New answers tagged maariv
ב"ה Lengthy article about this very subject. http://www.dinonline.org/2013/11/08/the-maariv-prayer-obligation-or-optional/
Besides what's already been mentioned, there are a few leniencies because of this, though I've never heard of your specific one. There's a much larger discussion in halakhic literature about how careful (or not) we are about davening maariv at the proper time, and the Rambam (3:7) believes that this is because Maariv is a reshut. The Beis Yosef (268:13) ...
The Aruch Hashulchan 235:9 writes that even though maariv was originally a reshus ,but since now we accepted it as an obligation the poskim don't even mention reshus because it is no different from mincha and shachris. ודע דאף על גב דתפלת ערבית רשות, כבר כתב הרי"ף דקבלנו עלינו כחובה, ולכן הפוסקים לא הזכירו זה כלל, ואין שום הפרש בינה לתפלת שחרית ומנחה.
I've heard that the half-kaddish between Birchos Kriyas Shema and the Amidah is to have a pause, to indicate that the remainder of Maariv is optional.
The Rambam (Tefilah 9:9) and Rashba (Responsum 1:183) write that Maariv's status as reshut is the reason there is no enactment for the leader to repeat the Amida aloud for those who don't know how to pray.
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