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Weekly Halacha

Selected halachos relating to Parshas Chayei Sara

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.

Time of Mincha

The Daily Mincha Service Our Sages attach special significance to Tefillas Mincha, the afternoon prayer service instituted by Yitzchak Avinu (1). The Talmud (2) notes that of the three daily prayer services, Mincha is the most readily accepted by G-d. The time period allotted for Tefillas Mincha, however, conflicts sometimes, especially during the winter months, with a person's work-day schedule. It is important, therefore, to review the Halachos which are associated with the scheduling of Mincha.

There are two time periods during the day in which one is permitted to daven Mincha. The earliest time one can daven Mincha is six and half hours (3) after sunrise (4). This time, which is one half hour after Chatzos (5), is known as Mincha Gedola. The second time period, known as Mincha Ketana, begins three hours (Zmanios) later (6), nine and half hours after sunrise.

There are conflicting opinions in the Rishonim as to which of these time periods is the preferred choice for davening Mincha. Some Poskim (7) prefer Mincha Gedola, while others (8) hold that Mincha Ketana is the preferred time to daven. As there is no decisive ruling on this question, either custom may be followed (9). The Poskim agree, however, that it is better to daven Mincha Gedola than to daven without a Minyan. Similarly, before embarking on a trip or sitting down to a main meal, it is better to daven Mincha Gedola first (10).

If, B'dieved, one davened Mincha before six hours of the day elapsed, he must repeat the davening. If, B'deived, he davened after six hours but before six and half hours elapsed, he should not repeat the davening (11).

One should be extremely careful to finish davening Mincha by Shkiah, sunset, since many early Poskim (12) hold that it is forbidden to daven Mincha after that time (13). It is better to daven on time without a Minyan than to daven after the proper time with a Minyan (14).

B'dieved, one may daven Mincha up to 20 minutes (15) after sunset. Some Poskim suggest that when davening Mincha this late, the following condition (Tnai) should be stated: If the present time is still "day", then my Tefillah is Mincha and my next Tefillah will be Maariv. If, however, the present time is already "night", then this Tefillah should be counted as Maariv and the next one will be Tashlumim (a makeup) for Mincha (16).

One who enters a Shul where Maariv is davened early, and he hasn't yet davened Mincha, should daven Mincha Shmone Esrei while the Minyan is davening Maariv Shmone Esrei. He should then daven Maariv with a later Minyan (17).

QUESTION: In some places, most notably in Yeshivos, it has become customary that the Chazan does not repeat the Shmone Esrei of Mincha. What, if any, is the justification for this custom?

ANSWER If the hour is late and the Tzibbur realizes that they will not be able to finish Mincha--including Chazoras Hashatz--on time, the correct procedure is to daven a "short" Mincha (18). According to our custom, that means that the Chazan starts by reciting Shmonei Esrei aloud until Kedusha, and the Tzibbur follows with their own silent Shmonei Esrei after the Kedusha has been said in unison (19).

Under normal circumstances, however, there is no justification for not repeating Shmone Esrei at Mincha. The Poskim (20) are very critical of Shuls who have abandoned Chazoras Hashatz at Mincha, since it is a Takana (ordinance) of Chazal to repeat the silent Shmonei Esrei so that those who cannot daven themselves can hear the recitation of the Shliach Tzibbur. Even though the reason may not be applicable today since there are few illiterate congregants, the Takana is still in force, as is every Takana of our Sages which remains in effect even when the circumstances that caused the Takana to be issued, have changed (21).

There is, however, a major difference if the Shmone Esrei is not repeated in a Shul or if it is not repeated in a Yeshiva. The original Takana of Chazoras Hashatz, which was made for the sake of the Amei H'aratzos, the illiterate people, was enacted only in Batei Knaisios, in synagogues, where the Amei H'aratzos congregated. In the Batei Midrashos, where only Talmidei Chachomim davened, there was never such a ordinance. The Yeshivos, therefore, which are the continuation of the Batei Medrash of yesteryear, need not be stringent about observing this Takana which was never really intended for Torah scholars (22).


1 Brachos 26b.

2 Brachos 6b.

3 Halachic "hours" are not necessarily 60 minutes long but rather one twelfth of the day (Zmanios). An "hour" could be as long as 116 minutes (in June) or as short as 46 minutes (in December). See Igros Moshe OC 2:20 for a detailed explanation.

4 This is the custom in most places. There are some Poskim who count the begining of the day from Alos Ha'shachar.

5 It is questionable if the half hour is Zmanios or exactly 30 minutes (Shaar Hatzion 233:8). The custom is to figure the half hour as Zmanios (Luach Eretz Yisrael).

6 OC 233.

7 Rabbeinu Seadya Gaon, Rif, Ritva, Rosh, Tur.

8 Rabbeinu Chananel, Rambam, Archos Chaim, Meiri.

9 Mishnah Berurah 233:1 and Aruch Hashulchan 233:12 quote both views and do not clearly rule in accordance with either one.

10 Mishnah Berurah 233:1; Aruch Hashulchan 233:12. See Yechave Daas 4:19 that Sefardim, too, should conduct themselves in this manner.

11 Mishnah Berurah 233:2.

12 Rabbeinu Yona, Shiltei Giborim, Levush, Gra.

13 Mishnah Berurah 233:14; Aruch Hashulchan 233:9; Igros Moshe OC 1:24

14 Mishnah Berurah 233:14. Many other Poskim, however, hold that it is better to daven with a Minyan even if the Minyan will commence after sunset, see Mor Uketzia 233; Minchas Elozer 1:23; Einayim L'Mishpat Brachos 27a.

15 Mishnah Berurah allows one to daven Mincha B'dieved up to 15 minutes before the stars come out. Since, according to some views, the stars are out 35 minutes after sunset, the latest time Mincha may be davened is up to 20 minutes after sunset.

16 Biur Halacha 233:1.

17 Mishnah Berura 236:11.

18 OC 232:1. See earlier Discussion for the definition of "on time" in regard to Mincha.

19 Biur Halacha 124:2; Aruch Hashulchan 232:6.

20 See Bais Yosef (OC 234) who reports that a Cherem was issued in Tzfat against those who do not repeat the Shmonei Esrei at Mincha. See also Radvaz 4:94 and Chasam Sofer 6:86.

21 The only justification we find in the Poskim for not repeating the Shmone Esrei is when there will not be 9 people listening and answering Amen to the Chazoras Hashatz. When the Rambam and his son R' Avrohom resided in Egypt, they canceled Chazoras Hashatz in the entire country because of the severity of this problem.

22 Explanation heard from Harav Yaakov Kamenetsky as to why many Yeshivos do not repeat the Shmonei Esrei at Mincha.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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