Is there any practical application of the fact that maariv was originally instituted as an optional prayer, and only later became binding because it was universally accepted?

Full disclosure: I once heard that because maariv was originally optional, therefore if one would get undressed for bed and then remember that he hasn't davened yet, he would be exempt from getting dressed again to daven. I would like to find this source, and any other practical results of this prayer's origin.

  • I could see how getting undressed might exempt you from Shemona Esrai, but surely you are still obligated to the Shema? Is it relevant that you can say the Shema without getting out of bed, but Shemona Esrai must be standing, wearing a shirt, and pants? – Mike Mar 13 '14 at 1:58
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    @mike the whole discussion of the optional status of maariv only surrounds the shemoneh esrei. Everyone agrees the shema is obligatory, at least for men – Double AA Mar 13 '14 at 2:14
  • @DoubleAA I thought so, just clarifying / making sure. – Mike Mar 13 '14 at 2:57
  • As an aside (not in the question because it isn't relevant) the logic was that it was never accepted as an obligation to that extent. I don't know where such parameters would come from, though. – Y     e     z Mar 13 '14 at 3:23
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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) says that if one forget to mention Shabbos on Friday night davening, then it's enough to hear (or say with the chazzan, according to the Magen Avraham there s.k. 15) the 'Beracha Me'en Shalosh' because Maariv is a reshut.

Another nafka minah (practical difference): the Rambam (Hil. Tefillah 10:6) believes that if one suddenly remembered in the middle of his prayer, even in the middle of a beracha, that he had already davened shemoneh esreh, than he should stop right away. However, when it comes to Maariv, since he didn't technically need to daven anyway, he can continue praying despite the fact that he had already davened maariv. In practice, however, the Raavad (there) argues, and therefore the Aruch Hashulchan (107:6) states that one should add something to his prayer as per the general rule of 'tefilat nedava' (optional prayer). (However, this isn't true according to Reb Chaim on the Rambam there).

Another difference is that according to R' Yaakov of Lisa (Derech HaChaim) is that if one is unsure whether or not he has davened, he normally should daven (what may be a second time), but this is not the case for Maariv. However, the Aruch HaShulchan argues (107:10) so I wouldn't follow this lehalacha.

  • I keep finding more nafka minos, coming back here to post them, and finding them in your post here. – Y     e     z Feb 15 '16 at 22:11

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.

  • @YEZ I don't think that's what the Gemara means. לא מטריחנן ליה once he took off his belt to eat, we don't bother him to get up and daven maariv before dinner! – Double AA May 13 '14 at 17:44
  • Rashi's on your side. So the search continues – Y     e     z May 13 '14 at 17:46
  • @YEZ I think what you heard is just a (playful?) misunderstanding of that Gemara. I don't think it actually exists. – Double AA May 13 '14 at 17:47
  • Over Pesach I asked my father-in-law, who I consider to be a talmid chacham, and he recalled having seen such an idea in a legitimate source. He couldn't remember where, though. – Y     e     z May 13 '14 at 17:49
  • I would point out that Tosefos there is disagreeing with Rashi - he understands the case of the Gemara to be such that you would miss davening - לבטלה – Y     e     z May 13 '14 at 18:05

The Rosh in Berachos ch. 4 siman 2 writes

.וי"ל דנהי שהיא רשות אין לבטלה אם לא מפני צורך שעה כגון מפני מצוה עוברת ושרי המייניה דלא מטרחינן ליה בפ"ק דשבת דף ט: וכן עלה על מטתו בירושלמי דאין מטריחין אותו לירד

Granted that [maariv] is optional, [nonetheless] one may not omit it without a timely reason, such as a time-sensitive mitzvah, or [the case of] someone who loosens their belt who we do not trouble him, and also [we find in] the Yerushalmi someone who went into bed we do not trouble him to get back out of bed.

So the Rosh provides three examples, one of which, from the Yerushalmi, is basically the one mentioned in the question.


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.

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    Semi-source: Tosfot and Ritva to the Gemara on Berachot 4b say that we can say kaddish in between because we hold that Arvit is a reshut, but it doesn't sound like they think this is the reason why we DO say kaddish, merely why we CAN. – הנער הזה Mar 13 '14 at 5:22
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    @Matt It's just like the Kaddish before Shemoneh Esrei at Musaf, Mincha or Neilah. We always do Kaddish in between parts of davening except where we can't (eg. Semichat Geulah leTefillah at Shacharit). So this permission is indeed a reason. – Double AA Mar 13 '14 at 5:44

The Tur O.C. 236 cites Rav Natronai that the reason we say the group of verses of ברוך ה' לעולם and end with the beracha of מלך בכבודו is, since we hold maariv is reshus, to have song and praises which indicate that now tefillah has ended, and whoever wants to leave can leave (or perhaps whoever wants to fulfill the rest can fulfill it. Not sure what הרוצה לצאת יצא means here).


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.

  • The main part of my answer is "there is no difference" – sam Mar 13 '14 at 1:21
  • That's not what the question is asking about. If you want to suggest that there is no difference, please address the point(s) raised in the other answer(s). – Seth J Mar 13 '14 at 1:23
  • I don't have to answer for the Aruch Hashulchan,I am just quoting him. – sam Mar 13 '14 at 1:43
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    Fair enough. Out of sheer laziness I didn't read the Hebrew. I just assumed you were summarizing and extrapolating, not providing a near-translation. You could, for the purposes of your answer, format your translation to make it more obvious that it's not your interpretation and not your own conclusion. – Seth J Mar 13 '14 at 1:51
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    There are a few practical differences, though rare, even according to the Aruch Hashulchan. I believe that he's merely explaining why it was left out by the poskim: it's still required to be said, like mincha and shachris. – הנער הזה Mar 13 '14 at 5:47

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