The Mishnah in the beginning of the third perek of Yoma states that the daily service would not start until the sunlight on the horizon had reached Chevron. It may seem that the Mishnah describes the start of the Yom Kippur service as different to other days. Yet the Mishnah in Tamid (3:2) describes the start of a regular day in the Beit Ha’Mikdash in the same manner. The period of time discussed in both Mishnayot is known as Alot HaShachar. They had to wait for Alot HaShachar because the korban Tamid must be offered during the ‘day’. The source of this requirement is the pasuk (19:6), “The day of your offering”. Consequently, any offering that is offered before daytime is not kosher.
There is a halachic debate regarding the start of the day and there are two main opinions regarding this matter. The first is the time when the first rays of light come over the horizon - Alot HaShachar. The second is when the sun itself raises over the horizon - HaNetz HaChamah.
The Poskim (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 58:1) however seem to be in agreement that the best time for one to start the Sh’monah Esrei is at HaNetz HaChamah based on the verse in Tehillim (72:5), “They fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, generation after generation”. The reward for such a commitment is great and this person is seen as exhibiting the traits of a ben Olam HaBah.
HaRav Ovadya Yosef shlita, in his sefer Yalkut Yosef (Vol. 1 pg. 139) has an interesting footnote discussing the debate of whether it is preferred to daven with a minyan after sunrise or without a minyan at sunrise.10 The key to the debate is understanding the level of obligation to daven with a minyan and the obligation to daven at sunrise. HaRav Ovadya quotes a balanced machloket citing opinions on both sides. HaRav Shlomo Kluger, in his shut (47), rejects the proposal, writing that one should opt to daven in a minyan.11
HaRav Schwartz (Divrei Yosef) on the other hand claims that davening at sunrise is far more important than davening with a minyan. His logic is based on the Gemara (Brachot 22b) which cites a case of one who was obligated to go to the mikvah and does so close to sunrise. The Gemara explains that if one is able to immerse, dress and say then Shema with sunrise then he should do so. If however one would not have enough time, he should cover himself in the water and say the Shema. HaRav Schwartz points out that there is no mention in the Gemara of tefillin being worn. This is important as there is another halachic discussion about whether one should daven with a minyan but without tefillin in order not to miss out on davening with a minyan. The Halacha is that the person should not daven, but should first put on tefillin and daven later even alone. The reason being that reading Shema without tefillin is equated with giving false testimony, since within the Shema one reads about the obligation of wearing tefillin. Therefore Shema at sunrise is preferable to saying Shema with tefillin later. Consequently, t’fillah at sunrise alone is better than davening later with a minyan. HaRav Ovadya also notes a Be’er Halacha (58 s.v. u’mitzva) which rules that davening at sunrise is preferred. I have heard in the name of Rav Yosef Dov Solovechik12 zsl, that even if one does daven alone they should try to ensure to hear kedushah, barachu and kriyat haTorah. However, if one is unable to wait until sunrise due to work considerations13, they are allowed to daven Amida from Alot HaShachar (89:1).
Interestingly the day in the Beit Ha’Mikdash started at Alot HaShachar and not HaNetz HaChamah. Rashi (Megillah 20a) explains that the day starts from Alot HaShachar but due to the complex manner in determining the exact moment, Chazal delayed the start of the obligation until HaNetz HaChamah. However, due to the full time table of the Beit Ha’Mikdash and the use of the ‘announcer’, there was no concern that the service would start before sunrise14.
10 For a practical halachic answer, ask your local Orthodox Rabbi.
11 There are other such opinions but they have not been included in this article.
12 Also brought in the Be’er Halacha 89 s.v VaChen
13 Which in mid-winter, can be as late at .
14 Once the service did start before Alot see Mishnah 3:2
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