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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim| 5766
Ask the Rabbi
Question: It bothers me that at the shul where I usually daven, we often miss sof z’man Kriat Shema (SZKS) (the end of the time by which Kriat Shema (=KS)should properly be said). What can I do about this problem, and is it proper for me to continue davening in that shul?
Answer: In many shuls during certain times of the year, the congregation does not reach KS by SZKS, which is half way between the beginning of the morning and the middle of the day. (We will have to ignore the discussion as to how to calculate when this time is.) This is an issue primarily on Shabbat and the late minyan on Sunday (in the Diaspora).Even if one missed KS at the proper time, he can recite it normally for at least another full halachic hour, with a qualitatively lower fulfillment of the mitzva (Shulchan Aruch Orach, Chayim 58:6).
We will mention solutions to this problem, in a descending order of preference. If the congregation will miss SZKS by a matter of minutes, you can go ahead (inconspicuously) and recite KS at the right time and wait during the following portion of the tefilla, which is the long beracha after KS. During that time, you should answer only “Amen, Y’hei Sh’mei Rabba…,” Amen at the end of Kaddish and Borchu. When the congregation gets up to KS, you should cover your eyes and make believe you are saying it with everyone else, as it is generally important not to look like who doesn’t join in saying KS (Shulchan Aruch, OC 65:3). According to most opinions, one can wait at that point in the tefilla for a long time, but it may be preferable to say a sentence every few minutes (Mishna Berura 65:4).
This system works well halachically but is not appropriate for every situation. It is too complicated for some people. Other people are not good at being inconspicuous and/or are in a shul where their neighbors would be upset if they caught him doing such a thing. It may be wrong for people to be so sensitive to that which strikes them as “holier than thou” behavior. However, this reaction is such a common human reaction and its results are so negative that scores of halachot are based on avoiding these feelings.
A simpler idea is to recite the three sections of KS priorto tefilla at their proper time to fulfill the main mitzva and repeat them along with their berachot as part of tefilla. There are opinions that this is a serious problem, as the KS that leads into Shemoneh Esrei should be the one that fulfills that mitzva. However, classical poskim seem to deal with this situation as a reasonable one (Rama 46:9 and Mishna Berura, 46:32). If one is not sure if the congregation will make SZKS,then some say it is possible to have in mind to fulfill the mitzva of KS only if it ends up that the congregation doesn’t make it on time (notes of R. Akiva Eiger, ad loc). (There is a fascinating discussion whether or not this works; see Yalkut Yosef, Kriat Shema 4 and elsewhere). If the congregation will not even make it to sof z’man tefilla (a halachic hour later), it is halachically better to daven without a minyan at the right time (Mishna Berura 46:32)
The question whether it is okay to daven in a shul that misses SZKS is one that cannot be answered in a vacuum and one that cannot be ignored. Many shuls have a hashkama minyan, and SZKS can properly be a factor in favor of attending it. It is also proper to consider it when picking a minyan on Sunday mornings. Realize that it is a rabbi’s responsibility to realistically determine what is best for his congregation, in this regard as well. Once he has done so, it is important for the “religiously stronger” members to consider the needs of the k’lal as something that binds them to make some compromises on that which is halachically preferable. If one cannot do so with a smile, then he might do more harm than good by staying in the shul. One can discuss the matter with the local rabbi, assuming that he can do so in a way that is not only intended to be respectful but is received that way as well.
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