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Shabbat Parashat Bo| 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Starting Mincha of Shabbat a Few Minutes Early

Question: A local minyan for Mincha on Shabbat often starts before the earliest time permitted. When I asked about it, they said they are careful that the Amida (= Shemoneh Esrei) is done at the proper time. Is that good enough?   


Answer: The only primary source we found on the matter is the Tzitz Eliezer (X, 20), who infers from classical sources that Kri’at Hatorah and even U’va L’tzion must be at the proper time for Mincha. He is cited by Tefilla K’hilchata (21:90) and Ishei Yisrael (36:90) without a machloket. (Ishei Yisrael also relates a less conclusive oral ruling from Rav Chayim Kaniefsky to try to avoid doing so.) Although the Tzitz Eliezer does not prove there is an issue with Ashrei, he assumes one should wait for it as well.

Let us analyze the matter ourselves. Kri’at Hatorah was instituted “at Mincha” of Shabbat due to yoshvei keranot (Bava Kama 82a). Rashi explains that these are businessmen who don’t hear Kri’at Hatorah on Monday and Thursday, and so this is their additional reading. The Shita Mekubetzet (ad loc.) says that it has to do with the fact that many people get drunk during the day and we set a time for Kri’at Hatorah along with Mincha, which is a time of good will, to show that we are different. For some reason, the Tzitz Eliezer assumes that that would have to be at a time when one can daven Mincha. He also cites the mishna (Megilla 31a), which, after listing the various Torah readings, says that each one should be at its time.

It is not clear, though, to all poskim that this short Shabbat Kri’at Hatorah has to be directly at Mincha. The Eshel Avraham (Butchatch, 292) raises a doubt whether, at least fundamentally, one can do the Kri’at Hatorah in a manner that is not related to davening Mincha. See also Yaskil Avdi (VIII, OC 38), who says that one can lain after people privately davened Mincha, and even after sunset. It is a valid question whether the relating of this reading to Mincha tells us to (at least preferably) attach the reading to the tefilla of Mincha or whether it was instituted at the time of Mincha. If the former is correct, it makes sense that if it is done minutes before the time of Mincha, it should be fine. After all, P’sukei D’zimra is meant to lead into Shacharit, and it can be done earlier than Shemoneh Esrei can (see Ishei Yisrael 16:15). If Kri’at Hatorah is to be at the time of Mincha, it should probably not be earlier.

We have been assuming that the time in our calendars is absolute. The gemara (Yoma 28b) says that while Mincha is modeled after the afternoon sacrifice, which was brought half an hour after chatzot (astronomical midday), Avraham would daven right after midday. Tosafot (Nidda 63b) and the Magen Avraham (458:1) are among those who say that conceptually Mincha is at chatzot, just that we are concerned we may do it too early. It is not so simple that the same concern applies to Kri’at Hatorah or Ashrei / U’va L’tzion. Furthermore, the Mishna Berura (233:2) suggests that after the fact, one who davened Mincha in the half hour after chatzot fulfills the mitzva, which makes the case for leniency stronger, as starting a few minutes before the time is certainly after chatzot. There is also some question (see Sha’ar Hatziyun 233:8) how to calculate the half hour (30 minutes or one twenty-fourth of daylight). Thus, during certain times of the year, it might be possible to daven a little earlier than the time on most calendars.

The Tzitz Eliezer relies strongly on kabbalistic sources that the spiritually appropriate time for U’va L’tzion and Kri’at Hatorah is the afternoon (Mincha time). Besides the question whether we are bound by such sources, since we are talking about after chatzot (thus, afternoon) why should that half hour not be appropriate?

We lack the conviction to rule against the important stringent ruling cited without clear sources for leniency. However, we feel that since there are few sources and not compelling logic for stringency, one should not protest a minyan’s practice to start Mincha a few minutes “early.”   


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