Friday, July 20, 2012

Kings Keep Krias-shema Kosher

Berachos 9B

מאימתי קורין את שמע בשחרית משיכיר בין תכלת ללבן ר' אליעזר אומר בין תכלת לכרתי (וגומרה) עד הנץ החמה ר' יהושע אומר עד שלש שעות שכן דרך מלכים לעמוד בשלש שעות

In these dog days of summer, when many are away at camp and need not follow the rigorous schedule of Yeshiva, it is somewhat difficult to complete the Krias-Shma before three hours into the day.

In truth, it is somewhat difficult to get up after a late Thursday night Mishmor, or a long night of blogging, even during the year.

Which brings to mind the question as to why our Krias-Shema time-limits should be governed by Kingly waking habits? Yes, all Jewish people are regal, but can't a king wake when he wishes?

A recent blackout solved this mystery for me. When the lights go out, there is not much to do in the dark. Before the light bulb was invented, people probably went to bed at 6, 7, 8 or 9PM, depending on the time of year. People rose when the rooster crowed, at 5 or 6 or 7 AM.

Aside from kings, who could afford an abundance of tallow fat candles, everyone went to bed early and rose early in the morning. As soon as it was light outside, people tended to their work, which was limited to sun-shine hours. Only kings could afford the luxury of lazing around in their beds for three full hours after sunrise.


  1. Interesting that you depict King Bertrim, as he got up very early to sign all the Kingly documents while the rest of his town slept.

    Good point regarding the life of the ancients. We sometimes don't appreciate the fact that life used to be so much harder. Women probably didn't learn as they were busy the entire day with basic survival, spinning, weeding, washing, chores that are unfamiliar in our day and age of appliances.

  2. No Rayah from me. I get up early so I can finish my Nizzardly work before I jump on my stilts!

  3. Mmm, dike trees are spicy!

  4. Somehow I thought this post would appeal to you. Can you comment on sleeping habits pre-Edison?

    I suppose people learned several hours by candlelight, then got their 8 hours as per the Rambam.

    Not sure how many got up for Tikun Chatzos, though.

  5. Thanks King Bertrim and Eric. I suppose we'd also hear from Droon himself if he wouldn't be locked up feasting on Nizzard Hash.

  6. We live better than ancient Kings. We have Pomegranate for our gullets and HaMavdil for our Havdala Consciousness. They did not.

    I think that the innate differences between Kings and Commoners back then manifested itself more when the candles burned out than when they illuminated. Divine-Rights-Wing-Nuts turn counterclockwise like water draining down spouts in the Land Down Under. It's no kunst to tell a Prince from a Pauper in the light of day.

  7. Sleeping habits - I think the more rural the more people did lie down and get up with the light. In cities, less so. Probably depends where. Something interesting is that in the 18th century (and, surely, later and probably earlier) people who wanted to stay up and read would often place glass bowls with water in the room to multiply the light through reflection.

  8. SoMeHoW

    I admire your blog, and i think most people miss the point. Most of your posts are chidushes, in that they make one stop and think about things...unlike other bloggers who use every topic of the day to bash the rabbies or opponints. I always wondered why i need to get up by 3 hours into the day, and this post in such a cute and humble and funny way expalins it. Cheers and good wishes.


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