I recall seeing recommendations, in multiple Halachic discussions, that someone who's reciting a Scripturally-derived prayer alone that normally requires a minyan, e.g. the 13 Attributes of Mercy, one should say it with the trop. Apparently, this feature converts the recitation from prayer into Torah learning, so one isn't incorrectly subverting the minyan rule.

On the other hand, I also recall learning in school to recite the Keriat Shema with the trop as a standard practice.

  • Is my understanding of the function of trop in the first case correct?

  • Is it true that reciting Keriat Shema is best done with the trop?

  • If so, why doesn't the same function similarly de-prayerify the Keriat Shema?


The issue is not just whether something is or is not a prayer, but also whether it is a דבר שבקדושה.

The Beit Yosef brings (OC 565:5) in the name of Rashba that an individual (not in a minyan) shouldn't say the 13 Attributes in the context of בקשת רחמים (requesting mercy), since that is a דבר שבקדושה (learned from the gemara on Rosh Hashanah 17b). However, when said with trop1, the 13 Attributes lose their status of דבר שבקדושה, and become permitted, the same way we read other Torah verses while praying alone. Such is the psak given in the Shulchan Aruch, ad loc.

In addition to not being a prayer as such, as mentioned in other answers, the shema is not a דבר שבקדושה (and we recite it while praying alone), hence according to Rashba, there's nothing lost by reciting the shema with trop.

Whether shema is ideally recited with trop or not seems to be a separate question, but in short, the Beit Yosef describes this (OC 61:25) as a relatively new practice, but that one should indeed use the trop. The Darkhei Moshe thinks it's unnecessary, and liable to be a distraction, but one may use the trop if one can without being distracted. Both these views are brought as psak in Shulchan Aruch, ad loc. See here for more.

1 The language is actually קריאה בעלמא, which could be taken to mean reading without the intention of בקשת רחמים, and not imply that trop needs to be used (à la קריאת התורה). However, it seems to me that the best way to make sure that קריאה בעלמא isn't a request for mercy is to read it explicitly in a different context, namely as if it were קריאת התורה. In addition, the Darkhei Moshe (OC 565:5) cites the Terumat Hadeshen (siman 8) as agreeing with Rashba here, and the Terumat Hadeshen explicitly says to use trope, so the Darkhei Moshe clearly thinks that קריאה בעלמא means trop.

  • 2
    Would the same concept apply to saying "Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh" by oneself? Add a trope to make it studying Nevi'im?
    – Mike
    Nov 26 '15 at 1:37
  • @Mike The end of Rashba's teshuvah does say that we do the same with האופנים and with קראי דקדושה. I imagine that the intended pesukim are in the blessings before shema (although the mention of האופנים is not from a pasuk, so I'm not sure why this is mentioned). I've never heard of a custom to use trop for these pesukim, which might lend credence to the idea that קריאה בעלמא just means "without the intention of בקשת רחמים" and not "with trop".
    – magicker72
    Nov 26 '15 at 1:53
  • @Mike In סידור שפת אמת, "kadosh kadosh kadosh" and "baruch kevod" are printed with trope before the shema but without trope in kedusha.
    – magicker72
    Dec 16 '15 at 17:31

I have heard that Rav Yitzchak Hutner zt"l, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Chaim Berlin, discouraged reading Kerias Shema with the trop for exactly the reason you mentioned.

  • 4
    Although Shema is not a prayer, it's a mitzva to read the Torah paragraphs.
    – YDK
    Jun 22 '11 at 19:16
  • Conversely, Chabad custom is not to allow the recitation of the 13 Attributes with trop when praying alone.
    – Alex
    Jun 23 '11 at 16:09
  • 1
    That's because Rav Hutner zatzal was following the minhag brought down by the Rema. צריך לקרות קריאת שמע בטעמים כמו שהם בתורה. הגה: אבל לא נהגו כן במדינות אלו, ומ"מ יד המדקדקים מחמירים בכך (Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim 61:24). Feb 19 '12 at 22:56
  • 1
    @AdamMosheh How do you know that was his reasoning?
    – Double AA
    Apr 3 '14 at 16:25
  • @DoubleAA – Because Ashkenazim tend to be biased in favor of their own minhagim, and our case seems to fit that tendency perfectly. Apr 11 '14 at 0:39
  • Yes.
  • [null]
  • K'ri'as Sh'ma is not a prayer. It is properly Torah-reading, as reflected in the b'rachos we recite surrounding it.

(I will expand this later.)

  • 1
    – Dave
    Jun 30 '11 at 2:39
  • 2
    @Dave That is just a placeholder in the unordered list of 3 items. I didn't want to throw off the calibration on my third answer.
    – WAF
    Jun 30 '11 at 19:52
  • 3
    @WAF care to expand? Mar 2 '12 at 3:56

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