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Rabbi’s Reminder: ‘Plag’ Minyan returns Friday

04/10/2023 10:56:38 AM


Shalom friends,

This coming Friday we will commence our additional early Mincha/Maariv Minyan, known as 'Plag HaMincha.' This Friday the early Minyan will be at 6:00pm, and the Zman minyan at 7:25pm. You can check times at or download the OZ App at The Plag Minyan will meet Monday to Friday (the Zman all week) until the end of August.

Our sages connect our 3 daily prayers either to our 3 patriarchs or to the sacrificial service. Normative practice derives the best time to daven from both. Mishna Yoma 3:1 indicates that the Tamid offering of the morning was brought at the first signs of sunrise, but could be brought, under extenuating circumstances until 4 hours after sunrise (an hour in this regard equals daylight minutes divided by 12). Thus the preferable time to daven Shacharis is between sunrise and the 4th hour. The verse that teaches that Avraham prayed in the morning, (Bereshis 19:27) has him praying first thing in the morning.

As the sun starts to noticeably turn past the midpoint between East and West, beginning at six and a half hours of the day, the time for the afternoon Tamid sets in. This time is known as Mincha Gedola. Radak in his Sefer Shorashim explains that the word for turning over, “Munach”, is why we call the afternoon prayer “Mincha”. This name has nothing to do with grain sacrifices, called Menachot. The afternoon Tamid is exactly the same as the morning Tamid, so one is no better referred to as “Mincha” than the other, as far as the sacrifice itself is concerned. Rather, the afternoon sacrifice is offered at a time of day when the sun turns over to the other side of the sky. For this reason, many schools and Yeshivas daven Mincha at lunchtime, a half hour after midday. (Midday with Daylight Savings Time is 1pm).

The problem with this time is that the actual offering of the Mincha Tamid is three hours later, at nine and a half hours of the day, known as Mincha Ketana. This was because, with the exception of Erev Pesach, the Mincha Tamid was always the last offering of the day. If it was offered at its first opportunity, the Temple would close up very early every day and there would be no time for individuals to bring their obligatory offerings, or free will offerings. Also, the verse that teaches that Yitzchak prayed in the afternoon (Bereshis 24:63), has him praying late in the afternoon. That fits the Talmudic dictum that calls for davening Mincha just before sunset (Brachos 29B), which seems to disregard the connection between davening times and Tamid times for Mincha.

Since Ma’ariv has no set Tamid, the Mishna (Brachos 4:1) says that Ma’ariv has no set time at all. It sets in as soon as Mincha is over. This time is a matter of dispute. One side holds this time to be up to sunset, so that we can daven Mincha until sunset and Ma’ariv right after. The other side holds this time to be an hour and a quarter before sunset, called Plag Hamincha, meaning halfway between Mincha Ketana and sunset. According to this opinion, we can daven Ma’ariv after Plag Hamincha but after this time we may no longer daven Mincha. Ma’ariv corresponds to the leftover limbs and fats from the previous day’s sacrifices which could be burned from the time they are brought at nine and a half hours, through the next morning (the 1st Mishna in Brachos moves that time up to midnight). On long afternoons, especially on Fridays to finish this work before Shabbos, this was done during the day and is manifest by our early Ma’ariv prayers at this time of year. It stands to reason that on any day that we daven Mincha after Plag (6:10pm today), we should wait until after sunset (7:32pm today) to daven Ma’ariv. If we want to daven Ma’ariv early, we should make sure to daven Mincha before Plag. This works well with Ya’acov, because the verse that has him davening Ma’ariv, (Bereshis 28:11), seems to say that he did so a little before sunset. (See Tosafos Brachos 26B s.v. Ya’acov). Indeed, our 'Zman' Mincha today at 7:20pm will get us to Maariv at around that time.

Since Ma’ariv has no set time, and is not connected to any specific sacrifice, Ma’ariv does not have the obligatory status of the other two daily prayers and thus does not have a repetition of the Amida. Ya’acov himself, at the time of Bereshis 28:11 was in flight from Esav, and in distress. This is hardly a time to establish an obligatory prayer. However, since there can be work left on the altar at night, and since Ya’acov did daven, we have obligated ourselves to Ma’ariv on the same level as the other prayers.

The Tamid sacrifices and our concomitant prayers teach us consistency. Everything around us may change, but I am always there for my Tamid. That’s why some Yiddish greeters tell you to have a “Gutten Tamid”. You should always be good.

The Rama opens his comments to the Shulchan Aruch with a citation of Tehillim 16:8: I place God before me always. He closes his glosses with a citation of Mishle 15:15, with a comment on the laws of Purim: Contentment is a perpetual feast. Both verses have the word Tamid. May we be models of consistency and may all our prayers be answered.

Be safe. Be healthy. Be excellent.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz


Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784