11 – The Times of Keriat Shema and Shacharit

01 – The Morning

The first time of the day that has halachic significance is known as “amud hashachar” or “alot hashachar” (dawn). In a case of extenuating circumstances, one may begin reciting Shema and praying the Amidah from the time of amud hashachar, but under normal conditions it is prohibited. The Acharonim disagree whether amud hashachar is the time when the first glimmer of light appears in the east (Magen Avraham, Pri Megadim), or slightly afterwards, when that first light spreads out somewhat upon the eastern sky (Eliyah Rabbah, Gra).

After amud hashachar, the time called “misheyakir” arrives. This is when enough light has already spread over the earth so that a person can recognize a friend, whom he is not accustomed to meeting, from a distance of four amot. At that time it is also possible to distinguish between techelet (a shade of skylike blue) and white. According to most poskim, l’chatchilah one may recite Keriat Shema then, but the time to recite the Amidah l’chatchilah has not yet arrived.

Netz hachamah” is sunrise, when the first part of the sun is visible. At that moment, the time to recite the Amidah l’chatchilah begins. One who recites Keriat Shema right before sunrise and prays the Amidah immediately with netz hachamah is known to be praying “vatikin,” greatly praised by the Chachamim.

All of the mitzvot performed during the day, such as brit milah, begin at sunrise, since the time of day is defined by the sun. However, b’dieved, if they are performed from amud hashachar their obligations are fulfilled because, from a certain standpoint, the day begins even from the first glimmer of light (Megillah 20a).

02 – Calculation of the Morning Times

According to many, the time difference between amud hashachar and netz hachamah in Israel is the time it takes to walk a distance of four mil, which is approximately 72 minutes. This means that in the months of Nisan or Tishrei, 72 minutes pass from the time the east lights up until the time the sun rises.

It is important to understand that the calculation of this time changes according to the seasons of the year. During the days of Nisan and Tishrei (beginning March 5th and October 5th), the duration of the sun’s ascent is shortest, and the sun rises 72 minutes after amud hashachar. However, during the winter, for reasons which cannot be outlined here, the duration of the sun’s ascent continues to lengthen until, at the height of winter (December 22nd), 78 minutes pass from amud hashachar until netz hachamah. In the summer, the time continues to extend even longer until, at its height (June 22nd), 88 minutes pass from amud hashachar until netz hachamah. In order to determine the precise time of amud hashachar according to this method, one must calculate the time that the sun will reach 16.1 degrees below the horizon every day – and that is the time of amud hashachar.

These calculations are based on the opinion that amud hashachar begins when the eastern sky is slightly illuminated. However, according to the opinion that amud hashachar starts when the first light in the east emerges, indeed its time is earlier, when the sun reaches approximately 17.5 degrees below the horizon. However, so as not to encounter controversy, it is proper to act in accordance with the later opinion (16.1 degrees below the horizon). Only when the sky in the east is slightly illuminated does the time of amud hashachar arrive, and from then one may recite Keriat Shema and pray the Amidah in a case of extenuating circumstances.[1]

An uncertainty also arises regarding the time of misheyakir. Despite the fact that the Chachamim defined this time as one when it is possible to distinguish between techelet and white, and when one can recognize a friend whom he is not used to seeing, from a distance of four amot, there is still doubt as to the accuracy of this time. In practice, it is accepted to teach that it is around 50 minutes before netz hachamah. See the note for its exact time.[2]


[1].The Talmud in Pesachim 93b-94a brings the dispute concerning how much time passes from amud hashachar (dawn) until netz hachamah (sunrise). According to Ula it is approximately the amount of time it takes to walk the distance of five mil, and according to Rav Yehudah, four mil. The Rishonim disagree concerning how long it takes to walk the distance of a mil. There are those who say 18 minutes (Rambam in his commentary on Mishnah Berachot 1:1), some who say 22.5 minutes, and others who say 24 minutes (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 459:2 and Bei’ur Halachah there). In practice, there are two main opinions: 1) 72 minutes, approximately the amount of time it takes to walk the distance of four mil (where every mil is 18 minutes). 2) Ninety minutes (where every mil is 22.5 minutes), which is what is printed in many calendars. Also see Rav Chaim Benish’s book HaZemanim BaHalachah 21:6-9.

According to the Magen Avraham and Pri Megadim, amud hashachar is the appearance of the first light in the east, and according to Eliyah Rabbah and the Gra it arrives a little later, when the eastern skies are illuminated. The Bei’ur Halachah 58:4 and section 89:1 favors the latter opinion. One should know that both opinions are talking about a very slight light visible in the east, and someone who is in a place that has electric lighting, or one who comes from an illuminated area and has constricted pupils, cannot distinguish between these changes in the east. Similarly, a person who is not accustomed to seeing amud hashachar usually cannot detect the first light in the east, nor even discern when the eastern skies are slightly illuminated.

The approach that maintains that the time from amud hashachar until netz hachamah is 72 minutes is understandable since in Jerusalem in the days of Nisan and Tishrei, the eastern skies are illuminated 72 minutes before netz. At that time, the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon. The rest of the year is calculated according to that same position of the sun during the days of Nisan and Tishrei, as I have written above. Still, there are those who maintain that the calculation of 72 minutes is consistent throughout the whole year and their proof is from the Gemara in Pesachim which provides a fixed measure – four mil. However, this opinion is problematic, for the determining factor is when the east becomes illuminated and not how much time has passed. The Bei’ur Halachah 261:2 s.v. “Shehu” writes similar ideas. Therefore, it must be that the time that lapses between amud hashachar and netz hachamah fluctuates according to the seasons of the year. See HaZemanim BaHalachah chapter 17, as well as chapter 16, where he explains the reasons for the differences according to the seasons.

It is worthy of mention that all these calculations pertain to Jerusalem and to all locations along the same parallel line of latitude. The closer a person gets to the north and south poles, the longer the time difference becomes between amud hashachar and netz hachamah. Even in Israel there are distinctions. In Tzfat, which is north of Jerusalem, the time difference is longer than Jerusalem by approximately a minute and a half.

Many calendars calculate amud hashachar as 90 minutes before netz in the days of Nisan and Tishrei, when the sun is 19.75 degrees beneath the horizon. Based on this calculation, in the height of the summer, amud hashachar comes out to be 112 minutes before netz. This is very problematic, because in all these times, there is no visible light in the east. According to the astronomical calculation, before the sun arrives at 18 degrees below the horizon, even people with excellent eyesight cannot notice any light, all the more so when it is 19.75 degrees beneath the horizon. Therefore, in practice it is very difficult to rely on these calendars.

However, the opinion which maintains that four mil is 90 minutes can be explained as referring to the height of summer, since then at approximately 90 minutes before netz, the east is illuminated. It is also possible to say that according to this approach, amud hashachar is the first light in the east, and is seen when the sun is approximately 17.5 degrees below the horizon. In the days of Nisan and Tishrei, it is approximately 78 minutes before netz; in the height of the winter 85 minutes before netz; and in the height of the summer, 96 minutes before netz. Perhaps 90 minutes before netz is the average time at which one can see the first light in the east. (In addition, this opinion may possibly follow the approaches which put netz a few minutes later, since it takes the mountains into consideration, see halachah 6, and then indeed 90 minutes before netz comes out to be the average time throughout the whole year. Even the approach which maintains that a mil is 24 minutes and 4 mil is 96 minutes can be explained as referring to the height of summer.)

Therefore, in summary, the law is established based on the position of the sun. There are two main approaches. The first is when the east is illuminated, when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon, which comes out to be 72 minutes before netz in the days of Nisan and Tishrei. The second is from the first light, when the sun is 17.5 degrees below the horizon, which is 78 minutes before netz in the days of Nisan and Tishrei. I have chosen to write primarily according to the opinion which maintains that amud hashachar is when the eastern skies are illuminated, when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon, because that is the opinion favored by the Bei’ur Halachah, and what is written by the Yechaveh Da’at 2:8, based on the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch. In addition to that, those who follow this opinion regarding the matter of Keriat Shema and the Amidah fulfill their obligation according to all, for by that time the day has certainly begun; however, the time prior to that is controversial. It is possible to accurately calculate these times anywhere with the help of Rav Eitan Tzikuni’s computer program, “Chazon Shamayim.”

 

[2].In the halachic writings of the Acharonim, a number of opinions are mentioned regarding designating the time of misheyakir. The Yechaveh Da’at 2:8 writes that it is 66 minutes before netz, and Kaf HaChaim 18:18 writes 60. In Jerusalem they follow 50-55 minutes before netz, and in some places in Bnei Brak, 45 minutes before netz. In practice, many books, such as Tefillah Kehilchatah 3:4 and Ishei Yisrael 18:1, write that it is approximately 50 minutes before netz. However, as we have learned, there are differences between the seasons of the year, and it is difficult to comprehend how these opinions ignore those discrepancies. Perhaps some of the poskim who write different times do not disagree at all, but rather each calculated the time at a different season of the year. See HaZemanim BaHalachah 23:6.

According to different visual observations, some poskim acknowledged the time of misheyakir to be when the sun reaches 12 degrees below the horizon, some say 11 degrees, and others only 10 degrees. In practice, it seems that it should be calculated according to the position of the sun when it reaches 11 degrees below the horizon. This comes out to 48 minutes before netz during Nisan and Tishrei, 52.5 minutes before netz at the height of winter (December 22nd), and 58 minutes before netz at the height of summer (June 22nd). Indeed, most of the year it comes out to around 50 minutes. Nevertheless, it is good to postpone the time of misheyakir another five minutes, although in extenuating circumstances, one may make it five minutes earlier.

I should add that in the past, when there were no clocks and people did not wear watches, these times were surely calculated according to human eyesight, and if the day was cloudy, the time of misheyakir was delayed a bit so as to avoid uncertainty. However, now that there are clocks and watches, Shut Sho’el U’Meishiv, Third Edition, part 2, 162, writes that the times are calculated according to them.

03 – The Time of Keriat Shema

The time to recite Shema in the morning is learned from the expression that appears in the Torah passage regarded the Shema, “u’vekumecha,” “when you get up,” meaning the time when people normally wake up. There are people who rise early, from the time of amud hashachar (approximately 72 minutes before netz),1 therefore, biblically, it is considered the time of waking and from then on one may recite Keriat Shema. The reason for this is that the words “when you get up” are written in the singular person, implying that even when only a few people arise from their sleep it is time to recite Keriat Shema. One who recites Keriat Shema before then does not fulfill his obligation, since his recital precedes the time of waking.

The Chachamim “created a fence” (asu siyag) to the mitzvah and established not to recite Keriat Shema l’chatchilah until the time when more people usually arise from their sleep, at which point there is already more light on the earth and one can recognize his friend from a distance of four amot (Shulchan Aruch 58:1). This is the time of misheyakir (approximately 50 minutes before netz in the days of Nisan).2

When a person cannot recite Keriat Shema after the time of misheyakir due to circumstances beyond his control, he may recite it from amud hashachar. Similarly, b’dieved, if one mistakenly recites Shema from the time of amud hashachar, he fulfills his obligation. However, there is a difference between these two cases. If one’s reason for reciting Shema early emanates from circumstances beyond his control, even if he must do so every day, he fulfills his obligation. But if he recites it early due to error, he fulfills his obligation only if his mistake seldom occurs, meaning not more than once a month. If he errs more often than that, the Chachamim penalize him; he has not fulfilled his obligation and he must go back and recite it again after misheyakir (Shulchan Aruch 58:3-4; Mishnah Berurah 58:19).

The time to recite Keriat Shema lasts until the conclusion of the first three hours of the day, for there are people, such as princes, who continue to sleep until the end of the first three hours. Therefore, until the end of the first three hours is still considered to be the time of “when you get up” (this is clarified further in halachot 10 and 11).

The most praiseworthy time to recite Keriat Shema is at vatikin, meaning slightly before netz hachamah.[3]


[3]. According to the majority of poskim, the time of Keriat Shema begins at misheyakir and lasts for three hours, but the ideal time to pray is vatikin. This is the opinion of Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, Tosafot, Rosh, Rashba, Tur and Shulchan Aruch 58:1. I have written above according to this opinion. However, there are additional opinions. According to Rabbeinu Chananel and Rabbeinu Tam, the time of Keriat Shema starts after netz and lasts until the end of the first three hours of the day, and in their opinion, those who pray vatikin do not practice in accordance with halachah, because they recite Keriat Shema slightly before netz. It seems though, that even according to them, in cases of extenuating circumstances, one may recite Keriat Shema before netz. (Only according to the Razah, one does not fulfill his obligation of reciting Keriat Shema before netz.) In practice, we do not take into consideration their opinions as halachah. The Rif and the Rambam maintain that the main time for Keriat Shema is vatikin, meaning slightly before netz, and if one did not recite it at vatikin, he may do so until the conclusion of the first three hours of the day. The time prior to that is valid only in extenuating circumstances. Halachot 7 and 8 of this chapter clarify how much earlier Shacharit may be recited in practice.

04 – The Time of the Amidah

Anshei Knesset HaGedolah instituted praying three prayers every day, and established their times to correspond to the Tamid offerings. The morning Tamid was brought starting from amud hashachar, and based on that, the time of praying Shacharit l’chatchilah should begin at amud hashachar. Nonetheless, the Chachamim say that it is proper to recite the Amidah after netz hachamah, as it is written (Psalms 72:5), “Yera’ucha im shamesh” (“Let them fear You from when the sun [shines]”) (Berachot 9b). B’dieved, if one recites the Amidah from amud hashachar, he fulfills his obligation because he prayed at the time when the morning Tamid offering was brought (Shulchan Aruch 89:1).

The most praiseworthy time to pray follows the manner of the early chasidim (devoted ones) who prayed at vatikin, for they would recite the Amidah at netz hachamah.[4]

The time to pray the Amidah lasts four hours according to Rabbi Yehudah, for that is the last time that the morning Tamid offering may be brought. Even though, in the opinion of the Chachamim, the time to offer the Tamid lasts until chatzot, the halachah follows Rabbi Yehudah, since in Masechet Eduyot, in which all the mishnayot were chosen as halachah, the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah is brought. Therefore, the time to recite Shacharit lasts until the end of the first four hours of the day (Berachot 27a). Even so, the Chachamim’s words were not rejected completely, and if four hours passed and one did not yet recite Shacharit, he may b’dieved pray until chatzot. Although his prayer does not have the value of prayer recited on time, nevertheless, it still has certain value (as clarified further in halachah 11).


[4]. See Beit Yosef 89:1 and Shulchan Aruch HaRav 89:2. In summary, there are three main opinions: 1) According to the Rambam and Rabbeinu Chananel, the essence of the institution of Shacharit is from netz until the end of four hours, and only b’dieved one may pray from amud hashachar, as ruled in Shulchan Aruch 89:1 and Mishnah Berurah 4. 2) According to the Rosh, the Gemara teaches that vatikin is the ideal time, as it says, “Yera’ucha im shamesh” (“Let them fear you from when the sun [shines]”), but the time before Netz and the four hours after it are equal, for any time that is valid for offering the Tamid is valid for praying Shacharit. 3) According to Rabbeinu Yerucham, the time to pray b’dieved is from amud hashachar until misheyakir, and from misheyakir until netz is the time to pray l’chatchilah, as well as the time after netz.

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.

06 – The Precise Times of Vatikin and Netz

Netz hachamah is the time when the sun rises, and even though this definition is presumably clear and simple, in actuality, it is rather complex.

First, the duration of the sun’s ascent, which begins from the second we can see the first edge of the sun until it can be seen entirely, lasts approximately two and a half minutes. The poskim disagree regarding the exact time of netz hachamah. According to most halachic authorities, the time of netz is precisely when the first part of the sun is visible, and at that moment it is necessary to begin the Amidah of vatikin. Yet, there are those who say that netz is at the conclusion of the sun’s ascent. Additionally, there are those who say that netz lasts the whole two and a half minutes that the sun is rising. Moreover, there are those who say it lasts a few more minutes, the entire time that the rays of the sun are still red. In practice, those who pray vatikin make an effort to begin the Amidah at the time the sun begins to rise, but are not overly strict about this because the other opinions are also taken into consideration.[6]

Another uncertainty arises. Are the mountains in the east that block the sunrise taken into consideration, or do we follow the astronomical sunrise (on a straight horizon)? It is clear that one who is under a cliff, or behind a tall building which blocks the east from his view, cannot claim that the sunrise begins when he himself sees the sun, because, if that was the case, then the sunrise, as far as he is concerned, would likely be towards the afternoon. The question is: what is the law, for example, in Jerusalem’s Old City, where the Mount of Olives blocks the eastern horizon and consequently the sun becomes visible only a few minutes later? Even for those who stand on the Mount of Olives, the mountains of Moav rising over the Jordan Valley block the beginning of the sunrise. Some say that the time of netz hachamah is only when one can actually see the sun, meaning after it is visible above the Mount of Olives. Others say that we should not take into account a nearby mountain, like the example of the Mount of Olives, since it is possible to walk to it by foot, but rather that it is necessary to include the distant mountains of Moav. The difference between the two opinions amounts to a few minutes.

There are those who say that we should not consider the mountains in the east at all; rather we calculate the sunrise according to a straight horizon, based on the time that it would be possible to see the sunrise were there no mountains. Nowadays, there are computer programs that allow us to calculate the precise astronomical sunrise in each and every location while disregarding the mountains in the east. Many are accustomed to establishing the time of sunrise according to this calculation.[7]


[6]. According to the majority of poskim, netz is the beginning of the sun’s ascent, as writes the Bei’ur Halachah, 58:1, s.v. “Kemo,” and Halachah Berurah (Yosef) 58:7. Ish Matzliach writes that it is the end of the sun’s ascent (see Yalkut Yosef 89:3). According to the Razah, it is the whole duration of the sun’s ascent. Others say that even slightly after that, as long as the sun is close to the earth and the rays of the sun are still red, it is still considered “Yera’ucha im shamesh” (“Let them fear You from when the sun [shines]”), as can be inferred from the Rambam, responsa 255. (See HaZemanim BaHalachah 24:3-4).

[7].Divrei Yosef writes that the law depends on actually seeing the sun, and therefore it is necessary to take into consideration the places that the Mount of Olives conceals. However, according to the Maharil Diskin, (brought in Sefer Nivreshet), what is concealed by the Mount of Olives does not enter into the equation since it is closer than the walking distance of one day, but we do take into consideration the parts concealed by the Mountains of Moav (although he does not resolve the matter of Shabbat with regard to sunset). Further, there is uncertainty about a city that is built on mountains: does each neighborhood follow according to its own height or does the whole city practice according to the highest neighborhood in the city, where the sun is visible first? The minhag is to go by the highest neighborhood. An additional doubt is raised – if a skyscraper was built in a city, on the top of which the first rays of the sun shine a minute before the sunrise can be seen on the ground, what is the ruling? Similarly, if the city is very large, do we still go by the highest point in the city, or, due to the city’s size is each area defined by itself? See HaZemanim BaHalachah chapter 7, which mentions these doubts and cites the different opinions.

Even according to the opinion that sunrise and sunset are calculated along a straight horizon, there is doubt as to which height we use to make the calculations, since the higher the place, the earlier the sun is visible when it rises, and the later the sun is seen when it sets. For example, at a height of 800 meters (2624.67 feet) above sea level, the sun is still visible at sunset approximately 4.6 minutes later than on sea level, and at sunrise approximately 4.6 minutes earlier. Indeed, this opinion is divided into three approaches. Some say that we go according to the sunrise on a straight horizon based on the height of the place, while there is still uncertainty with regard to the law of a city in which there are mountains and valleys, i.e., whether we go by each area in the city for itself or the highest point in the city. It is the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav that in all places we go according to the sunrise at a height of 800 meters above sea level, the altitude of Jerusalem. So it is written in Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 1:97. (This means that even when the people praying are at sea level, the time of netz will be 4.6 minutes before they can actually see the sun.) Others say that we go by the astronomical sunrise without taking the mountains into account at all; instead we calculate how it would look at sea level (which covers most of the earth’s surface) without mountains, as Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer writes. See HaZemanim BaHalachah chapter 7, where all this is discussed.

In the computer program “Chazon Shamayim,” it is possible to determine the precise astronomical time of sunrise in any place, on any day, based on the lines of latitude and longitude and the height of the location. Since the result obtained from a program such as this one is more accurate than all the calculations done by visual observations, many have been accustomed to calculate the time of sunrise with this program. In practice, all the communities living in Gav Hahar (settlements in the heart of the Shomron) do not need to take into account the mountains and valleys to the east of them, for if they were to take them into consideration, they would need to calculate a different time for every house, each according to its height, and according to the mountains that block them from the east, in every season based on the place of the sun’s ascent. Therefore, we follow the astronomical horizon, according to the highest point in that location. In the past, when people lived in open areas, the sunrise was perceptible, and this ruling was mainly based on the visibility of the sun. However, today, when most people live among many buildings, and do not see sunrise, and our methods of calculation have become easier, the sunrise is calculated according to the astronomical horizon. At that time, the rays of the sun are also visible in the highest places in the area. However, when to the east, there is a range of distant mountains that evenly cover the horizon, like, for instance, in the coastal plains of Israel, and they delay the visibility of the sun from that whole area by a few minutes, it seems, that it is necessary to take them into consideration and postpone the time of netz. (The time of misheyakir is dependent upon light, based on the explanation in note 2, when the sun is eleven degrees below the astronomical horizon, and there is no connection to the visible sunrise).

07 – How Early May One Begin to Pray?

L’chatchilah, a person should not recite the Amidah before vatikin because, according to a number of poskim, the time to pray l’chatchilah begins at netz hachamah and lasts four hours. The ideal time to pray the Amidah is immediately at the start of “vatikin”, just as the devoted ones prayed. Therefore, it seems that for a person whose prayer lasts approximately 25 minutes from the beginning until the Amidah, the earliest time he may begin to pray is 25 minutes before netz.

One who must be on his way, or must start work earlier, is permitted to begin praying from the time of misheyakir, since by then a little light has spread over the earth, and that moment is the valid time for the recital of Shema and for the mitzvot of tzitzit and tefillin. We have already learned that the time of misheyakir is approximately 50 minutes before netz (see note 2).

One who needs to pray even earlier should begin his prayer without tallit and tefillin and proceed until the conclusion of Pesukei d’Zimrah. When he finishes Yishtabach he must wait for the time of misheyakir, and only then put on his tallit and tefillin and continue praying.[8]


[8].L’chatchilah, one may not recite the Amidah before vatikin because, according to most poskim, among them the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, the time from amud hashachar until netz hachamah is valid for prayer only b’dieved, as explained in note 4 of this chapter. Also, in terms of Keriat Shema, according to a few poskim (Rambam and Rabbeinu Tam) the time of misheyakir until netz is b’dieved. Most poskim maintain that it is l’chatchilah regarding Keriat Shema. However, since Keriat Shema is adjoined to the Amidah, one may not pray the Amidah l’chatchilah before vatikin.

In times of need, one may recite the Amidah at misheyakir, for that is when the time of Keriat Shema begins according to most poskim, as the Shulchan Aruch 58:1 rules, and as is clarified earlier in note 3 of this chapter. That is also when the time to put on tzitzit and tefillin begins, as explained in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 18:3; 30:1. One may finish Pesukei d’Zimrah and Yishtabach before that, and when the time of misheyakir arrives, wrap himself in a tallit and put on tefillin, as brought by Bei’ur Halachah 58:1, s.v. “Zeman.” However, one may not do so earlier than that, since only in extenuating circumstances may one recite Keriat Shema and its berachot before misheyakir. The time of misheyakir is clarified in note 2 of this chapter.

08 – How Early Is One Permitted to Pray in Extenuating Circumstances?

In a case of extenuating circumstances, one may recite Birkot Keriat Shema from the time of amud hashachar, which is 72 minutes before sunrise (in the months of Nisan and Tishrei).1 However, as long as it is possible to recite Birkot Keriat Shema after the time of misheyakir, one may not recite them from amud hashachar. For instance, if someone who is traveling can pray while walking or sitting (as his friend drives), he must wait for the time of misheyakir and only then recite Birkot Keriat Shema and recite the Amidah while walking or sitting.

If he is able to recite Birkot Keriat Shema while he is traveling after the time of misheyakir, but cannot recite the Amidah while traveling, he should pray the Amidah earlier after amud hashachar and recite Birkot Keriat Shema and Shema while traveling, even though he will not merit connecting redemption to prayer.[9]

When it is not possible to recite Birkot Keriat Shema while traveling, as, for example, if he does not know Birkot Keriat Shema by heart, and it is not possible for him to use a siddur, he may pray earlier since such situations are considered extenuating circumstances. He recites Birkot HaShachar, Korbanot, and Pesukei d’Zimrah before amud hashachar, and when the time of amud hashachar arrives, he puts on his tallit and tefillin without a berachah, recites Keriat Shema and its berachot, and prays the Amidah. When he finishes the Amidah, the time of misheyakir will have already arrived, and at that point he takes hold of his tzitzit and tefillin and recites the blessings upon them. According to the Ashkenazic minhag, Birkat Yotzer HaMeorot may not be recited before the time of misheyakir either; rather, one must delay its recital until after praying the Amidah.[10]


[9]. In Berachot 30a we learn to what extent reciting Keriat Shema and its berachot before misheyakir is only for extenuating circumstances, since any time it is possible to say them after misheyakir, even while walking, there is an obligation to do so. The only question left is when to pray the Amidah. According to Rabbeinu Chananel, the Tosafot, and others, one must recite the Amidah standing in his house before misheyakir, which is how the Shulchan Aruch 89:8 rules as well. According to Bahag, it is best that he prays while walking so as to connect redemption to prayer, and in practice, that is customarily what is done, as explained in the Mishnah Berurah 89:42 and Kaf HaChaim 54. However, when he can say Birkot Keriat Shema while traveling, but cannot pray the Amidah, then he follows Rabbeinu Chananel and the Shulchan Aruch; he prays the Amidah standing in his house after amud hashachar and waits to recite Birkot Keriat Shema while traveling in order to say them after the time of misheyakir. This includes a case in which a person only knows the berachot of Keriat Shema by heart and not the Amidah, or one in which a person is driving and he knows that he is capable of reciting Birkot Keriat Shema while driving, but praying the Amidah while driving is forbidden (see further in this book 17:16).

[10].During the days of Nisan and Tishrei, amud hashachar is 72 minutes before netz (when the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon). In the height of winter (December 22nd) it is 78 minutes before netz, and at the height of summer (June 22nd) it is 88 minutes before netz. See note 1 to understand why I have written according to this opinion. At most, it is permissible to be lenient and consider amud hashachar the first light in the east (when the sun is 17.5 degrees below the horizon), as explained there. Many calendars display amud hashachar as a time when there is no light at all in the eastern sky, and it is very problematic to rely on them.

In note 2, I wrote that the time of misheyakir is when the sun is 11 degrees below the horizon, which is the average time according to the different opinions and observations. However, here, in extenuating circumstances, if one can recite Birkot Keriat Shema approximately five minutes before this time, thereby succeeding to pray the Amidah standing in his house, it is preferable that he does so, instead of praying afterwards while walking.

In a case of extenuating circumstances, it is permissible to start praying Birkot Keriat Shema from amud hashachar, as explained in Shulchan Aruch 58:3. One may put on his tallit and tefillin before that time without a berachah, as clarified concerning the matter of tzitzit in Shulchan Aruch 18:3 and Mishnah Berurah 10 and regarding the matter of tefillin in Shulchan Aruch 30:3 and Mishnah Berurah 11. However, Kaf HaChaim 30:8, based on the Ari, writes that one may not put on tefillin before amud hashachar. Additionally, it is explained in Shulchan Aruch 1:6 and 47:13 that the passage regarding the Tamid may not be recited before amud hashachar and, according to Kaf HaChaim 89:7, Pesukei d’Zimrah may not be recited before amud hashachar either. However, we have already learned that some poskim maintain that amud hashachar is slightly before the time mentioned above and others say it is 90 minutes before netz, as written in Kaf HaChaim 89:1. In extenuating circumstances, with regard to these matters, in which there is no issue of reciting a berachah in vain, it is permissible to rely on this approach.

According to many Ashkenazic poskim, Birkat Yotzer HaMeorot may not be recited before misheyakir. So write the Magen Avraham, Graz 58:6, and Mishnah Berurah 58:17. Nevertheless, if a person did recite Yotzer HaMeorot before misheyakir, since he already fulfilled his obligation according to the Shulchan Aruch and Kaf HaChaim 58:19, he does not repeat it again after praying (Bei’ur Halachah 58:4, s.v. “B’lo”).

09 – Praying Vatikin Individually versus Praying in a Minyan

The Acharonim disagree over what is preferable: praying vatikin individually, or praying in a minyan after the time of vatikin? Some say that since the Chachamim praise the person who prays vatikin and teach that no harm befalls him the whole day, it is better to pray vatikin individually. Still, others say that it is preferable to pray in a minyan, for prayer in a minyan is sure to be heard. Additionally, there are doubts regarding the precise time of vatikin (as clarified in halachah 6), and it is not proper that an uncertain vatikin prayer takes precedence over prayer in a minyan. Therefore, it is customary to teach that prayer in a minyan is preferable. However a person who regularly prays vatikin in a minyan, and one day does not have a minyan for vatikin, is permitted to pray vatikin individually on that day, so as not to stray from his custom.[11]

Regarding a person who has two options, to pray in a minyan before netz, which is the time of prayer b’dieved, or to pray individually afterwards at vatikin, there is disagreement. According to many, it is preferable that he pray individually at vatikin.  Still, there are those who say that it is better to pray in a minyan before netz, provided that he starts reciting Birkot Keriat Shema after misheyakir. It is advisable for one to ask his rabbi concerning this. If the regular minyan before netz will be canceled because a number of people decide to pray at vatikin individually, it is preferable that everyone prays together in a minyan before netz.[12]


[11].According to the Mahari Schwartz, it is preferable to pray vatikin, and according to Rabbi Shlomo Kluger in HaElef Lecha Shlomo 47, it is preferable to pray in a minyan. See Yabia Omer, Orach Chaim, part 1, 4:9, who hinges the law on kavanah. He maintains that if a person concentrates well, he should pray vatikin, but if he is unable to have kavanah, it is best that he prays in a minyan. Shut Pri Yitzchak 2 writes that since there are doubts as to when exactly vatikin is (as explained in halachah 6), it is preferable to pray in a minyan rather than to pray with uncertainty at vatikin. That is how we are accustomed to rule. However, since there are those who disagree, an individual who wants to pray vatikin from time to time may rely on their opinions.Bei’ur Halachah 58:1 writes that people who are careful to pray vatikin every day in a minyan are permitted to pray individually when they do not have a minyan. In Halichot Shlomo 5:17 the explanation given is that these people have a sort of vow, both regarding praying vatikin and praying in a minyan, and therefore they may choose how they wish to practice.

[12].We learned in halachah 4 and in note 4 that according to the majority of poskim, as well as the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch 89:1 and the Mishnah Berurah 4, the time before netz is valid for prayer only b’dieved. Additionally, we learned in the previous note that there are those who say that even when the prayer in a minyan is conducted after netz, it is nevertheless preferable to pray at vatikin. Therefore, the result is that according to the majority of poskim, it is best to pray at vatikin individually and not before netz in a minyan. So writes the Avnei Yashfeh 14:1 and Yalkut Yosef 89:14.However, we learned that according to the Rosh and Rabbeinu Yerucham the time for prayer l’chatchilah starts from misheyakir, and the Mishnah Berurah 89:1 writes that people who are awake on Shavuot night may pray in a minyan before netz. Additionally, Yaskil Avdi, part 5, Orach Chaim 10:4, and Or L’Tzion, part 2, 7:4 write that it is preferable to pray in a minyan before netz, for that is a case of extenuating circumstances, since he will not have another minyan after that. That is also the opinion of the Chazon Ish (brought by the Ishei Yisrael 13:6).

It seems to me that as a ruling to many it is preferable to preserve the prayer in a minyan, for prayer in a minyan is accepted and the power of communal worship is important in preserving the permanence of prayer. Only for a person who wishes out of piety to pray at vatikin, it may be preferable to pray at vatikin. However, ordinarily, it is best to pray in a minyan before netz.

All the more so in a small community, where a few of the congregants must leave early for work and they will not have another opportunity to organize a minyan after netz, this is considered to be a case of extenuating circumstances, and they must arrange the minyan to pray before netz. It is proper even for those individuals who can pray later on, to participate as well. (Although, if they want to wake up early, complete the early minyan, respond to their Kaddish and Kedushah, and then pray vatikin later individually, they are permitted to do so).

10 – The Proportional Hours and Their Corresponding Laws

The time of Keriat Shema lasts for the first three hours of the day and the time of the Amidah for four hours. “Hours” refers to proportional hours. That is to say, the day is divided into twelve equal parts, and each part is called a “proportional hour.” In the summer, when the days are long, so are the hours, and in the winter when the days are short, the hours are short too.

The question is: when do we begin to calculate the day? According to the Magen Avraham, the hours of the day are calculated according the hours of light. In other words, the calculation begins from amud hashachar and lasts until total darkness. However, according to the Gra, the calculation is based on the hours that the sun is visible, meaning from sunrise until sunset.[13]

The time difference between amud hashachar and netz is approximately 72 minutes during the days of Nisan and Tishrei. Thus, according to the Magen Avraham, we begin calculating the three hours of the time of Keriat Shema 72 minutes before the time according to the Gra. Therefore, the last possible time to recite Keriat Shema and the Amidah according to the Magen Avraham is earlier. However, it is not 72 minutes earlier because every hour according to the Magen Avraham is longer, and that way it comes out that at the end of six hours we arrive at chatzot according to both calculations.[14]


[13].The poskim who maintain that we calculate from amud hashachar are: Terumat HaDeshen, the Bach, and Eliyah Rabbah. This is also implied from a number of Rishonim, among them Rashi, Tosafot, Ramban, and Rashba (see HaZemanim BaHalachah 13:2). Although the Magen Avraham himself (233:3; 443:3) is uncertain as to whether the calculation is to be made from amud hashachar or from netz hachamah, nevertheless, he rules stringently (58:1) because Keriat Shema is a biblical mitzvah and therefore the calculation is given in his name.

In contrast to them, maintaining the Gra’s approach are Rabbeinu Chananel, Rasag, Rav Hai Gaon, Rambam, Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, and others. Acharonim who follow this approach include the Levush, Tosafot YomTov, and the Graz. It is also the opinion of the majority of poskim (see there 13:7-9). The Gra’s reason (Bei’ur HaGra 459, Shenot Eliyahu, the beginning of Masechet Berachot) is that the times of the day and the night are identical, and therefore one 24-hour period is divided into twelve hours for the day and twelve for the night. In calculating a whole year, the hours of the day and night are identical. This is only possible if the day is calculated according to the sun, for then the days and nights of the whole year are equal. This is not true if the calculation is made from amud hashachar until darkness, for then the days would be more than two hours longer than the nights.

 

[14]According to the Magen Avraham’s approach, there are those who calculate the hours of the day from amud hashachar until the emergence of three stars, and then the result is that before netz, 72 minutes are added, whereas after sunset only 18 or 13.5 minutes are added (Ma’amar Mordechai 233:3, Ben Ish Chai, Vayakhel 4; Divrei Yosef). However, their opinion is problematic, for based on their calculations, chatzot arrives before the sun reaches the middle of the sky, and therefore the final time for Keriat Shema according to the Magen Avraham comes out earlier than it actually is. Rav Tikochinsky, along with the prominent rabbis of Jerusalem, solved this problem by establishing the time after sunset as equal to the time before sunrise. If amud hashachar precedes netz by 72 minutes, then even after sunset 72 minutes are added. That way, it always comes out that the first six hours of the day end at chatzot, both according to the time of the Magen Avraham and according to the time of the Gra.Based on this, it is easy to calculate the difference in time between the final time according to the Magen Avraham and the final time according to the Gra. First, we must calculate the time between amud hashachar and netz and divide it into six. For example, according to the calculation of the days of Nisan and Tishrei, when amud hashachar is 72 minutes earlier than netz, every hour according to the Magen Avraham is longer by twelve minutes. If so, the difference in time between them after three hours is reduced by 36 minutes. This means, that the final time to recite Shema according to the Magen Avraham is 36 minutes earlier than the time of the Gra, and the final time to pray the Amidah according to the Magen Avraham, is 24 minutes earlier. However, based on what we learned in note 1 concerning the changes in the time of amud hashachar in the different seasons of the year, it comes out that in the height of winter, the time of Keriat Shema according to the Magen Avraham is 39 minutes earlier, and in the height of summer, it is 44 minutes earlier than the time of the Gra.

Since this is an uncertainty concerning a biblical obligation, it seems that it is correct to make the calculation according to the position of the sun at 17.5 degrees below the horizon, for at that time the first light is visible, and some poskim maintain that time as amud hashachar, as explained in note 1. Based on this, in the days of Nisan and Tishrei, amud hashachar is 78 minutes earlier than netz, and the time of Keriat Shema according to the Magen Avraham is 39 minutes earlier than that of the Gra. In the height of winter it is 42.5 minutes earlier, and in the height of summer it is 48 minutes earlier. In many calendars, the calculations are made according to the position of the sun at 19.75 degrees below the horizon, and then the time of the Magen Avraham is earlier by approximately 45 minutes in Nisan and by 56 minutes in the height of the summer. However, as I already wrote in note 1, this approach is very problematic because at that time no light is visible in the east. Additionally, some poskim calculate 90 minutes before netz and only 18 minutes after sunset, and the result is that the time of the Magen Avraham is earlier than the Gra’s time by more than an hour. Hence, as aforementioned, this opinion is very problematic.

11 – The Practical Halachah Regarding the Final Time to Recite Shema and Pray the Amidah

The time to recite Keriat Shema lasts for the first three hours of the day, for until then people are still waking up. In that way, one indeed fulfills the mitzvah of reciting Shemau’vekumecha,” (“when you get up”) – when people wake from their sleep. Most poskim favor the opinion of the Gra. However, regarding Keriat Shema, whose time is biblical, it is correct to be stringent like the Magen Avraham, in accordance with the rule, “sefeika d’oraita l’chumra” (“When there is uncertainty concerning biblical commandments we are stringent.”) Nevertheless, there are those who are accustomed l’chatchilah to follow the Gra’s approach, and one should not oppose this custom.

Even though the time of Keriat Shema only lasts three hours, if the third hour passed and one did not recite it, he must recite it with its blessings sometime within the fourth hour, and he is merited for reciting it like one who reads from the Torah (Shulchan Aruch 58:6).

The time of the Shacharit prayer and Birkot Keriat Shema lasts for four hours, for the Chachamim established its time corresponding to the Tamid offering which was brought until the end of the fourth hour of the day. Since its obligation is rabbinic, the halachah is lenient and allows us to rely upon the Gra’s approach and to pray later. Even so, l’chatchilah, those who are expeditious fulfill their obligations early. Therefore, it is good to follow the approach of the Magen Avraham and pray early (Mishnah Berurah 58:4).[15]

If four hours passed and one did not yet recite Birkot Keriat Shema nor pray the Amidah, it is agreed that he may pray the Amidah until chatzot. Although the halachah follows Rabbi Yehudah who rules that the time of Shacharit is until the end of four hours, and does not follow the opinion of the Chachamim who maintain that the time is until chatzot, nevertheless, even Rabbi Yehudah admits that one who did not pray before four hours lapsed may, b’dieved, complete his prayer until chatzot. Although he is not merited for praying on time, he does receive merit for his prayer. One may not pray Shacharit after chatzot (Berachot 27a; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 89:1).[16]

Regarding Birkot Keriat Shema, the poskim disagree. According to the Shulchan Aruch (58:6) and most poskim, Chazal are only lenient concerning the Amidah and permit one to recite it until chatzot. The reason for this is that, in principle, a person is allowed to pray Shemoneh Esrei as a voluntary prayer (tefillat nedavah) at any time. Therefore, in any situation of uncertainty, one may pray. However, Birkot Keriat Shema may not be recited as a voluntary prayer. Hence, one who was late and did not recite them within the first four hours of the day cannot regain them. According to the Mishnah Berurah, if his reason for missing their recital was due to circumstances beyond his control, he is permitted to recite them until chatzot (Bei’ur Halachah there).[17]


[15]. There are those who wish to say that the Ashkenazic custom follows the Gra, and that Sephardim practice like the Magen Avraham. Indeed, the Chida writes that where he lived the people were accustomed to follow the Magen Avraham and, in contrast, the Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:24 writes that in Lithuania they practiced like the Gra also regarding Keriat Shema. However, the Yalkut Yosef 58:3; 89:6 writes that the Sephardic minhag is not necessarily like the Magen Avraham. Additionally, in Ashkenaz, many were stringent l’chatchilah concerning Keriat Shema and practiced like the Magen Avraham (Mishnah Berurah 58:4).

[16]The explanation that the time of Shacharit lasts b’dieved until chatzot is brought by the Beit Yosef, and that is the opinion of the majority of poskim. However, some say that Rabbi Yehudah does not accept the Chachamim’s opinion and “after four hours” is the time of tashlumim (reciting a prayer that was missed). If so, whoever purposely did not pray during the first four hours may not pray tashlumim, in accord with the opinion of the Ra’avan, Pri Chadash, and the Gra. The Mishnah Berurah 89:6 is apprehensive about this, and therefore writes that one who intentionally did not pray during the first four hours of the day may pray until chatzot as a voluntary prayer (tefillat nedavah). (The Rashba is more stringent and writes in his responsa that after four hours one may not pray at all.)Concerning the half hour after chatzot, see Beirur Halachah, Berachot, the beginning of chapter 4. According to the Beit Yosef and the Rama 89:1, it is forbidden to pray Shacharit in that half-hour. However, since some maintain that it is permitted to pray Shacharit at that time, if one mistakenly prayed, he does not recite tashlumim (Mishnah Berurah 89:7).
 

[17].The Shulchan Aruch rules like the Rosh and the Tur who maintain that the time of Birkot Keriat Shema only lasts for four hours. So write the Ben Ish Chai, Va’era 5 and Rav Eliyahu in his siddur. That is also the opinion of the Yalkut Yosef 58:6, as discussed at length. The Mishnah Berurah supports his words on the opinion of the Rambam and the Pri Chadash who maintain that Birkot Keriat Shema may be recited the whole day, and the opinion of the Mishkenot Yaakov 77 who says that the law concerning them is like the law regarding the Amidah, that b’dieved they can be recited until noon. The Maharil writes that this is the custom (Ashkenaz). The Bei’ur Halachah deduces that in a case in which a person did not recite them due to circumstances beyond his control, he may recite them until chatzot. Although many Ashkenazic poskim rule stringently like the Shulchan Aruch, among them the Graz and the Chayei Adam, nevertheless many Ashkenazim also rely on the Mishnah Berurah, as written in Halichot Shlomo 7:15 and Ishei Yisrael 18:7.Yalkut Yosef  58:6 writes that concerning the matter of Birkot Keriat Shema it is permissible to practice like the Gra. Although this is a case of doubt regarding berachot and presumably it would be proper to refrain from reciting them during a time that is controversial, in accordance with the rule that states that when there is uncertainty concerning a matter of berachot, we are lenient (safek berachot l’hakel), nevertheless, since some poskim maintain that the time of Birkot Keriat Shema lasts the whole day and others say until chatzot, therefore one may at least be lenient to recite them until four hours like the Gra rules.

12 – Praying in a Minyan vs. Abiding by the Times

Since the Chachamim instituted the recital of Shema together with its berachot, and established praying the Amidah immediately following, l’chatchilah the time of Shacharit should be set to allow people to succeed in reciting Shema before the first three hours of the day have ended according to the Magen Avraham.

When the congregation is late to pray and there is concern that those praying will recite the Shema after the time according to the Magen Avraham, the people praying should be instructed to recite the paragraph of Shema before beginning to pray. One who wishes to enhance the mitzvah should read all three paragraphs.[18]

When the congregation prays even later and recites the Amidah after the time to pray has already ended according to the Magen Avraham, the poskim disagree as to what is preferable. There are those who say that it is better to pray in a minyan within four hours according to the Gra, because that is the opinion of the majority of poskim. Further, the time of Shacharit is rabbinic and we are lenient when there is uncertainty regarding rabbinic rulings. Additionally, in cases of extenuating circumstances one may recite Shacharit until chatzot. Therefore, it is best to pray in a minyan as the Chachamim established, even if the congregation prays after the time to pray has ended according to the Magen Avraham. Nevertheless, there are those who say that it is better to pray individually at the proper time according to the Magen Avraham, rather than to pray in a minyan after the time to pray has ended according to him.[19]

However, if the minyan is not conducted in accordance with the halachah and prays after four hours have passed according to the Gra, all opinions agree that one must pray individually prior such a late minyan.[20]

One who does not have tefillin must not delay praying until after the time of Keriat Shema and the Amidah, when he will have them, since b’dieved one is permitted to fulfill the mitzvah of Keriat Shema and the Amidah without tefillin (Mishnah Berurah 46:33; further in this book 12:9).


[18].According to the majority of poskim, only the recital of the first verse is a biblical obligation and therefore the Beit Yosef and the Rama section 46:9 write that it is good to say the first verse of Shema in the Korbanot passages so as to fulfill one’s obligation of Keriat Shema with its recital. The Mishnah Berurah 46:31 writes that some say the whole first paragraph must be recited, while others say the first two paragraphs (because according to the Pri Chadash both are biblical obligations). Ideally a person should recite all three paragraphs, because according to the Pri Chadash it is good to fulfill one’s obligation of remembering the Exodus during the time that one recites Keriat Shema.

However, according to the Gra, based on the Ra’ah, it is not proper to fulfill one’s obligation of reciting Keriat Shema without its blessings. Nevertheless, in this case, in order to fulfill the obligation of reciting it within Magen Avraham’s time frame, it is better to recite it earlier by itself (Bei’ur Halachah 46:9, s.v. “V’Yotzeh”). Whoever sees that the congregation is going to miss the time of Keriat Shema according to the Magen Avraham by a few minutes, Shut Binyan Olam, Orach Chaim 4, writes that he may say it earlier with its berachot and wait at “Shirah Chadashah” for the congregation, thereby meriting the recital of Keriat Shema with its berachot within the time of the Magen Avraham, as well as prayer in a minyan.

Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes that a person who is uncertain as to whether he will succeed in reciting Keriat Shema with its berachot according to the time of the Magen Avraham must recite it before then with a stipulation that if the halachah is like the Gra’s approach or if the congregation ends up reciting Keriat Shema on time, he does not intend to fulfill his obligation with that recital, and will instead fulfill his obligation with the Shema that he will recite together with its berachot. However, Da’at Torah and Oneg Yom Tov 3 write that a stipulation cannot be effective for a biblical commandment. Indeed, the Acharonim are in disagreement regarding this. Most poskim mention in practice the advice given by Rabbi Akiva Eiger, as written in Yalkut Yosef 58:5 and Ishei Yisrael 18:18.

[19]Minchat Yitzchak 3:71 writes that it is preferable to pray in a minyan at the time specified by the Gra. So writes the Avnei Yashfeh 8:12. By contrast, it is the opinion of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (brought by Ishei Yisrael 18, note 40) that it is preferable to pray individually at the time specified by the Magen Avraham. Likewise, regarding the Sephardic minhag, there is disagreement. Minchat Yitzchak writes there that according to Sephardim as well it is preferable to pray in a minyan, However, Rav Abba Shaul writes that Sephardim practice according to the Magen Avraham and it is preferable that they pray individually instead of in a minyan after the time of the Magen Avraham. The Yalkut Yosef 89:6 writes that whoever always practices according to the Magen Avraham and knows that he will have kavanah throughout the entire Amidah, it is preferable that he prays individually within the time of the Magen Avraham. However, if he cannot concentrate well, it is best that he prays with the congregation, for then his prayer is heard.Chazarat HaShatz must be concluded within the first four hours of the day (Mishnah Berurah 124:7). The Or L’Tzion, part 2, 7:25 writes in a footnote that one may not start Chazarat HaShatz after four hours have passed. Bei’ur Halachah 124:2 s.v. “Sheya’avor” is uncertain regarding this, for perhaps since the time of prayer lasts b’dieved until chatzot, it is possible to recite Chazarat HaShatz even after the conclusion of four hours.

[20]. When a person prays earlier than the congregation because the minyan is late, some say he should pray outside the synagogue, and others say that because they are not practicing in accordance with halachah, he is permitted to pray earlier in their presence. See Mishnah Berurah 90:35. It seems that if by his praying earlier in front of the congregation, the people will learn from him and pray earlier too, it is best that he prays in front of them, However, if they will not learn from his example, it is preferable that he prays individually elsewhere.