The problem: It happens to the best of us (at least once)! I am late to shul. When I arrive, the congregation has already begun ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ – oy! I’ve got to put on my Tefillin, and I’ve got to say at least the few brachos which I will not be permitted (arguably) to recite once I have davened Shacharis. They are: a) ‘al netilas yadayim’, ‘Elo(k/h)ai, neshama’ and ‘Birchos HaTorah’ (see pp. 14-18). By the time I’m done with those, the congregation will likely be finishing up ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’. What should I do? If I don’t skip anything and just go in order, I will have missed the real essence of ‘Tefila b’tzibbur’ (communal prayer – i.e. davening with a minyan), which is primarily the ‘Shemoneh Esrei’ (Silent Amidah – pp. 98-118). Isn’t that the main reason we come to shul in the first place – because there is no comparison between davening as a ‘yachid’ (individual) and davening as part of a ‘tzibbur’?!
The solution: Just as there is a protocol for “triage”, so does halacha provide the protocol for shortening the preparatory sections of Shacharis (i.e. ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’) to enable one who arrived late to catch up with the ‘tzibbur’ (congregation) for ‘Shemoneh Esrei’. We will present the list of priorities, beginning with the barest minimum. One can add more from the list, if he finds that he has more time and can still catch up for ‘Shemoneh Esrei’.
[Ed: The ‘heter’ (permit) that we speak of here – i.e. to skip parts of the davening - is granted in order to allow a person to reach the ‘Shemoneh Esrei’ at the same time that the ‘tzibbur’ does. If one will not succeed in doing so, “willy-nilly”, because there are certain basic sections that he cannot skip, it is better to stick with the regular order and not skip anything. Skipping any of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ for no reason is not given here as an option! The truth is that we have no real way of estimating the great value of reciting the entire davening in the order established by our Sages…]
The list of priorities:
1) According to the Shulchan Aruch, one could actually skip the entire ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ and begin with the next section – ‘Birchos Krias Shema’ (i.e. the brachos which precede and follow ‘Krias Shema’, including the ‘Krias Shema’ itself – see pp. 84-96). (Note: It is unquestionable that for Shacharis, one may not go straight to the ‘Shemoneh Esrei’; he must certainly recite the entire ‘Krias Shema’ section in order, together with its ‘brachos’. None of this may be skipped, even if it means no davening ‘Shemoneh Esrei’ with the ‘tzibbur’!) HOWEVER, the Mishnah Berura writes - and this is accepted halachic practice - that one must also recite the minimal structure of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ as well. This will be defined in the following item.
2) The minimal structure of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ consists of the two “book-end brachos”, ‘Baruch She’amar’ (pp. 58-60) and ‘Yishtabach’ (p. 82), and the ‘Ashrei’ (pp. 66-68) in between.
3) The fifth of five Hallelu(k/y)ah’s (Psalm 150, p. 74)
4) The third Hallelu(k/y)ah (Psalm 148, p. 72)
5) The first, second and fourth Hallelu(k/y)ah’s (Psalms 146,147 and 149, pp. 70-74)
6) The first paragraph of ‘Vayevarech David’ (pp. 74-76), through the words ‘l’shem tif’artecha’ (“Your splendrous Name”)
7) The first few paragraphs of ‘Hodu’ (pp. 60-62), through the words ‘v’lo ya-ir kol chamaso’ (“… not arousing His entire rage.”) Then skip to page 66 and say the last ‘pasuk’ (verse) before Ashrei – ‘Hashem hoshia! HaMelech ya-aneinu b’yom kar-einu’ (“Hashem, save! May the King answer us on the day we call.”) Do you see how we made a natural “bridge” between the two sections?
8) The rest of the ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’, in order of appearance.
9) On Shabbos or Yom Tov, the minimal structure of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’ includes the aforementioned (see #2) PLUS the extra sections at the end of ‘Pesukei d’Zimrah’: ‘Nishmas’ thru ‘Yishtabach’ (pp. 400-404). We must always see to it first that all of the weekday Psalms are said, before adding any extra Psalms for Shabbos and Yom Tov, because of the ‘tadir’ (i.e. frequency) principle, which gives precedence to mitzvos which are practiced more frequently. If there is time for more than just the weekday Psalms (and ‘Nishmas etc’), we can begin adding with the first three extra Psalms – nos. 19, 34 and 90 (see pp. 374-380). After that, Psalm 136 (pp. 384-386) may be added, and then everything else in sequence, as time permits. [Ed: I once learned a very useful ‘chidush’ (novel idea) in the name of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, concerning adding Psalms when one is trying to catch up: The problem with using the “triage” protocol is that often, one is not sure how to gauge just how many Psalms he will have time for; so how does he know where to start? Said Rav Moshe, “It’s OK to add them out of order!” This means that if one is not sure how long it will take the ‘tzibbur’ to reach ‘Shemoneh Esrei’, he can first say ‘Baruch She’amar and Ashrei, pause and then see if he has more time. If yes, he may say the first two Halleluy/kah’s, as mentioned above. If he finishes those and sees that he has more time, he can add the other Halleluy/kahs, etc, even though he has not said them all in order In other words, one doesn’t have to figure it out ahead of time exactly how much he will be able to add. He can simply “play it by ear”, and add as time permits him.
The balance of the Birchos Hashachar may be said after davening. Preferably, they should be said by the end of the time allotted for tefila, which is the end of the fourth hour of daylight. As a last resort, they can be recited the entire day until sunset (and possibly even later!)
I think they make this so complicated, just so we will be motivated to come on time!