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Chapter nine-part two

The Times of Birkot HaShachar

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Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

5775
4. Until When May One Recite Birkot HaShachar?
Whoever forgot to recite Birkot HaShachar before the prayer service may recite them afterwards, with the exception of the blessing Al netilat yadayim, which may not be recited after praying because it was instituted as a preparation for prayer. Similarly, he may not recite Birkot HaTorah since he already fulfilled his obligation by saying Ahavat Olam. Also, he may not recite Elokai Neshamah, since there are those who say that he already fulfilled his obligation to recite Elokai Neshamah when he recited Birkat Mechayei hameitim in the Amidah.
Therefore, one who must skip Birkot HaShachar in order to pray in a minyan on time should at least recite Al netilat yadayim, Elokai Neshamah, and Birkot HaTorah first, because if he does not recite them first, he will not be able to make them up after the prayer service (Mishnah Berurah 52:2). 2
Until when may he recite them? Since there are those who equate the time to recite the berachot to the time of the Amidah, l'chatchilah he should try to recite them before the first four hours of the day have passed, and b’dieved until chatzot (halachic noon). However, if he did not succeed in saying them before chatzot, b’dieved he may recite them the whole day. The reason for this is that according to the majority of poskim, the time to say the berachot differs from the time to recite Shacharit, because Birkot HaShachar are blessings of thanks for the good things from which people derive pleasure throughout the day. 3

5. The Time to Recite Birkot HaShachar for One Who Wakes Up in the Middle of the Night
L'chatchilah, all the blessings should be recited as close as possible to the time one wakes from his sleep and it is not necessary to say them specifically after alot hashachar. Therefore, one who gets up before alot hashachar in order to learn Torah, to work, or for any other purpose, must recite Birkot HaShachar immediately upon waking up. However, Birkot HaShachar may not be recited before chatzot (halachic midnight). Therefore, a person who wakes up before chatzot must wait until after chatzot to recite Birkot HaShachar. If he recites them before that time, he does not fulfill his obligation (Mishnah Berurah 47:31; Kaf HaChaim 29). 4
One who wakes up after chatzot for a few hours and plans on returning to sleep until the time to recite Shacharit, such as a soldier who gets up after chatzot for guard duty and goes back to sleep, must say Birkot HaShachar after his main waking. If, in his opinion, his initial waking is his main one, and he considers any sleep after that similar to a nap in the middle of the day, he must recite them after the first sleep. If his second rising is his main one, he must recite them after the second rising. However, the kabbalistic custom is that as long as the first rising is after chatzot, he must say Birkot HaShachar after the first rising. If he did not say them after the first rising, then he must say them after the second. 5
It is the opinion of most poskim that the law regarding Birkot HaTorah is similar to the ruling for blessings recited upon the performance of mitzvot. Therefore one must recite them every time he wakes up from a regular sleep at night. Still, there are those who have the custom to recite them only after the first rising (see the laws of Birkot HaTorah further in this book 10:6).

6. One Who Was Awake All Night
As a general rule, even a person who did not sleep all night recites Birkot HaShachar. As we learned (in halachah 3), these berachot were instituted on the basis of general benefit, and therefore, even if one does not personally derive pleasure from something, he still recites a berachah on it. However, there is a difference in minhag regarding a number of berachot.
Concerning washing one’s hands, it is agreed that a person needs to wash his hands before praying. However, the poskim differ regarding whether or not to recite a berachah on this washing. According to the Mishnah Berurah (4:30), before praying, it is best relieve oneself and touch a part of the body which is normally covered, thereby necessitating the washing of one’s hands with a berachah. However, in any case, the Sephardic minhag is not to say a berachah on this washing (Kaf HaChaim 4:49, and see above 8:2).
Similarly, regarding Birkot HaTorah, there is a dispute as to whether or not one is obligated to repeat these berachot with the dawn of a new day. Therefore it is best to hear the berachot recited by someone who slept, with the intention to fulfill the obligation by hearing them. If one cannot find another person around him who can recite the berachot for him to hear, some poskim rule that one may recite them by himself. Such is the custom of Sephardim and some Ashkenazim. There are others who rule that one should have in mind to fulfill his obligation in Ahavah Rabbah, and that is how most Ashkenazim practice (see the laws of Birkot HaTorah further in this book 10:7).
There is also doubt concerning Elokai Neshamah and Hama’avir sheinah, since some say that only one who has slept may recite them. In order to avoid uncertainty, it is best to hear these berachot being recited by someone who slept, and in doing so fulfill his obligation. If there is no one around to recite them, according to the Sephardic minhag and some Ashkenazic poskim, one may recite them himself, although the Mishnah Berurah maintains that he should not.

In summary: according to the Sephardic minhag and some Ashkenazim, one recites all the berachot, with the exception of Al netilat yadayim, and it is best to hear another person recite Birkot HaTorah, Elokai Neshamah, and Hama’avir sheinah. According to the majority of the Ashkenazim, based on the Mishnah Berurah, one first goes to the bathroom and then recites Al netilat yadayim. Concerning Birkot HaTorah, Elokai Neshamah, and Hama’avir sheinah, one should hear another person recite them. If there is no one else there who needs to say these berachot, a person may not recite them on his own; rather he should have in mind to fulfill his obligation of Birkot HaTorah in Ahavah Rabbah. 6

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