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Bais HaVaad on the Parsha, Parshas Vayeitzei

No Bless Oblige

Excerpted and adapted from a shiur by Dayan Yosef Grunwald

November 11, 2021

 

 

And he encountered (vayifga) the place and stayed there overnight because the sun had set…

 Bereishis 28:11

According to the Gemara (Brachos 26b), vayifga (from the word pegiah) refers to tefilah, from which the Gemara derives that Yaakov established the practice of davening Ma’ariv. The Gemara concludes (Brachos 27b) that Ma’ariv is a reshus (optional), though Klal Yisrael eventually undertook it as an obligation.

Nevertheless, Ma’ariv retains certain characteristics of a reshus. Some examples:

  • The Rambam (Hilchos Tefilah 3:7) writes that one who davens before the proper zman tefilah does not fulfill his obligation at Shacharis or Mincha, but with respect to Ma’ariv, “ein medakdekin”—we are not so precise about the time.
  • The Rambam rules (Tefilah 9:9) that no chazaras hashatz is recited at Ma’ariv because Ma’ariv is not considered a full-fledged tefilah like Shacharis and Mincha.
  • The Rambam (Tefilah 10:6) writes that at Shacharis and Mincha, one who remembered in the middle of Shmoneh Esrei that he had already davened must stop in the middle, because he cannot transform a tefilah that he originally intended to be a chovah (obligatory) into a nedavah (voluntary, because he already davened). But at Ma’ariv, he may continue davening, because Ma’ariv itself is considered a nedavah. (The Ra’avad disagrees.) R’ Chaim Soloveitchik explains that the Rambam holds that Ma’ariv is essentially a private communication with Hashem. Although it has been accepted as obligatory by the tzibur, it is still fundamentally a private tefilah. Therefore, one who realizes in the middle that he already davened may continue, because it always had the status of a tefilas nedavah.
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