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The first Mishnah in Berachoth quotes R' Eli'ezer's opinion that the time for reciting Shema' in the evening extends only until the end of the first shift (the Kohanim would serve in the Beith HaMikdash in three shifts throughout the night). If a particular set of Kohanim are on duty in the first shift, does that mean that, according to him, they can't say Shema' (or perhaps are exempt)?

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Because they're "Osek b'mitzvah patur min hamitzvah"? Also, I thought it was referring to shifts in Shamayim (daf 3a), not in the Beith HaMikdash. –  zaq Aug 3 '12 at 18:26
    
@zaq, I had that thought. But the Gemara doesn't raise the question. Tosafoth ask the same question on a different Beraitha, but not on this Mishnah. As to your second point, we're not there yet! –  Seth J Aug 3 '12 at 18:30
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Spoiler Alert! I'm not sure, but I don't think they'd be Patur. They might be considered workers who are entitled/required to take a break to say Shema and Birkat Hamazon, since they're de-'oraita. –  zaq Aug 3 '12 at 18:45
    
BTW, Tosafoth's question is not about the Kohanim's shift, but about another measure of time modeled after a poor person's dinner; the suggested time frame is that Shema' can be recited from when a poor person gets home to eat dinner until he finishes dinner, to which Tosafoth asks, "What about an actual poor person? He's gotta actually eat, but then he can't say Shema'?" But nobody seems to ask about the Kohanim (that I've seen yet)! –  Seth J Aug 3 '12 at 19:08
    
Furthermore, "Osek b'mitzvah patur min hamitzvah" may not apply here since there are multiple Kohanim on duty. If there are two on duty, then one can stop and say Shema, while the other keeps watch. Similar to if there are two people watching a dead body (17b). –  zaq Aug 3 '12 at 19:25
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1 Answer

In the second mishnah of Brachos, there are two opinions as to what the latest time for Shema is: Rabbi Eliezer says sunrise, and Rabbi Yehoshua says it's three hours, because princes get up at three hours, so it can still be called "And when you get up" which is the time of the Shema in the morning.

The Rashba asked: If it is the practice for princes to get up at three hours, do they not fulfill their obligation to say Shema according to Rabbi Eliezer? The Shoshanim LeDavid (quoted by Tosafos Chadashim) answers that "When you get up" according to Rabbi Eliezer is when you personally get up. Therefore, since princes normally get up at three hours, they can still say Shema at that time.

We can apply this approach to your question. Apparently, since the kohanim on the watch are going to be consistently going to sleep later than that, they are allowed to say it later, according to Rabbi Eliezer.

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But nobody holds like that opinion or sof zman keriat shema nowadays would be entirely subjective. –  Double AA Aug 3 '12 at 20:09
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@DoubleAA The halachah isn't like Rabbi Eliezer. The question was according to his opinion. –  b a Aug 3 '12 at 20:09
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