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Tractate Berakoth, by , by A. Lukyn Williams, [1921], at

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The Time of Reciting the Shma‘ in the Evening.

M.I. 1. AT what time does one begin to recite 1. the Shma‘ 2 in the evening? 3 At the hour that the priests enter (the Temple precincts) to eat their portion 4 [and they may say it] until the end of the first watch. 5 Such is the opinion of R. Eliezer. 6 But the Majority 7 say: until midnight.

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M.Rabban Gamaliel 1 says: until the first sign of gray of dawn ascends. 2

2. An incident [is told of him], that his sons came from a banquet. 3 They said to him: We have not recited the Shma‘. He said to them, If the first sign of gray of dawn has not ascended you are under obligation to recite.

3. And this does not apply [to the Shma‘] alone, but to everything which the Majority limit to midnight—the religious duties extend to the time that the first sign of gray of dawn ascends. 4

[So] the duty of burning the fat pieces and the limbs of the sacrifices, and the eating of the paschal lambs, 5 lasts until the first sign of gray of dawn ascends, and so the duty of consuming all the things that are to be eaten on one day lasts until the first sign of gray of dawn ascends. If so, why did the Majority say [of the Shma‘], until midnight? Solely to keep men far from transgression.

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T. I. 1. At what time does one begin to recite the Shma‘ in the evening? At the hour that men go indoors to eat their meal on Sabbath-eve. Such is the opinion of R. Meir. 1 But the Majority say: At the hour that the priests are fit to eat of their portion. The sign for this is the coming out of the stars. And though there is no proof for this (in Scripture) yet there is a technical reminder of it in "and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars came out." 2

R. Simeon 3 says: Sometimes a man recites it twice in the night, once before the first gray of dawn has ascended, and once after this. Thus he fulfils his obligation both for the day and for the night.

Rabbi 4 says: There are four watches 5 in the night. An ‘Onah is the twenty-fourth part of an hour, and an ‘Eth the twenty-fourth part of an ‘Onah, and Rega‘ the twenty-fourth part of an ‘Eth.

R. Nathan 6 says: There are three watches in the night, for it is said: "in the beginning of the middle watch," 7 and every "middle" has one after it and one before.


1:1 recite, not "say," for the Shma‘ is recited in half-chanting fashion.

1:2 Shma‘, i.e. Deut. 644-9; 1113-21; Num. 1537-41. See SA, pp. 40-42, Oesterley and Box, pp. 364-368. "The Unity of God is the basis of the Jewish Creed, the Love of God the basis of the Jewish Life. This Love towards God was to be exerted with heart, and soul, and might. . . The Shma‘ thus enshrines the fundamental dogma (Monotheism), the fundamental duty (Love), the fundamental discipline (Study of the Law), and the fundamental method (union of 'Letter' and 'Spirit') of the Jewish religion" (Abrahams in SA, pp. lii. sq).

1:3 evening. Mentioned first, for the Jewish day begins then. The morning Shma‘ is discussed in M. 2.

1:4 portion. Priests who were unclean were not allowed to eat consecrated food till sunset (Lev. 227), "the coming out of the stars," see T.

1:5 the first watch. See T.

1:6 R. Eliezer, i.e. R. E. ben Hyrkanos, flourished c. 90-130 A.D. His wife, Imma Shalom, was the sister of R. Gamaliel II.

1:7 the Majority. Lit. wise men, Scholars. But the term is used of the mass of scholars of repute and standing in contrast to a few or one.

2:1 Rabban Gamaliel. R. Gamaliel II., grandson of Gamaliel I. He held the chief authority from about 90-110 A.D. The Halaka, i.e. the Rule, here follows his opinion. The title Rabban is confined to certain members of the patriarchal house, Gamaliel I. and II., Simeon, son of Gamaliel II., and Gamaliel III., also Jochanan ben Zakkai is so called (Strack, p. 85).

2:2 the first sign of gray of dawn ascends. There are three phrases which refer to the dawn:

(a) "the pillar of the dawn ascended" (‘alah ‘ammud ha shachar), here paraphrased as the first sign of gray in the sky.

(b) "the shining out of the Sun" (hanetz chammah), M. I. 4 (2).

(c) the sun itself is seen (T. I. 2 end).

2:3 From a banquet. i.e. after midnight.

2:4 The reason is given in the end of this mishna.

2:5 And the eating of the paschal lambs, omitted in B.

3:1 R. Meir. See p. 25.

3:2 Neh. 421 (15).

3:3 R. Simeon ben Eleazar, c. 160-200.

3:4 Rabbi. R. Judah the Prince, the Son of R. Simeon ben Gamaliel II., born on the day of R. Aqiba's death—for "the sun rises, the sun sets"—i.e. 135 A.D., at Usha in Galilee. He lived and taught there and in the neighbourhood. He is the accepted compiler of our present Mishna (see Introduction, p. ix). The date of his death is not known, some critics placing it as early as 193 A.D., others nearly as late as 220 A.D.

3:5 four watches. He accepted the Roman system, and apparently the division of the day into twenty-four hours.

3:6 R. Nathan. Contemporary with R. Judah. He came from Babylon to Palestine, and is the reputed author of the Aboth de R. Nathan, which Strack calls a "Tosephta to the Pirqe Aboth" (p. 69).

3:7 Judg. 719.

Next: M. I. 4; T. I. 2. The Time of Reciting the Shma‘ in the Morning