THIS SITE IS NO LONGER SUPPORTED            בית מדרש הוירטואלי עבר דירה
PLEASE FIND US AT OUR NEW TORAT HAR ETZION WEBSITE                                  
     English shiurim @          לשיעורים בעברית @

Tefillat Mincha (2)

  • Rav David Brofsky



Last week, we introduced the laws of Tefillat Mincha, which, according to the Gemara (Berakhot 26b), was instituted by Yitzchak Avinu and corresponds to the afternoon sacrifice (tamid shel bein ha-arbayim).  We focused upon the proper times, both earliest and latest, to recite Mincha.  We encountered Talmudic time, which divides the period of daylight by twelve, into seasonal hours; "six hours," for example, would thus be midday, when the sun is at its zenith.  


This week, we continue our discussion of the latest time for Mincha.  Furthermore, we will address those activities which the Talmud prohibits engaging in before Mincha


One Who Prays Mincha Late:


In our previous shiur, we questioned how late one can recite Mincha.  We noted that while many recommend reciting an abridged repetition close to sunset (based upon the Rema, OC  124:2), the Arukh Ha-shulchan (223:6) cites the Arizal, who insists on the cantor (sheliach tzibbur, or shatz) reciting the entire repetition (Chazarat Ha-shatz), and he records that such is the custom. 


This week, I would like to address two related issues briefly.


Firstly, regarding the repetition (Chazarat Ha-shatz) of Mincha, Rav Yosef Karo (Beit Yosef, Tur OC 234) records the Sephardic practice, according to which the sheliach tzibbur and the congregation recite the first three blessings, including Kedusha, together, and then continue silently until the berakha of Retzeh (the 17th blessing), at which point the leader recites the final three blessings out loud. 


Rav Yosef Karo records that this is against the view of both the Rambam and the Kol Bo; instead, one should conform to the Ashkenazic custom of reciting the entire repetition, after the congregation recites Shemoneh Esreh silently.  Indeed, the rabbinic leadership of Tzefat, during the sixteenth century, instituted this as the proper practice and threatened excommunication ("niddui") upon those who refused to comply.


Furthermore, Rav Yosef Karo (ibid. 232) also cites the ruling of Rav Hai Gaon (939–1038), brought by the Shibbolei Ha-leket, which asserts that one fulfils the mitzva of tefilla ONLY through the silent Shemoneh Esreh, not through the repetition.  Therefore, when there is not enough time left in the day to recite both the silent Shemoneh Esreh and the full repetition, he rules that the congregation should recite the silent Shemoneh Esreh, and then the sheliach tzibbur should be instructed to recite NOT the full Chazarat Ha-shatz, but rather ONLY the first three blessings including the Kedusha, as was the custom in Pumbedita in such cases.  In Shulchan Arukh (232:1), Rav Yosef Karo rules in accordance with Rav Hai Gaon.


The Rema (232:1 and 124:4) disagrees, ruling that the congregation and the sheliach tzibbur should recite the first three blessings together, including the responsive Kedusha, and then the congregation should continue their Shemoneh Esreh silently.  In a previous shiur (see, we discussed the nature and use of this abridged Shemoneh Esreh


Regarding the technical question of "when" the congregation (tzibbur) should begin their silent Shemoneh Esreh, i.e., WITH the sheliach tzibbur of AFTER Kedusha, the Mishna Berura (124:8) derives from the Rema's words that the congregation should recite the Shemoneh Esreh WITH the sheliach tzibbur ONLY if they fear missing the proper time for Mincha; otherwise, the tzibbur should begin their Shemoneh Esreh AFTER the sheliach tzibbur concludes the berakha of "Ha-Kel Ha-kadosh." 


Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik (see Rav Herschel Shachter's Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 126) maintains that the tzibbur should begin Shemoneh Esreh WITH the sheliach tzibbur.  He explains that generally Kedusha is an integral part of Chazarat Ha-shatz, which constitutes tefillat ha-tzibbur (communal prayer), and Kedusha is thus invoked by the congregation during their prayer.  However, when reciting the abridged Kedusha, if the tzibbur does not join the shatz's tefilla, then Kedusha is not part of the communal prayer! Furthermore, the tzibbur should recite "Le-dor va-dor…" (in the Ashkenazic rite, the line connecting Kedusha to the berakha of "Ha-Kel Ha-kadosh"), usually recited only by the sheliach tzibbur, in order to integrate the Kedusha into their Shemoneh Esreh


Interestingly, it is common in both Ashkenazic and Sephardic yeshivot to recite the abridged Chazarat Ha-shatz, colloquially known as "heikha Kedusha."  While some have strongly censured this practice (see Yechavveh Da'at 3:16), others defend using it specifically in yeshivot.


Activities Prohibited BEFORE Mincha:


Being that one recites Mincha during the daytime, when a person is usually occupied with various mundane (and distracting) matters, and Mincha may only be recited until sundown, as we discussed last week, the Sages feared that one might become enveloped in one's daily routine and inadvertently miss Tefillat Mincha.  Therefore, the Mishna (Shabbat 1:2) records activities which one should refrain from doing BEFORE reciting Mincha.


Near mincha [time], until one has prayed, one may neither sit down before a barber, nor enter the baths or a tannery, nor begin a meal or a court session; nevertheless, if they have begun, they need not interrupt.  One must interrupt for Keriat Shema, but not for prayer.


The Gemara questions whether "mincha" refers to mincha gedola (from 6½ hours) or mincha ketanna (from 9½ hours). 


Near which mincha?  Shall we say, near mincha gedola?  But why not, seeing that there is yet plenty of time in the day? 


But if [the mishna refers to] mincha ketanna, then the statement: "If they have begun, they need not interrupt" refutes the position of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi!  For Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: "As soon as it is time for Tefillat Mincha, one may not taste anything before he has recited Tefillat Mincha."  No, indeed [it means] near mincha gedola.


The Gemara concludes that since Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's statement, which demands that one interrupt in order to recite Mincha, must refer to mincha ketanna, our mishna must be referring to mincha gedola!


Furthermore, the Gemara (Shabbat 9b) questions whether the activities prohibited before Mincha refer to prolonged actions or even to short ones.  It begins by citing the example of Rabbi Yehuda Ha-nasi's son-in-law, whose extensive hair-care regimen involved cropping his hair closely, in the manner of the High Priest (see Nedarim 51a):


The reference is to a haircut in the fashion of Ben Elasa.  [Similarly] "the baths" [means] for the complete process of the baths; "or a tannery," for tanning on a large scale; "nor begin a meal" — a long one; "or a court session," at the beginning of the trial.


Rav Acha bar Yaakov said: "Indeed, it refers to our mode of haircutting, and why must he not sit down [for it] initially?  A decree, lest the scissors break.  [Similarly] 'the baths' [means] merely for sweating; [and] why not [do this] initially?  A decree, lest he faint [there].  'Or a tannery,' merely to inspect it: [and] why not initially?  Lest he see his wares being spoiled, which will preoccupy him.  'Nor begin a meal' [means even] a small one: [and] why not initially?  Lest he come to prolong it.  'Or a court session,' for the end of the trial; [and] why not [enter] initially?  Lest he see an argument to overthrow the verdict."


The gemara presents two opinions which debate whether the activities referred to by the mishna refer to inherently long activities or even to short ones, which the rabbis also forbade out of concern for circumstance which may cause one to miss Mincha


Eating Before Mincha:


Naturally, the most practical example of the activities mentioned in the Talmud is eating.  Therefore, we will limit our discussion to this question: what, and when, may one eat near the time for Mincha?


The Rishonim differ regarding the final halakha.  The Rif (4b) and the Rambam (Hilkhot Tefilla 6:5) rule in accordance with Rav Acha bar Yaakov, who prohibits even short activities, before praying Mincha, from the time of mincha gedola.  Rav Yosef Karo (Shulchan Arukh OC 232:2) rules, as usual, in accordance with the Rif and Rambam.


Some Acharonim (see Arukh Ha-shulchan 232:11) express their astonishment at this ruling, as most people eat lunch after midday and before praying Mincha, which according the this ruling is prohibited! Furthermore, this ruling is especially surprising according to the Rambam, who, as we learned last week, rules that preferably one should recite Mincha from 9½ hours, at mincha ketanna!  If so, seemingly he would prohibit one from ever eating even a small meal from midday until well into the afternoon!


Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer Ha-yashar, Responsum 48), the Ri (see Ritva, Shabbat 9b; Tosafot, Shabbat 9b) and the Rosh (Shabbat 1:18) rule in accordance with the first answer of the gemara, and they only prohibit starting a long activity or a large meal near mincha gedola; however, close to mincha ketanna, one should not begin a large meal.  Even this ruling seems to contradict common practice (see Arukh Ha-shulchan above).


Interestingly, the Ba'al Ha-ma'or (Shabbat 3b) insists that since the Gemara interprets the mishna as referring to mincha gedola to avoid contradicting Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi's ruling, and we do not rule in accordance with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, the mishna should be interpreted according to the Gemara's original thesis: referring to mincha ketanna!  Therefore, while one should not begin a large meal close to mincha ketanna, any meal may be begun earlier in the day, even after mincha gedola.


Finally, the Rosh (Shabbat 1:18) and Tur (232) cite the Ri as saying that one may even begin a "small meal" near mincha ketanna.  The Acharonim (see Bach, 232; Magen Avraham, 232:15) explain that as the Gemara, according to the first answer in the passage, refers to beginning large meals close to mincha gedola, there is no record of a prohibition to begin a small meal near mincha ketanna!  However, as the Magen Avraham notes, all agree that one should not begin even a small meal after mincha ketanna.


The Rema (232:2) cites the view of Rabbeinu Tam, then the view of the Ba'al Ha-Ma'or, and then the view of the Ri (as cited by the Rosh and Tur).  He concludes that the custom is to be lenient, in accordance with the last two opinions, and to allow one to begin a large meal close to mincha gedola and a small meal near mincha ketanna.  He further suggests that these leniencies may be based upon the custom to "call" the people to pray before Mincha (via a town crier).  He concludes that one should preferably be stringent and not begin a "large meal" near mincha gedola (in deference to the view of Rabbeinu Tam). 


Regarding the definition of a "small meal" and a "large meal", Rav Yosef Karo (Beit Yosef 232) cites the Hagahot Maimoniyyot (Hilkhot Tefilla 6:7) who defines a large meal as a "meal at which many people eat, like a wedding meal or a meal celebrating a berit mila." 


Furthermore, Rav Yosef Karo (Shulchan Arukh 232:3) rules that even though one should refrain from eating a "small meal" close to mincha ketanna, "to taste, i.e., to eat fruits, is permitted, and even to eat an egg's volume (ka-beitza) of bread, which people eat casually, is permitted."  It seems that this might include a quick slice or two of pizza or a sandwich.


However, truth be told, as the Acharonim point out, the custom is clearly not in accordance with the halakha!  During the spring and summer, most people clearly eat dinner after the start of the tenth hour, when according to all opinions one should refrain from eating even a "small meal" until praying Mincha.  Even if one takes into account the Rema's leniency of the town crier, the Rema himself only extends this until mincha ketanna, and most (Jewish) communities no longer publicly call people to prayer!


The Arukh Ha-shulchan grapples with this question throughout his discussion of this topic.  He suggests (232:15) that the custom is in accordance with the Yerushalmi (Shabbat 1:2) which, according to one answer, interprets the mishna as being according to Rabbi Yehuda, who says that Mincha may be recited until pelag ha-mincha (1¼ hours before dark); however, according to the Rabbis, who maintain that Mincha may be recited until dark, one may eat (a small meal) until then.  Since we are accustomed to pray Mincha until sunset, in accordance with the opinion of the Rabbis, then similarly one may also eat until then.  Furthermore, he suggests that the Talmud Bavli may also be in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda, in which case all would agree that according to the Rabbis one may eat until dark!  He also suggests (232:16) that the leniencies are intended for one who usually prays with a minyan.  However, one who prays alone (b-ichidut) or after the time of the minyan should not rely upon the commonly-accepted leniencies.


Other Acharonim, based upon the Rema's town-crier theory, permit asking a friend with whom he is not currently eating to remind him when the time for Mincha arrives (see Mishna Berura 235:17-8).  Some even suggest setting an alarm for this purpose (Ishei Yisrael 27, footnote 64). 


Haircuts and Napping Before Mincha:


The Posekim relate to two other activities which one may or may not engage in before Mincha.


Regarding haircuts, the Acharonim note that the custom is to cut one's hair even after mincha ketanna.  The Mishna Berura (232:6) suggests that a barber with more than one pair of scissors may cut hair near the time for Mincha.  Others suggest that since nowadays haircuts are generally performed quickly, we are not concerned that one may inadvertently miss Mincha


The Arukh Ha-shulchan (232:17) questions whether the halakha found in the Gemara would also prohibit sleeping near the time of Mincha.  He concludes that sleeping after mincha ketanna may not be too prudent, and therefore one should preferably pray before sleeping.    



Next week, we will begin our discussion of Tefillat Arvit.