Wednesday, December 29, 2010

early to bed, early to rise - netilas yadayim, kri'as shema

If you have to be at work early (I know the feeling), these days sunrise is so late that there is a real possibility that you may be waking up before amud hashachar, literally before the crack of dawn, to get to shul and put on talis and tefillin at the earliest possible moment. This may create an issue for netilas yadayim. The Rishonim offer various reasons why we wash netilas yadayim in the morning: 1) as a preparation for tefilah; 2) because we are created anew each morning; 3) because there is a ruach ra’ah that rests on the hands at night. The Shulchan Aruch (4:14) questions whether the cause of the ruach ra’ah is sleeping or it being night. Therefore, if one rises before daybreak, to avoid a safeik (i.e. in case night and not sleeping is the cause of the ruach ra'ah) the Shulchan Aruch says to wash again after daybreak. Rama adds that no bracha is recited (see M.B. #33).

While on the topic of rising early… there is a debate among the Rishonim as to the earliest time to recite morning kri’as shema. Rambam paskens that ideally shema should be recited just before henetz hachamah so that tefilah can be started immediately at henetz. This is the prevalent practice (I think) among vasikin minyanim. Rabeinu Tam disagrees (Tosfos Yoma 37b) and holds that the time for shema begins only after hanetz hachamah. This view of Rabeinu Tam is not quoted by the Shulchan Aruch, but it is not an isolated opinion. Some (see Shu”T Tshuvos v’Hanhagos vol 1 # 66) go so far as to suggest that one reason (among others) many gedolim were not particularly makpid to daven k’vasikin even if they were awake was to avoid this machlokes -- better to daven a little later and fulfill the mitzvah d'oraysa of shema without a safeik in Rishonim whether one is yotzei at all than to daven early for the sake of the extra zechus of tefilah at hanetz. One simple way to be yotzei kol hade'yos is to read shema again post-hanetz (one loses smichas geulah l'tefilah, but at least on a d'oraysa level you fulfill kri'as shema in its proper time according to R"T).


  1. great unknown6:20 AM

    which alos? lists three opinions. Perhaps this will be the ultimate simcha of the coming of the Moshiach bimhairo: hataras hasefaikos.

  2. Which alos, which hanetz, which zman krias shema -- everything is an issue : )