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Monday, 15 Adar 5773 / February 25, 2013

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Kri'at Shema - Chapter Three, Kri'at Shema - Chapter Four, Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter One

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Kri'at Shema - Chapter Three

In the second chapter, the Rambam discussed various halachot regarding the proper state of mind necessary for the reciting of the Shema. In Chapter 3, the discussion centers on the proper physical surroundings required for the performance of the mitzvah and those situations that preclude its fulfillment.

Deuteronomy 23:10-15 discusses the laws regarding army camps, giving as a fundamental guiding principle: "God walks among your camp, therefore,... your camp must be holy" (ibid.., 15). Included in that guideline is the obligation for every soldier to carry a spade in order to cover his excrement (ibid.. 23:14). (See Positive Commandments 192 and 193 in Sefer HaMitzvot of the Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 6:14-15.)

Since these laws were instituted because "God walks among your camp," it follows that they are also relevant when the Jews attempt to relate to God through prayer. Thus, these verses also serve as the source for the laws regarding the prohibition of reciting the Shema in the presence of feces as discussed in this chapter.

Commenting on the above verses, the Sifri states: "From here, we are taught that one should not recite the Shema next to the soakings of the clothes washers" - i.e., that one should not recite the Shema in a place where there is a foul odor or an unclean substance.

Halacha 1

One who recites the Shema should wash his hands with water before reciting it.

If the time for reciting the Shema arrives and he cannot find water, he should not delay his recitation in order to search for water. Rather, he should clean his hands with earth, a stone, or a beam [of wood] or a similar object, and then recite.

Halacha 2

One should not recite the Shema in a bathhouse or latrine - even if there is no fecal material in it - nor in a graveyard or next to a corpse. If he distances himself four cubits from the grave or the corpse, he is permitted to recite it. Anyone who recites in an improper place must recite the Shema again.

Halacha 3

The Shema may be recited facing, but not inside, a latrine that has been newly built, but not used as of yet. [In contrast,] the Shema may be recited in a new bathhouse.

In the case of two buildings, one of which was designated for use as a latrine and, concerning the other, the owner said: "And this..." - a doubt remains regarding the latter: whether it also was appropriated for a similar use or not.

Therefore, one should not deliberately recite the Shema there. However, after the fact, if he recited it there, he has fulfilled his obligation.

If the owner said: "Also this," both have been designated for this use, and the Shema may not be recited in them.

It is permissible to recite the Shema in the courtyard of the bathhouse, i.e., the place where people stand clothed.

Halacha 4

Not only Kri'at Shema, but nothing pertaining to matters of sanctity may be uttered in a bathhouse or latrine, even in a language other than Hebrew.

Not only speech, but even thoughts pertaining to the words of Torah are forbidden in a bathhouse, latrine or other unclean places - i.e., a place where feces or urine is found.

Halacha 5

Secular matters may be discussed in a latrine, even in Hebrew. Similarly, the terms used to express Divine attributes, such as merciful, gracious, faithful and the like, may be uttered in a latrine.

However, the specific names of the Almighty - i.e., those which may not be erased - may not be mentioned in a latrine or bathhouse that has been used. If a situation arises where it is necessary to restrain someone from wrongdoing, this should be done, even in Hebrew and even concerning matters of sanctity.

Halacha 6

The Shema may not be recited in the presence of human feces, or in the presence of dog or pig excrement while skins are soaking in it, or in the presence of any other feces like these that have a foul odor. This is also the case regarding human urine, but not animal urine.

One need not distance oneself from the feces or urine of a child unable to eat the weight of an olive of grain cereal, in the time in which an adult could eat an amount equivalent to the weight of three eggs.

Halacha 7

One may not recite the Shema next to feces, even if they are as dry as a shard. However, if they were so dry that, if thrown away, they would crumble, one may recite the Shema facing them.

If urine that has been soaked up into the ground is still sufficiently wet to moisten one's hand, the Shema should not be recited facing it. If it has dried sufficiently, the Shema may be recited.

Halacha 8

How far must a person distance himself from feces or urine in order to recite the Shema? Four cubits. This applies when they are at his side or behind him, but if they are in front of him, he should move until he cannot see them, and then recite [the Shema].

Halacha 9

When does the above apply? When he is in an enclosure with them, and they are on the same level. However, if they are 10 handbreadths higher or lower than he, he may sit next to them and recite the Shema, since there is a space separating them.

The above applies provided no foul smell reaches him. Similarly, if he were to cover the feces or urine with a vessel, it would be considered as buried, even though it would still be in the room, and it is permitted to recite [the Shema] next to it.

Halacha 10

A person who is separated from feces by a glass partition, may recite the Shema next to them even if he can still see them. If a quarter log of water is added to the urine of one micturition, the Shema may be recited within four cubits of it.

Halacha 11

If feces are found in a hole in the ground, a person may stand with his shoe over the hole and recite the Shema. However, his shoe may not touch the feces.

If one finds very small feces, the size of a drop, he may expectorate thick saliva upon it to cover it, and then recite the Shema.

When there is a residue of feces on one's skin or one's hands are dirty from the washroom, if - because of the small quantity or its dryness - there is no foul odor, he may recite the Shema, since there is no foul odor.

However, if it is still in its place, even if not visible when he stands, since it is visible when he sits, he is forbidden to recite the Shema until he cleans himself very well. This is because of the moist nature and foul smell of the feces.

Many Geonim taught that one is forbidden to recite the Shema if one's hands are soiled, and it is proper to heed their teaching.

Halacha 12

[When the source of] a foul odor has substance, one may distance himself four cubits and recite the Shema provided the odor has subsided. If it has not subsided, he should distance himself further until it ceases.

If [the odor] is not emanating from an actual substance - e.g., it is the result of someone passing gas - he should distance himself until the odor ceases and [then] recite.

It is forbidden to recite the Shema in front of a cesspool or chamber pot, even if it is empty and has no foul smell, as it is similar to a latrine.

Halacha 13

It is forbidden to recite the Shema while facing moving excreta - e.g., excreta floating on the water. The mouth of a pig is regarded as moving excreta. Therefore, the Shema may not be recited facing it, until it has moved four cubits away.

Halacha 14

A person who reaches an unclean place while he is walking and reciting the Shema, should not place his hand over his mouth and [continue] his recitation. Rather, he should stop reciting until he has passed this particular place.

Similarly, if one is reciting [the Shema] and passes gas, he should stop until the odor subsides and resume his recitation afterwards. The same applies to one studying Torah.

When another person passes gas, even though one should stop reciting the Shema, he need not interrupt his Torah study.

Halacha 15

A person is permitted to continue reciting the Shema if a doubt arises whether feces or urine is found in the house in which he is located.

In contrast, a person reading the Shema in a garbage heap is not permitted to continue reading if a doubt arises regarding the presence of feces until he checks [that it is clean] because a garbage heap may be presumed to contain feces. If the doubt exists only regarding urine, however, the Shema may be recited even in a garbage heap.

Halacha 16

Just as it is forbidden to recite the Shema where there are feces or urine until one distances himself from it, so, too, the Shema may not be recited in the presence of nakedness, unless one turns his face away.

This applies also to a non-Jew or a child. Even if a glass partition separates him from them - since he sees them - he must turn his face away in order to recite the Shema.

Any part of a woman's body is regarded as ervah. Therefore, one should not gaze at a woman, even his wife, while reciting the Shema. If even a handbreadth of her body is uncovered, he should not recite the Shema facing her.

Halacha 17

Just as one may not recite the Shema in the presence of another's nakedness, so, too, is he forbidden to do so when he himself is naked. Therefore, one may not recite the Shema when he is naked until he covers his nakedness.

If his loins are covered with cloth, leather or sack, even though the rest of his body is exposed, he may recite the Shema, as long as his heel does not touch his genitalia.

If he is lying under his sheet, but is otherwise naked, he should make a separation by placing his sheet below his heart, and [then] recite the Shema. He should not, however, make a separation from his neck [downward] and recite, because his heart will see his nakedness, and it is as if he is reciting without any loin covering.

Halacha 18

When two people are lying under one sheet, each is forbidden to recite the Shema even if he has covered himself below his heart, unless the sheet also separates between them in a manner that prevents their bodies from touching from the loins downward.

If he is sleeping with his wife, children or other young members of his household, their bodies are considered like his own, and he is not affected by them. Therefore, even though his body is touching theirs, he may turn away his face, separate below his heart and recite [the Shema].

Halacha 19

Until when is one considered a child concerning this matter? A boy, until 12 years and one day; a girl, until 11 years and one day.

[When they reach that age, they are only excluded when] their physical characteristics are like those of adults - i.e., developed breasts and pubic hair. From this time onwards, one may not recite the Shema unless he has first separated himself from them with the sheet.

However, if they have not yet developed breasts or pubic hair, he may still recite [the Shema while lying] in physical contact with them, and need not separate from them until the boy is 13 years and one day, and the girl 12 years and one day.

Commentary Halacha 1

One who recites the Shema should wash his hands with water - Rabbi Yochanan says: A person who wants to accept upon himself the kingship of Heaven in the most complete fashion should see to his bodily needs, wash his hands, put on tefillin, recite the Shema and pray. Rav Chiyya bar Abba equates this process with the building of the altar and the bringing of sacrifices, based on the verse in Psalms 26:6: "I wash my hands in innocence and I encompass Your altar, O God" (Berachot 14a-15a).

before reciting it. - This is the case even if one's hands are not obviously dirty, because hands tend to touch the covered parts of one's body, and thus, require the washing of hands.

The Rambam holds that a blessing is recited after one washes one's hands before Kri'at Shema. (See Hilchot Berachot 6:2.) The requirement to wash our hands upon rising in the morning was established by the Sages as a preparation for Kri'at Shema and the Amidah. A blessing was instituted for this act and, therefore, a blessing is recited every time that one washes his hands before Kri'at Shema or the Amidah. (Rabbenu Asher also shares this position. See his notes to the ninth chapter of Berachot.)

The Rashba explains, however, that the blessing על נטילת ידים was instituted as one of the many blessings that one recites upon rising in the morning (ברכות השחר). In response to receiving anew his soul from Heaven, one is obligated to praise and thank God. In that context, the Sages also instituted the requirement that he sanctify himself for his day's worship, just as the priests in the Temple did - i.e., by washing his hands with water from a vessel. There is, however, no intrinsic connection between the washing of hands, and Kri'at Shema and the Amidah. Therefore, the blessing is recited only in the morning upon rising.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 92:5 and 233:2 agrees with the Rashba and does not require a blessing upon washing hands in preparation for Kri'at Shema and the Amidah. (See also Beit Yosef on Tur Orach Chayim 7, Magen Avraham, the Mishnah Berurah on Orach Chayim 4:1, and the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Orach Chayim 4:1.)

If the time for reciting the Shema arrives - See Chapter 1, Halachah 11. According to the Rambam's position, this refers to ten minutes before sunrise. The differing opinions will interpret it to mean that the third hour of the morning will soon pass.

and he cannot find water, he should not delay his recitation in order to search for water. - In contrast, in Hilchot Tefillah 4:2 and 4:3, the Rambam obligates one to travel a substantial distance (up to 4 kilometers) to find water in order to wash his hands before the Amidah. Rabbenu Manoach explains that, in the latter instance, the law is stricter because there is a longer time during which one may recite the Amidah - until the end of the fourth hour. Hence, we need not worry that he will miss the proper time.

The Kessef Mishneh adds that we are stricter regarding the time of Kri'at Shema since it is a Torah obligation. Were a person obligated to travel great distances in search of water, he might miss the proper time of Kri'at Shema simply in order to fulfill the Rabbinic ordinance regarding washing his hands.

Rather, he should clean his hands with earth, a stone, or a beam [of wood] - Berachot 15a explains that Psalms 26:6, the verse from which the obligation to wash is derived, does not state "I wash my hands in water," but rather binikayon, in innocence or cleanliness. Thus, anything useful for cleaning the hands may be used, although water is most preferable.

or a similar object, and then recite. - Berachot 15a uses the expression “anything that cleans.” Therefore, rough clothing is also useful for this purpose (Kessef Mishneh), as is cleaning one's hands by rubbing them against the wall (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 92:6).

Commentary Halacha 2

One should not recite the Shema in a bathhouse - When describing the proper environment for an army camp, Deuteronomy 23:15 states: "He shall not see any nakedness among you." Implied is that nakedness, and also a place where people undress even if no naked people are there, is not appropriate for "God to walk among you." Hence, neither Shema nor the Amidah can be recited there. See halachot 16-19.

or latrine - even if there is no fecal material in it - Berachot 26a and Shabbat 10a explain that even without the presence of fecal matter, a latrine is not a fit place for prayer.

nor in a graveyard or next to a corpse. - Berachot 18a. Proverbs 17:5 states: "The one who mocks the poor (rash) reproaches his Creator." The Talmud also explains that this term also refers to the dead and derives many halachot regarding conduct in the presence of a corpse from this verse. It is forbidden to wear tefillin or carry a Torah scroll in a graveyard, since one would, in a certain sense, be mocking the dead, who are unable to perform mitzvot. This is the case regarding Kri'at Shema also.

If he distances himself four cubits from the grave or the corpse, he is permitted to recite it. - Sotah 43b teaches us that a corpse "occupies" a space of four cubits regarding Kri'at Shema.

Anyone who recites in an improper place must recite the Shema again. - The Kessef Mishneh explains that the Rambam's position is based on the notion of קנסוהו רבנן i.e., that the Rabbis disallowed the Kri'at Shema even in a case where one was unaware of the impropriety of the place, so that people would exercise greater care in this matter.

The Ra'avad differs with one aspect of the Rambam's decision. He maintains that although it is certainly forbidden to read the Shema in the presence of a corpse or in a graveyard, the violation of this prohibition does not override the fact that one did recite the Shema. Therefore, he need not repeat it. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 71:7, agrees with the Rambam. (See the Mishnah Berurah also.)

Commentary Halacha 3

The Shema may be recited facing, but not inside,a latrine that has been newly built, but not used as of yet. - The designation alone of a building for such a purpose attaches a stigma to it such that it is unfit for the Shema to be recited inside it.

Shabbat 10a raises the question of praying in such a building and does not resolve the issue. The Ra'avad therefore disagrees with the Rambam and feels that such a doubt should be dealt with leniently - i.e., that we should allow one to pray inside such a building.

[In contrast,] the Shema may be recited in a new bathhouse. - Rav Adda bar Ahava states: "One may pray in a bathhouse." The Talmud explains that he was referring to a new bathhouse. Rashi explains that this means that it has been designated as such but no one has ever bathed there (Shabbat 10a).

The Sages felt the stigma attached to a bathhouse was not as severe as that attached to a latrine and hence, were more lenient.

In the case of two buildings, one of which was designated for use as a latrine and, concerning the other, the owner said: "And this..." - a doubt remains regarding the latter: whether it also was appropriated for a similar use or not. - Nedarim 7a mentions this case within the context of the Talmudic concept of yad (“a handle”) of a vow or other significant utterance. This term refers to expressions that are not completely self-explanatory and leave room for doubt. Just as the handle of a cup is not the essential part of the cup, and yet when one grabs the handle the whole cup itself follows, so, too, a statement can be made which in itself is incomplete or unclear, but seems to contain within it an intimation of a complete idea. In our case, it is unclear whether the word וזה refers also to a latrine or to another idea altogether.

Therefore, one should not deliberately recite the Shema there - since perhaps the expression וזה does indeed make it appear as if he actually said the word "latrine."

However, after the fact, if he recited it there, he has fulfilled his obligation. - Rav explains that this is based on the idea of ספק דרבנן לקולא (that a doubt concerning a rabbinic ordinance is dealt with leniently).

If the owner said "Also this," both have been designated for this use, and the Shema may not be recited in them. - Nedarim 7a deals explicitly with this case and understands "Also this" as clearly referring to a latrine.

It is permissible to recite the Shema in the courtyard of the bathhouse - In contrast to the previous cases in this halachah, this applies to the courtyard of a bathhouse which is being used.

i.e. the place where people stand clothed. - Shabbat 10a distinguishes between the middle room where some people are clothed and others naked, and the courtyard of the bathhouse, where everyone is clothed. Only there, in the courtyard, is one permitted to recite the Shema.In the middle room one is prohibited from reciting Kriat Shema even if there are no naked people there at the time (Shulchan Aruch HaRav Orach Chayim 84:1).

Commentary Halacha 4

Not only Kri'at Shema, but nothing pertaining to matters of sanctity - e.g., Torah study or prayers,

may be uttered in a bathhouse or latrine, even in a language other than Hebrew. - Berachot 24b quotes various verses which equate such utterances with very serious transgressions.

Not only speech but even thoughts pertaining to the words of Torah are forbidden in a bathhouse, latrine or other unclean places - Psalms 12:7 states: "The words of God are pure words." Therefore, it is improper for them to be uttered or contemplated in a place of filth (Sefer Chassidim 546).

i.e., a place where feces or urine is found. - Zevachim 102b relates that Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon thought of a halachah while at the latrine. The Talmud then asks how he could have done such a thing, since such thought is forbidden. They explain that a state that is unavoidable (anus is different.

Rashi explains that Rabbi Elazar was so immersed in his Torah study that he thought about it even against his will. Rabbenu Manoach quotes the Ra'avad as saying that in such a case, thoughts of Torah are permitted when at the latrine. Sefer Chassidim (loc. cit..) advises that people should force themselves to think of mundane matters in order to avoid thoughts of Torah in unclean places. (See Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 85.)

Commentary Halacha 5

Secular matters may be discussed in a latrine, even in Hebrew. - The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 85) quotes Sefer Chassidim (994) which states that one should accustom oneself to act piously and not speak Hebrew at the latrine. The Ramah (Orach Chayim 3:2) mentions that it is preferable not to speak at all at the latrine.

Similarly, the terms used to express Divine attributes, - The terms used to praise God, but which are not His specific names and may therefore be erased (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 6:5).

such as merciful, - רחום in Hebrew. The Ra'avad disagrees with the Rambam and states that since this attribute is used as a name only in relation to God, it may not be uttered in the latrine. Rabbenu Yonah quotes Psalms 112:4 as a source that uses the term רחום in relation to a righteous person, thereby refuting the Ra'avad. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 85:2 accepts the Rambam's position.

gracious, faithful and the like, may be uttered in a latrine. - when they are not used to refer to Him, but are mentioned in the course of one's speech.

However, the specific names of the Almighty i.e., those which may not be erased. - In Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah (ibid..) the Rambam gives a larger list than appears here and includes descriptive terms used to refer to God, e.g., the Great One, the Mighty One, and other names.

The Kessef Mishneh expresses surprise at the exclusion of the term שלום. Shabbat 10b explicitly mentions it as forbidden to be uttered in the bathhouse - all the more so at the latrine - since it is specifically used as a name of God (Judges 6:24). The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 95) also forbids the utterance of שלום in such places.

may not be mentioned in a latrine or bathhouse that has been used - This refers only to the bathhouse for these statements may not be recited in a latrine even though it has not been used.

If a situation arises where it is necessary to restrain someone from wrongdoing, this should be done, even in Hebrew and even concerning matters of sanctity. - Shabbat 40b quotes an instance in which Rabbi Meir explicitly mentioned a halachah in the bathhouse in order to stop a pupil from transgressing. Accordingly, it distinguishes between distancing someone from wrongdoing, which is permitted, and uttering other words of Torah, which is forbidden (as mentioned).

Commentary Halacha 6

The Shema may not be recited in the presence of human feces - even if it emits no foul odor. (See Rashi on Berachot 25a.)

or in the presence of dog or pig excrement while skins are soaking in it - Skins were frequently soaked in feces in the process of making them into leather.

Berachot 25a quotes two beraitot. One prohibits the Shema to be read near the excrement of dogs and pigs, and the other prohibits Kri'at Shema in the presence of these excrements only when skins are soaking in them. Ravvah prefers the second source, and the Rambam decides halachah in accordance with Ravvah's position.

Rashi explains that the idea of soaking skins applies only to the excrement of dogs and pigs, since it is a common practice to soak skins in them, but not to human feces, which is not used for such a purpose.

or in the presence of any other feces like these that have a foul odor. - This includes chicken or donkey dung (Kessef Mishneh based on the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 3:5).

This is also the case regarding human urine but not animal urine. - I.e., the Shema may be recited next to it. The Ra'avad disagrees with the Rambam and quotes the Jerusalem Talmud, which includes donkey urine as one of those items that prohibit Kri'at Shema. The Kessef Mishneh explains that the Talmud on which the Rambam based his decision most probably mentioned donkey dung (as mentioned in the previous comment) and not donkey urine. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:6 reflects the position of the Ra'avad.

Rabbenu Asher points out that the Rambam mentions animal urine alone as not being problematic, thereby indicating that animal dung (e.g., cow or horse excrement) would be problematic. Rabbenu Asher himself sees no room to prohibit animal dung, since it is never mentioned in the Talmud as problematic. The Kessef Mishneh holds that the Rambam's position is that animal dung is prohibited only if its smell causes discomfort, and that the extent of this discomfort is somewhat subjective. Therefore, the Rambam did not mention it explicitly.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:4 rules in accordance with this understanding of the Rambam. (This is not surprising, since the Kessef Mishneh and the Shulchan Aruch were both written by Rav Yosef Karo.)

One need not distance oneself from the feces or urine of a child unable to eat the weight of an olive, - The weight of a זית (an olive's size) cannot be determined by weighing an average olive today. Rather, it is dependent on the measure established by the Sages, and this is the subject of debate by the Rabbinic authorities. The Pri Chadash (Orach Chayim 486) explains that the Rambam considers an olive as one third the size of an egg (כביצה, a more familiar Talmudic measure). In terms of modern measurements, this olive size would be between 16.6 and 24 grams, according to various Halachic opinions.

Tosefot (Chullin 103a) differs, and defines a 18תיזכ (the size of an olive) as one half the size of an egg (between 25.6 and 36 grams according to the various opinions).

of grain cereal - There are five types of grain cereal - wheat, barley, oats, spelt and rye (See Hilchot Chametz U'Matzah 5:1).

in the time in which an adult could eat an amount equivalent to the weight of three eggs. - This measure (אכילת פרס in Hebrew) is significant in halachah. Just as the Torah requires a specific quantity, the size of an olive, as regards many of the mitzvot and prohibitions concerning eating, it also specifies a limited period in which this amount of food must be consumed: 18ידכ סרפáתליכא - the time it takes to eat this measure.

This measure is also a point of Rabbinic controversy. Here and in Hilchot Ma'achalot Asurot 14:8, the Rambam defines 18תליכא סרפ as three eggs. Rashi (Pesachim 44a) takes a more lenient view, defining it as four eggs.

This halachah is based on the principle that it is unnecessary to distance oneself from a child's feces or urine which does not have a foul odor. Thus while a child's sole source of nourishment is nursing, there is no prohibition. However, grains emit a foul odor after being digested (Rashi on Succah 42b). Therefore, once the child begins eating them, the Shema may not be recited in the soiled child's presence.

Commentary Halacha 7

One may not recite the Shema next to feces even if they are as dry as a shard. However, if they were so dry that if thrown away - Berachot 25a defines this as feces which when either: a) rolled, or b) thrown, they will not crumble. At such a time, they are regarded like a shard. The Rambam chooses the stricter of these two opinions - i.e., that if thrown it still retains its shape and is, therefore, forbidden (Kessef Mishneh).

it would crumble - Rabbenu Manoach states that it must really crumble and not just break into two pieces.

one may recite the Shema facing them. - However, if they still emit a foul odor, the Shema may not be recited next to them, as mentioned in Halachah 12 in regard to a foul smell emanating from a substance (Kessef Mishneh).

If urine that has been soaked up into the ground is still sufficiently wet to moisten one's hand, the Shema should not be recited facing it. - Berachot 25a-b records the disagreement between Rabbi Yosse and the Sages regarding the degree of moistness necessary to be problematic. The Sages require that the hand be moist enough so that it itself would dampen something it came into contact with, while Rabbi Yosse requires moisture only on the hand itself. The Rambam decides the halachah in accordance with the position of Rabbi Yosse.

If it has dried sufficiently, the Shema may be recited. - even if a mark is still visible on the ground (Berachot 25a).

Commentary Halacha 8

How far must a person distance himself from feces or urine in order to recite the Shema? Four cubits. - This halachah is based on the Mishnah (Berachot 22b). In modern measure, a cubit is 48 centimeters according to Shiurei Torah and 57.7 centimeters according to the Chazon Ish.

This applies when they are at his side or behind him, but if they are in front of him, he should move - Berachot 26a modifies the Mishnah quoted on 22b.

Ravvah says: "We learned (in our Mishnah) only regarding 'behind him,' but 'in front of him' - he should distance himself until he cannot see it."

The Rambam equates "its being at the side" with "behind him." The Kessef Mishneh suggests that this only applies when it is impossible to move in front of the feces. However, if he is able to walk in front of them, he must. Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:1 states simply that "to its being at the side" is equated with "behind him."

The Magen Avraham quotes the statement of the Kessef Mishneh and mentions that if the feces were at his side and slightly in front of him, they would be considered as if they were in front. Therefore, one would be required to move until they were out of sight.

until he cannot see them, and then recite [the Shema]. - Even at night, he must distance himself that amount that he would move away from them in the daytime (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:1). This is also the case with a blind person.

Commentary Halacha 9

When does the above apply? - i.e., that one must distance oneself four cubits from urine and feces.

when he is in an enclosure with them, and they are on the same level. However, if they are 10 handbreadths - i.e., approximately 80 centimeters according to Shiurei Torah or 96 centimeters according to the Chazon Ish.

higher or lower than he - he is considered to be in a different place, (Berachot 25b) and...

he may sit next to them and recite the Shema, since there is a space separating them. - Rabbenu Asher suggests that this leniency applies even if he can see the excrement. The Rashba, however, disagrees and states that if he can see it, he is forbidden to recite the Shema. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:2 quotes both positions. The Magen Avraham suggests that closing one's eyes would be enough to allow one to recite the Shema.

The above applies provided no foul smell reaches him. - This is not mentioned in the beraita in Berachot 25a. However, immediately after the halachah regarding separations, the beraita then states that a foul smell emanating from a solid substance prohibits recitation of the Shema. Hence, the Rambam associates the two halachot.

The Kessef Mishneh mentions that, based on the Rambam's position, one should be careful not to recite the Shema or pray in a house with a foul odor, even if the odor is emanating from a different house. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:2 quotes this, but also mentions the positions of Rabbenu Yonah and Rabbenu Asher, that a separation is sufficient even if an odor remains.

The Magen Avraham suggests that it is best to be strict in such a case. However, he grants one leniency. Generally, one must distance oneself from an odor even if he himself cannot smell it. However, in this instance, a lack of smell would be enough to permit the reading of the Shema.

Similarly, if he were to cover the feces or urine with a vessel, it would be considered as buried, even though it would still be in the room and it is permitted to recite [the Shema] next to it - See Berachot 25b.

Commentary Halacha 10

A person who is separated from feces by a glass partition, may recite the Shema next to them even if he can still see them. - Berachot 25b equates this with a case where the feces are covered.

If a quarter log of water - a רביעית whose modern equivalent is 86.4 cc according to Shiurei Torah and 150 cc according to Chazon Ish.

is added to the urine of one micturition, the Shema may be recited within four cubits of it. - I.e., regardless of the size of the micturition, one רביעית is sufficient (Kessef Mishneh).

Rabbenu Asher explains that the Rambam mentions explicitly one micturition in order to tell us that a רביעית must be added for each micturition - i.e., two revi'iot for two, three revi'iot for three, etc.

The Kessef Mishneh explains that there is no difference if the water is there before the micturition or is added afterwards.

Commentary Halacha 11

If feces are found in a hole in the ground - See Berachot 25b.

one may stand with his shoe over the hole and recite the Shema. - This is considered as a sufficient covering. We do not consider his sandal to be part of his body, in which case, the feces would not be considered covered.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 76:2 adds that there must be no foul smell from the צואה.

However, his shoe may not touch the feces. - After stating the halachah that one may put one's shoe on top of the hole in the ground, Berachot 25b questions the law when excreta is stuck to a person's shoe, and leaves the question unresolved (תיקו). Accordingly, the more stringent opinion is followed.

The Rambam explains that this applies if there is any contact between the shoe and the feces. However, the Ra'avad maintains that this only applies when the feces are actually stuck to the shoe. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (ibid..) 76:2 supports the Rambam's position.

If one finds very small feces, the size of a drop he should expectorate thick saliva upon it, to cover it, and then recite the Shema - See Berachot 25b.

If there is a residue of feces on one's skin or one's hands are dirty from the washroom, if - because of the small quantity or its dryness - there is no foul odor - Berachot 25a states simply “if there are feces on one's skin.” The Rambam explains this as referring to a residue of feces - i.e., a stain, with no actual substance.

Rabbenu Asher explains that this applies when there is actual substance on the person's skin, but it is covered by his clothing. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 76:4 reflects the understanding of Rabbenu Asher. However, the Magen Avraham favors the Rambam's position.

he may recite the Shema, since there is no foul odor. - This decision is disputed in Berachot, ibid.. Though most Halachic authorities accept the decision quoted by the Rambam, Rabbenu Chananel differs. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav 76:4 advises that one follow the opinion of Rabbenu Chananel.

However, if it is still in its place, - i.e., his anal opening

even if not visible when he stands, since it is visible when he sits he is forbidden to recite the Shema until he cleans himself very well. This is because of the moist nature and foul smell of the feces. - See Yoma 30a.

Many Geonim taught that one is forbidden to recite the Shema if one's hands are soiled - The position of Rabbenu Chananel mentioned above.

and it is proper to heed their teaching. -Even though in strict halachic terms one need not heed their teaching, it is fitting to do so, since it is improper to recite the Shema with dirty hands (Kessef Mishneh).

Commentary Halacha 12

[When the source of] a foul odor has substance - e.g., feces are found on the ground and a foul odor is emanating from them (Rashi, Berachot 25a).

one may distance himself four cubits and recite the Shema - Berachot 25a records a disagreement between Rav Huna and Rav Chisda. Rav Huna states that one must distance himself four cubits from such a substance. Rav Chisda requires that one must distance himself four cubits from the point where there is no foul smell.

The Rambam holds that the halachah follows Rav Huna. In the previous halachah, the Rambam also supported Rav Huna's position, since Rav Chisda was a student of Rav Huna and thus, of lesser stature. In contrast, the Ra'avad accepts Rav Chisda's position. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:1 quotes the Ra'avad's view.

provided the odor has subsided. - Rabbenu Manoach points out that this halachah applies only in the case where the substance is to his side or behind him. However, if the substance is in front of him, we have already learned in Halachah 8 that he must distance himself until he can no longer see it.

If it has not subsided, he should distance himself further until it ceases. - Rashi differs and explains that Rav Huna allows the Shema to be recited four cubits from the substance even if the odor has not subsided.

If [the odor] is not emanating from an actual substance - e.g., it is the result of someone passing gas - he - does not necessarily have to distance himself four cubits. Rather, he...

should distance himself until the odor ceases and [then] recite. - The Ra'avad also disagrees concerning this point and requires that one distance himself four cubits from the point at which the odor ceases. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid..) accepts the Ra'avad's position.

It is forbidden to recite the Shema in front of a cesspool or chamber pot, - in Hebrew גרף ועביט, both of which are clay vessels. גרף is used for excreta and עביט for urine (Rashi on Berachot 25b).

even if it is empty and has no foul smell as it is similar to a latrine. - Rashi (Berachot 25b) explains that since these two items are specifically designated for use with feces and urine, the Shemaámay not be recited next to them.

Among the present applications of this halachah is the need to distance oneself from a child's potty when reciting the Shema and other prayers even if it does not contain feces or urine.

Commentary Halacha 13

It is forbidden to recite the Shema while facing moving excreta - Berachot 25a mentions a difference of opinion between Ravvah and Abbaye about this case. Abbaye holds that one is permitted to recite the Shema next to moving excreta, while Ravvah forbids it.

[The Babylonian Talmud is so full of disagreements between these two Torah scholars that it is called the book of the arguments between Ravvah and Abbaye. Among all these arguments, the halachah reflects Abbaye's position only six times. Here, also, the halachah is in line with Ravvah's opinion.]

- e.g., excreta floating on the water. The mouth of a pig is regarded as moving excreta and, - Berachot 25a explains that even if the pig has just emerged from the water, it is forbidden to recite Kri'at Shema facing it. A pig is always rummaging around in garbage and excrement and, therefore, is judged as moving excreta at all times. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 76:3 explains that a pig has the halachic status of a cesspool.

therefore, the Shema may not be recited facing it, until it has moved four cubits away. - Some Rishonim distinguish between moving feces and a stationary substance since in the former case, the feces will continue to proceed further. This would appear to be the Rambam's opinion as obvious from the contrast between a stationary substance emitting a foul odor where we are required to distance ourselves until it is out of sight (Halachah 8) and this Halachah.

The Kessef Mishneh explains that there is no Talmudic source for this distinction. Therefore, he explains that there is no difference between stationary and moving feces and that this halachah only applies to feces which are behind one. If the feces are in front of one, the Shema cannot be recited until they move out of sight.

In the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 76:2, Rav Yosef Karo follows his explanation in the Kessef Mishneh. However, the Bach and the Magen Avraham (76:2) make the distinction between moving and stationary feces.

Commentary Halacha 14

A person who reaches an unclean place - I.e., a place where there is a foul odor emanating from excreta or urine.

while he is walking and reciting the Shema, should not place his hand over his mouth and [continue] his recitation. Rather, he should stop reciting until he has passed this particular place. - Berachot 24b relates:

Rav Huna said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: When one is walking in an unclean place, he may place his hand over his mouth and recite the Shema.
Rav Chisda said to him: My God - if Rabbi Yochanan himself said this to me I would not listen!"

The Hagahot Maimoniot and the Kessef Mishneh both explain that in this case, the Rambam supports the position of Rav Chisda over that of Rav Huna (as opposed to Halachot 12 and 13), because many other sages of the Gemara also accept the opinion of Rav Chisda.

Similarly, if one is reciting [the Shema] and passes gas, he should stop until the odor subsides - for this is an odor that does not emanate from a solid substance as first mentioned in Halachah 12. The Hebrew word באשה is based on Joel 2:20.

and resume his recitation afterwards.

The same applies to one studying Torah. - Berachot 25a equates the two.

When another person passes gas, even though one should stop reciting the Shema, he need not interrupt his Torah study. - Rashi (Berachot 25a) explains the distinction between Kri'at Shema and Torah study as follows: One may leave the room and continue reciting the Shema. Therefore, one is obligated to stop if he remains. In contrast, a person studying Torah needs his books and therefore, cannot continue studying if he leaves the room. Accordingly, he need not interrupt his studies.

This also explains the distinction between his own gas and that of a colleague. In the case of his gas, a person may leave for a moment and then return, but as the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 79:9 explains, we will not obligate a whole study hall to stop studying because of the gas of a few. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Orach Chayim 79:11) adds that this is considered as a factor beyond one's control, and, therefore, does not require the interruption of study.

The Magen Avraham (79:15) mentions that perhaps, if a person was studying alone and could leave the room in order to avoid the foul odor, he should do so. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav, however, makes no such distinction and also allows one to continue studying.

Commentary Halacha 15

A person is permitted to continue reciting the Shema if a doubt arises whether feces or urine is found in the house in which he is located - Rashi (Berachot 25a) explains that it is not a normal practice to leave such materials in a house. Therefore, we may assume that the house is clean.

In contrast, a person reading the Shema in a garbage heap is not permitted to continue reading if a doubt arises regarding the presence of feces until he checks [that it is clean] because a garbage heap may be presumed to contain feces. - This applies to a garbage heap that has no foul smell of its own, but a doubt arises regarding the presence, or lack of, of feces (Rabbenu Manoach).

If the doubt exists only regarding urine, however, the Shema may be recited even in a garbage heap. - The Torah forbids reciting holy matters only in the presence of urine while it is actually being expelled from the person. The Rabbis added an injunction prohibiting the recitation of the Shema in the presence of urine even after its expulsion. However, a doubt regarding such urine would produce a lenient halachic ruling, based on the principle ספק דרבנן לקולא - a doubt in a Rabbinic law produces a lenient response.

Commentary Halacha 16

Just as it is forbidden to recite the Shema where there are feces or urine until one distances himself from it, so, too, the Shema may not be recited in the presence of nakedness - The previous halachot in this chapter have dealt with the prohibition of reciting the Shema in the presence of unclean substances and foul odors. As mentioned, this is a Torah prohibition based on the verse (Deuteronomy 23:15): "And your camp must be holy."

The succeeding words in that verse - ולא יראה בך ערות דבר - "Let Him not see any nakedness among you" serve as the basis for halachot that follow in this chapter. These halachot deal with the impropriety of reciting the Shema in the presence of human nakedness.

unless he turns his face away. - Since the prohibition is based on the idea of לא יראה בך (It shall not be seen to you), sight, and not physical distance, is of primary importance.

This applies also to a non-Jew - See Berachot 25b. The Torah Temimah explains that this prohibition even applies regarding the nakedness of primitive peoples who carry on their daily affairs unclothed.

or a child - The Ramah mentions that until the age of 3 for a girl and 9 for a boy, the Shema may be recited in their presence if they are naked. However, other opinions are not that lenient and forbid recitation of holy words even in the presence of the nakedness of small children. See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 5:15.

Even if a glass partition separates him from them - since he sees them - he must turn his face away in order to recite the Shema. - Berachot 25b distinguishes between feces behind a glass partition, which is permitted (see Halachah 10) and nakedness, which is forbidden. Regarding feces, the Torah demands (Deuteronomy 23:14): “And you shall cover your excrement,” and a glass partition fulfills this function. However, the prohibition regarding nakedness is one of sight: לא יראה בך (It shall not be seen among you), and one sees through glass perfectly.

Any part of a woman's body - that is usually covered

is regarded as ervah. Therefore one should not gaze at a woman, even his wife, - with whom he is familiar, how much more so other women

while reciting the Shema. If even a handbreadth of her body is uncovered, he should not recite the Shema facing her. - Berachot 24a relates:

Rav Yitzchak says: A tefach (handbreadth) of a woman is ervah (nakedness).
With regard to what? With regard to gazing at it. Behold, Rav Sheshet says that anyone who stares even at the little finger of a woman is like one staring at her most private parts. Rather, it refers to his wife and to Kri'at Shema.

Rashi interprets this to mean that a man may not recite the Shema next to his wife if a handbreadth of her body is uncovered. Rabbenu Asher explains that this refers to any part of his wife's body that is usually covered and clothed.

Berachot also mentions a woman's hair and her voice as ervah.

The Lechem Mishneh interprets this passage to mean that since these restrictions were established with respect to one's wife, any part of the body of a woman other than his wife would be problematic. Thus, the Shema should not be recited in her presence.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 75:1 does not distinguish between a man's wife and another woman and forbids the recitation of the Shema if a handbreadth of their bodies which is usually covered is uncovered. However, the Ramah mentions the position that even less than a handbreadth of the body of a woman other than one's wife is considered as "nakedness."

Commentary Halacha 17

Just as one may not recite the Shema in the presence of another's nakedness, so, too, is he forbidden to do so when he himself is naked. - This is based on the concept that one's heart should not see his nakedness. This same principle is expressed in Chapter 2, Halachah 7.

Therefore, one may not recite the Shema when he is naked until he covers his nakedness. - For a man, this means covering his genitalia.

If his loins are covered with cloth, leather or sack, even though the rest of his body is exposed, - Though some of these portions of the body are normally covered, they are not considered as "nakedness." Hence...

he may recite the Shema, as long as his heel does not touch his genitalia. - I.e., when he is sitting with his feet tucked under himself.

Berachot 25b reports a disagreement as to whether a heel may "see" or touch ערוה, and rules that though the heel may see ערוה, it cannot touch it. The rationale for this distinction is that the Torah was not given to angels. Rashi explains that this implies that we cannot be expected to maintain such a formidable level of care, because we were created with physical nakedness against our wills.

Rabbenu Asher and Rabbenu Yonah suggest that no part of the body may touch one's genitalia during Kri'at Shema, and that the heel is given only as an example. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 74:5 accepts this position.

If he is lying under his sheet but is otherwise naked, he should make a separation - between his heart and his genitalia

by placing his sheet below his heart, and [then] recite the Shema. He should not, however, make a separation from his neck [downward] and recite, because his heart will see his nakedness, and it is as if he is reciting without any loin covering. - Berachot 24b relates:

One who is lying under his sheet and is unable to stick out his head because of the cold should separate himself by placing his sheet under his neck, and recite [the Shema]; there are those that say on his heart.

The Rambam and the vast majority of Rishonim follow the second position, because the first opinion does not take into account the rule “One's heart shall not see his nakedness.” If one is sleeping with no clothes on, he may separate the top half of his body from the lower half.

Commentary Halacha 18

When two people are lying under one sheet, - without clothing

each is forbidden to recite the Shema even if he has covered himself under his heart - and thus, his heart does not see his own nakedness.

unless the sheet also separates between them in a manner that prevents their bodies from touching - Berachot 24a records a difference of opinion between Rav Yosef and Shmuel. Both agree (as the Rambam states later in this halachah) that when sleeping in the same bed with his wife, one need only turn his face away from her in order to recite the Shema. However, Shmuel is of the opinion that this same halachah applies even if he were sleeping with a person other than his wife, while Rav Yosef feels that this dispensation is only granted in regard to one's wife.

Rashi explains the latter opinion as follows: Since a person is accustomed to being with his wife, lying with her will not prevent him from having proper intention while reciting the Shema. In contrast, when he lies with a person other than his wife, he must separate his body from that person's, lest the touching of their bodies distract him.

It is interesting to note that there is a clear dispute between the great rabbis of Spain and North Africa (Rabbenu Yitzchak Alfasi, the Rambam and their disciples) and the great rabbis of Germany and France (Tosafot, Rabbenu Asher, and their disciples) concerning this halachah.

The Rabbis of France rule that even when sleeping in the same bed as one's wife one must make a separation with the sheet before reciting the Shema. Rabbi Yitzchak explains that the halachah is not according to either Shmuel or Rav Yosef and it is reasonable to be particularly strict based on a beraitot quoted in the Berachot 24a. In contrast, the Rabbis of Spain follow the Rambam's view.

Generally, in such instances, the Shulchan Aruch will rule in accordance with the Rabbis of Spain, and the Ramah with the Rabbis of France. In this instance, the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 73:2, after quoting both positions, suggests that it is fitting to follow the ruling of the Rabbis of France.

from the loins downward. - in contrast, bodily contact above this point would not induce sexual thoughts.

The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 73:2) points out, regarding this halachah, that were one to separate himself from another with the sheet, he need not also turn his head away.

If he is sleeping with his wife, children or other young members of his household, - See the following Halachah for a definition of this term.

their bodies are like his own and he is not affected by them - i.e., he is familiar with them and sexual thoughts are not likely to be aroused.

Therefore, even though his body is touching theirs he may turn away his face, - The Magen Avraham 73:1 requires a person to turn away his whole body so that only the back of his body is touching them, lest he be bothered by sexual thoughts if the front of his body touches them.

separate below his heart - so that his heart will not see his own nakedness

and recite [the Shema].

Commentary Halacha 19

Until when is one considered a child concerning this matter? - Berachot 24a asks this question and offers three opinions, the first two quoted in the name of Rav Chisda. The first opinion is that a girl is considered a child until 3 years and one day, and a boy until 9 years and one day. Rashi explains that these are the ages at which their sexual activity is considered significant. The second position quoted in the name of Rav Chisda is....

A boy, until 12 years and one day; a girl, until 11 years and one day. - Rashi explains that these are the ages when puberty begins, and from this time onward, the youths become physically attractive. However, this opinion does not place any conditions on that age. The Rambam continues and makes that age conditional...

[When they reach that age, they are only excluded when] their physical characteristics are like those of adults - This represents the third position in the Talmud, which states that this matter in not dependent on age at all, but rather on physical maturity. Thus, the Rambam seems to develop his halachic ruling based on a combination of the latter two positions in the Talmud.

i.e., developed breasts and pubic hair. - Based on Ezekiel 16:7, Niddah 6:1 mentions these as signs of a woman's physical maturity. See also Hilchot Ishut, Chapter 2.

From this time onwards, he may not recite the Shema unless he has first separated himself from them with the sheet - as mentioned in the first clause of the previous halachah.

However, if they have not yet developed breasts or pubic hair, he may still recite [the Shema while lying] in physical contact with them, and need not separate from them - as mentioned in the second clause of the previous halachah.

until the boy is 13 years and one day, and the girl 12 years and one day. - At this point they are considered adults, even if they do not have the physical characteristics of adulthood. Rabbenu Asher quotes and supports the position of the Rambam.

Kri'at Shema - Chapter Four

Halacha 1

Women, slaves and children are exempt from Kri'at Shema. We should teach children to recite it at the proper time with the blessings before and after it, in order to educate them regarding the commandments.

One who is preoccupied and in an anxious state regarding a religious duty is exempt from all commandments, including Kri'at Shema. Therefore, a bridegroom whose bride is a virgin is exempt from Kri'at Shema until he has consummated the marriage, because he is distracted lest he not find her a virgin.

However, if he delays until Saturday night after the wedding and does not have relations with her, he is obligated to recite the Shema from that time onward, since his mind has settled and he is familiar with her even though they have not consummated the marriage.

Halacha 2

However, one who marries a woman who is not a virgin is obligated to recite the Shema, because even though he, too, is involved in the performance of a mitzvah, it is not so distracting. The same principle applies to similar cases.

Halacha 3

One who is bereaved of a relative for whom he is obligated to mourn is exempt from Kri'at Shema until he has buried him, because his attention is distracted from reciting [the Shema].

A person who is watching a body is also exempt, even if it is not the body of a relative. When there are two watchers, one should continue watching while the other withdraws and recites the Shema. [When the latter] returns, the other should depart and recite [the Shema].

A gravedigger is also exempt from Kri'at Shema.

Halacha 4

A body should not be taken out for burial close to the time for reciting the Shema, unless the deceased was a great man.

If they do begin to remove the deceased and the time for reciting the Shema arrives while they are accompanying the body, anyone required to [carry] the coffin - e.g., the bearers of the coffins and their replacements and those who, in turn, relieve the replacements - whether they are before the coffin or after it, are exempt [from Kri'at Shema].

The rest of those accompanying the body who are not required to [carry] the coffin are obligated [to recite the Shema].
125. Should they be involved in eulogies when the time for Kri'at Shema arrives, if they are in the presence of the deceased they should withdraw singly and recite, and then return to the eulogy.

If the deceased is not present, all the people should recite the Shema except the mourner, who remains silent, because he is not obligated to recite the Shema until he buries his relative.

Halacha 6

After the burial, the mourners return to receive condolences and the people follow them from the gravesite to the place where they form a line to receive condolences. If the people are able to start and finish even one verse [of Kri'at Shema] before they arrive at the line, they should do so. If not, they should not start until they have consoled the mourners.

After they have taken their leave they should commence reciting. Those standing in the inner line - i.e., they can see the faces of the mourners - are exempt from Kri'at Shema. Those at the outside, since they cannot see the mourner, are obligated to recite the Shema where they are.

Halacha 7

Anyone who has an exemption from Kri'at Shema, but nevertheless desires to be strict with himself and recite, may do so. This is conditional upon the fact that his mind is not distracted. However, if this exempted person is in a confused state, he is not permitted to recite [the Shema] until he composes himself.

Halacha 8

All those ritually impure are obligated to read the Shema and recite the blessings before and after it in their impure state. This applies even when it is possible for them to purify themselves that day - e.g., one who has touched [the carcass of] a שרץ (crawling animal), a menstrual woman, a זבה, or the couch on which these people have laid, and the like.

Ezra and his colleagues decreed that a man who had a seminal emission was forbidden to read the words of the Torah. Thus, they separated him from the other ritually impure until he immersed himself in a mikveh. This ordinance was not universally accepted among the Jewish people. Most were unable to observe it and it was therefore negated.

The Jewish people accepted the custom of reading the Torah and reciting the Shema even after a seminal emission, because the words of Torah cannot contract ritual impurity. Rather, they stand in their state of purity forever, as [Jeremiah 23:29] states: "Are not my words like fire, declares the Lord." Just as fire is incapable of becoming ritually impure, so, too, the words of Torah are never defiled.

Commentary Halacha 1

Women - Berachot 20b relates:

A woman's exemption from Kri'at Shema is obvious. It is a time-oriented commandment [i.e., the Shema must be recited at specific times and is thus classified as "time-oriented" (see Chapter 1, Halachot 9 to 13)], and women are exempt from all such commandments.
What might I have thought? That since [Kri'at Shema] contains the acceptance of the sovereignty of Heaven [even women would be called upon to recite it.
It [i.e., the Mishnah] teaches that this is not so and that women are indeed exempt from Kri'at Shema.

In terms of actual halachic ruling, the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 70:1 rules that although women have no obligation, even rabbinic, to recite the Shema, it is proper that they do so in order to accept upon themselves the yoke of the sovereignty of Heaven.

Women are also exempt from the blessings before Kri'at Shema, but are obligated to recite the blessings after it, because there is a mention of the Exodus from Egypt, which women are also obligated to remember and mention (Magen Avraham 70:1).

The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 70:1) also mentions that women may recite all the blessings of Kri'at Shema and adds that the women of his area (Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century) were accustomed to do so, and that they should be blessed for their meritorious actions.

The responsa, Yabia Omer (2:6), states that women of Sephardic origin are not accustomed to recite the blessings. However, Kaf HaChayim rules that they may.

slaves - This refers to Canaanite slaves who have been sold to a Jewish owner and are obligated by all the commandments that women are obligated to perform. A halachic comparison between the two is found in Chaggigah 4a and Kiddushin 23a.

The Jerusalem Talmud quotes a separate source for the exemption of slaves: "Hear O Israel, God our Lord, God is One" (Deuteronomy 6:4). He who has no master other than the Almighty [is obligated to recite the Shema], thus exempting the slave, who has another master.

Chaggigah 4a also derives the halachah in a similar fashion, albeit from a different verse.

and children - I.e., boys under the age of 13 years and one day. They are minors and exempt from all the Torah's commandments.

We should teach children to recite it at the proper time - The latter point represents a difference in opinion between Rashi and the Rambam. The Mishnah, Berachot 20a, states that children are free from the obligation to recite the Shema. Rashi states that they are entirely free of obligation even according to Rabbinic law because their parents may not be available at the specific times at which the Shema must be recited.

The Rambam and Rabbenu Tam differ and maintain that the mishnah is only referring to the obligations according to Torah law, but according to Rabbinic decree they are obligated. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 70:2 rules in accordance with the Rambam and Rabbenu Tam.

with the blessings before and after it, in order to educate them regarding commandments - - According to Rashi (Berachot 48a) and the Ramban (Milchamot Hashem, Berachot 20b), there is no obligation incumbent on the child himself. Rather, the child's father is obligated to educate him. If he has no father, the obligation falls on his mother and on the local Rabbinic court (Terumat Hadeshen 99).

Tosafot (Berachot 48a) differs and explains that the Sages placed the obligation on the minor himself. Support for this premise can be derived from the Rambam's decision in Hilchot Berachot 5:15-16, which states that an adult who ate a small meal can fulfill his obligation to recite grace by listening to a child reciting those blessings (for both are obligated by virtue of Rabbinic decree). Though others object on the grounds that the child himself is not obligated in the mitzvah, the Rambam states that such a practice is acceptable.

One who is preoccupied and in an anxious state regarding a religious duty - Berachot 16b differentiates between a bridegroom, who is exempt because of his involvement in a mitzvah, and one whose ship is sinking in the sea. Though the latter individual is also anxious, he is obligated to recite the Shema, because his preoccupation is not with regard to a commandment.

is exempt from all commandments - This is based on the principle - העוסק במצוה פטור מן המצוה - One who is involved in one commandment is exempt from another (Sukkah 25a, Sotah 44b).

including Kri'at Shema. - I.e., even though it contains an acceptance of the yoke of the sovereignty of Heaven, he is still exempt.

The phrase, Deuteronomy 6:7, ובשבתך בביתך (and while you are sitting in your house) implies that the obligation is only incumbent on someone who is involved in his own personal affairs - "your house." Thus, it excludes one who is involved in the performance of a mitzvah (Berachot 11a and 16a).

Therefore, a bridegroom whose bride is a virgin is exempt from Kri'at Shema until he has consummated the marriage - The Mishnah, Berachot 16a, explains the derivation of the bridegroom's exemption. The phrase ובלכתך בדרך - "and as you go in your way" implies that the obligation to recite the Shema only applies to someone going on "your way," i.e., involved in his own personal affairs and not preoccupied with the fulfillment of a mitzvah as is a bridegroom. [In his commentary on that Mishnah, the Rambam mentions that the bridegroom is involved in the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying.]

Rashi explains that this concept could not be derived from the phrase בשבתך בביתך - "and while you are sitting in your house" because if there were only one verse, one would have thought that only one who is actually involved in the performance of a commandment is exempted. Thus, an additional phrase is necessary to exempt a bridegroom, who though not immediately involved in the performance of the mitzvah is in an anxious state, because of the possible problems inherent in the overall situation.

because he is distracted lest he not find her a virgin. - as explained above. Rabbenu Manoach writes in the name of the Ra'avad that the bridegroom is exempt from Kri'at Shema only if he is able to have relations with his wife. However, if she is menstruating or sick, he is obligated to recite the Shema.

Rabbenu Manoach also discusses the different views regarding the bridegroom's obligation to recite the Shema during the day if he does not engage in relations the first night. He concludes that he should be obligated since "the Jews are a holy people and the bridegroom will be able to divert his thoughts from his wife and concentrate on reciting the Shema."

And if he delays until Saturday night after the wedding - This is dependent on the Talmudic custom (Ketubot 2a), which relates that virgins would marry on Wednesday night.

and does not have relations with her, he is obligated to recite the Shema from that time onward, since - he has waited this long, we can assume that...

his mind has settled and he is familiar with her even though they have not consummated the marriage. - I.e., he is no longer nervous and distracted and can be expected to recite the Shema with the proper intention. In his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam mentions that by this time, his all-consuming desire to consummate the marriage has passed.

In this instance, the actual halachah does not reflect the Rambam's position. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 70:3, mentions that bridegrooms were originally exempt from Kri'at Shema the first three days (i.e., days and nights) after the wedding. However, today, because of the general lack of intention that everyone has regarding Kri'at Shema, even the bridegroom is obligated to recite the Shema.

The Mishnah Berurah (70:14) adds that a bridegroom who does not recite the Shema appears haughty, because his actions appear to imply that he usually has a high level of intentions. The bridegroom is also obligated to recite the blessings before and after Kri'at Shema and to pray as usual (Magen Avraham; Mishnah Berurah). These positions are based on Tosafot in Berachot 17b.

Commentary Halacha 2

However, one who marries a woman who is not a virgin is obligated to recite the Shema, - on his wedding night

because even though he, too, is involved in the performance of a mitzvah, - the mitzvah of procreation

it is not so distracting. - for there is no question of the woman's virginity.

The same principle applies to similar cases.

Commentary Halacha 3

One who is bereaved of a relative for whom he is obligated to mourn - Leviticus 21:2-3 mentions the six relatives for whom a person is obligated to mourn: a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister. The Rabbis also added the obligation to mourn for one's wife or husband. See Hilchot Eivel 2:1.

is exempt from Kri'at Shema - and all the other mitzvot of the Torah (Hilchot Eivel 4:6).

until he has buried him - The Mishnah, Berachot 17b, states that one who has his dead one "lying in front of him" is exempt from Kri'at Shema. The Talmud (ibid. 18a) explains that any relative waiting to be buried is considered to be "lying in front of him." This is derived from Abraham's characterization of Sarah as being in front of him (Genesis 23:4), even though her body was not physically present.

because his attention is distracted from reciting [the Shema]. - I.e., even if he is not necessarily involved in dealing with the arrangements for the burial or the burial itself, he is exempt, because his mind is distracted (Kessef Mishneh).

The Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 3:1) derives this halachah from Deuteronomy 16:3: "to remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life." This implies "days that you are involved with the living and not days in which you are involved with the dead." Since the obligation to remember the Exodus (an integral part of Kri'at Shema - see Chapter 1, Halachot 2 and 3) does not apply on those days when one is involved in dealing with the burial of one's loved ones, one is also exempted from reciting the Shema.

Sukkah 25a explains that the exemption of a mourner cannot be derived from that of a bridegroom mentioned in Halachah 1. A bridegroom's lack of concentration stems from his involvement with a mitzvah. In contrast, the mourner's inability to concentrate is a personal matter. Rashi elaborates: Though mourning is a mitzvah, the pain associated with mourning is not.

The Jerusalem Talmud notes that a mourner should not voluntarily recite the Shema. It is a sign of disrespect to the departed for their relatives to recite the Shema before they have been buried.

A person who is watching the body - I.e., guarding the body from an animal or other damage. (See Berachot 18a.)

is also exempt, even if it is not the body of a relative - Since a person involved in one commandment is exempt from another. (See the commentary on Halachah 1.)

When there are two watchers, one should continue watching while the other withdraws and recites the Shema. [When the latter] returns, the other should depart and recite [the Shema]. - As opposed to the actual mourners, the guards are obligated to recite the Shema if they are able to. Their exemption is not based on their distracted condition, but on their involvement in the commandment. Therefore, if another is able to guard the body for a few moments, the guard must recite the Shema. However, if there is no one to relieve the guard, he is not allowed to recite the Shema (Mishnah Berurah on the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 71:3).

The watchers must remove themselves in order not to recite the Shema within 6 feet of the dead person. (See Chapter 3, Halachah 2 and commentary.)

A gravedigger is also exempt from Kri'at Shema. - See Berachot 14b. His exemption is also based on the principle that one involved in a commandment is exempt from another. The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 71:5) points out that even while he is resting for a few moments, the gravedigger is still exempt, because his resting is also part of the mitzvah, since by resting he gains strength to continue his task.

Commentary Halacha 4

A body should not be taken out for burial close to the time for reciting the Shema - Rashi, Berachot 19a, explains that doing so will prevent many people from reciting the Shema.

unless the deceased was a great man. - Berachot, ibid., questions the above statement, noting that when Rav Yosef died he was taken out for burial close to the time of Kri'at Shema. The Talmud answers that a great man is different - i.e., for a man of Rav Yosef's stature, even Kri'at Shema is postponed in order to honor his greatness.

Neither Rav Yitzchak Alfasi or Rabbenu Asher mentions this passage, indicating that they do not feel that it is halachically relevant. The Tur (Orach Chayim 72) mentions the Rambam's view, but adds that his father, Rabbenu Asher, did not differentiate between important and normal people.

The Beit Yosef explains that, at present, there is no person of a stature that we would not delay his burial in order to recite the Shema at its proper time. Therefore, the halachah is not in force. The Shulchan Aruch also omits reference to it.

The Magen Avraham mentions that the prohibition against burying someone close to the time of Kri'at Shema relates only to Kri'at Shema in the morning. However, in the early evening, one should first bury the body and then recite the Shema, or recite the Shema early enough to allow the burial to take place before nightfall so that the person will be buried as close to the day of his death as possible.

If they do begin to remove the deceased and the time for reciting the Shema arrives while they are accompanying the body, - to the burial

anyone required to [carry] the coffin - e.g., the bearers of the coffin and their replacements and those who, in turn, relieve the replacements, whether they are before the coffin - I.e., they have yet to carry it

or after it - I.e., they have already carried it. It is customary for several people to carry the coffin, in order to involve themselves in the mitzvah.

are exempt [from Kri'at Shema] - The Mishnah, Berachot 17b, states:

The bearers of the coffin, their replacements and those who in turn will relieve the replacements, the ones before the coffin and the ones after the coffin - the ones who are before it and are required to [carry] the coffin are exempt. Those who are after it, even if they are required to [carry] the coffin, are obligated [to recite the Shema]."

This certainly seems to differentiate between those before and after the coffin, and indicates clearly that those who have already carried the coffin are indeed obligated to recite the Shema, unlike the halachah written by the Rambam.

Rashi explains that those who have already carried the coffin are obligated to recite the Shema, even though they may be needed to carry it again, because they have already fulfilled their obligation.

There is, however, another version of the Mishnah. See Tosafot in Berachot 17b and most printed versions of the Mishnah (Rabbinic edition, Kahati, Mossad Harav Kook edition of the Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah). It states:

The bearers of the coffin and their replacements and those who in turn will relieve the replacements, the ones before the coffin and the ones after the coffin - the ones who are required to [carry] the coffin - are exempt. And those who are not required to [carry] the coffin are obligated to recite the Shema."

The Mishnah in this form can serve as the source for the Rambam's halachah. The "are exempt" term in the halachah refers back to all the cases written before it, including "the ones after the coffin."

The difference in the original Hebrew versions of the Mishnah is simply one word. Rashi's version:
ואת שלאחר המטה את שלפני המטה צורך בהם פטורים
the Rambam's version:
ואת שלאחר המטה שלמטה צורך בהם פטורים.

The rest of those accompanying the body who are not required to [carry] the coffin are obligated [to recite the Shema], - because, as stated in the Mishnah: "And those who are not required to [carry] the coffin are obligated to recite the Shema." The people are accompanying the body simply as a token of honor for the dead person, but are not occupied in the performance of a mitzvah such that they would be exempt from Kri'at Shema. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 72:1 and Yoreh De'ah 358:1 quote the Rambam's position.

Commentary Halacha 5

Should they be involved in eulogies when the time for Kri'at Shema arrives - See Berachot 19a.

if they are in the presence of the deceased they should withdraw - in order not to recite the Shema in his presence (See Halachah 3)

singly and recite, - but not all at once, because this is lacking in respect for the deceased.

and then return to the eulogy.

If the deceased is not present, all the people should recite the Shema - I.e., there is then no problem of embarrassing the dead by performing commandments.

except the mourner, who remains silent, because he is not obligated to recite the Shema until he buries his relative. - This halachah also underscores the fact that the exception for mourners is not conditional on their involvement in the care for the deceased. In our case, the deceased is not present and the mourner is sitting silent, and yet he is still not obligated because of his distracted state (see Halachah 3).

Commentary Halacha 6

After the burial, when the mourners return to receive condolences and the people follow them from the gravesite to the place where they form a line to receive condolences. - The people form a שורה - a line (or lines) around the mourners. Afterwards, they offer their condolences one by one, as they pass before the mourners (Hilchot Aivel 13:1,2). Others interpret the שורה as two lines facing each other. The mourners then walk between these two lines, and as they pass, the people offer their condolences.

The people are generally accustomed to say: May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

If the people are able to start and finish even one verse [of Kri'at Shema] before they arrive at the line, - directly before the mourners

they should do so. If not, they should not start - the recitation of the Shema.

The above is conditional upon there being enough time afterwards to recite the Shema. However, if the third hour is passing, the Shema should be recited immediately (Kessef Mishneh). The Ramah quotes this halachah in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 72:4. The Magen Avraham explains that one is allowed to recite the Shema before comforting the mourners, because he has not yet begun performing the mitzvah of comforting them.

until they have consoled the mourners. After they have taken their leave, they should commence reciting. - Rabbenu Yonah explains that not only the burial of the dead, but also the consoling of the mourners is part of the commandment of גמילות חסדים (acts of lovingkindness). In his commentary on Mishnah Pe'ah 1:1, the Rambam divides acts of lovingkindness into two categories: a) those one does with his money, such as charity,
b) those one does with his body - e.g., comforting mourners and accompanying the dead to burial.

Rabbenu Yonah states explicitly that this is a Torah commandment. The Rambam, however, is of the opinion that burying the dead, comforting the mourners, and all acts of lovingkindness are Rabbinic commandments. In Hilchot Eivel 14:1, he writes:

It is a positive commandment of Rabbinic origin to visit the sick, comfort those mourning, take out the dead, bring in the bride, accompany guests [from your house] and to involve oneself in those things necessary for burial - i.e., to carry [the coffin] on his shoulders, to walk before him, to eulogize him, to dig [the grave] and to bury him.

The Rambam's classification of these commandments as of Rabbinic origin creates a problem for us. How are we to understand the halachot we have just learned?

The Rambam has taught us that those involved in the burial of the dead and the comforting of the mourners are exempt from reciting the Shema, based on the principle that those involved in the performance of one commandment are exempt from another. According to Rabbenu Yonah, who understands גמילות חסד (acts of lovingkindness) to be Torah commandments, this is easily comprehended. However, according to the Rambam, how can involvement in a Rabbinic commandment exempt one from the fulfillment of a Torah obligation, especially one as central as Kri'at Shema?

The answer to this question depends on the continuation of Hilchot Eivel, ibid.:

Even though all these commandments are of Rabbinic origin, they are included [in the command] ואהבת לרעך כמוך (Love your fellow as yourself, Leviticus 19:18). All those things that you would want others to do for you in the realm of Torah and commandments, you should do for your colleague.

Thus, the Rabbinic commandments regarding acts of lovingkindness are the specific ways established by the sages to express the Torah commandment of "Love your fellow as yourself." Accordingly, although these commandments are Rabbinic in origin, since their ultimate source is found in a Torah commandment, the rule that "one performing one commandment is exempt from another" applies to them as well.

Those standing in the inner line - i.e., they can see the faces of the mourners - are exempt from Kri'at Shema. Those at the outside, since they cannot see the mourner, are obligated to recite the Shema where they are. - This is in accordance with the beraita quoted in Berachot 19b. The Ra'avad understands, however, that the words "inner line" in the beraita refer to the inner circle - i.e., the family of the mourners. It is the Rambam's position which is most widely accepted.

Commentary Halacha 7

Anyone who has an exemption from Kri'at Shema but nevertheless desires to be strict with himself and recite, may do so. - The Mishnah (Berachot 16b) records a difference of opinion whether a bridegroom may recite the Shema on the first night or not.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel states: "Not everyone who wants to take the name may take it," (i.e., not everyone may pronounce God's name whenever he pleases). The Sages differ and allow the Shema's recitation.

This is conditional upon the fact that his mind is not distracted. - The Sages maintain that a person has the potential to compose himself to the extent that he can recite the Shema with proper intention. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel maintains that this is not possible for most people. Indeed, a person who does so is considered tobe acting haughtily, implying that he has the power to concentrate when most people cannot.

However, if this exempted person is in a confused state, he is not permitted to recite [the Shema] until he composes himself. - If he cannot compose himself, even the Sages agree that the Shema should not be recited.

The Rambam follows the majority position of the Sages. Rabbenu Asher accepts the opinion of Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel. However, Tosafot (ibid. 17b) explains that at present, our level of concentration has changed and all bridegrooms should recite the Shema. Any bridegroom who does not recite the Shema would be acting haughtily by intimating that usually he has a very high level of concentration. The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 70:3 accepts Tosafot's position. (See also the commentary on Halachah 2.)

As mentioned above, a mourner should not recite the Shema for it is disrespectful to the deceased to imply that one could still concentrate on the Shema despite their passing.

Commentary Halacha 8

All those ritually impure are obligated to read the Shema and recite the blessings before and after it in their impure state. - The Mishnah (Berachot 26a) mentions a difference of opinion concerning this issue and the Rambam accepts the more lenient view.

This applies even when it is possible for them to purify themselves - by immersing in the mikveh

that day - before the time for the Shema passes. It is not necessary to make that effort and the person may recite the Shema in an impure state.

e.g., one who has touched [the carcass of a] a sheretz (crawling animal), - Leviticus 11:39 deems such a person as ritually impure.

a menstrual woman - Leviticus 15:19 states that not only a menstrual women, but anyone or anything she touches contracts ritual impurity.

a זבה - The term refers to a woman with a venereal disease similar to syphliss or gonorrhea. Leviticus 15:25 equates the ritual impurity of such a woman with that of a menstrual woman.

or the couch on which these people have laid, - See Leviticus 15:10 which explains that even that which is sat upon by someone impure, may not be touched.

and the like. - e.g., one who touches either a man with discharges or someone who contracts ritual impurity by contact with a corpse.

Ezra and his colleagues decreed that a man who had a seminal emission - Leviticus 15:16 deems such a person as ritually impure. However, as above, that would not effect his ability to read the Shema.

was forbidden to read the words of the Torah. - This decree was one of 10 decrees issued by Ezra's court (Bava Kama 82a.).

Berachot 22a explains that the decree mentioned in our halachah was designed to restrain somewhat the physical relationships of the Torah scholars with their wives.

Thus, they separated him from the other ritually impure - who were not prevented from reading the Shema.

until he immersed himself in a mikveh. - Berachot 22a relates that since this was only a Rabbinic decree, certain leniencies could be observed regarding this immersion.

This ordinance was not universally accepted among the Jewish people. Most were unable to observe it - See also Hilchot Tefillah 4:4-6 and commentary.

It must be emphasized that though there is no need to immerse oneself in a mikveh, it is necessary to wash for it is forbidden to recite words of Torah with any traces of semen on his body. See Ramah, Orach Chayim 76:4.

and it was therefore negated. - i.e., because of the inability of the Jewish people to maintain this very high level of purity, the decree was never really accepted as law.

This explanation is significant. The Mishnah (Eduyot 1:5) teaches us that a court does not have the jurisdiction to override the ruling of another court unless it is greater in wisdom and number - i.e., unless the scholars are of a greater stature and more numerous. There was no later court with the stature of Ezra's, and, therefore, no one had the authority to abolish Ezra's ruling (Kessef Mishneh).

The Jewish people accepted the custom of reading the Torah - Berachot 22a relates that one of Rabbi Yehudah ben Beteira's students was mumbling his words. When asked by Rabbi Yehudah to explain his behavior, he stated that he not been able to immerse himself after having a seminal emission. Rabbi Yehudah told him to speak up without embarrassment for the words of Torah cannot contract ritual impurity.

and reciting the Shema even after a seminal emission, because the words of Torah cannot contract ritual impurity. - I.e., even one in a state of ritual impurity may involve himself in Torah study and prayer, because the Torah is unaffected by his impurity (Berachot, ibid.).

The Kessef Mishneh differentiates between physical filth, which renders the recitation of the Shema impossible (as we learned in Chapter 3), and ritual impurity, which does not affect it.

Our awareness of the presence of physical filth produces a subjective response to its somewhat disgusting nature. This response, in turn, has ramifications regarding the honor of the Torah studied in such a place. Ritual impurity is, however, a wholly metaphysical reality, and that particular reality has no ability to affect the Torah.

Rather, they stand in their state of purity forever, as [Jeremiah 23:29] states: "Are not my words like fire, declares the Lord." - Thus, the differentiation made above has its basis, not on human logic, but on Divine decree. Deuteronomy 23:13 teaches: "And your camp shall be holy," forbidding the recitation of the Shema in the presence of physical filth. In contrast, the verse from Jeremiah quoted above clearly implies the inability of ritual impurity to exert its influence over the words of Torah (Kessef Mishneh).

Just as fire is incapable of becoming ritually impure, so, too, the words of Torah are never defiled. - This decision alludes to a fundamental concept regarding the nature of Torah study. On one hand, we see Torah study as being associated with the student, as obvious from the law, Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:11, that allows a Torah scholar to forgo the honor due him. Although that honor is not being paid to him personally, but to the Torah knowledge he possesses, that Torah is considered his to the extent that he can forego the honor. Nevertheless, even while Torah is associated with the person studying it, its essential Godly nature remains intact to the extent that it cannot contract ritual impurity.

Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter One

HILCHOT TEFILLAH U'VIRKAT COHANIM

The Laws of Prayer and the Priestly Blessing

[This text describes] two positive commandments:
a) Serving God daily with prayer;
b) For the priests to bless the Jewish People each day.
The elucidation of these two commandments is contained in the following chapters:

Halacha 1

It is a positive Torah commandment to pray every day, as [Exodus 23:25] states: "You shall serve God, your Lord." Tradition teaches us that this service is prayer, as [Deuteronomy 11:13] states: "And serve Him with all your heart" and our Sages said: Which is the service of the heart? This is prayer.

The number of prayers is not prescribed in the Torah, nor does it prescribe a specific formula for prayer. Also, according to Torah law, there are no fixed times for prayers.

Halacha 2

Therefore, women and slaves are obligated to pray, since it is not a time-oriented commandment.

Rather, this commandment obligates each person to offer supplication and prayer every day and utter praises of the Holy One, blessed be He; then petition for all his needs with requests and supplications; and finally, give praise and thanks to God for the goodness that He has bestowed upon him; each one according to his own ability.

Halacha 3

A person who was eloquent would offer many prayers and requests. [Conversely,] a person who was inarticulate would speak as well as he could and whenever he desired.

Similarly, the number of prayers was dependent on each person's ability. Some would pray once daily; others, several times.

Everyone would pray facing the Holy Temple, wherever he might be. This was the ongoing practice from [the time of] Moshe Rabbenu until Ezra.

Halacha 4

When Israel was exiled in the time of the wicked Nebuchadnezzar, they became interspersed in Persia and Greece and other nations. Children were born to them in these foreign countries and those children's language was confused.

The speech of each and every one was a concoction of many tongues. No one was able to express himself coherently in any one language, but rather in a mixture [of languages], as [Nehemiah 13:24] states: "And their children spoke half in Ashdodit and did not know how to speak the Jewish language. Rather, [they would speak] according to the language of various other peoples."

Consequently, when someone would pray, he would be limited in his ability to request his needs or to praise the Holy One, blessed be He, in Hebrew, unless other languages were mixed in with it. When Ezra and his court saw this, they established eighteen blessings in sequence.

The first three [blessings] are praises of God and the last three are thanksgiving. The intermediate [blessings] contain requests for all those things that serve as general categories for the desires of each and every person and the needs of the whole community.

Thus, the prayers could be set in the mouths of everyone. They could learn them quickly and the prayers of those unable to express themselves would be as complete as the prayers of the most eloquent. It was because of this matter that they established all the blessings and prayers so that they would be ordered in the mouths of all Israel, so that each blessing would be set in the mouth of each person unable to express himself.

Halacha 5

They also decreed that the number of prayers correspond to the number of sacrifices - i.e., two prayers every day, corresponding to the two daily sacrifices. On any day that an additional sacrifice [was offered], they instituted a third prayer, corresponding to the additional offering.

The prayer that corresponds to the daily morning sacrifice is called the Shacharit Prayer. The prayer that corresponds to the daily sacrifice offered in the afternoon is called the Minchah Prayer and the prayer corresponding to the additional offerings is called the Musaf Prayer.

Halacha 6

They also instituted a prayer to be recited at night, since the limbs of the daily afternoon offering could be burnt the whole night, as [Leviticus 6:2] states: "The burnt offering [shall remain on the altar hearth all night until morning]." In this vein, [Psalms 55:18] states: "In the evening, morning and afternoon I will speak and cry aloud, and He will hear my voice."

The Evening Prayer is not obligatory, as are the Morning and Minchah Prayers. Nevertheless, the Jewish people, in all the places that they have settled, are accustomed to recite the Evening Prayer and have accepted it upon themselves as an obligatory prayer.

Halacha 7

Similarly, they instituted a prayer after the Minchah Prayer [to be recited] close to sunset on fast days only, its purpose being to increase supplication and pleading because of the fast.

This is called the Ne'ilah prayer, as if to say that the gates of Heaven are closed behind the sun, which becomes hidden, since it is recited only close to [the time of] sunset.

Halacha 8

Thus, three prayers are recited daily: the Evening Prayer, the Morning Prayer, and the Minchah Prayer. There are four on Sabbaths, festivals and Rosh Chodesh: the three that are recited daily and the Musaf Prayer. On Yom Kippur, there are five: these four and the Ne'ilah prayer.

Halacha 9

The number of these prayers may not be diminished, but may be increased. If a person wants to pray all day long, he may.

Any prayer that one adds is considered as a freewill offering. Therefore, one must add a new idea consistent with that blessing in each of the middle blessings. [However], making an addition of a new concept even in only one blessing is sufficient in order to make known that this is a voluntary prayer and not obligatory.

In the first three [blessings] and the last three [blessings], one must never add, detract or change anything at all.

Halacha 10

The community should not recite a voluntary prayer, since the community does not bring a freewill offering. Even an individual should not recite the Musaf Prayer twice, once as the obligation of the day and the other as a voluntary prayer, because the additional offering is never a freewill offering.

One of the Geonim taught that it is forbidden to recite a voluntary prayer on Sabbaths or holidays, since freewill offerings were not sacrificed on these days, but only the obligatory offerings of the day.

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The progeny of Abraham are likened to the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16), and to the stars of the heavens (Genesis 15:5). For when they fall they fall as low as dust, and when they rise they rise as high as the stars...
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