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Q&A: Wrong Blessing Before Q’riath Sh’ma

January 8, 2015

Question: I davened on my own last shabbos, and did not have enough kavana. I started saying the weekday version of the shemoneh esrei, but I caught myself, and said the shabbos version, but then I realized the I had already said the shabbos version of yotzer or [ed.- the first blessing to be recited before the sh’ma.] Was I yotzei? Should I have gone back and repeated that bracha?

Answer: The halacha is usually that one who says the incorrect version of shemoneh esrei, whether by omitting a required seasonal addition, like ya’aleh w’yavo, or by totally transforming the middle blessings, e.g., from the weekday to the sabbath version or vice versa, has not discharged his rabbinic obligation to pray, and therefore must pray again by saying the proper version of Shemoneh Esrei. There are certain exceptions to this rule, most notably that the addition of al hanissim on days like Purim and Israeli Independence Day is not critical, and the addition of ya’aleh w’yavo at the evening service of Rosh Hodesh. The halacha is also that concerning the blessings before and after q’riath sh’ma, if one were to switch the evening versions with the morning version (ma’ariv ‘aravim with yotzer or/ham’oroth) or vice versa, one has not discharged his obligation. Your question concerns competing versions of the blessing Yotzer Ham’oroth, of which we are familiar with two, although, as many authorities, like the Chofetz Chayim have pointed out, the actual requirement for such a blessing is just that it open and close with the proper formulae, (baruch atta, etc.,) and then mention a number of themes, but the sages never ordained a specific text. On the Sabbath, we replace the short, alphabetic acrostic piyut Eil Baruch with the much longer acrostic Eil Adon and we add some more piyutim like Hakol Yoducha and Ein K’erk’cha. It should not surprise you then that the prevalent practice among many non-Ashkenazic traditions is to insert these additions even on festivals that fall on weekdays, but they leave out the few sentences that specifically reference the Sabbath. It should also not surprise you that many authorities, like Maimonides, did not advocate adding piyutim to the standard weekday version of Yotzer Ham’oroth, even on the Sabbath, and that is why in his version of the siddur you only find what we know as the weekday version of that blessing.

All of this indicates that reciting the traditional, sabbath version of Yotzer Ham’oroth is not a critical component of your obligation to pray, and therefore, if you recited the weekday version on the Sabbath, you have discharged your obligation and have no need to repeat any part of the prayers.

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