SECTION 68 One Should Not Interrupt [the Blessings of the Shema] with Hymns. (1–2)

סימן סח שֶׁלֹּא לְהַפְסִיק בְּפִיּוּטִין וּבוֹ ב' סְעִיפִים:

1 With regard to the widespread custom of reciting hymns in the course of the blessings of the Shema, some authorities hold that whoever can revoke this custom without arousing strife should do so. [The rationale is that] since the hymns do not share the theme of the blessing [to which they are attached], they are considered an absolute interruption. Even if they do share the theme of the blessing, it is inappropriate [to justify their recitation by] arguing that they are [merely] an extension of the blessing and an addition to it, for [the Sages] taught,1 “Wherever [the earlier Sages2] said that one should be brief, one does not have license to lengthen.” [They also taught,]3 “Whoever deviates from the wording4 which the [earlier] Sages ordained for the blessings is definitely acting in error.” Moreover, [additional recitations] provide a cause for [congregants] to interrupt [their prayers] with idle talk while the sheliach tzibbur intones the hymn.

Other authorities hold that no prohibition is involved. The statement that “wherever [the earlier Sages] said that one should be brief one does not have license to lengthen” [has a specific meaning]. “Long” blessings are those that begin with Baruch [Atah A-donai...] and end with Baruch [Atah A-donai...]. Such blessings may not be “shortened,” i.e., one may not omit Baruch [Atah A-donai...] at the beginning or at the end. If one made such a change, he is considered to have deviated from the wording which the Sages ordained for the blessings and has not fulfilled his obligation.

With regard to the remainder of the text of a blessing, however, the Sages did not specify the precise number of words that one must say, no more and no less, for if so, they would have had to ordain a text for every blessing with a specific number of words. Nowhere do we find an instance of this. [The Sages] spoke only of words [conveying concepts] whose inclusion is indispensable; e.g., the Exodus from Egypt, [G‑d’s] sovereignty, the Splitting of the Red Sea and the Plague of the Firstborn5 — in [the blessing that begins] Emes veyatziv;6 the covenant [of circumcision] and the Torah — in the blessing for Eretz Yisrael [in the Grace after Meals];7 and the like. As to the remainder of the text [of a blessing] which [the Sages] did not designate as indispensable, the blessing is not at all disqualified if [such a part] was changed and expressed in other words, or even omitted entirely. The same principle applies if one added to it and lengthened it, even if the extension is longer than the original blessing — just as [the Sages] allowed one to add words reflecting the theme of the respective blessings of Shemoneh Esreh, as will be explained in sec. 119[:1]. This is the custom in these countries.

[Nevertheless,] one who is moderate and does not recite [any additional hymns] is not remiss.8

Even so, one should not engage in any other matter — it is even forbidden to interrupt oneself to engage in Torah study — so long as the congregation is reciting hymns. Needless to say, one may not indulge in idle conversation. Nevertheless, if one studies wordlessly — i.e., he [merely] looks at a text and thinks about it — there is no prohibition at all. For thinking is not considered speech9 and does not constitute an interruption. One must, however, take into consideration [the impression created among] the common people, lest they see him studying from a text and [on that basis, take the license] to interrupt for other matters as well. Hence, in a place where it is customary to recite [such hymns], a person should not separate himself from the community and should recite them together with them.

On Pesach (when the chazzanim prolong [the prayers] extensively with melodies), it is preferable to recite the hymn before beginning the blessing [Yotzer Or],10 for most of it is not related to the theme of the blessing. It is [thus] considered an interruption in the midst of the blessing (if one tarries in its [recitation] long enough to enable one to complete the entire blessing).

All the above applies to a congregation. A person praying alone should not recite any hymns in the course of the blessings of the Shema. [This applies] even before he begins the blessings, for it is forbidden to make an interruption between Yishtabach and [the blessing] Yotzer [Or].11

Even [when praying with] a congregation, if one forgot to recite a hymn until after completing the [above] blessing, it may not be recited — for it is permitted in the midst of the blessing only because it is related to it; between one blessing and another, no interruption may be made.

א מַה שֶּׁנּוֹהֲגִין בִּמְקוֹמוֹת הַרְבֵּה לוֹמַר פִּיּוּטִים בְּבִרְכוֹת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע – יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לְבַטֵּל הַמִּנְהָג שֶׁלֹּא עַל יְדֵי הַמַּחֲלֹקֶת יְבַטֵּל,א לְפִי שֶׁהַפִּיּוּטִים שֶׁאֵינָן מֵעִנְיַן הַבְּרָכָה חֲשׁוּבִין הֶפְסֵק גָּמוּר, וַאֲפִלּוּ אִם הֵם מֵעִנְיַן הַבְּרָכָה אֵין לוֹמַר שֶׁהוּא כְּמַאֲרִיךְ הַבְּרָכָה וּמוֹסִיף בָּהּ, שֶׁהֲרֵי אָמְרוּ:ב,1 מָקוֹם שֶׁאָמְרוּ2 לְקַצֵּר אֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי לְהַאֲרִיךְ, וְכָל הַמְשַׁנֶּה מִמַּטְבֵּעַ4 שֶׁטָּבְעוּ חֲכָמִים בַּבְּרָכוֹת אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא טוֹעֶה.ג,3 וְעוֹד שֶׁהִיא סִבָּה לְהַפְסִיק בִּדְבָרִים בְּטֵלִים כְּשֶׁהַשְּׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר אוֹמֵר הַפִּיּוּט.ד

וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםה שֶׁאֵין אִסּוּר בַּדָּבָר, שֶׁזֶּה שֶׁאָמְרוּ: בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁאָמְרוּ לְקַצֵּר אֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי לְהַאֲרִיךְ – לֹא אָמְרוּ אֶלָּאו בִּבְרָכוֹת אֲרֻכּוֹת שֶׁפּוֹתְחוֹת בְּ"בָרוּךְ" וְחוֹתְמוֹת בְּ"בָרוּךְ" אֵינוֹ רַשַּׁאי לְקַצֵּר, שֶׁלֹּא לִפְתֹּחַ בְּ"בָרוּךְ" אוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לַחְתֹּם, וְאִם שִׁנָּה – הֲרֵי זֶה מְשַׁנֶּה מִמַּטְבֵּעַ שֶׁטָּבְעוּ חֲכָמִים בִּבְרָכוֹתז וְלֹא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ, אֲבָל שְׁאָר נֻסַּח הַבְּרָכָהח לֹא נָתְנוּ בּוֹ חֲכָמִים שִׁעוּר שֶׁיֹּאמַר כָּךְ וְכָךְ מִלּוֹת לֹא פָּחוֹת וְלֹא יוֹתֵר, שֶׁאִם כֵּן הָיָה לָהֶם לְתַקֵּן נֻסַּח כָּל בְּרָכָה בְּמִלוֹת מְנוּיוֹת, וְזֶה לֹא מָצִינוּ בְּשׁוּם מָקוֹם, וְלֹא הִזְכִּירוּ אֶלָּא הַמִּלּוֹת שֶׁיֵּשׁ הַקְפָּדָה בָּהֶן לְבַד, כְּגוֹן יְצִיאַת מִצְרַיִם וּמַלְכוּת וּקְרִיעַת יַם סוּף וּמַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת בֶּ"אֱמֶת5 וְיַצִּיב",ט,6 וּבְרִית וְתוֹרָה בְּבִרְכַּת הָאָרֶץ,י,7 וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן, אֲבָל שְׁאָר הַנֻּסָּח שֶׁלֹּא הִזְכִּירוּ שֶׁיֵּשׁ הַקְפָּדָה בּוֹ – אֵינוֹ מְעַכֵּב כְּלָל אִם שִׁנָּה אוֹתוֹ וַאֲמָרוֹ בִּלְשׁוֹן אַחֵר,יא אוֹ אֲפִלּוּ לֹא אֲמָרוֹ כְּלָל.יב וְהוּא הַדִּין אִם הוֹסִיף וְהֶאֱרִיךְ בּוֹ, אֲפִלּוּ הַתּוֹסָפוֹת מְרֻבֶּה עַל הָעִקָּר, וּכְמוֹ שֶׁהִתִּירוּ לְהוֹסִיף בְּבִרְכַּת הַתְּפִלָּה מֵעֵין כָּל בְּרָכָה וּבְרָכָה וּכְמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן קי"ט.יג וְכֵן נוֹהֲגִין בִּמְדִינוֹת אֵלּוּ. וְהַמֵקִיל וְאֵינוֹ אוֹמְרָם – לֹא הִפְסִיד.יד,8

וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם לֹא יַעֲסֹק בְּשׁוּם דָּבָר, וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה אָסוּר לְהַפְסִיק לַעֲסֹק, כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהַצִּבּוּר אוֹמְרִים פִּיּוּטִים, כָּל שֶׁכֵּן לְדַבֵּר שׁוּם שִׂיחָה בְּטֵלָה. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם מִי שֶׁלּוֹמֵד עַל יְדֵי הִרְהוּר שֶׁרוֹאֶה בַּסֵּפֶר וּמְהַרְהֵר – אֵין בָּזֶה אִסּוּר כְּלָל, שֶׁהִרְהוּר אֵינוֹ כְּדִבּוּרטו,9 וְאֵינוֹ חָשׁוּב הֶפְסֵק. אֶלָּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ לָחוּשׁ לַהֲמוֹן עַםטז שֶׁאַל יִרְאוּ מִן הַלּוֹמֵד בַּסֵּפֶר וְיַפְסִיקוּ גַּם כֵּן בִּדְבָרִים אֲחֵרִים, עַל כֵּן אֵין לָאָדָם לִפְרֹשׁ עַצְמוֹ מֵהַצִּבּוּר בִּמְקוֹם שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ לְאָמְרָם וְיֹאמַר אוֹתָם עִמָּהֶם.יז

(א) וּבְפֶסַח (שֶׁהַחַזָּנִים מַאֲרִיכִין הַרְבֵּה בְּנִגּוּנִים) – מוּטָב לוֹמַר הַפִּיּוּט קֹדֶם שֶׁיַּתְחִיל הַבְּרָכָה,10 שֶׁהָרֹב הוּא שֶׁלֹּא מֵעֵין הַבְּרָכָה,יח וְחָשׁוּב הֶפְסֵק בְּאֶמְצַע הַבְּרָכָה (כְּשֶׁשּׁוֹהִין בּוֹ כְּדֵי לִגְמֹר אֶת כֻּלָּהּיט).

וְכָל זֶה בְּצִבּוּר, אֲבָל הַמִּתְפַּלֵּל בְּיָחִיד אֵין לוֹ לוֹמַר שׁוּם פִּיּוּט בְּבִרְכַּת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע,כ אֲפִלּוּ קֹדֶם שֶׁמַּתְחִיל הַבְּרָכָה, שֶׁהֲרֵי אָסוּר לְהַפְסִיק בֵּין "יִשְׁתַּבַּח" לְ"יוֹצֵר".כא,11

וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּצִבּוּר, אִם שָׁכַח לוֹמַר הַפִּיּוּט עַד שֶׁגָּמַר הַבְּרָכָה – אָסוּר לְאָמְרוֹ, שֶׁכְּשֶׁאוֹמְרוֹ בְּאֶמְצַע הַבְּרָכָה טַעַם הַהֶתֵּר הוּא מִשּׁוּם שֶׁהוּא מֵעֵין הַבְּרָכָה, אֲבָל בֵּין בְּרָכָה לִבְרָכָה – אָסוּר לְהַפְסִיק:כב

Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch (Kehot Publication Society)

The new layout – with the original text and the facing translation – provides a unique user-friendly approach to studying the Alter Rebbe’s work. An inclusive commentary provides insightful explanations and guidelines for actual practice.

2 All [the above] applies within the blessings of the Shema; within Shemoneh Esreh the hymns are not considered an interruption, for additions in the spirit of each blessing are permissible. Even within the first three blessings, when personal requests are forbidden, some authorities permit the recitation of hymns, for they are [requests for] the needs of the community [and hence are permitted], as explained in sec. 112.

[An ancient precedent for this is] a hymn,12 designed for insertion within the first three blessings, that was composed by R. Elazar Kallir.13 [Its antiquity is attested to by the fact that] in the time of its author, who lived in Eretz Yisrael, in Kiryas Sefer, the new month was still being sanctified by the sighting of the moon — as is evidenced by the absence of any hymn for the Second Day [of any festival].14 [Indeed, R. Elazar Kallir] was a Tanna.15

It is the custom of some [communities] not to recite any hymns, even outside the blessings of the Shema, except those ordained by the Sages of the early eras, such as [R. Elazar] Kallir, who aligned them with the path of [Kabbalistic] truth.

However, with regard to the customary [texts] that are deeply rooted in the liturgy, one should not deviate from one’s ancestral custom. For there are twelve gates16 in Heaven, corresponding to the twelve tribes. Every tribe has a gate and a set of customs of its own, apart from the matters stated in the Talmud (or in the words of the authorities who derived their teachings from the Talmud), which are standard obligations for all.

ב וְכָל זֶה בְּבִרְכַּת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע, אֲבָל בִּתְפִלַּת י"ח אֵין הַפִּיּוּטִים חֲשׁוּבִים הֶפְסֵק,כג שֶׁהֲרֵי מֻתָּר לְהוֹסִיף מֵעֵין כָּל בְּרָכָה וּבְרָכָה.כד וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּג' רִאשׁוֹנוֹת שֶׁאָסוּר לְבַקֵּשׁ בָּהֶן צְרָכָיו – יֵשׁ מַתִּירִין לוֹמַר פִּיּוּטִים, הוֹאִיל וְהֵן צָרְכֵי רַבִּים כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן קי"ב. וְכֵן רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַקָּלִיר13 שֶׁהָיָה מֵאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִקִּרְיַת סֵפֶר, וּבְיָמָיו הָיוּ מְקַדְּשִׁים עַל פִּי הָרְאִיָּה, שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא תִּקֵּן שׁוּם קרוב"ץכה לְיוֹם שֵׁנִי14 וְתַנָּא הוּא,15 וְהוּא תִּיקֵּן קרוב"ץ12 לְג' רִאשׁוֹנוֹת.כו

וְיֵשׁ נוֹהֲגִין שֶׁלֹּא לוֹמַר שׁוּם פִּיּוּט אֲפִלּוּ שֶׁלֹּא בְּבִרְכַּת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע, אֶלָּא מַה שֶּׁסִּדְּרוּ הָרִאשׁוֹנִים, כְּגוֹן הקליר"י שֶׁתִקְּנוּ עַל דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמֶת.כז

אָמְנָם הַמִּנְהָגִים שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ בְּשָׁרְשֵׁי הַתְּפִלָּה אֵין לְשַׁנּוֹת מִמִּנְהַג אֲבוֹתָיו,כח כִּי י"ב שְׁעָרִים16 בַּשָּׁמַיִם כְּנֶגֶד י"ב שְׁבָטִים, וְכָל שֵׁבֶט יֵשׁ לוֹ שַׁעַר וּמִנְהָג בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ,כט לְבַד מַה שֶּׁנִּזְכַּר בַּגְּמָרָא (אוֹ בְּדִבְרֵי הַפּוֹסְקִים שֶׁלָּמְדוּ דִּבְרֵיהֶם מֵהַגְּמָרָא) הוּא שָׁוֶה לַכֹּל: