Peninei Halakha

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05 – Vatikin at Netz HaChamah

As we mentioned, the most praiseworthy time to recite Shema and to pray the Amidah is as the devoted ones prayed, at vatikin. They would recite Shema slightly before netz hachamah and begin to pray the Amidah at netz hachamah. The reason for this is that normally only after the sun already shines and life and nature begin to pulsate in full force does a person awaken and recognize that Hashem is God. Only then does he accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven and is inspired to pray. However, those who pray vatikin begin early and “lead” nature. Even before the sun shines and nature reveals itself in all its beauty and splendor, they accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven with complete faith. As soon as the sun rises and the day begins, they are already standing in prayer, ushering in an abundance of blessing to this world.[5]

The Chachamim say that anyone who connects redemption to prayer (somech geulah l’tefillah) by praying vatikin is not harmed the whole day (Berachot 9b and Tosafot there).

However, if getting up to pray vatikin will cause a person to be tired and unable to learn or work properly, it is better that he pray afterwards. Today, when people’s lifestyles have changed and important activities such as Torah classes and weddings take place at night, most people find it better not to wake up so early and to pray after the time of vatikin.

[5]. From the Gemara in Berachot 9b it can be inferred that the main objective of vatikin is that one will pray the Amidah at netz, as understood from many Rishonim and Acharonim. However, it is implied from the Mishnah in Berachot 22b that there is reason to recite Shema before netz too. Hence, the virtue of vatikin possesses two aspects, Keriat Shema and the Amidah. Therefore, there are those who are strict to ensure that even when they cannot pray at the time of vatikin, they at least recite the Shema before netz, as written in Shulchan Aruch HaRav 58:4, even if they did not yet put on their tefillin. Kaf HaChaim 58:8 writes, though, that if a person has not yet put on his tefillin, he should not recite Keriat Shema before netz. This law is also contingent upon the dispute in section 46:9 where, according to the Beit Yosef and the Rama, one may fulfill his obligation of Keriat Shema without its berachot lechatchilah, whereas according to the Ra’ah and the Gra, it is only b’dieved.

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Translated By:
Series Editor: Rabbi Elli Fischer

The Laws of Shabbat (1+2) - Yocheved Cohen
The Laws of Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Women’s Prayer - Atira Ote
The Laws of Pesach - Joshua Wertheimer
The Laws of Zemanim - Moshe Lichtman

Editor: Nechama Unterman