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Shabbat Parashat Yitro 5778

Ask the Rabbi: Finishing Time for Mincha

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Am I correct that l’chatchila, it is proper to start Mincha early enough to finish before shekiah? If so, what are the key sources on the matter?

 

Answer: There are two opinions in the gemara (Berachot 27a) about the end time for Mincha – until plag haMincha or the erev (evening). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 233:1) says that the latter opinion, which most people now regularly follow, is until layla (night), which for the Shulchan Aruch (see Mishna Berura 261:20) is around an hour after sunset. (There are two major approaches in the poskim whether what the gemara calls shekiah, which is the first part of the break-off point between day and night, is what we call sunset or is when the sun is well under the horizon. This machloket has many direct and indirect halachic implications, and this is one of them.) The great majority of us (except those who follow the much later opinion for the end of Shabbat and the time to start Ma’ariv known as Rabbeinu Tam/Magen Avraham) follow the opinion (often called the Gra’s opinion) that halachic shekiah is sunset. The Rama (ad loc.) is more specific, saying that this means tzeit hakochavim (stars coming out).  

The Mishna Berura (233:14) points out that they do not mean full night, i.e., tzeit hakochavim. Rather, the intention is for approximately a quarter hour before, when bein hashemashot starts and it is a doubt whether it is night or day. Furthermore, he contends that many disagree with the Shulchan Aruch and follow sunset like the Gra. Therefore, indeed shekiah is the presumed cut-off point. Because there are opinions that later is sufficient, there is room for leniency in times of great need (Mishna Berura, ibid), especially within the first thirteen and a half minutes, which is no later than bein hashemashot (see also Shevet Halevi IX:48).

Does one only have to start or also finish in time? Most poskim posit that, as a rule, things must be finished by their time limit, and this rule also applies to Mincha (Mishna Berura ibid., Ishei Yisrael 27:6). A minority say the beginning is enough (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 110:5; see sources in Ishei Yisrael 27:(12)). Therefore, many poskim (Mishna Berura ibid., Ishei Yisrael 27:6) say that it is better to daven without a minyan before shekiah than to finish it after shekiah with a minyan (ibid.). One could claim that given the minority opinions above and here, there is more reason for leniency if one starts soon before and ends soon after sunset (see Piskei Teshuvot 233:7). This, though, is not simple for those who do not heed Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion at all.

Fundamentally, there is little difference between Shemoneh Esrei and chazarat hashatz, which, after all, is supposed to be Shemoneh Esrei for certain individuals and/or the tzibbur. On the other hand, if everyone already got in their own Shemoneh Esrei, the stakes regarding chazarat hashatz are lower. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that there is a machloket among Acharonim whether it is better to do a shortened chazarat hashatz (heiche Kedusha) or to finish chazarat hashatz after shekiah (see Ishei Yisrael 27:40). Thus, it is quite important to finish chazarat hashatz in time. However, several poskim say that if one is in a shul in which chazarat hashatz is being done after shekiah, even one who does not accept that approach may answer Amen (see Maharam Shick, OC 91; Shevet Halevi IX:20; Tefilla K’hilchata 18:33).

        While we do not put our heads down for Tachanun at night, the Mishna Berura (131:17) says that it can be done during bein hashemashot (certainly including thirteen and a half minutes after sunset). He also says (ibid. 16) that one can say the words of Tachanun without putting his head down even at night. We note, though, that several report a minhag Yerushalayim not to recite Tachanun after shekiah (see Halichot Shlomo 13:4). Reciting Kaddish Titkabel (after chazarat hashatz) after shekiah is not a problem whether one finished chazarat hashatz before or after shekiah (see Ishei Yisrael 27:39).

 opinions in the gemara (Berachot 27a) about the end time for Mincha – until plag haMincha or the erev (evening). The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 233:1) says that the latter opinion, which most people now regularly follow, is until layla (night), which for the Shulchan Aruch (see Mishna Berura 261:20) is around an hour after sunset. (There are two major approaches in the poskim whether what the gemara calls shekiah, which is the first part of the break-off point between day and night, is what we call sunset or is when the sun is well under the horizon. This machloket has many direct and indirect halachic implications, and this is one of them.) The great majority of us (except those who follow the much later opinion for the end of Shabbat and the time to start Ma’ariv known as Rabbeinu Tam/Magen Avraham) follow the opinion (often called the Gra’s opinion) that halachic shekiah is sunset. The Rama (ad loc.) is more specific, saying that this means tzeit hakochavim (stars coming out).  

The Mishna Berura (233:14) points out that they do not mean full night, i.e., tzeit hakochavim. Rather, the intention is for approximately a quarter hour before, when bein hashemashot starts and it is a doubt whether it is night or day. Furthermore, he contends that many disagree with the Shulchan Aruch and follow sunset like the Gra. Therefore, indeed shekiah is the presumed cut-off point. Because there are opinions that later is sufficient, there is room for leniency in times of great need (Mishna Berura, ibid), especially within the first thirteen and a half minutes, which is no later than bein hashemashot (see also Shevet Halevi IX:48).

Does one only have to start or also finish in time? Most poskim posit that, as a rule, things must be finished by their time limit, and this rule also applies to Mincha (Mishna Berura ibid., Ishei Yisrael 27:6). A minority say the beginning is enough (Aruch Hashulchan, OC 110:5; see sources in Ishei Yisrael 27:(12)). Therefore, many poskim (Mishna Berura ibid., Ishei Yisrael 27:6) say that it is better to daven without a minyan before shekiah than to finish it after shekiah with a minyan (ibid.). One could claim that given the minority opinions above and here, there is more reason for leniency if one starts soon before and ends soon after sunset (see Piskei Teshuvot 233:7). This, though, is not simple for those who do not heed Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion at all.

Fundamentally, there is little difference between Shemoneh Esrei and chazarat hashatz, which, after all, is supposed to be Shemoneh Esrei for certain individuals and/or the tzibbur. On the other hand, if everyone already got in their own Shemoneh Esrei, the stakes regarding chazarat hashatz are lower. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that there is a machloket among Acharonim whether it is better to do a shortened chazarat hashatz (heiche Kedusha) or to finish chazarat hashatz after shekiah (see Ishei Yisrael 27:40). Thus, it is quite important to finish chazarat hashatz in time. However, several poskim say that if one is in a shul in which chazarat hashatz is being done after shekiah, even one who does not accept that approach may answer Amen (see Maharam Shick, OC 91; Shevet Halevi IX:20; Tefilla K’hilchata 18:33).

While we do not put our heads down for Tachanun at night, the Mishna Berura (131:17) says that it can be done during bein hashemashot (certainly including thirteen and a half minutes after sunset). He also says (ibid. 16) that one can say the words of Tachanun without putting his head down even at night. We note, though, that several report a minhag Yerushalayim not to recite Tachanun after shekiah (see Halichot Shlomo 13:4). Reciting Kaddish Titkabel (after chazarat hashatz) after shekiah is not a problem whether one finished chazarat hashatz before or after shekiah (see Ishei Yisrael 27:39).  
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