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I have heard in the past that one praying alone may not say Ma'ariv/Arvit until shkia/sunset but that one praying with a minyan can start Ma'ariv as early as Plag HaMincha. Could someone provide me a reference for this? If one's custom is to pray with a minyan before shkia (ie complete both Minchah and Ma'ariv), can he daven both services together when davening alone? I thought I had read something in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch about this, though I could be wrong.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are a few permits for davening early.

  • You always use plag as your cut-off time. (S.A./Rema O.C. 233:1)
  • You are in a pressing situation (shaas hadechak- though that must be defined as well as whether you need to use plag). (S.A. ibid/ MB 11)
  • It is erev shabbos, because of the mitzva of Tosefes Shabbos you can go with plag ([Magen Avraham O.C. 267:1])2 or because your kabbala halachically establishes Shabbos and therefore you can daven Maariv (Pri Yitzchok 9 and Aruch haShulchan quoting Pnei Yehoshua 233:3) (he nafka mina is whether you must use plag.
  • And the Aruch haShulchan's idea (O.C. 235:3) that maariv is based on the burning of fats and limbs which were done immediately after the hakrava and did not wait until night.

I would assume that the permit being dependant on a minyan means that you are in a community where the only minyan uses plag.

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Note that most of these are not universally accepted, and that they might be referring to saying the Amida early but not Kriat Shema uVirchoteha. –  Double AA Jun 19 '13 at 20:44

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