01. The Time of Shaĥarit

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As we learned (above, 2:2-5), according to most poskim, women must pray the Amidot of Shaĥarit and Minĥa every day, and this is the proper practice le-khatĥila. Hence, it is important to know when the times of Shaĥarit and Minĥa are. Even the many women who recite only one daily Amida, be it Shaĥarit or Minĥa, must familiarize themselves with the prayer times so they can gauge the proper time for Shaĥarit or Minĥa.

The times of the prayers were fixed by the Men of the Great Assembly on the basis of the corresponding Tamid offerings: Shaĥarit with the morning Tamid and Minĥa with the afternoon Tamid. The time for Minĥa is explained below (18:1); we will now explain the time for Shaĥarit.

The morning Tamid could be brought starting from dawn (“amud ha-shaĥar,” when the first light appears in the east), and the time for praying Shaĥarit should begin at dawn le-khatĥila. Nonetheless, the Sages said that it is proper to recite the Amida after sunrise (“hanetz ha-ĥama”), as it is written: “They shall revere You along with the sun” (Tehilim 72:5; Berakhot 9b). Be-di’avad, if one recites the Amida after dawn but before sunrise, she fulfills her obligation because she prayed at the time when the morning Tamid offering was brought (SA 89:1; and see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 11 n. 4). The most praiseworthy time to pray is when the early saints, the “vatikin,” who would recite the Amida at the moment of sunrise to fulfill “They shall revere You along with the sun.” 1

The time to pray the Amida lasts four seasonal hours, for that is the last time that the morning Tamid offering may be brought. Be-di’avad, a woman who did not manage to pray during the first four hours of the day may pray Shaĥarit until ĥatzot. Although she does not receive reward for praying on time, nevertheless, she does receive reward for the prayer she recites (SA 89:1). However, a woman who wishes to recite Birkhot Keri’at Shema must not say them after four hours have passed, even be-di’avad.

A woman who customarily prays the Amida once a day, be it Shaĥarit or Minĥa: if four hours have passed and she has not yet prayed Shaĥarit, it is best that she pray Minĥa on that day. However, if she is concerned that she might forget to pray Minĥa, she may pray Shaĥarit until ĥatzot. 2

  1. There are various opinions about the precise time of amud ha-shaĥar, and they are detailed in Peninei Halakha: Prayer, 11:2 n. 1. As a rule, amud ha-shaĥar is never less than 72 minutes before hanetz ha-ĥama. Meaning, by the time it is 72 minutes before hanetz ha-ĥama, amud ha-shaĥar has definitely already occurred.

    It is important to know that the earliest time for all daytime mitzvot, such as shofar blowing and brit mila, is sunrise, because the day is defined by the presence of the sun. However, be-di’avad if such mitzvot are performed from the time of amud ha-shaĥar, one’s obligation is fulfilled, because from a certain standpoint, the day begins from first light (Megilla 20a).

  2. The Tanna’im disagree about the latest time to bring the Tamid offering and, consequently, about the latest time for Shaĥarit. According to R. Yehuda, it is until the end of the fourth hour, whereas the Sages maintain that it can be brought until ĥatzot. The halakha follows R. Yehuda because his opinion is cited in m. Eduyot, whose mishnayot were chosen as the prevailing halakhic position. Therefore, the final time to recite Shaĥarit is at the end of the first four hours of the day (Berakhot 27a). Even so, according to most poskim, the Sages’ opinion was not completely rejected, and be-di’avad it is permissible to pray Shaĥarit until ĥatzot. Although one who does so is not credited as fulfilling the mitzva on time, she neverthelessis credited for her prayer (SA 89:1). However, R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halikhot Shlomo 8:42) says that since there are poskim who maintain that according to R. Yehuda it is forbidden even be-di’avad to pray Shaĥarit later than four hours (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 11 n. 16), and because a woman may fulfill her obligation to pray by reciting only Birkhot Ha-shaĥar, it is preferable that she avoids controversy and refrains from reciting the Amida after four hours have already passed. Still, he concedes that women customarily women pray until ĥatzot, and that this is the opinion of SA. It seems that women are also permitted to recite Pesukei De-zimra and their berakhot before the Amida. Responsa Maĥazeh Eliyahu 19:14 is careful not to urge women to pray within the first four hours of the day, due to their preoccupations. Women are considered anusot (coerced by elements out of their control) and therefore cannot pray on time. This opinion is cited in Halikhot Beitah 6:20 and Halikhot Bat Yisrael 2:11. I have already written what I deem to be the proper practice.

    Concerning Birkhot Keri’at Shema, the poskim disagree about whether one may recite them be-di’avad until ĥatzot. Although MB maintains that, for men, one who does not recite them due to circumstances beyond his control may recite them until ĥatzot (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer, ch. 11 n. 7), regarding women, since they are not obligated to recite Birkhot Keri’at Shema and there is no option to recite them voluntarily, it seems evident that it is best for women to avoid uncertainty and refrain from reciting Birkhot Keri’at Shema after the first four hours of the day have passed.   

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