Halacha for Sunday 15 Tammuz 5777 July 9 2017

The Proper Time to Pray Mincha

Question: Until what time may one pray Mincha?

Answer: In order to properly understand the answer, we must preface this discussion by saying that anytime we use the word “sunset”, this refers to the time of sunset as printed in all halachic calendars worldwide.

The Gemara (Berachot 29b) states: “Rabbi Yochanan said: It is a Mitzvah to pray with the rising and setting of the sun, as the verse states, ‘They shall fear you with the sun’-which refers to the Shacharit prayer, ‘And before the moon for all generations’-which refers to the Mincha prayer.” This means that according to Rabbi Yochanan, it is especially preferable to pray Mincha as the sun sets. The Gemara then proceeds, “The sages of the Land of Israel spoke derogatorily of one who prayed [Mincha] as the sun set” lest a situation arise as a result of which one will miss out on praying Mincha entirely.

It seems, therefore, that one should make sure to pray Mincha well before sunset, as opposed to waiting until just before sunset to pray. This would stand in contrast with the prevalent custom among many synagogues which customarily pray Mincha right before sunset and pray Arvit immediately afterwards. Similarly, many righteous women pray Mincha right before sunset, as well.

Indeed, the saintly Ari z”l would likewise pray Mincha slightly before sunset and he would then pray Arvit right afterwards. It would seem that the Ari’s custom is also in contrast of the comment of the Sages of the Land of Israel quoted above. Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l writes in his Ben Ish Hai (Parashat Ki-Tissa) that the reason why the Ari z”l was not concerned with the opinion of the Sages of the Land of Israel is because the whole reason they said not to pray too close to sunset is because something may happen and one may miss the time for prayer; regarding the Ari z”l, on the other hand, who had a designated Minyan who prayed with him every day and would wait specifically wait for this time, there was no concern that he (or his Minyan) would neglect the Mincha prayer in any way.

Thus, according to the Ben Ish Hai, one should not pray too close to sunset and one should make sure to pray Mincha somewhat earlier. Only the Ari z”l, who had a special Minyan that prayed specifically at this time, could pray close to the time of sunset.

On the other hand, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l points out in his Halichot Olam (Volume 1, page 248) that it seems from the words of the Gemara that there is no distinction between different people regarding this Halacha and it seems that the law of not praying the Mincha prayer too late applies to all people at all times.

Maran Ha’Bet Yosef (beginning of Chapter 232) quotes in the name of the Hagahot Maimoni that when the Gemara states the Sages of the Land of Israel said that one should pray Mincha as the sun set, this refers to one who prays at the time the sun is already setting. However, if one prays before sunset, even if it is only several minutes before, there is nothing wrong with such behavior. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l proves that the great Ari would likewise pray Mincha close to sunset but not as the sun actually set, for the saintly Ari would pray Mincha with his Tefillin (according to the Shimusha Rabba’s opinion) on and he was always careful to remove his Tefillin before sunset. Thus, the custom of the Ari to pray Mincha later does not mean he prayed along with sunset; rather, he would pray slightly before sunset.

Thus, when the Sages of the Land of Israel said not to pray Mincha too late, this refers to praying at the actual time of sunset. Thus, the custom observed by many synagogues, as was the practice of the great Ari z”l, to pray Mincha late refers to praying several minutes before sunset and there is no concern in this regard at all.

Halachically speaking, it is permissible to pray Mincha slightly before sunset, as is the practice in many synagogues and that of many righteous women. However, one should not postpone praying Mincha until past sunset, lest something happen and one will miss the time for prayer entirely.

Nevertheless, if the time of sunset passes, one may pray Mincha until thirteen-and-a-half seasonal minutes after sunset (which ranges between ten and twenty minutes after sunset).

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Pausing Silently in the Middle of the Amida Prayer

The Amida prayer must be recited with continuity. One may not interrupt one’s Amida prayer for any reason. In the previous Halacha, we have written that if one begins reciting the Amida prayer and senses a foul odor emanating from a baby and the like, one must stop praying immediately, for......

Read Halacha

If One Must Rise Before a Rabbi Every Time He Enters the Room

Question: The custom in our community is to rise every time the rabbi of the synagogue enters the sanctuary. Even if the rabbi enters the synagogue several times, we rise for him every time. Recently though, one of the members of the synagogue raised issue with this and said that the more observant ......

Read Halacha

Question: What should one do if one senses a foul odor, such as from a baby and the like, while one is standing and reciting the Amida prayer?

Answer: The Torah states, “And your camp shall be holy.” We derive from this verse that one may not pray, recite a blessing, or any other words of holiness when there is something repulsive, such as excrement or a foul odor in the area. Thus, one may not pray when a child is running a......

Read Halacha

Cooking by Non-Jews in Restaurants or Hotels

Question: We have written in the past regarding a restaurant where a Jew ignites the flame in the morning that although a non-Jewish cook places the foods on the fire, it is nevertheless permissible to eat in such restaurants and this does not constitute a prohibition of foods cooked by a non-Jew. R......

Read Halacha


Prayer Texts

The various texts of the prayer found among the various communities of the Jewish nation all have strong and holy roots. Therefore, one should not deviate from the prayer text that one’s forefathers were accustomed to. Hence, a Sephardic individual should not adopt the prayer text of Ashkenazi......

Read Halacha

The Obligation to Stand While Kaddish and Barechu are Recited

Question: When the Chazzan or an individual receiving an Aliya to the Torah recites “Barechu Et Hashem Ha’Mevorach” and the congregation replies “Baruch Hashem Ha’Mevorach Le’Olam Va’ed,” must the congregation rise completely or partially or is there n......

Read Halacha

Praying in Pajamas

Question: Can one pray while wearing pajamas? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have established that before praying, one must prepare a fitting place, proper attire, and cleanse one’s body and thoughts, as the verse in the book of Amos states, “Prepare yourself before your G-d, Isra......

Read Halacha

Praying Barefoot

Question: May one pray while wearing sandals or while one is barefoot? Answer: When one prays, one must prepare one’s environment, clothing, body, and thoughts accordingly, for one will be standing before the King of all kings. Respectable Garments While Praying The Gemara (Shabbat 9b)......

Read Halacha