(This is a continuation of my original post on why we say the Shema.

As I found additional related material and added it to the first post, I felt that it was getting too complicated for easy reading. Separating it into two posts seemed like it might help. The following discussion talks about why the Shema is said before the reading of the “Korbanot” — verses from Torah relating to the “Tamid” — the daily sacrifice. The “Korbanot” readings appear in the liturgy before the “Pesukei d’Zimrah” and “Bar’chu,” which suggests that these can be read without a minyan and not necessarily in synagogue. The post below makes the same point as mine, but doesn’t mention that the functional reason why the Shema is said is because the priests did so in the Temple every morning before the daily Korban. I’ve continued the footnote numbering from the previous post.)

Rabbi Yosef Haim of Baghdad makes a similar point regarding saying the “Shema” before reciting the “Korbanot” — readings which represent the daily sacrifices that were done:

“The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) emphasizes the importance of reciting the verse of ‘Shema Yisrael,’ and ‘Baruch Shem Kebod Malchuto Le’olam Va’ed,’ during the Korbanot section of the prayer service…These verses appear in the Siddur during the Korbanot section, just before the verses of the ‘Tamid’ [perpetual daily offering]. One does not have to recite the rest of Shema – ‘Ve’ahabta’ and the other paragraphs – during the Korbanot section. At this point in the prayer service, one recites only the verses of ‘Shema Yisrael’ and ‘Baruch Shem.’

The Ben Ish Hai writes that when reciting Shema during Korbanot, one must concentrate intently on the meaning of the words, just as it required during the main Shema recitation, in the section of ‘Yotser Or.’ The words ‘Shema Yisrael’ mean ‘Listen, Israel,’ or ‘Perceive, Israel.’ The divine Name of ‘Havaya’ refers to God’s existing in the past, present and future, and that He is the master over everything. ‘Elokenu’ means that He is all-powerful and exerts complete control over the earth. When reciting the final two words, ‘Hashem Ehad,’ one must again have in mind the meaning of ‘Havaya,’ and that the word ‘Ehad’ expresses the oneness of God…[*] When pronouncing the Dalet in ‘Ehad,’ one should also have in mind that he is prepared to give his life for God, and to subject himself to the four forms of capital punishment (stoning, burning, decapitation and strangulation). [**]

The Ben Ish Hai emphasizes that there is a Rabbinic obligation to recite Shema at this point in the prayer. The Sages instituted that one should recite Shema four times each day – during Korbanot, the main Shema recitation during ‘Yotser Or,’ the Shema recitation at Arbit [evening service], and the bedtime Shema. The Ben Ish Hai adds that one should have in mind when reciting Shema during Korbanot to fulfill this Rabbinic obligation. Furthermore, he adds, this recitation is critically important in enabling one’s prayers to have their desired effect. The power of the primary Shema recitation, he writes, depends upon the recitation of Shema during Korbanot.

It occasionally happens that one skips the Korbanot section because he arrives in the synagogue late. In such a case, one must ensure to at least recite the verses of ‘Shema Yisrael’ and ‘Baruch Shem’ with concentration, as discussed.

Summary: One must ensure to recite ‘Shema Yisrael’ and ‘Baruch Shem’ during the Korbanot section of the morning prayer service, as printed in the Siddurim, with proper concentration. One should have in mind while reciting these verses to fulfill the Mitsva enacted by the Sages to recite Shema at this point in the service.” [4]

I’d add to the above that saying the Shema at this point in the service is followed by saying “You were the same before the world was created…” and “You, God our God, are the same in heaven and on earth…,” after which the Korbanot are read. These two intervening para- graphs therefore are a meditation on the Shema, meant to make its meaning for us explicit and clear, as it was meant to be for the kohanim/priests. We don’t praise God for God’s benefit; we do so for the sake of our own prayer: “…this recitation is critically important in enabling one’s prayers to have their desired effect…”


[*] The Ben Ish Hai explains this as follows:
(“Echad” is written in Hebrew aleph-het-dalet).
The “Alef” in ‘Ehad’ is used to represent the number “1.”
It therefore signifies that there is 1 God.
Because “Alef” is the 1st letter, the Ben Ish Hai might also mean that God is the “1st” – i.e. the Source of all creation.
“Het” or “Chet” is the 8th letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
It signifies the one God’s dominion over the earth and the seven heavens because
earth = 1, 
Heavens = 7; 1+7 = 8.
“Dalet” is the 4th letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
It signifies the one God’s dominion over the 4 corners of the earth.
Thus aleph-het-dalet, the Hebrew word “one,” signifies that One God rules in the heavens and all parts of our own world/universe.

[**] Again, because “Dalet” is the 4th letter.

[4] http://www.dailyhalacha.com/m/halacha.aspx?id=2094