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More on Plag Hamincha

More on Plag Hamincha

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Night Prayers While The Sun Is Shining?!
In the summer months, many synagogues elect to pray the Maariv (evening) prayer before nightfall. Similarly, these communities usher in the Shabbat on Friday afternoon well before the stars appear in the heaven. By praying the Mincha (afternoon) prayer before the “Plag Hamincha,” which is 1¼ halachic1 hours before sunset, it is permitted to pray Maariv and accept the Shabbat any time after the Plag Hamincha. This is especially convenient in places where nightfall in the summer months is quite late; and without the convenience of Plag Hamincha, the Shabbat meal wouldn’t start before 10:00 pm.

The Dispute
The exact times when the Mincha and Maariv services are to be prayed is a subject of disagreement between the Mishnaic sages. Rabbi Judah maintained that Mincha can be prayed (from one half hour after midday) until 1¼ hours before sunset. His rabbinic counterparts argued that one may say the Mincha prayers until the end of the day.

According to the rabbis, the Mincha prayer was instituted in correspondence with the afternoon communal sacrifice, which technically may be offered as long as it was day. Rabbi Judah contended that Mincha corresponds to the offering of the incense, which was offered at least 1¼ hours before sunset.

The Maariv prayer directly follows Mincha. So according to the rabbis Maariv must wait until nightfall, while Rabbi Judah holds that Maariv may be prayed anytime after the Plag Hamincha.

The “Politically Correct” Verdict
In an unusual quirk of Jewish law, this dispute has never been resolved. Instead, one may select whichever opinion is more convenient! You can recite the Maariv after nightfall, or you may pray the Maariv before nightfall, after the Plag Hamincha, provided that you recited Mincha before the Plag Hamincha. 

However, one should not be constantly vacillating between the two opinions; one day like this and the next like that—choose the more convenient option and stick with it. Shabbat is the exception to this rule: because we are eager to be graced by the holiness of the day, even one who during the week always prays Maariv after nightfall may pray the Shabbat evening prayers on Friday afternoon after the Plag Hamincha.

The Shema
Although one can pray the Maariv before nightfall, the Shema must be repeated after the stars appear. Also, when praying before sunset, the counting of the Omer is omitted, and must be said after dark.

FOOTNOTES
1. "Halachic time" works differently than the clocks we are used to. In halachah, time is based on Sha'ot Zmaniyot, "proportional hours" that depend on the season.
Halachic hours are not necessarily 60 minutes; instead we take the day, from sunrise until sunset, and divide it into twelve equal parts. Each part constitutes one halachic hour. In the summer this can be up to 75 minutes and in the winter it can be as little as 45 minutes. To find out the Plag Hamincha for any date and location, click here.
Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor, and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Chaya Mushka and their three children.
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Discussion (5)
August 31, 2010
re Sources
See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 71;1 and Shulchan Aruch Harav 267;2 as well as Mishna Berura 267;2

Plag means divide or split.
Yochanan
Skokie, il
July 1, 2009
sources
Your article on Plag Hamincha is very intersting but could you please provide sources.
Also, what is the meaming of the word Plag in Plag Hamincha?
Thanks.
ShuaDuvid
Brooklyn, NY
July 14, 2008
candle lighting calendar
Yes there is! Click here for an interactive calendar.

Because candle lighting times vary from city to city and town to town you'll have to search using a city name, zipcode or lat. and long. coordinates. And you can even print a calendar for up to a year ahead!
Chani Benjaminson, chabad.org
July 14, 2008
calendar
Is there a calendar with candle lighting times for northeastern Massachusetts?
Norbert N. (Nusson) Steiner
North Billerica, Massachusetts
January 25, 2007
shabbos early.
definately, but late enough so I can go fishing Friday afternoon
Anonymous
chabadmequon.org
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