True Torah Leaders
Moshe Ben-Chaim

Should we follow Torah leaders who do not display a zealous attitude towards Torah adherence? If such leaders are compromising in their fulfillment of our clearly defined laws as outlined in our Shulchan Aruch, should they be accepted as true Torah leaders?
How do we define a true Torah leader? King David said in Psalms, (19:12)"And also your servants are zealous in them (the commands)..." Both Rashi and Metsudas Dovid explain this to refer to one fulfilling God's commands with the utmost diligence. A Rabbi pointed out the tractate on "Proper Behavior - Abridged", (Mesechet Derech Eretz Zutah), Chapter IX, says, "One must be zealous in Kryas Shema and in Tefilah (Prayer) so he may be saved from the decree of Gehenom (punishment)." Certainly this refers to reciting both the Shema and Tefilah in their proper times. Mesechet Derech Eretz Zutah underlines the importance of this specific command of reciting the Shema. These two statements teach the proper attitude. Righteous individuals are not lax in performing God's commands. They have the true appreciation for the Source of these commandments. God designed man, and assembled the Torah system so man may achieve true perfection and happiness. For this reason the righteous followed God's perfect system with zeal and care. The Torah says, (Deut. 6:24) "And God commanded us to perform all these statutes to fear Hashem our God for our own good all the days, to sustain our lives as this day." (Deut. 10:13) "To guard the commands of God and His statutes that I command you this day for your own good."
We don't follow the Torah "for God". Nothing is further from the truth. Man cannot do anything "for God." The Creator has no needs. Needs and dependency are human shortcomings - they are God's creations, and not reflective of God. God cannot 'need' anything, including man's praises. He commanded man in laws, for man's perfection, as an act of kindness. The system of the Torah addresses all facets of man's existence. Man's psychological, philosophical, moral, and intelligent natures are designed by God. God knows how to best direct man in a lifestyle guided by ideas which will result in man's most harmonious state in the pursuit of his true goal; the appreciation of God's wisdom.
Having learned from King David and Mesechet Derech Eretz that the righteous adhere meticulously to God's commands, what are the proper times for reciting Shema and its blessings? In his Mishneh Torah, Maimonides teaches (Laws of Reading the Shema, 1:11), "And what is its (the Shema's) time in the day? Its command is that you should commence before sunrise, in order that you should complete its reading and bless its latter blessing with sunrise"....."and if one delays and reads the reading of Shema after sunrise, he fulfills his obligation, for its time extends until the end of the third hour, for one who passed and delayed." This means that on the Equinox - a day with 12 hours of sunlight - one would violate the time for Shema if recited after 9:00 am (using 6am for sunrise for example). Maimonides teaches that one has until the third hour, and no later.
The Mishneh Brura, (Shulchan Aruch 58:1) quoting the Jerusalem Talmud says, "L'chatchila (to initially act) it is prohibited to wait until the third hour." In accordance with Maimonides' ruling, this means one must not use the "after-the-fact" ruling as his primary ruling. If one erred somehow, he is allotted extra time to recite his Shema. But he cannot use this extension in a situation where it is unwarranted. One must not start morning prayers at such a time that Shema would be recited after the third hour.
If a Torah leader would initially schedule a morning minyan (morning prayers) to commence after the end of the third hour, he has already violated Maimonides' law and the Shulchan Aruch's law which is derived from the Talmud's conclusory ruling of Rabbi Yehoshua. Shema and its blessings are certainly violated as they will not be recited until approximately one half hour later than that already expired time.
It is interesting to note the Scriptural source for concluding the Shema with sunrise. It is taken from none other than King David (Psalms, 72:5), "They should fear You with the sun, and before the moon for every generation." Rashi states that man should accept God's kingship at the time when they fear God, and this is at sunrise. But what does sunrise have to do with accepting God's kingship?
The event of the giant, heavenly luminary rising over the horizon has a great effect on man. Sunrise has many features: The sun is an enormous object. It is so far, yet we feel its heat. Its rise turns darkness into a full sky of light, filling our complete field of vision with its effects. Sunrise occurs with such precision, reflecting a Designer Who Himself, disproportionately outweighs the magnitude such a event, as He created it. Sunrise emphasizes God's greatness by example, and properly enhances one's acceptance of God as the King of the universe, our Maker.
King David identified the inspiring, heavenly phenomena that helps man appreciate the scope of God's grandeur. King David properly detected and directed man's need for physical substantiation. Man's appreciation for the Creator is enhanced when he aligns his Shema with sunrise. King David's statement, "They should fear You with the sun..." teaches this lesson. God's commandments may be fulfilled in varying degrees. Regarding the Shema - the purpose of which is to accept God's reign - is enhanced by aligning the Shema with sunrise. Witnessing this quintessential solar event while reciting the Shema, we arrive at the best possible acceptance of God as our Master.
Those leaders who fail to adhere to the Talmud's rulings on a core principle as the fear and love of God, are not leading us as exemplified by King David, Maimonides and Rabbi Yehoshua. Certainly we must not follow those who endorse prayer times to commence after its time has expired.

Rashi teaches that the length of time man should fear God, should be paralleled to the duration of the sun and moon. In other words, man must fear God always. What is the necessity of King David's statement? By definition, Rashi says one must not only apprehend the concept that God must be feared, but if one lacks the idea that God's reign is eternal, he lacks a fundamental in this command. Our appreciation of God must include the fact that God's "absolute reign" traverses all time. The prophet Isaiah mentions of this essential concept many times, "I am the First and I am the Last...". (41:4, 44:6, 48:12)