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Mishnah Berakhot 1:1-4: Laws Regarding recitation of the Shema

Greco-Roman Period
Mishnah Berakhot sets forth the required times for recitation of the evening and morning Shema, in accord with the commandment of Deut. 6-7. It indicates that in tannaitic times the benedictions before and after the Shema were well established parts of Jewish liturgy.

1-1 From what time may the Shema be recited in the evening? “From the time when the
priests enter the Temple to eat of their terumah 11 until the end of the first watch,” 12
according to Rabbi Eliezer.

But the Sages say- “until midnight.”

Rabban Gamliel says- “until the rise of dawn.” His sons once returned from a wedding
feast and they said to him, “We have not recited the Shema.”

He said to them, “If the dawn has not risen, you are obligated to recite it.”

Furthermore, any time the Sages say “until midnight,” the commandment applies until
the rise of dawn. The commandment of burning of the fat and limbs [of the evening
sacrifice] applies until the rise of dawn. The commandment of all [sacrifices] which must
be consumed within one day applies until the rise of dawn. If this is so, then why did the
Sages say, “until midnight?” In order to distance a person from transgression.

2 From what time may the Shema be recited in the morning? From the time that one can
discern between blue and white. 13

Rabbi Eliezer said- “between blue and green.”

And it should be completed before sunrise.

Rabbi Joshua said- “[it must be completed] before the third hour, 14 because the way of
royalty is to rise at the third hour.”

Whoever recites it from that point onward does not lose out, but is like one who reads in
the Torah. 15

4 In the morning, two blessings are said before [the Shema] and one after it; in the
evening, two blessings are said before it and two after it, one long and one short. Where
they [the Sages] have said to say a long benediction, 16 [one] is not permitted to say a
short one; 17 where they have said to say a short [benediction], [one] is not permitted to
say a long one. [A blessing which they have said] to seal (with a concluding formula), 18
one is not permitted not to seal, and [a blessing which they have said] not to seal, one is
not permitted to seal.

10. Trans. S. Berrin.

11. The priests’ portion which may only be eaten in a state of ritual purity. Priests entered the Temple after
completing their purification rites and waiting until nightfall, later understood as the appearance of three
stars.

12. One-third of the nighttime hours; night was divided into three watches.

13. The blue and white referred to here are the fringes, zizit, worn on the corner of the garment which had
one blue string among the white ones (see the third paragraph of the Shema, below).

14. By the completion of one-fourth of the daylight hours.

15. The reader is credited with the fulfillment of the commandment of Torah study and fulfills the
requirement of concentrating on his belief in God and his obligation to observe the commandments.
16. One beginning “Blessed art thou, O Lord…” and ending with the same formula.

17. One only concluding “Blessed art thou…”

18. Blessed art thou, O Lord….

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