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It says in the Gemara that we can say Shma until the third hour since that's when kings get up.

What kings are we talking about? Jewish kings weren't around until much later, so Sof Zman Krias Shema couldn't be based on their behavior.

On the other hand, would we establish "zman kima" (rising time) from non-Jews?

(Moreover, one can infer from Tosfos that "Zman Kima" is Jewish "Zman Kima" from his question on daf 2b where he asks on the opinion that the time to say Shema at night is from when a poor person eats his bread until after he gets up from his meal, that when does the poor person say Shma? If one counts a non-Jew's times, one can answer that the "poor person" mentioned in the mishna is a non-Jew, and a Jewish poor person eats at a different time.)

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I searched the Bar Ilan database, and found no sources that specify that our Gemara refers to Jewish kings in particular. One could in fact infer the opposite from the Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer (Parsha 7 p. 127) :

דרך כל המלכים להיות ישנים עד שלש שעות ביום

The way of all kings is to sleep until three hours in the day.

Indeed, the Sh'agat Aryeh (old responsa ch. 5) states the opposite:

ובוודאי אף על פי שדרכן של מלכי עכו"ם לישן עד סוף שלש שעות מלכי ישראל מחויבין לקום קודם לכן

And certainly even-though the way of the non-Jewish kings was to rise at until the end of three hours, Jewish kings were required to rise before that.

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The question presupposes that the g'mara couldn't be talking about Jewish kings, but it certainly could be. By the time of the g'mara not only had we had kings, but the g'mara even talks about them by name. See, for example: B'rachot 62b, Sanhedrin 20a, Erchin 15b, Rosh Hashana 11a, Yoma 21b. (There are many more.) It therefore seems more logical that the g'mara is talking about Jewish kings, not kings from the other nations whose practices we are generally told to avoid. Why, as you ask in the question, should we learn halacha from gentile kings?

If you will say that the oral torah, being from Sinai, couldn't be referring to kings we had not yet had, then consider that the written torah itself tells us that we will have kings (Devarim 17:15). It is reasonable to conclude that the Author who tells us in advance about having kings can give us laws tied to their conventions about arising in the morning.

  • If you will say that the oral torah, being from Sinai Are you assuming that this particular detail in the Talmud is Sinaic? If so why? Rambam writes in the second shoresh in his introduction to Sefer HaMitzvot that most of what is in the Talmud is not based on tradition. – mevaqesh Aug 10 '16 at 3:14
  • @mevaqesh on your second comment, I am anticipating a possible objection based on speculation in comments on the question. – Monica Cellio Aug 10 '16 at 3:15
  • What? [char....] – mevaqesh Aug 10 '16 at 3:16
  • @mevaqesh judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/23006/… . Also, please try to avoid long discussions in comments. – Monica Cellio Aug 10 '16 at 3:17
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    related judaism.stackexchange.com/a/61931/759 – Double AA Aug 10 '16 at 3:23
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Monica's answer is one I would endorse, and this is along the lines of the position of the Chazon Ish and something I heard in Rav Schachter's shiur, that it is based on reality at the time of the Mishnah.

To quote myself:

The position of the Chazon Ish is that reality at the time of the Talmud defines halachic practice. Thus [quoting Rabbi Gil Student]:

Should the halachot of treifot then change to fit the current reality? The Chazon Ish explains, based on the Gemara in Avodah Zarah 9a, that the world was divided into three periods - two thousand years of tohu, two thousand years of Torah, and two thousand years of Mashiach. The full explanation of this passage is fascinating but will take us well off topic. However, the Chazon Ish explained that the halachot of treifot were based on nature as it was during the time of Torah, the two thousand years between Avraham and approximately the close of the Mishna. Since at that time the treifot as described in the Talmud caused an animal to die within a year, we are still forbidden to eat such animals even if they can now survive for over a year. [end quote]

So too (Rav Schachter mentioned in shiur), it might be that we must be koveah the sof zman krias Shema based on when people rose at the time of the gemara.

To explain this idea further, it is not that the Torah wanted to say 6:30 AM or some other specific time celestial time, and used uvkumecha as a convenient way of designating that. Rather, it is fluid, such that any time people are getting up is considered uvkumecha. And, since at the time of the Mishna or Gemara, kings were getting up at that point, that was a fulfillment of the Biblical time. Had there been college students in those days, even until noon would be uvkumecha. But we can add to that the theory that halacha was still fixed at the time defined by the gemara (rather than reevaluating for our days) based on this idea of the Chazon Ish.

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