## Early Maariv

Question #1: Earliest Maariv?

When is the earliest time that I may daven maariv?

Question #2: Earliest Shabbos?

May I daven maariv earlier on Friday evening?

Question #3: Earliest Conflict?

What does “tartei desasri” mean?

Question #4: Early Meal?

If I make “early Shabbos,” when may I begin the Shabbos meal?

Background

We may have heard terms like “mincha gedolah,” “mincha ketanah,” “plag,” “Magen Avraham’s zman,” “Gra’s zman,” “tosefes Shabbos;” and “tartei desasri” and have an approximate idea of what they mean, yet not a perfect understanding.

Let’s explain some of the terms:

Mincha gedolah: This is the earliest time that it is permitted to daven mincha (Brachos 26b, see Rashi and Rambam), and is half an hour after halachic midday (ibid.). For virtually all the calculations that we will be making, “an hour” is what we call a sha’ah zemanis, which means that we divide the daytime into twelve parts, and each part is considered an hour. One of the major questions that we will be discussing is whether the “daytime” we are dividing is calculated from sunrise to sunset (which means that it averages out over the year to about sixty minutes) or whether it is calculated from halachic dawn until nightfall, in which case each hour is considerably longer.

Mincha ketanah: The preferred time to daven mincha is after mincha ketanah (Brachos 26b, see Rashi and Rambam). This is half an hour after the day is three-quarters over (ibid.). Expressing this in a more mathematical way, it is 9.5/12 or 19/24 of the day. Here the range among the various opinions is much wider than it is for mincha gedolah. The time on your home clock for mincha ketanah is much later when you end the day at nightfall than when you end it at sunset because your daytime hours and length of each hour are longer.

Plag, or, as it should properly be called, “plag hamincha,” is midway between mincha ketanah and the “end” of the day. The word plag literally means “splitting” or “half.” The mathematical way of expressing this is 10.75/12, or 43/48 of the way through the day, meaning that if you divide daytime into 48 quarter-hours, calculating backward from the end of the day by five of these quarter-hours is plag haminchah. The same dispute that I mentioned earlier, whether we calculate the end of the day from nightfall or from sunset, also makes a tremendous difference here regarding when is plag haminchah.

The main halachic factors determined by plag hamincha are when is the earliest time of day that one may daven maariv, and when is the earliest time of the day that someone may light the Shabbos lights and accept Shabbos.

Magen Avraham’s zman” and “Gra’s zman:” These terms are used most frequently in reference to the latest time by which Shema must be recited every morning, which is before a quarter of the day has passed. The difference between these two zmanim is that the Magen Avraham calculates the day from alos hashachar, sometimes called halachic dawn, until tzeis hakochavim (Magen Avraham 58:1), “when the stars come out,” whereas the Gra calculates it from sunrise to sunset (Orach Chayim 459:2; Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 261:10). Calculating the other three times of the day that I mentioned above — mincha gedolah, mincha ketanah, and plag hamincha — is also dependent on the same question: whether we calculate these zmanim by beginning the day at alos hashachar and ending it at tzeis hakochavim, or by beginning it at sunrise and ending it at sunset. (There are authorities who calculate some of these laws from alos hashachar to tzeis hakochavim and others from sunrise to sunset; see acharonim who explain above Magen Avraham; Achuzas Sadeh, page 62.)

The Gemara mentions that the cutoff-point between one day and the next, is at tzeis hakochavim, “when the stars come out” (Brachos 2a-b; Pesachim 2a; Megillah 20b). There are authorities who reach a different halachic conclusion, but we will discuss this some other time.

Tosefes Shabbos: the halachic requirement to begin observing Shabbos before the day has yet arrived and, also, to continue observing Shabbos for some time after the day is over on Saturday night. Even if we are able to calculate the exact moment that Shabbos begins and ends, we are required to add time, before it begins and after it ends.

Tartei desasri, literally, two that contradict, means two practices that conflict with one another, because they follow two opposing opinions. We will soon see how this applies to our discussion.

Opening questions

At this point, let us discuss our first opening question: When is the earliest time that I may daven maariv?

Although several Mishnayos discuss the beginning and ending time of many mitzvos and prayers, they make no reference to the earliest time to daven maariv. Instead, the Mishnah (Brachos 26a) states that “the maariv prayer has no established time.” The same Mishnah records a dispute among tanna’im when is the latest time to daven mincha (Brachos 26a): An anonymous tanna, whom the Gemara calls the “Sages” (chachamim), permits davening mincha “until evening,” whereas Rabbi Yehudah ends the time for mincha at plag hamincha, notwithstanding that the day is not yet over.

The Gemara (Brachos 26b) then quotes a Tosefta (Brachos Chapter 3) in which these tanna’im explain their opinions. Rabbi Yehudah contends that the latest time for mincha is at plag hamincha because this is the latest time that the afternoon korban tamid may be offered in the Beis Hamikdash. The Sages disagree with Rabbi Yehudah, contending that the korban tamid may be offered until the end of the day and, therefore, the prayer of mincha may also be recited until then. Thus, all agree that the time for davening mincha is dependent on when the afternoon korban tamid may be offered.

In the Tosefta and Gemara, it states that maariv has no “set time” because the remains of the korbanos that were offered during the previous day are burnt on the mizbeiach all night long.

Earliest Maariv?

As mentioned, the Mishnah says nothing about when the time for maariv begins. However, the following Gemara implies that it begins when the time for mincha ends. The Gemara notes that Rav davened the maariv of Shabbos when it was still Friday afternoon; the Gemara derives from this practice that Rav accepted the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah. The Gemara then concludes that, since Rav Huna and other great rabbis did not daven maariv until it was night, they follow the opinion of the Sages. Thereby, the Gemara implies that the time for maariv begins whenever the time for mincha ends; since Rav davened maariv before nightfall, he must hold like Rabbi Yehudah that it is now too late to daven mincha. According to the Sages, that the latest time for mincha is “evening,” one cannot daven maariv earlier.

Rabbi Yehudah or the Sages?

The Gemara discusses whether the halacha accords with Rabbi Yehudah, that the demarcation between mincha and maariv is plag hamincha, or whether we rule like the Sages, that it is the end of the day. After rallying various opinions in either direction, the Gemara concludes that there is no clear-cut accepted practice, and, as a result, each individual can choose which approach he wants to follow. This leads us to the following question, which the rishonim address: Can one daven sometimes according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, and sometimes according to the Sages? Although there are many instances in halacha of tartei desasri, the one involving davening mincha and maariv is the most commonly referred to instance.

Tartei desasri

I explained above that this means following two practices that conflict with one another, because they follow opposing opinions. For example, the Gemara prohibits certain practices that would be following the opinion of Beis Hillel, in one aspect, and that of Beis Shammai, in another. This is prohibited because, taken together, someone is doing something not accepted by either academy (Eiruvin 7a).

At this point, our question is as follows: May someone follow the opinion of the Sages by davening mincha after plag, and also follow the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah and daven maariv before the day ends? Although the halacha does not definitively follow either Rabbi Yehudah or the Sages, davening mincha at a time that Rabbi Yehudah rules is too late, and maariv when the Sages consider it too early, is tartei desasri (Tosafos, Brachos 2a s.v. Mei’eimasai). Although I may follow either of the two opinions, tartei desasri implies that I cannot mix – since this results in following no opinion.

Most rishonim consider this a concern, the majority contending that someone should decide that he follows either Rabbi Yehudah, and never davens mincha after plag hamincha, or that he follows the Sages, and never davens maariv before the day ends.

Some rishonim rule that this is a problem only on the same day, i.e., one should not daven mincha after plag and maariv before the day ends on the same day, but there is no problem doing this on different days (see Mordechai, Brachos #89, cited by Magen Avraham). Although most rishonim do not hold this way, the prevalent custom is to follow this approach.

There is a minority opinion that there is no problem with davening mincha and maariv in a way that causes a tartei desasri, particularly when davening with a tzibur (see Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 235; Taz, Orach Chayim 235:2; Yad Efrayim, 267:1).

Fourteenth century conundrum

In the fourteenth century, it was apparently common among Ashkenazim that the summertime communal minchamaariv minyan was scheduled considerably before plag hamincha. This raises a major halachic concern, because no opinion cited by the Gemara allows davening maariv this early.

This issue was raised by perhaps the most prominent poseik of the era, the Terumas Hadeshen (1:1), who notes that the practice seems to defy the rules we would derive from the Gemara. Yet, he concludes that one should daven together with the community minyan. Although the Terumas Hadeshen does not fully explain his conclusion, he may opine that a community’s prayer schedule may be more flexible than that of an individual, as evidenced by a different passage of Gemara (Brachos 27b). We should note that the Gemara mentions this factor only regarding a situation in which an error occurred that caused the tzibur to daven too early.

Earliest Shabbos?

At this point, we will address the second of our opening questions: May I daven maariv earlier [than I usually do] on Friday night?

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 267:2) permits davening maariv on Friday evening while it is still day, even according to the Sages. This appears to contradict the Gemara, cited above, that permitted davening maariv early on Friday night only according to Rabbi Yehudah.

I am aware of at least four approaches that can be used to justify this practice, three of which are mentioned by the Magen Avraham (267:1):

(1) The Baal Halachos Gedolos and other authorities understand that a later passage of Gemara permits early maariv on Friday night even according to the opinion of the Sages. The rationale for this is because tosefes Shabbos permits davening early, since accepting Shabbos prohibits davening the weekday mincha of Friday. Once the time of mincha ended (because he accepted Shabbos), the time for maariv automatically begins, even though night has not yet begun (Mordechai; Olas Shabbos 267:1; Penei Yehoshua, Brachos 27a s.v. Amar rav Chanina).

(2) As I mentioned above, Chazal instituted the nightly prayer of maariv, corresponding to placing leftover parts of the day’s korbanos on the mizbei’ach. On a weekday in the Beis Hamikdash, what was not consumed by the fires during the day was burnt at night. However, this was the procedure only on a weekday. No leftovers were burnt on Friday night, because it is Shabbos; instead, they were burnt Friday afternoon. Since maariv corresponds to the burning of these parts of the korbanos, it is permitted to daven maariv at the time that these were offered – on Friday before nightfall.

(3) The Magen Avraham suggests a different reason why someone may daven earlier on erev Shabbos — based on the opinion of the Mordechai that permits following the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah one day and that of the Sages on a different day. Thus, you may daven mincha before plag and maariv after plag on Friday, notwithstanding that the rest of the week you daven mincha much later in the day.

(4) According to the above-mentioned responsum of the Terumas Hadeshen, a tzibur may daven maariv early, immediately after davening mincha, even though we would otherwise consider it too early to daven maariv. This approach might be based on the idea that tefillas aravis reshus, that maariv is less obligatory than the other tefillos, and therefore one can be more flexible with its time.

There are several halachic differences (nafka mina) that result from these various answers. For example, according to the first two approaches, it is acceptable to daven mincha on Friday evening after plag and maariv immediately after, and it is not considered tartei desasri.

The Magen Avraham concludes that someone davening maariv early on Friday evening should daven mincha before plag. This is because he accepts the third approach, that of the Mordechai, as the main heter, notwithstanding that he quoted three reasons to be lenient.

Nevertheless, the accepted practice, in most places, is to be less concerned than is the Magen Avraham.

Earliest Shema?

When is the earliest time to fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema at night?

Most rishonim assume that the earliest time to recite the Shema is at tzeis hakochavim. After all, most mitzvos that we observe at night are dependent on tzeis hakochavim.

However, when the Torah instructs us concerning the mitzvah of reading the Shema, it never says that the mitzvah is at night. The Torah teaches that we are to perform the mitzvah be’shachbecha, when we go to bed, or while we are in bed (see Rashi, Brachos 2a). This distinction produced much halachic literature at the time of the tanna’im, many of whom held that the time for reciting the evening Shema does not necessarily begin at tzeis hakochavim (Brachos 2b). Rabbeinu Tam concludes that one may fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema as early as plag hamincha. His reasoning why Shema is different appears to be that the Torah never states that Shema be recited at night, but when you go to bed, and there are those who go to bed early.

Early Meal?

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions: If I make “early Shabbos,” must I be careful what time I begin eating the Shabbos meal?

The halacha prohibits beginning a meal once it is the time for reciting Shema, or even within a half hour of that time, without first reciting Shema. This means that if it is less than half an hour before the time that the day ends, one must wait until it is nightfall and recite Shema before beginning the meal.

However, there is no problem with beginning the meal more than half an hour before nightfall, continuing the meal into the night, and reciting Shema when the meal is over. Since it was permitted to start the meal, Chazal did not require interrupting the meal to say Shema.

Someone who starts Shabbos shortly after plag hamincha and begins the meal within a short time thereafter does not have any concern about this halacha, since he is beginning the meal well before half an hour before the time to recite Shema. The question concerns someone who starts Shabbos at a set time every week, and the meal sometimes starts within half an hour of the time to recite Shema. Is he permitted to begin his meal now, or must he wait until it is late enough for him to recite Shema before he begins his meal?

Indeed, the conclusion of many prominent authorities is that he should wait until he recites Shema (Magen Avraham 235:2).

However, although most rishonim do not accept Rabbeinu Tam’s approach that one can fulfill the mitzvah of reciting Shema after plag hamincha, there are those who do (Mordechai, Hagahos Maimani, Raavyah, all quoted by Terumas Hadeshen 1:1). The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 235, quoting Mordechai, Shabbos 224 and Ran) and others conclude that, although everyone who davens maariv before it is fully dark should recite the full Shema later and not rely on Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion, regarding the rabbinic prohibition to delay the meal until he recited Shema, one may rely on Rabbeinu Tam that he already fulfilled the mitzvah and may begin the meal already (Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 267 and Yad Efrayim).

Conclusion — Why is maariv different?

As the Gemara teaches, Yaakov Avinu introduced maariv. If so, why does the Gemara discuss whether maariv is an obligatory prayer or not? Although we consider maariv to be obligatory, it sounds like someone considered it “second rate” relative to shacharis and mincha,which were established by Avraham and Yitzchak?

The Penei Yehoshua answers that Yaakov was not planning to daven maariv; he had intended to daven mincha, but Hashem caused the sun to set suddenly, giving Yaakov no choice but to daven after nightfall. Since this davening was performed not as Yaakov’s first choice, but because he had no other option, this allows us the option to be more flexible regarding the time of this prayer – a very helpful halachic consideration when Shabbos begins late (Penei Yehoshua, Brachos 26b s.v. Mihu).

## How Is Our Maariv Structured?

Question #1: “Why is maariv structured differently from shacharis? In the morning, we start Shmoneh Esrei immediately after Ga’al Yisroel, whereas maariv includes two additional brochos.”

Question #2: “Why do we recite a kaddish immediately before Shmoneh Esrei in maariv, but not in shacharis?”

Answer:

The Gemara (Brochos 26b) teaches that Avraham Avinu initiated the daily morning prayer of shacharis, Yitzchak established mincha and Yaakov instituted maariv. The source that Yaakov introduced maariv is in the second verse of this week’s parshah, where it says vayifga bamakom, which is interpreted as meaning he prayed in that place. This provides ample opportunity to discuss the structure and laws of our maariv prayers.

What we call “maariv” actually fulfills four different mitzvos. The Gemara quoted above refers to only one of these mitzvos: tefillah, the prayers we recite as Shmoneh Esrei. The other three mitzvos are: reading shma (kri’as shma), required min hatorah every morning and night; remembering yetzi’as mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt; and birchos kri’as shma, reciting the blessings that Chazal instituted to surround the shma with brochos (Mishnah, Brochos 11a). These brochos, together with the shma, constitute the part of the davening between borchu and the Shmoneh Esrei.

In the morning, the birchos kri’as shma consist of two brochos prior to shma and one afterward. Birchos kri’as shma at night consist of four brochos, two before shma and two afterward. (The various places that we pause for the chazzan in the middle of these brochos do not indicate new brochos.) On weekdays, Ashkenazim in chutz la’aretz add another brochah at the end of maariv that begins with the words Baruch Hashem le’olam. This brochah consists of a selection of pesukim which mention Hashem’s name at least eighteen times, corresponding to the eighteen brochos of the original Shmoneh Esrei, followed by a brochah. The chazzan then recites a half-kaddish, after which everyone begins the Shmoneh Esrei.

The Avos did not establish the Shmoneh Esrei itself, but rather the concept that one should daven three times a day. The original text of eighteen brochos, from which the term Shmoneh Esrei was derived, was created by the Anshei Keneses Hagedolah. What we call the Shmoneh Esrei includes an additional brochah, Velamalshinim, which was added later and is a topic for a different time.

Order of maariv

This above order reflects how we daven maariv today. However, at the time of the Gemara, there was a dispute concerning when one should recite the kri’as shma and its brochos – before or after the Shmoneh Esrei. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi contended that the Shmoneh Esrei of maariv should be recited first, and only then should one recite kri’as shma and its brochos. Our structure follows Rabbi Yochanan, who ruled that since the blessings surrounding the kri’as shma include one that closes with the words Ga’al Yisroel –  He Who redeemed Israel, this should be recited before Shmoneh Esrei. This is because of the concept of masmich geulah latefillah, meaning that one should mention the redemption immediately prior to beginning prayer (Brochos 4b). To quote the Gemara: “Rabbi Yochanan said: ‘Who will merit the World to Come? One who recites the brochah of the redemption immediately before he recites the prayer in the evening.’ Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says, ‘The prayers are in the middle’” (Brochos 4b).

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi contends that one recites the blessings after the Shmoneh Esrei because the redemption from Egypt did not take place at night. Although Hashem smote the Egyptian firstborn at night, since the full redemption, that is, leaving Egypt, did not occur until the following morning, there is no compelling reason to mention the redemption prior to the evening prayer. In addition, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi notes that since the Torah states that one should recite kri’as shma when one goes to bed in the evening and when one rises in the morning, these two recitals should not have tefillah between them. Rabbi Yochanan contends, however, that although the Bnei Yisroel did not leave until morning, we consider the redemption to have begun at night. Therefore, even at night, the geulah should be mentioned before the prayer.

How do we rule?

Although in this instance we follow the decision of Rabbi Yochanan, this is very unusual, since we usually rule according to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi when he disagrees with Rabbi Yochanan (Tosafos, Nedarim 45a and Chullin 97a; Ramban, Eruvin 46a). Yet, in this instance, virtually all halachic authorities rule according to Rabbi Yochanan (Rif; Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 7:18; Rosh; Tur, Orach Chayim Chapters 235 and 236; Shulchan Aruch ad loc. Chapters 235:1 and 236:2. However, cf. the Shiltei Giborim quoting Rav Amram Gaon.) This is because the Gemara cites a beraysa, an earlier source of the tanna’im, which concurs with Rabbi Yochanan (Rif; Tosafos, 4b s.v. Da’amar).

Olam haba

Rabbi Yochanan’s original statement was: “Who will merit the World to Come? One who recites the brochah about the redemption immediately before he recites the prayer in the evening.” The rishonim raise the following inquiry: Does such a seemingly small act alone guarantee olam haba?

Rabbeinu Yonah provides two approaches to explain this curious statement: Hashem took us out of Egypt in order that we become His servants. One who recites the brochah of Ga’al Yisroel thereby acknowledges the tremendous kindness that Hashem performed. If an individual follows this immediately with prayer, he shows that he recognizes that the chesed that Hashem performed requires us to serve Him with total commitment. Prayer demonstrates that we recognize the good that Hashem has done for us, and that we are His servants. Internalizing and actualizing this mindset are what gains a person a place in olam haba.

A second reason is that when the Jewish people saw the miracles of the Exodus, they trusted in Hashem. Reciting the geulah describes the faith that the Jews placed in Hashem, and praying immediately thereafter demonstrates understanding that everything is because of Hashem, and that we should place our total trust in Him. Fearing Hashem and only Hashem results from having this total trust in Him. Thus, with these actions a person internalizes the qualities that will earn him olam haba.

Although the Gemara attributes this idea to Rabbi Yochanan, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi agrees that one who proceeds directly from mention of redemption to prayer merits olam haba. He disagrees only as to whether one should strive to accomplish this only with his morning prayers, or if he should do so also with his evening prayers. In the evening, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi prefers that one pray first and only afterward recite shma and its attendant brochos (based on Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah).

Why do we have interruptions?

This discussion leads us to a series of questions: As opposed to the morning prayers, where we recite the closing words Ga’al Yisroel and then immediately begin reciting the Shmoneh Esrei, three additional prayers are recited between the evening brochah Ga’al Yisroel and the Shmoneh Esrei. First, the brochah of Ga’al Yisroel is not the last brochah of the brochos that surround shma – it is followed by a brochah commencing with the word Hashkiveinu. Second, after Hashkiveinu, Ashkenazim in chutz la’aretz add the brochah that begins with the words Baruch Hashem le’olam. Both these brochos are recited between Ga’al Yisroel and the Shmoneh Esrei. If it is so important to recite Shmoneh Esrei immediately after the brochah of Ga’al Yisroel, why are there “interruptions” between them?

Furthermore, in the evening, the chazzan recites “half-kaddish” before beginning the Shmoneh Esrei. This kaddish is not recited in the morning, when nothing is allowed to interrupt between geulah and tefillah. Why are these three insertions not considered interruptions between the brochah of Ga’al Yisroel and the beginning of Shmoneh Esrei?

The first of these three questions (Why is the brochah Hashkiveinu recited between Ga’al Yisroel and the Shmoneh Esrei?) already surfaces in the Gemara (Brochos 4b). There, the Gemara explains that once Hashkiveinu was established as a brochah after Ga’al Yisroel, the two brochos together, Ga’al Yisroel and Hashkiveinu, are considered one long recitation of redemption. Therefore, Hashkiveinu does not constitute an interruption between geulah and tefillah.

What does this Gemara mean?

Some rishonim explain that while Hashem brought the Angel of Death upon the Egyptian firstborn on the first night of Pesach, the Jews were afraid and prayed to Him to save them from the fate of the Egyptians. This is considered an act of righteousness, not lack of faith, because tzaddikim always think that they have sinned and, therefore, are not deserving of Divine intervention. To remember these supplications, Chazal implemented the recital of Hashkiveinu, an appeal that Hashem protect us from all misfortune. Since this entreaty originated as part of the Exodus, it retains aspects of salvation and therefore does not constitute an interruption between geulah and tefillah (Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah ad loc.).

Another interruption

Although we have now explained why Hashkiveinu is not considered an interruption between geulah and tefillah, we still do not know why the brochah beginning with the words Baruch Hashem le’olam is not considered an interruption. The rishonim devote much discussion to this question and to the origins of this brochah altogether, since it is not mentioned in the Gemara.

Tosafos (4b s.v. Da’amar) explains that, at some point in post-Talmudic history, this brochah was instituted to lengthen the davening. The reason for doing this was so that someone who arrived late for maariv would have time to catch up and finish davening and still be able to leave shul with everyone else. As the Rosh (Brochos 1:5) explains, at the time this brochah was implemented, the shullen were in the fields, and it was dangerous to walk home alone at night after maariv.

Other approaches

Other rishonim explain the origin of the brochah of Baruch Hashem le’olam somewhat differently. The approach presented by Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah requires a bit of an introduction.

The Gemara (Brochos 27b) quotes a dispute whether tefillas arvis reshus or tefillas arvis chovah, which seems to be a disagreement over whether davening maariv is required or optional. The halachic conclusion is tefillas arvis reshus. But is maariv really optional? Can one decide every night whether he wants to skip maariv?

The rishonim already note that the Gemara states that one who missed maariv must recite a make-up prayer, called a tefillas tashlumim, after the next morning’s shacharis. If maariv is optional, why must one make up the missed prayer?

In response to this difficulty, Tosafos explains that when the Gemara states that maariv is reshus, it does not mean that it is optional, but rather that it is less mandatory than other requirements. Should one need to choose between fulfilling two different mitzvos, maariv is set aside in favor of the other mitzvah (Tosafos, Brochos 26a s.v. Ta’ah). However, in all other circumstances, one is obligated to recite maariv.

The Rif resolves the problem differently, contending that, indeed, maariv is not obligatory. However, once one has decided to daven maariv, he must do so properly, meaning that, in the event that he did not daven, he would need to pray a “make-up” prayer.

Baruch Hashem le’olam

Returning to Baruch Hashem le’olam: Since reciting a tefillah for maariv was originally voluntary, Rabbeinu Yonah explains that the eighteen mentions of Hashem’s Name that constitute the prayer of Baruch Hashem le’olam were substituted for maariv and qualified as adequate fulfillment of the requirement to daven at night. A closing brochah beginning with the words yiru eineinu was then recited, followed by kaddish, and one thereby fulfilled the requirement of maariv without reciting Shmoneh Esrei. (A similar approach is presented by the Tur in the name of Rav Natrunai Gaon.)

The prayer of Baruch Hashem le’olam and the subsequent half-kaddish remained part of the maariv liturgy, even after davening a maariv Shmoneh Esrei became accepted as an obligation, and they are now followed by Shmoneh Esrei, the full kaddish and Aleinu. Reciting Baruch Hashem le’olam is not considered an interruption between geulah and tefillah, since it was originally adopted as a halachic obligation whereby one fulfills the mitzvah of prayer.

Later rishonim combine both the approach of Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah and that of Tosafos to explain the origins of the blessing Baruch Hashem le’olam. For example, the Tur explains that since the shullen were in the fields, people completed the maariv that they recited as a group while it was still daylight and ended their tefillah with kaddish. Everyone then recited the Shmoneh Esrei individually, in their own homes, after dark.

I found a similar approach in a commentary by a different rishon, Rabbeinu Manoach (commentary on the Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah, 7:18), who suggests that Baruch Hashem le’olam was instituted at a time when the Jews were not permitted to pray while standing. To avoid this, the Jews recited the verses of Boruch Hashem le’olam while sitting, recited kaddish, completed the service, and went home. Beyond the watchful eyes of the persecuting government, they recited the Shmoneh Esrei at home, while standing.

A tangential point is that we see from the writings of the various rishonim that in their era both Sefardim and Ashkenazim recited Baruch Hashem le’olam as part of the daily maariv. This practice is mentioned even in Shulchan Aruch, despite the fact that he discusses usual Sefardic practice. There were individual gedolim, both Ashkenazim and Sefardim, who did not recite Baruch Hashem le’olam (Rashba, Brochos 4b, quoting Rashbam; Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, quoting Ramban; Rambam also makes no mention of it). However, the common practice today of Sefardim and the minhag Eretz Yisroel not to recite Baruch Hashem le’olam are both customs of later origin.

Should one stand for Boruch Hashem le’olam?

Thus, we see that according to all approaches, the brochah beginning with the words Boruch Hashem le’olam was included as a substitute for the Shmoneh Esrei, or, in other words, to fulfill the mitzvah of prayer. If that is so, should it be said standing?

The Rema 136:2 writes that people who are meticulous in their observance stand while reciting these pesukim, since they are a replacement for the Shmoneh Esrei. However, the Magen Avraham cites several authorities who disagree and contend that they should deliberately be said sitting. The Taz explains that if one intends to say Shmoneh Esrei, since he would fulfill his chiyuv with the 18 pesukim if he says them standing, he will be considered as having recited Shmoneh Esrei twice, which one is not permitted to do under ordinary circumstances. Therefore, he should recite the pesukim sitting, which demonstrates that he is reciting them only to fulfill the custom and not to fulfill his mitzvah to daven maariv.

However, if he has already said Shmoneh Esrei, such as if he skipped Baruch Hashem le’olam in order to start the Shmoneh Esrei together with the tzibur, one should recite these verses standing (Magen Avraham 236:2).

Kaddish at night

At this point, we can answer one of the questions mentioned at the beginning of the article:

“Why do we recite a kaddish immediately before Shmoneh Esrei in maariv, but not in shacharis?”

This practice dates back to the post-Gemara takkanah, when half-kaddish was recited after Baruch Hashem le’olam to end the public tefillah at this point, or to demonstrate that the requirements of tefillah had been fulfilled. Although today, one cannot fulfill his requirement to daven maariv with this brochah, the brochah of Baruch Hashem le’olam and the subsequent half-kaddish were left in place.

I also found an alternate answer to this question: We say kaddish in the evening, because we paskin that maariv is reshus, and therefore we need not be concerned about the interruption, whereas in shacharis, which is definitely a required prayer, we are concerned about the interruption (Tosafos, Brochos 4b s.v. Da’amar, quoting Rav Amram Gaon).

Interrupting maariv

Notwithstanding this last statement, the halachah is that one may not interrupt between the birchos kri’as shma of maariv and the Shmoneh Esrei (Tosafos, Brochos, 4b s.v. Da’amar). However, for important purposes, the halachic authorities allowed certain interruptions. For example, the Rashba (Shu”t 1:293) rules that on Rosh Chodesh, we may announce that people should not forget to say Yaaleh Veyavo, and the Mishnah Berurah (236:7) extends this heter to include that one may announce Al Hanissim on Chanukah and Purim, something that is not permitted in shacharis.

Conclusion: Was Yaakov’s prayer second rate?

The question is obvious: If each of the three prayers was established by one of our forefathers, why are two of these prayers obligatory, whereas the Gemara concludes that maariv is optional? Even if we understand the Gemara to mean, as some rishonim explain, that it is only relatively optional, meaning that one is required to daven maariv but it is more easily deferred, why does Yaakov’s prayer seem to get a second-rate standing? After all, he is considered the most chosen of the forefathers, bechir shebe’avos, so why should his prayer be considered of lesser importance?

The Pnei Yehoshua (Brochos 26b s.v. Mihu) explains that Yaakov never intended to create a new prayer at night – he meant to daven mincha! Suddenly, Hashem made the sun set and darkness fell early, in order to force Yaakov to stop at that place. Thus, Yaakov’s prayer was because he had missed mincha, not because he was trying to institute a prayer in the evening.

## Uva Letziyon, a Precious Prayer

Chazal tell us that Yaakov’s davening was the introduction of tefilas Maariv, which sometimes includes Uva Letziyon. I therefore introduce:

Question #1: Why does the kedusha that we recite in Uva Letziyon include an Aramaic translation?

Question #2: Why does the Uva Letziyon kedusha quote a different pasuk, Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed, instead of the third pasuk that we usually say for kedusha, Yimloch Hashem le’olam Elokayich tziyon ledor vador halelukah?

Question #3: If I am delayed in beginning the second Ashrei of the morning prayers, should I daven in order, or should I recite Uva Letziyon together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei later?

Answer:

The greatest thing man can accomplish in life is to praise Hashem, and, indeed, all of our mitzvos and all of our studying Torah are different ways whereby we demonstrate homage to Hashem and fulfill His will. In addition, we actively praise Hashem in many places in our prayer, but, most particularly, when we recite Kaddish and Kedusha. The precious prayer Uva Letziyon, recited most frequently towards the end of the daily Shacharis, includes the Kedusha referred to as the Kedusha Desidra.

The importance of this prayer is manifest in the following incredible passage of Gemara:

Now that the Beis Hamikdash has been destroyed, with what merit does the world exist? The Kedusha Desidra and the Yehei Shmei Rabba recited after the weekly sermon (Sotah 49a with Rashi).

What is the special merit of these two prayers that gives them the ability to sustain the entire world? Both of these prayers involve two highly important mitzvos – studying Torah and praising Hashem – and both are performed by the entire community (Rashi ad loc.). It is presumably for this reason that the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 132:1) emphasizes that one must be very careful to recite the Kedusha of Uva Letziyon with proper concentration. Furthermore, it is prohibited to leave shul until these passages are recited (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 132:2).

Why are these two mitzvos special? Through Torah study we understand a glimmer of the brilliant blueprint with which Hashem created the world. At the same time, reciting Kedusha and Kaddish is our praise in Hashem’s honor. By combining these two concepts, sanctifying Hashem’s name and studying His Torah, we literally maintain the world’s existence!

Rashi (Sotah 49a) explains that the Kedusha Desidra was established so that every Jew be involved in studying Torah each day, since the prayer includes passages that are immediately translated. Being recited both by scholarly Jews and unlettered ones is precisely the reason for its great worth.

Kedusha

The words of the Kedusha parallel the exalted, sublime praise recited by the angels. We recite Kedusha itself three times in three different forms during weekday Shacharis. The main Kedusha that we recite during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei consists essentially of three praises, first the words beginning with Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh, from the book of Yeshayahu (6:3), then the sentence Baruch kevod Hashem mimkomo from the book of Yechezkel (3:12), and then the words beginning with Yimloch, which are from Tehillim (146:10). The first two of these verses, Kodosh and Baruch, are the actual descriptions of the Prophets witnessing the angels praise Hashem.

Although when we recite Kedusha we are describing, or perhaps even mimicking, how the angels praise Hashem, the angels must wait for us, the Jews, to praise Hashem, so that they may begin their praise (Chullin 91b). Singing Hashem’s praises in this fashion demonstrates not only our ability to rise to the plane of the angels, but actually expresses our ability to supersede their level.

For this reason, we recite the main Kedusha standing, with our feet together like angels (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 125:2). We lift our bodies by tiptoeing at the beginning of the reciting of each of the three verses (Shla). Furthermore, one should look heavenward while reciting Kedusha (Rama), and some authorities rule that one should keep one’s eyes closed (Taz), although this approach is not universally accepted (Mishnah Berurah 125:6).

One should be careful to recite the Kedusha together with the tzibur, not earlier and not later (Mishnah Berurah 125:3). We rule that as long as one begins reciting each sentence while the tzibur is still reciting it, one is considered to have recited it together with the tzibur (Elyah Rabbah, cited by Bi’ur Halachah).

Why Three Kedushos?

Why do we recite the Kedusha a total of three times during our Shacharis? Would not one recital be sufficient?

The first Kedusha that we recite daily is an integral part of the long, first brochah of what we call the birchos kerias shma the brochos that accompany the recital of the morning shma.

Above, I mentioned the Gemara’s statement that the world exists in the merit of the Kedusha Desidra. The main focus is that every Jew should participate in the daily recital of Kedusha as part of the tzibur. At the time that this prayer was initiated, many of the less learned individuals who attended daily morning services were not concerned about arriving on time, and, consequently, missed the earlier kedushos. So that these Jews not be deprived of the merit of reciting Kedusha together with the community, Chazal instituted this prayer, Uva Letziyon (Avudraham).

Redemption before Kedusha

The main focus of this article is on the third Kedusha and the prayer that surrounds it, whose words begin Uva Letziyon. The beginning of the Uva Letziyon prayer introduces the Kedusha Desidra by reciting three verses. Why do these verses precede the Kedusha Desidra? The opening two are consecutive verses from the book of Yeshayahu, the first of which promises the future redemption, and the second of which refers to the covenant of the Torah.

We are about to complete our morning daily prayers, with which we hope to establish the “Torah-ness” of our day, and now we are embarking on our daily struggle for financial survival. Immediately prior to beginning this effort, we should be reminded that there will be a future redemption in which we are assured participation, provided that we maintain cognizance of our responsibility to Hashem (Hirsch).

The second verse begins with the words, va’ani zos berisi osam amar Hashem…

Hashem says: “As for Me, this treaty I have made with them.” However, as Rav Hirsch notes, the verse should then say va’ani zos berisi itam, with them, an indirect object, and not osam, which is a direct object. The word osam implies that the treaty is not simply with the Jews, but that the Jews are the object of the treaty – the bris is the very essence of what the Jews are — we exist because we are Hashem’s People. Thus, the second verse reminds us that our raison d’etre is to be Hashem’s People, and that this sensitivity should remain with us as we begin the day’s mundane activities and throughout the ensuing day.

The third verse, which reads ve’ato kodosh yosheiv tehilos Yisroel, is from Tehillim (22:4), and means that Hashem awaits the praises of the Jewish People (Avudraham). As I mentioned before, the angels must wait until the Jews begin saying the Kedusha before they may begin their praises. The Jewish People are the sole bearers of the recognition of Hashem for all of Mankind (Hirsch). Thus, this verse is an obvious lead into our shira to Hashem.

Closing of Uva Letziyon

After we recite the Kedusha, we recite a verse from Divrei Hayamim to verbalize the request that the recital of Kedusha bring us closer to Hashem and repair our hearts. We then include prayers for Divine assistance in learning to fear Hashem.

This last request raises a question: How can we ask Hashem to help us fear Him? After all, everything is in G-d’s hands except for the fear of G-d, which is in our hands. Thus, this is the one item that we should not ask from Hashem, but should assume responsibility for, ourselves!

The answer is that we ask Hashem for His assistance in our learning to fear Him – we start on the road and request His help in continuing (Avudraham). As the Midrash states, “Hashem said to Israel: ‘My sons, merely open for me an opening for teshuvah as large as the eye of a needle, and I will expand for you openings wide enough for wagons to drive through'” (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5:2).

Why Aramaic?

With this background to the prayer, we can now begin exploring the answers to our opening questions. The first question was: Why does this Kedusha include an Aramaic translation?

At the time that this prayer was established, the familiar language spoken by Jews was Aramaic, and some of the common people did not understand Hebrew. For this reason, several other parts of our liturgy specifically intended for everyone’s comprehension were also written in Aramaic. The most common instance of this is the Kaddish (see Tosafos, Brochos 3a s.v. Ve’onin), but note, also, ha lachma anya in the Pesach Seder, which includes a personal invitation to any Jew to join the Seder, and the kohen’s question to the father of a firstborn at a pidyon haben, mai ba’is tefei. With the same goal in mind, at the time of the Gemara each verse read during the kerias haTorah was immediately followed by the Targum translation, an observance that we no longer follow, since the average person no longer understands Aramaic. A vestige of this practice remains when we recite the Akdamus praise on Shavuos as part of the kerias haTorah. (By the way, some Yemenite communities still follow this practice of reciting the Targum after each pasuk during kerias haTorah.)

For the same reason, since the Kedusha Desidra was instituted to include the unlettered, it was accompanied by the traditional Aramaic translation, so that everyone who read it would understand it (Tur; Avudraham).

It is also important to note that the Targum is not simply a translation of the verses, but serves as a commentary. For example, the Targum that we recite to the verse Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh, which is from Targum Yonasan, teaches that the repetition of the word kodosh is not to show how holy Hashem is (three increasing levels of sanctity), but that His Holiness exists in the highest Heavens, in the earth that He created, and forever.

Why Yimloch?

The second question asked above was: Why does the Kedusha of Uva Letziyon quote a different verse, Hashem Yimloch Le’olam Va’ed (Shemos 15:18) rather than the verse that we recite for Kedusha in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei? With a bit of an introduction, we will discover that the answer to this second question is also linked to the basic theme of why we recite the Kedusha Desidra. Let us first study a related passage of Gemara:

Onkelos the Convert composed the translation of the Torah that he had been taught by Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. Yonasan ben Uziel composed the translation of Nevi’im that he had been taught by Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi [the Last Prophets], and the Land of Israel trembled 400 parsah by 400 parsah. A Heavenly voice emerged, declaring, “Who is it that revealed My secrets to mankind?” Yonasan ben Uziel stood up and declared, “It is I who revealed Your secrets to mankind. It is revealed and well-known before You that I did this not for my honor nor for the honor of my father’s household, but only for Your honor – to decrease contention in Israel.”

He [Yonasan ben Uziel] also wanted to reveal the translation of the Kesuvim. A Heavenly voice emerged, declaring, “You have done enough!”

What is the reason [not to translate the Kesuvim]? Because it contains the End of Days – the arrival of the Moshiach (Megillah 3a). (The translation published on Kesuvim called Targum Yonasan is of unknown, but definitely much later, origin, and was certainly not written by Yonasan ben Uziel. It does not carry the imprimatur of an old, accepted translation.)

With the background that this Gemara provides, I can now explain why the Kedusha Desidra includes a different verse to praise Hashem’s Kingship. In the Kedusha recited during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei, the third verse, beginning with the word Yimloch, is from Tehillim, which is part of Kesuvim and therefore has no traditional Targum translation. As mentioned above, the main purpose for reciting Kedusha Desidra is to include the entire Jewish population – including even the unlettered, who required an Aramaic translation. Since the sentence beginning with the word Yimloch was without a Targum, a different verse, Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed, that conveys the same concept, Hashem’s Monarchy, is substituted, because it is a pasuk in Chumash and therefore has a Targum Onkelos (Avudraham).

What should we recite aloud?

The fact that this verse is from Chumash, whereas the two preceding verses are from the Prophets, became the cause of some interesting practices. The Avudraham mentions a custom, rejected by the halachic authorities, to recite the entire Kedusha Desidra quietly, to avoid calling attention to the fact that Hashem yimloch le’olam va’ed is mentioned last, although as a verse from Chumash, it has greater sanctity than the two passages from the Prophets. Although the majority of halachic authorities rule that all three Kedusha verses should be recited aloud (Mishnah Berurah 132:4), other sources mention a custom of reciting only the two pesukim of Kodosh and Baruch aloud – but not Yimloch, which was recited quietly – again to avoid calling attention to the fact that this verse is not recited until after the words of the prophets (Avudraham).

Aramaic out loud

There is a dispute among the authorities as to whether the Aramaic translations may be said audibly. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 59) explains that, according to the Zohar, these passages are not to be said aloud, and the Rama (132:1) also rules this way. However, the authorities quote that the Arizal was not concerned about this and interpreted the Zohar in a different way. Most communities follow the practice of the Beis Yosef and the Rama and recite these passages quietly.

Kedusha Desidra with the Tzibur

At this point, we can address the third question asked above: “If I am delayed in beginning the second Ashrei, should I daven in order, or recite Uva Letziyon together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei later?”

Since the whole thrust of Uva Letziyon is that the angels wait until we collectively sing shira, every individual should participate in this recital. Therefore, except for someone who is at a place in the prayer where there should be no interruption, everyone should join for the recital of Uva Letziyon and certainly for the refrains. For this reason, the Magen Avraham (Introduction to 132) rules that someone who has not yet davened and finds himself with a tzibur who are ready to recite the Kedusha Desidra should join them in their recital (cf., however, Shaar Hatziyun 132:3), and certainly that someone who is a bit behind the tzibur should skip ahead to recite the Kedusha Desidra together with the tzibur and recite Ashrei afterwards.

We should note that there is a major dispute among the Rishonim whether one may recite the Kedusha Desidra and the Kedusha of the Birchos Kerias Shma without a minyan. The conclusion of most authorities is that one may recite these two kedushos without a minyan. However, one should strive to recite them with a minyan whenever possible.

On Shabbos and Yom Tov

On Shabbos and Yom Tov, Uva Letziyon is not recited in the morning at all. Instead, its recital is postponed to Mincha. This is because the late-arriving individuals who were the reason for the takkanah of the Kedusha Desidra arrived early enough on Shabbos to daven Shacharis with the tzibur and be present for the Kedusha. Instead, Chazal postponed the recital of Uva Letziyon to Mincha because there was a weekly drosha on Shabbos afternoon, attended also by the amei ha’aretz, that closed with words of hope about the future redemption, the sanctity of the Kedusha and our role in praising Hashem – so the drosha naturally led into the prayer Uva Letziyon (Avudraham). Others provide a slightly different reason for postponing Uva Letziyon to Mincha – since the Shabbos morning davening is fairly long, Chazal postponed Uva Letziyon (Siddur Vilna, quoting Orchos Chayim).

Kedusha at Night

Aside from the daily dose of Uva Letziyon, there are three occasions when we recite this prayer at night. Those three occasions are Motza’ei Shabbos, after reading the Megillah on Purim, and after reading Eicha on Tisha B’Av.

Why Motza’ei Shabbos?

The reason why this prayer is recited on Motza’ei Shabbos is because this is when the deceased evildoers who now inhabit gehennom return there. To ease their plight a bit, we add this prayer, which somewhat delays their return to gehennom.

When this prayer is recited at night, the accepted custom is to omit its two opening verses (those from the Book of Yeshayahu) and begin with the words Ve’ata Kodosh. This is because reciting the words Uva letziyon goel, and the redeemer will come to Tzion, as a prayer, is inappropriate at night. Recital of these words as a prayer at night implies that we are hiding the salvation and the freedom from bondage that Hashem will bring. On the contrary, this redemption will happen in broad daylight.

Why on Purim and Tisha B’Av?

On Purim night we recite this prayer immediately after completing Megillas Esther, expressing the manifestation of Hashem’s Kedusha that resulted from our redemption. We recite this prayer on the night of Tisha B’Av, both because it is a special time to pray for the ultimate redemption and because it is a consolation that deliverance will come (see Abudraham and Aruch Hashulchan 693:1).

Conclusion

We now understand why the prayer Uva Letziyon is so important. Let us all now strive to recite it with the appropriate respect and focus.

## Is It Time for Maariv?

Question #1:

When is the correct time to daven maariv?

Question #2:

Why is there no repetition of shmoneh esrei for maariv?

Question #3:

Must women daven maariv?

Introduction:

In citing the source for our three daily prayers, the Gemara quotes two approaches. Rabbi Yosi ben Chanina explains that our three daily prayers were founded by our forefathers: Avraham instituting shacharis, Yitzchak mincha, and Yaakov maariv. The source that Yaakov introduced maariv is in the second verse of parshas Vayeitzei, where it says vayifga bamakom and the Gemara explains the word vayifga to mean he prayed. The Gemara also cites Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s statement that shacharis and mincha were established by the Anshei Keneses HaGedolah (the great leaders of Klal Yisrael who lived during the time of the building and the beginning of the Second Beis Hamikdash) to correspond to the offerings that were brought every morning and afternoon in the Beis Hamikdash (see Bamidbar 28:1-8), whereas maariv corresponds to the burning of the remaining parts of these offerings that transpired at night (Brachos 26b).

What we call “maariv” actually fulfills three different mitzvos, and the above-quoted Gemara is referring to only one of these mitzvos, the part called the tefillah, which are the prayers we recite as shmoneh esrei. (The avos did not establish the shmoneh esrei, but the concept that one should daven three times a day. The text of the shmoneh esrei was written by the Anshei Keneses HaGedolah.)

The other two mitzvos that we fulfill when we pray maariv are kriyas shma, whose recital is required min haTorah every morning and night (Brachos 2a), and the birchos kriyas shma, which Chazal instituted to surround the shma with brachos (Mishnah Brachos 11a). These brachos together with the shma constitute the part of the davening between borchu and the shmoneh esrei. (Ashkenazim in chutz la’aretz also add another bracha that begins with the words Baruch Hashem LeOlam between the birchos kriyas shma and the kaddish that precedes the shmoneh esrei.)

Although we are very familiar with how we recite the order of the different parts of maariv, we should be aware that, at the time of the Gemara, this order was a topic of dispute between Rabbi Yochanan, whose opinion we follow, and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who contended that the shmoneh esrei of maariv should be recited before shma and the birchos kriyas shma, so that one recites shma closer to the time one retires (Brachos 4b).

Why is there no maariv repetition?

As a preamble to answering this question, let us examine a famous event that occurred shortly after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, after the main Sanhedrin and its associated yeshiva had been forced to evacuate Yerushalayim and reestablish itself in the city of Yavneh. To understand this anecdote properly, we must realize the historical context that the Beis Hamikdash, which had been the central focus of all organized Torah life, had been recently destroyed, and there was concern whether an organized Jewish community could maintain itself without the Beis Hamikdash.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, then a young student in the yeshiva, posed the following query: Is maariv (referring to the tefillah part) reshus, usually translated as “optional,” or is it required? First he brought his inquiry to the great scholar Rabbi Yehoshua, the rebbe of Rabbi Akiva, who ruled that tefillas arvis reshus. Afterwards, Rabbi Shimon shared his question with Rabban Gamliel, who was the rosh yeshiva and the head of the Sanhedrin, who responded tefillas arvis chovah, the maariv prayer is required.

Rabbi Shimon noted that he had previously heard Rabbi Yehoshua’s opinion to the contrary, to which Rabban Gamliel responded that Rabbi Shimon should wait until all the scholars had arrived in the Beis Hamedrash. After the students entered the Beis Hamedrash, Rabbi Shimon repeated his inquiry, and Rabban Gamliel immediately answered tefillas arvis chovah. Rabban Gamliel then asked whether anyone disputed this, to which Rabbi Yehoshua responded in the negative. Rabban Gamliel challenged Rabbi Yehoshua, announcing that it had been reported that Rabbi Yehoshua had ruled that tefillas arvis reshus. Rabban Gamliel then ordered Rabbi Yehoshua to arise so that they could hear the testimony that he had indeed ruled maariv to be only reshus. Rabbi Yehoshua acknowledged that he had indeed ruled this way. Rabban Gamliel then continued the lecture, without granting Rabbi Yehoshua permission to sit down.

This continued for a short while, until the students objected to Rabban Gamliel’s highhanded treatment of Rabbi Yehoshua. The lecture was stopped, and the decision was reached to remove Rabban Gamliel from his position as rosh yeshiva and as head of the Sanhedrin, and to install Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah in his stead. Eventually, all understood that although the consensus was that Rabban Gamliel was wrong for his strong tactics, his motives were completely sincere. He had been ruling with an iron fist to maintain a central authority for Torah in Klal Yisrael, out of concern that in the absence of such strong authority, the centrality of Torah leadership over Klal Yisrael may dissipate. Eventually, Rabban Gamliel was returned to his position with Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah serving as rosh yeshiva and the head of the Sanhedrin one week in four (Brachos 27b- 28a).

Is Maariv Optional?

Ultimately, the halachic conclusion is that maariv is a reshus. Is maariv really optional? Can one decide every night if he wants to skip maariv?

The Rishonim already note a ruling that appears to contravene the statement that maariv is optional. Someone who missed maariv must recite a makeup prayer, called a tefillas tashlumim, after the next morning’s shacharis. However, this ruling appears to contradict the statement that tefillas arvis reshus. If maariv is optional, why must one make up the missed prayer?

In response to this question, Tosafos explains that when the Gemara states that maariv is reshus, it does not mean that it is optional, but that it is less obligatory than other requirements. For example, should one need to choose between fulfilling two different mitzvos in a situation where one cannot fulfill both of them, maariv is pushed aside (Tosafos, Brachos 26a s.v. Ta’ah). In all other circumstances, one is obligated to recite maariv.

The Rif answers the question in a different way. He explains that indeed maariv is technically not obligatory. However, someone who decided to recite maariv makes it obligatory on himself and must pray correctly, even if he needs to pray a makeup.

Must a Woman Daven Maariv?

Does any other halachic distinction result from this difference of opinion between Tosafos and the Rif? It seems that a difference results regarding whether, according to those authorities who rule that women are obligated to daven shacharis and mincha daily, a woman must also daven maariv daily. According to Tosafos, who contends that maariv is obligatory, a woman should be required to daven maariv daily. This ruling is stated by the Aruch Hashulchan (106:7). However, other authorities rule that women are not obligated to daven maariv since they never accepted it as a responsibility (Graz 106:2; Mishnah Berurah 106:4; cf. Magen Avraham 299:16). This approach reflects the opinion of the Rif that although maariv was originally reshus, since men daven maariv regularly, they must continue to do so, but women, who for the most part do not regularly daven maariv, are exempt from doing so (see Shach, Yoreh Deah 375:14).

Why should Yaakov lose out?

This previous discussion should arouse a question in every one of our readers. Since Yaakov Avinu introduced tefillas maariv, why is it treated “second rate” – why is maariv reshus, and only the tefillos founded by Avraham and Yitzchak are obligatory?

Why is Maariv Different?

To answer this question, let us revert to our previous discussion – where I noted that there were two approaches, one contending that the daily prayers were instituted by our forefathers, and the other maintaining that the prayers were created to correspond to the daily offerings. According to both of these approaches, we can explain why maariv is treated somewhat differently from shacharis and mincha.

According to the interpretation that the forefathers instituted the daily prayers, although Yaakov was the first to daven maariv, he had not intended to daven so late in the day, but Hashem caused the sun to set suddenly, giving Yaakov no choice but to daven after nightfall. Since this davening was performed not as Yaakov’s first choice, but because he had no other option, the prayer instituted this way is reshus (Pnei Yehoshua, Brachos 26b s.v. Mihu).

According to the approach that our prayers correspond to the daily offerings, shacharis and mincha each represent the daily korban tamid that was offered in the Beis Hamikdash. Maariv represents the remaining parts of the daily tamid that were burnt the following night on the mizbei’ach. As such, since this step in the processing of the korban is non-essential, the prayer is also not required (Rashi to Shabbos 9b s.v. Lemaan).

Repetition of Maariv

With this background, we can now answer the question we raised above: Why does maariv not include a chazzan‘s repetition of shmoneh esrei, as is done for both shacharis and mincha. The answer is that although today maariv is obligatory, it is not the same level of requirement as are shacharis and mincha. Since everyone is required to daven shacharis and mincha, Chazal were concerned that unlettered individuals would be unable to fulfill the mitzvah. Chazal therefore instituted the repetition of the tefillah so that those unable to daven otherwise can fulfill their requirement by listening to the chazzan‘s prayer. However, since maariv is reshus, Chazal were less concerned that the unlettered would be unable to fulfill this responsibility and therefore they did not institute a repetition.

When Do We Daven Maariv?

Having established that maariv is indeed obligatory, our next question is: When is the earliest time that one may begin maariv? Indeed, although the Mishnah establishes times for the other prayers, it leaves the time for maariv fairly vague. The accepted halachah is that once the time for davening mincha is over, one may daven maariv (Tosafos, Brachos 2a).

So now we need to resolve: Until when can one daven mincha?

The Mishnah records a dispute between the Tana’im regarding this question. According to the Sages, one is allowed to daven mincha until “the evening,” while according to Rabbi Yehudah, the last time for mincha is “plag hamincha,” which I will soon explain. The dispute between them is dependent on how late one may offer the afternoon korban tamid. According to Rabbi Yehudah, one may offer it only until plag hamincha; whereas according to the Sages, one may offer it until evening (Brachos 26b).

So we now know. According to Rabbi Yehudah, one may daven mincha until plag hamincha, and maariv after plag hamincha, whereas the Sages contend that one may daven mincha until “evening,” and maariv afterwards.

When is Evening?

Of course, now we need to find out when is “evening,” when is plag hamincha, and whether we rule like the Sages or like Rabbi Yehudah.

The authorities dispute whether “evening” here means shortly before tzeis hakochavim, nightfall (see Rama 233:1 and Mishnah Berurah #14) or whether it means sunset (Rabbeinu Yonah; authorities cited by Shaarei Tziyun 233:18). According to the first approach, the Sages hold that one may daven mincha until nightfall but one may not daven maariv until after nightfall. According to the second approach, one may not daven mincha after sunset but one may daven maariv then.

When is Plag Hamincha?

Rabbi Yehudah ruled that the latest time to daven mincha is a point in time called plag hamincha. When is plag hamincha? According to the most commonly accepted interpretation, plag hamincha is calculated by dividing the time between sunrise and sunset into 48 “quarter-hour” segments. The point of time that is five of those segments prior to sunset is plag hamincha. Obviously, each segment will not be exactly fifteen minutes, but will vary according to the length of the day. An easier way to express this is to say that plag hamincha is 1 1/4 “halachic hours” (in Hebrew, sha’os zemaniyos) before sunset, where a “halachic hour” is defined as a twelfth of the time between sunrise and sunset. (There are other authorities who calculate the halachic hours and plag hamincha from halachic dawn, alos hashachar, until nightfall, tzeis hakochavim. In their opinion, plag hamincha is considerably later in the day than it is according to the first opinion quoted.)

Do We Rule like the Sages or like Rabbi Yehudah?

Now that we have discussed the dispute between the Sages and Rabbi Yehudah, we need to know how we rule so that we can determine when is the latest time for mincha and the earliest time for maariv. Most disputes in the Gemara are resolved either by the Gemara itself or by the early halachic authorities. However, in regard to this dispute, the Gemara states something unusual — that one can choose which opinion he wants to follow (Brachos 27a). One wishing to daven maariv after plag hamincha, following the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, may do so, and one who would rather recite mincha after plag hamincha may follow the opinion of the Sages and do so.

Now our question is:

How consistent must I be? May I follow Rabbi Yehudah’s approach one day and the Sages approach on a different day? What about on the same day – may I daven mincha after plag hamincha following the Sages, and then daven maariv before sunset following Rabbi Yehudah?

Most Rishonim rule that one must consistently follow one of these two opinions. In other words, if one decides to daven maariv before sunset following Rabbi Yehudah, then he must be consistent and always daven mincha before plag. Once he follows Rabbi Yehudah’s ruling in this matter, he may no longer daven mincha after plag — to do so is contradictory (Rabbeinu Yonah, Brachos 18b, s.v. D’avad; Rosh, Brachos 4:3; Tur, Beis Yosef, and Shulchan Aruch 233). Being inconsistent is referred to as following a path that is tarti desasri ahadadi, two approaches that contradict one another, since neither Rabbi Yehudah nor the Sages approve of what he is doing, albeit for different reasons.

Some authorities permit one to follow Rabbi Yehudah on one day and the Sages on a different day, providing one is consistent on the same day by davening mincha after plag and maariv before sunset (Hashlamah and Mordechai, both quoted by Beis Yosef 233).

Notwithstanding this discussion, the frequent practice was to daven mincha and maariv together after plag hamincha, which appears to be inconsistent according to all opinions. Nevertheless, the poskim acknowledge that this was commonly done and suggest different reasons why this practice was accepted, or at least tolerated. Some explain that if this approach was not accepted, many communities would be unable to consistently have a regular minyan, or people would not daven maariv since they would not wait in shul until the later time to daven maariv. As a result, for the sake of tefillah betzibur many authorities allowed the tarti desasri but ruled that someone who davened mincha after plag and is davening maariv privately (beyechidus) must wait until nightfall to daven maariv (Magen Avraham 233:7).

We should note that, according to the accepted halachah, one who davens maariv before nightfall, should recite the full shma over again after nightfall (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 235:1). This is for two different reasons. Firstly, although Rabbi Yehudah ruled that the cutoff time between mincha and maariv is plag hamincha, this is only germane to the shmoneh esrei parts of our davening, whose timing is dependent on the daily tamid offerings as mentioned above. However, the mitzvah of reading shma must be fulfilled at the time people retire for the evening, as the Torah says beshachbecha, and few people retire for the evening before it gets dark. Since the time for reciting the evening shma is when most people might consider it bedtime, one cannot not fulfill this mitzvah until nightfall according to most opinions. (However, see Rabbeinu Tam, quoted by Tosafos, Brachos 2a.)

Secondly, the requirements of davening at a specific time and reciting the birchos kriyas shma are rabbinic in nature rather than Torah mandated, which allows some leniency. However, regarding the Torah requirement of reading the shma, we should follow the stricter approach and recite it again after it is definitely nightfall.

I’ll share one anecdote to show how far we should be concerned that one recites shma after it is dark. One gadol I knew from the previous generation, who established his community in America, was concerned that baalei batim would not recite shma after dark, and thus not fulfill the mitzvah min haTorah properly. He also knew that if the break between mincha and maariv was too long, many would not attend shul regularly. He thus established in his community that they began mincha after sunset, followed by a fifteen minute shiur and then maariv so that people would daven maariv in its correct time. In other words, he decided that the entire community should daven mincha at a time that he himself considered non-optimal according to some poskim, in order to guarantee that everyone recite shma properly in its proper time! Although this approach is certainly not the most accepted, we should all be aware of the many considerations

Contemporarily, most communities have many minyanim scheduled both for mincha and for maariv. An individual can, therefore, with a small amount of planning, daven in a way that he avoids any question of davening tarti desasri.