Halacha for Thursday 9 Tevet 5784 December 21 2023              

Halacha Date: 9 Tevet 5784 December 21 2023

Category: General

Mincha Prayers on the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet

Today's Halacha is dedicated for the merit and protection of
All Our Dear Soldiers
May Hashem give them strength and courage to vanquish our enemies and may they return home safe and sound amid health and joy. May Hashem protect all the captives and have mercy upon them so that no harm befalls them and may they be released quickly, Amen!
* * * * * * * * * *

By popular request: This year when the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet coincides with Erev Shabbat, what is the best time for Mincha prayers to be held?

The Custom Throughout the Year
In general, Mincha on Friday afternoons is held in the synagogue approximately twenty minutes before sunset, after which Kabbalat Shabbat and Arvit are recited as well.

When a public fast day falls out on a Friday, some wish to pray Mincha early, go home, and then return to the synagogue later in the afternoon/evening for Kabbalat Shabbat and Arvit. However, as we shall explain, this is incorrect.

Birkat Kohanim During Mincha
On all weekdays, Kohanim only recite Birkat Kohanim during the Shacharit prayer and not during Mincha, for Birkat Kohanim resembles the service in Bet Hamikdash, which could not be performed by a Kohen who was intoxicated. It is for this reason that our Sages forbade reciting Birkat Kohanim during Mincha, for a majority of people (in their times) would drink wine during their meals. This is why there is generally no Birkat Kohanim during Mincha.

Mincha on Fast Days
The Gemara (Ta’anit 26b) describes that during the times of the Gemara, it was customary for the Kohanim to recite Birkat Kohanim during the Mincha prayer of a public fast day, for since the Kohanim would not be eating or drinking anything on that day, there would be no concern for intoxication. Nevertheless, the Gemara states that the Sages decreed that Birkat Kohanim should not be recited even during Mincha of a fast day, lest Kohanim mistakenly come to recite Birkat Kohanim during Mincha of non-fast days as well. It is for this reason that the Kohanim do not bless the congregation with Birkat Kohanim during Mincha of Yom Kippur. Only during the Ne’ilah prayer did the Sages allow the Kohanim to recite Birkat Kohanim since it was recited close to the end of the day and does resemble everyday Mincha services.

On the other hand, regarding other public fast days, Kohanim would recite Birkat Kohanim during Mincha, for in those days, Mincha on fast days would be prayed just minutes before sunset. The Gemara therefore says that since they would be reciting Birkat Kohanim so shortly before sunset, it resembles the Birkat Kohanim during the Ne’ilah prayer, which is permissible.

Based on the above, a congregation praying Mincha early on a public fast day would not be eligible to have the Kohanim recite Birkat Kohanim and bless the congregation. Thus, even when the fast falls out on Friday, if Mincha would be held in an early hour of the afternoon, Birkat Kohanim would not be recited. Only if Mincha were held as it usually would any other Friday closer to sunset would Birkat Kohanim be recited.

The Bottom Line
It is therefore preferable for the congregation to pray Mincha closer to sunset (no earlier than forty minutes before sunset) so that the Kohanim will be eligible to recite Birkat Kohanim. Maran zt”l rules likewise in his Chazon Ovadia- Arba Ta’aniyot (page 93).

However, the Friday night prayers should move at a quicker pace than usual so that the congregation can return home promptly and recite Kiddush immediately at nightfall so as not to extend the fast into Shabbat, as we have discussed yesterday.

May Hashem turn all of these fast days into days of rejoicing and may we witness the salvation of Israel through the Ultimate Redemption, speedily and in our days, Amen!

< <Previous Halacha Next Halacha> >