Mishnah/Seder Zeraim/Tractate Berakhot/Chapter 1/2
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Seder Zeraim, Tractate Berakhot
Chapter 1, Mishnah 2
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In the previous mishnah, the sages explained what was meant by the Torah when it commanded the recital of the evening Shema "when thou liest down". This mishnah continues by addressing the subject of the morning Shema by discussing "when thou risest up". (Devarim 6:7)
- מֵאֵימָתַי קוֹרִין אֶת שְׁמַע בְּשַׁחֲרִית?
- מִשֶּׁיַּכִּיר בֵּין תְּכֵלֶת לְלָבָן.
- רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר: בֵּין תְּכֵלֶת לְכַרְתִי,
- וְגוֹמְרָהּ עַד הָנֵץ הַחַמָּה.
- רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר: עַד שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁעוֹת,
- שֶׁכֵּן דֶּרֶךְ בְּנֵי מְלָכִים לַעֲמֹד בְּשָׁלֹשׁ שָׁעוֹת.
- הַקּוֹרֵא מִכַּאן וָאֵילָךְ – לֹא הִפְסִיד,
- כְּאָדָם הַקּוֹרֵא בַתּוֹרָה.
- From when may one recite the Shema in the morning?
- From when one can distinguish between techelet and white.
- Rabbi Eliezer says: [The earliest time for the Shema is when one can distinguish] between techelet and the color of leek,
- and one must finish reciting it by sunrise.
- Rabbi Yehoshua says: [One may recite the Shema] until three hours [of the day],
- for such is the way of the sons of kings, to arise at the third hour.
- If one recites [the Shema] later than this, he has not lost out,
- [but rather is] like one who reads the Torah.
Techelet and white refers to the colors of the tzitzit threads. (The recital of Shema is closely associated with the commandment to wear tzitzit (fringes) on one’s garments, and indeed the third paragraph of the Shema is about this commandment.) The Torah (Numbers 15:38) mandates that some of the tzitzit threads be dyed a certain blue-like color, called techelet, using a dye made from the blood of the chilazon, a marine creature. (Today the identity of this creature is not known for certain, so the common practice is to leave all of the tzitzit threads undyed. There is a minority view, however, that identifies it as the cuttlefish or some other shellfish.)
Once there is enough (natural) illumination to distinguish between the tzitzit threads, then, the (anonymous) authority of our mishnah considers it to be the time when people are starting to wake up (“when you arise”). Rabbi Eliezer specifies a somewhat later time, when more closely related colors are distinguishable. [The actual halachah follows a third opinion, given in the Gemara (Berakhot 9b), that the time “when you arise” begins when one is able to recognize a casual acquaintance at a distance of four cubits (approx. 6–8 feet). Various halachic opinions identify this as the time when the sun is 11° or 10.2° below the horizon.]
By sunrise: Since most people (in ancient times) were up by then, Rabbi Eliezer considers sunrise to be the latest time “when you arise.” Rabbi Yehoshua’s view is that “when you arise” means “when everyone is awake,” and since there are some people (namely, princes) who sleep in until one-quarter of the day has passed, the time until they wake up can still be considered “when you arise.” [The halachah follows Rabbi Yehoshua’s opinion, although it is preferable to act according to Rabbi Eliezer and to recite the Shema starting a few minutes before sunrise — Maimonides, in his Code (Laws of Reciting the Shema 1:11), gives a figure of about six minutes — so that one completes it exactly at sunrise.]
He has not lost out means that even after the deadline (sunrise according to Rabbi Eliezer, or three “proportional” hours into the day according to Rabbi Yehoshua), one may recite the daytime Shema with its proper blessings (as described in mishnah 4). (According to some opinions, one may not recite the blessings after the fourth “proportional” hour of the day.) While this person has forfeited the opportunity to perform the precept of reciting the daytime Shema, he nevertheless receives Heavenly reward for Torah study (since the Shema itself is part of the Torah).