Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Minhagim and Halacha: Shema

There are a few matters of note in this week's "Halacha Summary" email from the shul that I would like to mention (in accordance with what the Rebbe, shlit"a, has said on various occasions). The first is regarding the time by which Shema must be recited.

In the email, it says, "According to the Magen Avrohom, the day is reckoned from dawn until nightfall. According to the Vilna Gaon, the day is reckoned from sunrise until sunset. Hence, the deadline for Shema according to the Magen Avrohom is earlier than that of the Vilna Gaon. The custom is to follow the opinion of the Vilna Gaon which gives a later deadline. It is praiseworthy to daven with a minyan that reaches Shema before the deadline of the Magen Avrohom."

While one may certainly rely on the time of the Vilna Gaon, I have heard many times from the Rebbe that one absolutely should recite Shema before the deadline of the Magen Avrohom. The Rachmistrivker Rebbe in Yerushalayim spoke out against those who are unnecessarily lenient regarding the z'man of the Magen Avrohom, and when his remarks were related to the Rebbe, shlit"a, the Rebbe praised him highly and said, "There really is no reason why one should not be careful about the z'man of the Magen Avrohom." The Rebbe himself is very careful about this.

(In terms of what the velt says that the Baal Hatanya also holds like the Vilna Gaon's zman, it should be noted that in Shulchan Aruch Harav (I think in three places), the Baal Hatanya paskins like the Magen Avrohom. In one place in the Sh"A and in his siddur, he rules like the zman of the Vilna Gaon. It is said in the name of the Baal Hatanya that if he had the time and energy he would have gone over his Shulchan Aruch and disagreed more often with the Magen Avrohom. That, in addition to the fact that the siddur is considered his final opinion, leads us to believe that the Baal Hatanya really did hold more like the zman of the Vilna Gaon than that of the Magen Avrohom. However, it is very clear that the Baal Hatanya himself had some misgivings about which one to go with.)

The second point I'd like to clarify is regarding saying the words “eil melech ne’eman” before beginning Shema. The reason is, as is stated in the summary-email, that in order for the total words in Shema to equal 248 (corresponding to the limbs of the body), one needs to add three more words. When davening b'tzibur, the chazzan repeats "Hashem Elokeichem Emes", which counts for the remaining three. But when one is davening alone for whatever reason, he doesn't have those three words. So, the minhag is to recite "eil melech ne'eman" before beginning Shema.

However, because it is best not to interrupt between the berachah of "ohev amo yisroel" and the beginning of Shema, we would like to find another method for accounting for three more words. During Shacharis, it is written in the siddur (see below) and other seforim, that one should think about the fifteen vav's of "v'yatziv" etc., and that the numerical value of the letter vav is 6, multiplied by 15 is 90. That is the same as 3 times the name of Hashem (26) including the 12 letters (3 x 26 + 12 = 90). By having this in mind it is considered as if saying the name of Hashem three times which gets us to a total of 248 words in Shema. (There are other ways of calculating the vav's but this is the method mentioned in the siddur.)

During Maariv, however, when we say "Emes V'Emunah" and there are no vav's, the minhag, according to the siddur, is to say "eil melech ne'eman" at the start of Shema when davening b'yichidus.

The third and final point is about the minhag to "cover one’s eyes for Shema with the right hand in order to enhance one’s concentration". I heard from the Rebbe, shlit"a, in the name of his father, Rebbe Yaakov Yisroel, ztz"l, that the reason we cover our eyes is because we can't possibly truly "envision" Hashem's Oneness in the requisite manner with our "fleishige oigen" (physical eyes). For the vast majority of people, we need to block out our surroundings in order to contemplate Hashem and the nature of His relationship with the world.

That's all for now!


Mordechai Perlman said...

I am surprised at the statements in this section that it is praiseworthy to be careful to say Shma before the Magen Avraham's endtime. It is clear from the Mishna Brura (58:3,4) that both according to the Magen Avraham and the Gra, these endtimes are the absolute endtime. However, to delay until those times is not L'chatchilah and it is forbidden to delay until then. If it is not L'chatchilah, it is certainly not praiseworthy.

Damesek said...

Thanks for your comment, and point well taken. The quote that used the word "praiseworthy" was a from an English Sefer on Halacha that the shul uses for weekly emails. While the choise of words may not have been ideal, I think that they were receding to the point of davening with a minyan who reaches Krias Shema by then, as opposed to laining Krias Shema by oneself as early as possible and then davening with a minyan after the sof zman Krias Shema.
What is really up for discussion here is when you are running late for whatever reason, must one lain Krias Shema by the M"A or the Gaon, d'heinu: what is sof zman Krias Shema? It is indeed praiseworthy to be makpid on the M"A zman for laining Krias Shema and not only that of the Gaon.
Clearly, one is not to wait that long without just cause.