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Setting the Times for Summer Minyan

There are two options in halacha with regard to setting the times for mincha (afternoon service) and maariv (evening service). One position is that of Rabbi Yehudah, which says mincha should be recited by plag hamincha (1 1/4 shaot zmaniyot – halachic hours- before sunset). If one does this, they are permitted to recite maariv immediately afterward even though it is before shkiah (sunset).

The other position is that of the Chachamim (the Sages), who say one can pray mincha until shkiah (sunset, which is later than plag hamincha) and only then pray maariv. In both cases, it is permissible to pray maariv before it is fully dark, but one should recite the shema again after dark. At Beth El, during the year we set the minyan times according to the Sages, which means we pray the mincha service as close to sunset as possible and then finish and start maariv immediately after sunset.

The Aruch Hashulchan captures it well when he writes:

“In regards to the matter of when the time for reciting minha ends, the rabbis taught in the beginning of the fourth chapter of berachot: One may daven Mincha until evening; Rabbi Yehuda says: until Plag HaMincha, which is 1.25 halachic hours before sunset...According to the sages the time for mincha extends until the evening, after which one may begin to daven Maariv in the evening and not before. According to Rabbi Yehuda, one may daven Maariv from Plag HaMincha onwards. The simple issue is that when the time for davening Mincha ends, the time for davening Maariv begins; and so our rabbis, the Tosafot, the Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher ben Jechiel), and the Rashba (Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet) all agree.”

Practically speaking, if one sets the times according to Rabbi Yehudah, then Mincha/Maariv would be significantly earlier than if we follow the Sages, especially in the summer. The sources suggest that one should set these times according to one opinion (Rabbi Yehudah or the Sages) and not move between them. One is only permitted to set times according to both opinions in a pressing time of need, which we will understand broadly to include the challenge that our community has in making a minyan in the summer months when it would not start until 8:30pm / 8:45pm. Therefore, in the hope that we may consistently fulfill our commitment to three daily minyanim according to the appropriate halachic time, we will set mincha / maariv for the months of July and August according to Rabbi Yehudah’s opinion.

Thu, September 23 2021 17 Tishrei 5782