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Birkot Keriat Shema (2): Semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla

  • Rav David Brofsky


Dedicated by Aaron and Tzipora Ross and family in memory of our grandparents
Shmuel Nachamu ben Shlomo Moshe HaKohen, Chaya bat Yitzchak Dovid, and Shimon ben Moshe,
whose yahrzeits are this week.



            Last week, we discussed the berakhot before Keriat Shema.  We focused on their nature and function: are they birkot ha-mitzva said upon reciting the Keriat Shema, or are they independent berakhot 'coincidentally' located before the Shema.  We also examined a number of practical ramifications of our question.


            This week, I would like to focus and the berakhot that follow Keriat Shema, as well as the requirement "to juxtapose Ge'ula and Tefilla."


Emet Ve-yatziv:


            The Gemara (Berakhot 12b) ascribes great importance to the berakha that follows Keriat Shema, "Emet Ve-yatziv."  The Gemara teaches:


One who does not say Emet Ve-yatziv in the morning and Emet Ve-emuna in the evening, has not fulfilled his obligation, as it says (Tehillim 92:3), "To relate Your KINDNESS in the morning, and Your FAITH in the evening."


Rashi explains that the KINDNESS refers to "the kindness God did for our forefathers, as He brought them out of Egypt and split the sea and brought them through it", and the FAITH refers to "the future that we look forward to, in which His promises to redeem us will be fulfilled."


            The Yerushalmi (Berakhot 1:6 and Tur 66) says Emet Ve-yatziv must be comprised of "the exodus from Egypt, kingship, the splitting of the sea, the plague of the firstborn, and the Rock of Israel and its Savior." Once again, the miraculous exodus from Egypt and the future redemption are the central themes of this berakha. 


            The Rishonim differ as to the meaning of this gemara.  The Hagahot Maimoniyot explains that one who does not recite this berakha has not fulfilled the obligation of this berakha.  The Kesef Mishneh (Hilkhot Keriat Shema 1:7) notes that this is obvious, and he suggests that if one omits the word "Emet" (truth) one had not fully fulfilled one's obligation, as the point of the berakha is to demonstrate the veracity of the past and future redemption.  He also cites Rabbeinu Manoach, who argues that the gemara is referring to one who says the evening berakha (Emet Ve-emuna) in the morning and vice versa. 


            Alternatively, some (see Kesef Mishneh ibid. and Tur O.C. 66) suggest that one who has omitted this berakha has not fully fulfilled the mitzva of Keriat Shema!  The Kesef Mishneh, for example, explains that since we affirm our belief in the past and future redemption by reciting this berakha, it is similar to the Keriat Shema itself, and therefore by not reciting it, one has diminished the fulfillment of the mitzva of Keriat Shema itself. 


            The Kol Bo (9) expounds upon this idea and explains that this berakha is based upon the three paragraphs of Shema.  "Emet elokei olam malkeinu" corresponds to the first paragraph, which deals with accepting the yoke of heaven; "Ashrei ish she-yishma le-mitzvotekha" corresponds to the second paragraph, which deals with the acceptance of the mitzvot; finally, "Mi-mitzrayim ge'altanu" corresponds to the third paragraph of Keriat Shema, the passage of tzitzit, which reminds us that we were redeemed from Egypt and taken as a special nation.  As the third berakha summarizes and expounds upon the themes of Keriat Shema, one who skips it forfeits the fuller mitzva of Keriat Shema.


Semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla:

The Juxtaposition of Redemption and Prayer


The Gemara (Berakhot 9b) teaches:


Rabbi Yochanan said: "The Vatikin [pious people of old] would finish Shema at sunrise in order to juxtapose redemption  and prayer and pray when it is day…"

Rabbi Yitzchak ben Elyakim testified in the name of the holy community of Jerusalem: "Whoever juxtaposes redemption and prayer will not be harmed for the entire day…"

Once, Rav Beruna juxtaposed redemption and prayer, and a smile did not leave his face for the entire day.  


Another Gemara (Berakhot 4b) reports:


The Master said: "One should read Keri'at Shema and then pray [Shemoneh Esrei]."  This supports Rabbi Yochanan, as Rabbi Yochanan said: "Who will merit the World to Come? One who juxtaposes redemption with the evening prayer."


Why do the rabbis insist that Ge'ula—i.e., the berakha of Emet Ve-yatziv in the morning and Emet Ve-emuna in the evening, concluding with "Ga'al Yisra'el," the primary theme of which is redemption—to Tefilla?


The Rishonim offer different reasons for this halakha.


Rashi (4b s.v. Ha-somekh) offers two explanations:


1- …The juxtaposition of Ge'ula to Tefilla is hinted to by David in the book of Tehillim, as it says (19:15) "God, my Rock and my Redeemer," and immediately following this, it says (20:2) "God will answer you on a day of crisis…"


2- The Yerushalmi says that one who does NOT connect Ge'ula to Tefilla is likened to an acquaintance of the king who knocks on his door, and when the king answers, he finds that he has left; also here, he leaves.  Rather, a person should come close to God and pay tribute to Him with praise and exaltation of the exodus from Egypt, constantly coming closer to Him, and while he is close, he should ask for he needs…


            Seemingly, according to both interpretations, mentioning redemption enhances prayer.  However, the first explanation MAY limit the idea to a specific type of prayer, a "tefilla be-et tzara" (prayer motivated by crisis).  The second, as expressed by the Yerushalmi, argues that an integral part of prayer is the process of "coming closer" to God.  Before one approaches God to ask for one's personal needs, he should extol His past kindnesses and internalize His role as the Redeemer.


            Some Rishonim suggest that there may be a practical difference between these two approaches.  The Rema (111:1) cites the Hagahot Asheri and others, who rule that since the requirement of juxtaposing Ge'ula and Tefilla is based upon the proximity of "God, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Tehillim 19:15) to "God will answer you on a day of CRISIS" (20:2), this is not applicable on Shabbat, which is not a day of CRISIS.  He adds, however, that on Yom Tov, which is a time of judgment, it should apply.  The Beit Yosef (111) disagrees, arguing that the proximity between the verses is not the only reason to juxtapose Ge'ula and Tefilla.


            The Rema concludes that, in deference to the Beit Yosef, one should be stringent except in cases of need.  The Mishna Berura (111:9) writes that one should therefore, on Shabbat, answer Kaddish, Kedusha and Barekhu AFTER the berakha of Ga'al Yisra'el and before Shemoneh Esrei.


            The students of Rabbeinu Yona (2b) offer an entirely different interpretation of the Gemara.  They write:


…Because one juxtaposes Ge'ula le-Tefilla, one is worthy of so much reward that he will merit the World to Come?  My teacher explains that the reason he receives so much reward is that the entire reason why God redeemed us and took us out of Egypt was that we should be His servants… and in the berakha of Ga'al Yisra'el we mention the kindness he bestowed upon us, and Tefilla is our service to Him!  …When one mentions the exodus from Egypt and THEN prays, he is demonstrating that just as a slave acquired by his master must fulfill his master's will, here too he recognizes the goodness and redemption of his Creator and that he is His servant; when he recognizes that he is enslaved to Him because He redeemed him, and he fulfills His will and His commandments, for this he merits the World to Come…


Rabbeinu Yona apparently believes that the juxtaposition of Ge'ula to Tefilla enforces the theme of Ge'ula, important on its own and central to the final berakha of Birkot Keriat Shema. 


            Incidentally, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, in a collection of essays called "Li-frakim" (p. 397), offers another approach.  He explains:


GE'ULA is the remembrance of the past, remembering the exodus from Egypt and the miracles which God wrought for us, while TEFILLA includes and expresses our hopes and aspirations for a future redemption.  Those among our people who have forfeited the future redemption, and live only from memories of the past, their prayers are orphaned (tefilla yetoma).  Yet those who wish to remove the past from their hearts, and only the future interests them… are sacrificing two worlds… Redemption means giving freedom to the Jewish creative force, as it has already expressed itself in the past…"


For an analysis of the aggadic side of this halakha, see by Rav Yitzchak Blau.



Ge'ula and Tefilla at Night:


            The Gemara (Berakhot 4b) cites a debate regarding semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla at night.  Rabbi Yochanan does not distinguish between morning and night, as the redemption from Egypt began at night; Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi insists that since the ge'ula culminated during the day, semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla is required only at Shacharit, the morning prayer.


            The Gemara explains that even Rabbi Yochanan would agree that "Hashkiveinu," the second berakha recited after Keriat Shema at Arvit, the evening prayer, does not constitute an interruption between Ge'ula and Tefilla, as once it was instituted, it is viewed as an extension of the ge'ula theme (ge'ula arikhta).  Rabbeinu Yona (2b) explains that the content of Hashkiveinu actually conforms to the ge'ula theme, and therefore it is not an interruption.


            Rav Amram Gaon (cited in Tosafot Berakhot 4b s.v. De-amar) rules like Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, and he explains that we recite Kaddish in between the Berakhot and Shemoneh Esrei in accordance with his view.  The Rambam (Hilkhot Tefilla 7:18) follows the opinion of Rabbi Yochanan, as does Rav Yosef Karo in the Shulchan Arukh (236:2).


            In the Beit Yosef, however, he quotes Rishonim who argue that semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla is LESS important at night, and therefore, one who arrives at Arvit late should say Shemoneh Esrei WITH the tzibbur and afterwards recite Keriat Shema with its berakhot.  The Shulchan Arukh (236:3) accepts this ruling.


            The Shulchan Arukh (236:2) is ALSO lenient regarding tefilla-related announcements before Shemoneh Esrei at night.  He allows the leader (sheliach tzibbur) to announce that it is Rosh Chodesh, and the Mishna Berura (7) adds that one may also announce "Ve-ten tal u-matar," in which we ask God for rain, which also is first recited at Arvit. The Mishna Berura, however, points out that one may NOT announce this in between the berakhot of Keriat Shema, only AFTER their conclusion.  He also notes that this leniency ONLY applies at night.  In fact, some (see Rosh Ta'anit 1:2) say that the reason the rabbis instituted that one should begin saying "Mashiv Ha-ruach," in which we praise God for rain, specifically during the late-morning Musaf prayer was in order to prevent one from announcing it during Shacharit in between Ge'ula and Tefilla.


            The above leniencies are similar to the opinion of some Geonim and Rishonim (see Rav Hai Gaon as cited by Rosh, Berakhot 1:1), as we discussed last week, who instruct those who say the evening Shemoneh Esrei early with the congregation (tzibbur) to say Keriat Shema with its berakhot in their proper time.  They apparently hold that the importance of saying the Birkot Keriat Shema WITH Shema, on time, outweighs semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla, at least at night.


            As we mentioned in last week's shiur, the halakha does NOT follow this opinion.  Apparently, while tefilla be-tzibbur, as well as tefilla-related announcements, may set aside semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla AT NIGHT, the proper time for Keriat Shema does not.


"Amein," Tallit and Tefillin after Ga'al Yisra'el:


            Does anything warrant interrupting between Ge'ula and Tefilla?


            The Beit Yosef (66) cites the Rokei'ach (Ch. 21) who permits answering Kedusha in between Ga'al Yisra'el and Shemoneh Esrei.  Tosafot (Berakhot 13b), however, as well as the Mordechai, argue that while one MAY answer in between the Birkot Keriat Shema, one may NOT in answer in between Ge'ula and Tefilla. 


            The Shulchan Arukh (66:9) rules that one should not answer Kaddish or Kedusha in between Ge'ula and Tefilla, rather, one should wait at "Shira chadasha" and respond then.  The Mishna Berura adds that one should also refrain from responding to Barekhu or Modim. 


            As for answering "Amein" to Ga'al Yisra'el, the Tur (66) permits doing so, even after one's own berakha (according to those who are accustomed to answer "Amein" after concluding their own berakhot).  The Beit Yosef disagrees and rules in the Shulchan Arukh (66:7) that one should NOT answer "Amein" to the berakha of Ga'al Yisra'el, seemingly even after the sheliach tzibbur.  The Rema permits responding, but he records that the custom is to answer "Amein" after the berakha of the sheliach tzibbur but NOT after one's own berakha. 


            The Mishna Berura (66:34) recommends avoiding this halakhic quandary.  He suggests that one should either finish the berakha WITH the sheliach tzibbur, thereby avoiding the obligation to answer "Amein," or begin the Shemoneh Esrei slightly before the sheliach tzibbur finishes the berakha.  The Arukh Ha-shulchan (66:14) writes that common custom is to refrain from answering "Amein" even after the sheliach tzibbur.


            Some shelichei tzibbur intentionally conclude the berakha of Ga'al Yisra'el quietly, as to avoid the above problem; however, many have criticized this practice.  To this day there are different customs regarding this practice.


            As mentioned above, the Rishonim debate whether "semikhat Ge'ula le-Tefilla" applies on Shabbat as well.  The Rema (111:1) cites the lenient opinion, although he concludes that "one should be stringent except when necessary."  The Mishna Berura (111:9 and Biur Halakha) rules that one may, on Shabbat, answer to Kaddish, Barekhu and Kedusha (as described above) in between Ga'al Yisra'el and Tefilla.


            As for tallit and tefillin, the Mechaber (66:8) rules that if one did not have tallit and tefillin before beginning Birkot Keriat Shema and receives them immediately before beginning Tefilla, he should don the tefillin but recite the berakha AFTER Tefilla, and he should NOT put on the tallit. 


            While the Peri Chadash, cited by the Mishna Berura (66:42) argues that one may even say the berakha over the tefillin, the custom, and the conclusion of the Acharonim, is in accordance with the Shulchan Arukh.


            If one receives the tallit and tefillin BEFORE saying Ga'al Yisra'el, the Mechaber and Rema differ as to whether one should put them BOTH on WITHOUT a berakha (Mechaber), or whether it might be permitted to say the berakha over the tefillin (Rema).  The Mishna Berura (66:17) cites the Peri Megadim who notes that our custom is in accordance with the Rema's distinction, and one who puts on a tallit during Birkot Keriat Shema should recite the berakha after Tefilla.   


            The Mishna Berura (111:b) writes that one should even avoid pausing physically in between Ge'ula and Tefilla.


The Order of the Berakhot:


            The Gemara (Berakhot 12a) teaches that the order of the Birkot Keriat Shema does not prevent the fulfillment of the mitzva.  If one recites the second berakha before the first, one has still fulfilled the obligation to recite the berakhot (Shulchan Arukh 60:3).  Furthermore, even if one recites the berakha of Emet Ve-yatziv before Keriat Shema or all of the berakhot after Tefilla (see Mishna Berura 60:5), one has still fulfilled the obligation.  Therefore, if one recites the Birkot Keriat Shema and the Shema itself, but he is then interrupted and unable to continue, he may resume later on and recite Emet Ve-yatziv and Tefilla, fulfilling semikhat Ge'ula Le-tefilla.


Next week we will discuss when it is permitted to interrupt in the middle of each berakha, as well as between the berakhot of Keriat Shema.