10. Birkhot Ha-shaḥar and Other Laws for Those Who Remain Awake All Night

Even one who did not sleep at night recites the morning berakhot (Birkhot Ha-shaḥar). Since they are meant to express our thanks for all the good that we experience daily, they are recited even by one who does not benefit personally from something specific they mention (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 9:3). Nevertheless, there are a few specific berakhot whose recitation is subject to dispute in these circumstances.

All agree that one must perform netilat yadayim before praying Shaḥarit, but there is disagreement as to whether the berakha is recited over it. According to Ashkenazim, the best way to handle this is to go to the bathroom before praying, and touch some part of the body which is normally covered and can be assumed to have become sweaty. Doing so obligates him to wash his hands with a berakha. However, according to Sephardim, even in such a case he should not recite a berakha over the washing (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 8:1 n. 1).

In terms of Birkhot Ha-Torah, all agree that one who slept for at least half an hour during the day, prior to the night, recites the berakhot in the morning. According to the vast majority of poskim, one who did not sleep at all still recites the berakhot. However, since there are a few poskim who feel he should not recite them, le-khatḥila it is best for him to hear the berakhot recited by one who did sleep. Both people should have in mind that the reciter is fulfilling the obligation of the listener (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer 10:7).

Some maintain that only one who slept may recite the berakhot of Elokai Neshama and Ha-ma’avir Sheina. Therefore, it is preferable for one who did not sleep at all to hear them from a friend who did sleep and who will have him in mind. If there is no one present to recite the berakhot for him, according to most poskim he should recite them himself. This is the custom of Sephardim and some Ashkenazim. Other Ashkenazim recite these berakhot without the name of God, due to the uncertainty. If an Ashkenazic Jew does not know what his custom is, he may follow the majority practice and recite the berakhot himself.

To summarize: The custom of most communities is that those who stay awake all night recite Birkhot Ha-shaḥar and Birkhot Ha-Torah. Those who are meticulous make sure to listen to Birkhot Ha-Torah, Elokai Neshama, and Ha-ma’avir Sheina from one who slept, if at all possible (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer 9:6).

As far as the timing, halakha mandates that these berakhot be recited in proximity to Shaḥarit. According to Kabbala, the custom is to say Birkhot Ha-shaḥar after midnight and Birkhot Ha-Torah after dawn (Kaf Ha-ḥayim 46:49; see Peninei Halakha: Prayer 9:5 n. 4).[3]

During the night, one may eat and drink as much as he likes. Once dawn (alot ha-shaḥar) has arrived, he may not eat or drink even coffee or juice. One who had begun eating or drinking before dawn must stop. Water is the only beverage that may be drunk after dawn. In the half-hour before dawn, one may not sit down to a meal, lest it extend past dawn. Included in this prohibition is eating bread or cake that is more than the volume of an egg. However, one may snack on anything, including fruits, vegetables, and grain-based cooked (as opposed to baked, which are considered cakes or bread) dishes (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 12:8).

Those who are up all night should begin Pesukei De-zimra 30 or 40 minutes before sunrise, so that they will reach the Amida at sunrise. Praying at this time is known as praying ke-vatikin, and is considered ideal (Peninei Halakha: Prayer 11:1-2, 5-6).


[3]. One should be careful to recite Birkhot Ha-Torah after dawn. Some maintain that one who recites them earlier does not fulfill his obligation (Responsa Ha-elef Lekha Shlomo §33; Kaf Ha-ḥayim 47:29). Tzelaḥ on Berakhot 11b is uncertain about this. If one accidentally recited the berakhot before dawn, he should not recite them again. First, it is possible that he fulfilled his obligation by reciting them before dawn. Second, it may be that the law is in accordance with Rosh, who says that one who did not sleep is not required to recite Birkhot Ha-Torah at all. Rather, the person should have in mind to fulfill his obligation of Birkhot Ha-Torah when he recites the berakha immediately preceding Shema (Ahavat Olam or Ahava Rabba; see MB 47:28; Yalkut Yosef 47:9). Some are careful not to study Torah after dawn until they have recited the berakhot. After all, in general it is prohibited to study Torah before reciting them (SA 46:9). Since there is a doubt as to the precise time of dawn, those who are scrupulous recite praises to God during the doubtful time, but do not study Torah (Ben Ish Ḥai, Year 1, Vayishlaḥ §3). Nevertheless, the mainstream position would seem to be that the recitation of Birkhot Ha-Torah on one day remains in effect until Shaḥarit of the next day, so it is not necessary to be scrupulous about this. This is especially so when we also take into account the opinion of Rosh and others that one who did not sleep does not need to recite Birkhot Ha-Torah, and it is merely customary to recite them daily at the beginning of Shaḥarit. See Hilkhot Ḥag Be-ḥag p. 68 and Yalkut Yosef 47:9, who state that dawn is 72 minutes before sunrise. I explain in Peninei Halakha: Prayer 11:1 n.1 that this is incorrect, as it depends on the season. Seventy-two minutes is the shortest amount of time that ever separates dawn and sunrise.

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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