one can still argue (as there are indications) that there are two elements of birchot Kri’at Shema – it is related both to Kri’at Shema and to tefilla. One can then argue that while one can say the berachot after szKS, this is because of tefilla, but the Kri’at Shema element has been lost.
The Levush (OC 58:6) explains Rav Hai Gaon’s requirement by the end of the fourth hour by saying that it is somewhat the time of waking (which is the rationale for szKS). The Malbushei Yom Tov (ad loc.) argues that there is no source for a later “semi-wakeup” time. We suggest the following to explain the Levush. When saying that szKS, which is a Torah-level law, is when the last people wake up, we need to give those people time to do all they need to get up to Kri’at Shema, which now includes much of Shacharit, on time. Perhaps the Levush meant that Chazal wanted everything related to Kri’at Shema to be in the direct post-wakeup-time, but with Kri’at Shema already out of the way, the fourth hour is “spillover time” in this regard. Thus, even if we relate birchot Kri’at Shema’s time to Kri’at Shema’s, we can still say that the fourth hour is l’chatchila because it is in spillover time.
Your system is recommended, in certain circumstances, by a few Acharonim (see Tefilla K’hilchata 3:24). Considering that I did not find in those or other sources that one should try to finish Ga’al Yisrael by szKS, your system is fine in this regard. (The system requires sophistication and planning to: get ahead, be at a good place during Kaddish/Barchu, wait without hefsek after Kri’at Shema. Thus, this is not for everyone. Acting differently from your surroundings can also be an issue. So you might want to discuss with your rabbi if and how to use your system.)