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Berachos 25


When one recites Shema, the lower part of his body must be covered, but the upper part may be uncovered. When one says Shemoneh Esrei, his upper body must also be covered, because when one says Shemoneh Esrei he must appear as though he is standing before the King (Rashi, DH Aval le'Tefilah). The BRISKER RAV (Parshas Bereishis) gives a beautiful explanation of what transpired in Gan Eden based on this Gemara.

After eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam ha'Rishon ran away and hid when he heard the voice of Hashem approaching. When Hashem confronted him and asked where he was, Adam answered that he ran away to hide because he was naked (Bereishis 3:10). But Adam was already wearing clothes at that point (Bereishis 3:7)! Why did he say that he was naked?

The Brisker Rav answers that it suffices to cover just the lower part of one's body only so long as he is not "standing before the King," as in Shemoneh Esrei (see Rashi). When Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, it was sufficient for him to cover the lower part of his body. However, when he heard the voice of Hashem approaching, he had to hide to cover the upper part of his body as well, because one may not stand before the King with one's upper body unclad, as our Gemara states!

Rav Huna and Rav Chisda argue with regard to reciting Shema when one has excrement on part of his body, or when part of one's body, such as his hand, is extended into a bathroom. Rav Huna says that he may say Shema, and Rav Chisda says that he may not. What is the Halachah?
(a) TOSFOS (24b, DH Pasak) cites RABEINU CHANANEL who ruled that may not say Shema, like Rav Chisda.

(b) The RIF rules that may say Shema, like Rav Huna, because the Gemara in Yoma (30a) asks a question based on Rav Huna's ruling that one may recite Shema in such a state.

HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 76:5) cites both opinions but concludes that it is better to be stringent, and only under extenuating circumstances may one be lenient. The Mishnah Berurah adds that this applies even if one's hand is not touching excrement, but is within four Amos of excrement.


QUESTION: The Mishnah (23b) states that if a person is immersing in a Mikvah when the time to recite Shema arrives, he should get out and cover himself in order to recite Shema before sunrise. If he will not be able to get out before sunrise, then he should cover himself with water and recite Shema in the Mikvah. Our Gemara says that this Mishnah is even in accordance with Rebbi Yehudah who maintains that one may recite Shema until the third hour of the day (that is, three hours *after* sunrise), and it is referring to the practice of the Vasikin, who made a point to recite Shema at sunrise.

Why may one forfeit reciting Shemoneh Esrei immediately after reciting the words of redemption contained in Shema ("Semichas Ge'ulah le'Tefilah") and Davening Shemoneh Esrei with a Minyan in order to fulfill merely a *preferred* way ("Hidur") of reciting Shema (i.e. at sunrise)?


(a) According to RASHI on Daf 2a (DH Ad Sof), it is considered "Semichas Ge'ulah le'Tefilah" whenever one recites Shema right before Shemoneh Esrei, even when one is not actually fulfilling the Mitzvah of Shema at that point (that is, he fulfilled the Mitzvah earlier when he recited it at sunrise).

(b) TALMIDEI RABEINU YONAH answer that reciting Shema at sunrise is not merely a preferred way of fulfilling the Mitzvah ("Hidur"), but it is actually the requirement, l'Chatchilah. They explain that there is a paradox with regard to the recitation of Shema: On the one hand, Shemoneh Esrei cannot be recited *before* sunrise (under normal circumstances). On the other hand, Shema cannot be recited *after* sunrise (l'Chatchilah). What, then, should one do if he wants to fulfill the Mitzvah of Shema in the ideal manner of being Somech Ge'ulah l'Tefilah? The Vasikin had the answer: recite Shema immediately before sunrise, and Shemoneh Esrei right after sunrise.

QUESTION: The Gemara says that if excrement is within a glass container, one may recite Shema facing it, even though one can see the excrement. The Gemara explains that only with a Davar sh'b'Ervah (human nakedness) does *seeing* something forbids reciting words of holiness. Similarly, the Gemara later on 25a states that if excrement is being transported nearby, one may recite Shema, because it is not considered in one's "area" ("Machaneh"). From here we see that it depends on whether the excrement is in one's "area," and not on whether one can see it.

According to this, why does the Gemara on 25a say that one may not recite Shema if there is excrement in front of him within his range of vision (even though he cannot smell it)? If it is outside his four Amos, what difference does it make if he can see it or not? (RASHBA)


(a) The RASHBA answers that the verse, "v'Lo Yirah Becha Ervas Davar" ("There shall not be seen in you any disgusting thing") (Devarim 23:15) refers not only to Ervah but to excrement as well (that is, it refers back to the previous phrase in the same verse which states that "Your area shall be holy," and it shall not contain excrement). Hence, there is also a prohibition against *seeing* excrement! If so, why is it sometimes permitted to recite Shema in front of excrement and not Ervah (such as when it is within a glass container)?

Answers the Rashba, the verse teaches us that there are two exceptions to the rule of not seeing excrement. (1) First, the verse says, "v'Chisisa Es Tzeisecha" ("You shall cover your excrement"). If it is *covered*, then excrement is considered non-existent even if one can see it. That is why it is permitted to recite Shema when excrement is before him in a glass container -- because it is completely covered. (2) Second, the verse states, "v'Hayah Machanecha Kadosh" ("Your area shall be holy"), which teaches that it all depends on whether excrement is in one's "area" or not. This applies when the excrement is *only partially covered* -- that is, the one reciting Shema cannot see it from his point of view but others can see it. (3) If excrement is in front of the person *and he sees it*, then he must distance himself from it until he can no longer see it.

(b) The ROSH (3:46) says that there is no prohibition against reciting Shema while *seeing* excrement. It depends *only* on whether it is in one's "area" or not.

How will the Rosh answer the questions of the Rashba? The PRI MEGADIM (introduction to OC 79) says that the Rosh understood the Gemara to be discussing a *rabbinical* prohibition. One must move out of the line of sight of excrement mid'Rabanan. Alternatively, suggests the Pri Megadim, the Rosh understood that when excrement is in front of the person, as long as one can see it (even though it is not within four Amos of him), it is considered to be within his "Machaneh." (See also Chart #3)

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