Birkot Keriyat Shema: Interruptions (2)

  • Rav David Brofsky



            Last week, we began our discussion of permitted interruptions during the reading of Shema and its berakhot. We noted that the halakha is in accordance with those Rishonim (Rosh, Tosafot 13b, Mordechai Berakhot siman 40 in the name of the Avi Ha-Ezri, and the Rashba (Responsa 5:9) who argue that interrupting in order to answer devarim she-bikedusha, such as Kaddish, Kedusha and Barkhu, can be no worse than responding to someone out of respect, which the Mishna (Berakhot 13a) explicitly permits.


            The Eishonim question whether this reasoning can be extended to other interruptions as well.


Tallit and Tefillin:


            The above rationale is also employed regarding the following question: if one who began praying without tallit and tefillin receives them during Birkot Keriyat Shema, may he put them on and recite a berakha?


            Wearing tefillin during Keriyat Shema is an integral part of the mitzva. The Gemara (Berakhot 14b) says, "One who recites Keriyat Shema without tefillin, is likened to one who testifies falsely about one's self."


            The Gemara further relates that once Rav washed his hands, read Keriyat Shema, put on tefillin and then prayed. The Gemara explains (see Rashi s.v. sheluacha) that a messenger, who was meant to bring him tefillin, arrived late. Therefore, he put on his tefillin AFTER Shema yet BEFORE Shemoneh Esrei.


            The Rishonim question whether in this case he recited the berakha over tefillin. While the Semak sugges that perhaps he recited the berakha AFTER tefilla, Rashi's teacher, Rabbi Yitzchak Bar Yehuda (see Tosafot Berakhot 14b, Mordechai 53 and Rabbeinu Yona 8a) argues that one should recite the berakhot, EVEN over his tallit, IN BETWEEN Birkot Keriyat Shema and Tefilla!


            Many Rishonim (see Tosafot 14b, Rabbeinu Yona 86a, Rosh Berakhot 2:10 and the Rashba 14b) disagree, and distinguish between tefillin and tallit. While the berakha over the tallit should be recited AFTER Tefilla, the berakha for the tefillin may be recited IN BETWEEN the berakhot.


            The Mechaber (66:2) rules that one may recite the berakhot over BOTH tallit and tefillin in BETWEEN the berakhot. The Mishna Berura (66:15) explains that one should wait until after Yotzer Or or Ahava Rabba, but if one already began Shema, one should put on tefillin as soon as possible, WITH a berakha.


            The Rema argues, and suggests that while one should recite the berakhot AFTER Tefilla, the custom is to recite the berakhot over tefillin even in between the paragraphs. As for the tallit, 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 Keriyat Shema should recite the berakha AFTER Tefilla.  


Keriyat Ha-Torah:


            The Tur (66) cites the Sefer Ha-Manhig who writes that one who is reciting Shema, and is called to the Torah, should read from the Torah EVEN in the middle of his berakhot, as it is for the respect of the heavens. The Rashba (1:185) disagrees.


            The Shulchan Arukh (66:4) cites both opinions, and rules in accordance with the Rashba. The Mishna Berura (66:26) writes that preferably, one should not receive an aliya while reciting the Birkot Keriyat Shema. Furthermore, a kohen who anticipates being called to the Torah should leave the room in order to avoid this situation. However, once called, the custom is to recite the Birkot Ha-Torah, EVEN during the berakhot of Keriyat Shema (although it is preferable to finish the berakha, or at least an "inyan"), but not to read with the ba'al koreh. One may even, if necessary, tell the gabbai his name in order to complete the "Mi she-beirakh." If, however, there is no one else to read the Torah, one may even read, out of kavod ha-Torah, which sets aside the laws of interruptions during the Birkot Keriyat Shema, and then simply resume from where he left off after Keriyat Ha-Torah.


Birkat Ga'al Yisrael:


            As one is prohibited from interrupting between "geula" (Birkat Ga'al Yisrael) and Tefilla, none of the above permitted interruptions apply after one has recited the berakha Ga'al Yisrael. If one needs to interrupt, one should do so at "shira chadasha," before the conclusion of the berakha.


            The Rishonim debate whether "semichit geula le-Tefilla" applies on Shabbat as well. The Rama (111:1) cites the lenient opinion, although concludes that "one should be stringent except when necessary." The Mishna Berura (111:9 and Biur Halakha) rules that one may, on Shabbat, answer Kaddish, Barkhu and Kedusha (as described above) in between Ga'al Yisrael and Tefilla.


What is Considered a Hefsek?


            What if one paused, without speaking, for a long period of time?


            On the one hand, the Gemara (Berakhot 22b) teaches:


"If a person was standing saying Tefilla and water (urine) drips over his knees, he should stop until the water stops and then resume his Tefilla. To what point should he resume? Rav Chisda and Rav Hamnuna gave different replies. One said that he should go back to the beginning, the other said, to the place where he halted… Rav Ashi explained: …both agree that if he stopped long enough to finish the entire Tefilla he goes back to the beginning, and here they differ in regard to the case where he did not stop [so long], one holding that the man was unfit [to have continued his prayers] and hence his prayer is no prayer, while the other holds that the man was [nevertheless] in a fit state [to pray] and his prayer is a valid one…"


            This Gemara implies that all would agree that if one paused for enough time to finish the entire prayer, he should return to the beginning. The Amoraim debate, however, whether one who in unable to continue his prayer, for a shorter time, must return to the beginning, or to where he stopped.


            Based on this sugya, the Rif (Berakhot 14a) cites Rav Hai Gaon who rules that if one pauses long enough to finish the entire Tefilla, he should repeat the entire Tefilla. However, if one pauses for a short time, he should return to the place where he stopped.


            The Rishonim, however, note that two other sugyot (Rosh Ha-shana 34b and Megilla 18b) imply that if in the middle of blowing the shofar, or reading the Megilla, one pauses for a long time, the halakha does NOT require one to return the beginning.


            Apparently, Rav Hai Gaon applies a more stringent standard to Tefilla. The Rambam also seems to adopt this approach as regarding Tefilla (Hilkhot Tefilla 4:13) he rules in accordance with the Rif, while regarding Shema (Hilkhot Keriyat Shema 2:12) he doesn't require one who paused enough time to complete the entire Shema to return to the beginning (see Beit Yosef 65). Apparently, prayer recited with such gaping pauses is worth little, while as long as one manages to complete the entire Shema, shofar or Megilla, one has fulfilled the obligation.


            Other Rishonim offer a different distinction. While Rav Hai and the Rambam distinguish between Tefilla and other mitzvot, the Semak (Tosafot Berakhot 22b s.v. ela), the Rosh (3:23) and Ra'avad (see Rashba Berakhot 23b) distinguish between different types of interruptions.


            They argue that while one who pauses for enough time to complete the mitzva does NOT return to the beginning, as the Gemara in Rosh Ha-shana and Megilla imply. However, one who pauses for such length because he is UNABLE to continue, such as the case of the man whose urine is trickling down his knees, must return to the beginning. The only question debated by the Amoraim involves one who pauses for a short time because of an inability to continue.

            Finally, the Ran (14a and 16a) offers a third interpretation, in the name of the French rabbis, who reconcile these apparently contradictory sugyot, and conclude that one ALWAYS returns to the place one stopped, regardless of the length of the pause, and regardless of whether the mitzva at hand is Tefilla, shofar or Megilla.


            Rav Yosef Karo (65:1) follows the position of the Rif and Rambam, ruling that even a long pause does not constitute an interruption for Keriyat Shema. The Rema rules in accordance with those Rishonim who distinguish between a pause cause by an ones and a pause caused but a personal delay. He writes, "Some say that if one was an ones and paused for long enough to finish it, he should return to the beginning, and this is the custom, and we assess the length of the pause based on this specific person, and not the majority of people."


            The Acharonim discuss which type of ones warrants one returning to the beginning of the mitzva. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (65:4), for example, distinguishes between an ones which halakhically prevent one from continuing, and an ones which is externally imposed. The Magen Avraham (65:4) argues that his question is actually debated by the Ra'avad, Ba'al Ha-ma'or and Rashba, and rules that only an ones in which the person or places delay the continuation of the mitzva constitutes a pause in which one must return to the beginning.


            The Acharonim (see Magen Avraham 65:1, Arukh Ha-Shulchan 65:5) discuss whether waiting for a lengthy chazzan to finish the berakhot constitutes a hefsek. 


            What if one inadvertently speaks during the Birkot Keriyat Shema? The Beit Yosef cites the Ra'avya who rules that we do NOT distinguish between an interruption of silence or of speech. The Shulchan Arukh (65:1) rules in accordance with this opinion, yet the Mishna Berura (65:1) recommends repeating all of Keriyat Shema of if purposely spoke during Shema.  


Pesukei De-zimra:


            The Shulchan Arukh (51:3-4) writes that the laws of interruptions of Birkot Keriyat Shema are also applicable to Pesuskei De-zimra. However, the Mishna Berura (51:3) suggests that since Pesukei De-zimra is in essence a large praise of God, we may be more flexible regarding interruptions which may be viewed as shevach. Therefore, one may answer "amen" to any berakha during Pesukei De-zimra, as can certainly answer Kaddish, Kedusha and Barkhu. One should not answer "barukh hu u-varukh shemo," as this response does not appear in the Gemara (Mishna Berura 51:8).


            Furthermore, birkot ha-shevach whose time may pass, such as the berakha on thunder or lightening (Chayyei Adam 20:3), or even Asher Yatzar (Mishna Berura 51:8) may be recited DURING Pesukei De-zimra. One may also recite the berakhot on a tallit or tefillin during Pesukei De-zimra (see Ishei Yisrael 16:7). One may also join the tzibbur in saying the first verse of Shema (Mishna Berura 51:8), or even the entire Shema if one fears missing the time of the mitzva (51:10). One who arrives at shul late may even recite Hallel with the tzibbur, on Rosh Chodesh or Chol Ha-moed Pesach, DURING Pesukei De-zimra (Mishna Berura 422:16).


Next week we will continue our study of Keriyat Shema and its berakhot.