It's a bit of fun Jewish trivia that Ma'ariv was originally 'optional' (see for example here, and Halachic ramifications of its' original optionality here), but at some point became 'accepted' by Jewish men and is now, for most intents and purposes, mandatory.

I'm curious, when, historically, did the shift from 'optional' to 'mandatory' occur?

I'm aware that, like many Minhagim, it's probably impossible to pin the date to specific moment, as it likely didn't occur at a specific moment, rather it evolved over time. Realistically, an answer to this question would probably be the earliest written source that says something along the lines of 'it's already accepted among all that Ma'ariv is an obligation'.

  • Minhag Yisroel Torah Hi?
    – ezra
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 16:54
  • @ezra That's 'why', I'm asking 'when'. Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 17:00
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    More of a common misconception than fun Jewish trivia. Not all Rishonim Paskin that Arvit is Reshut and among those who do, not all think its status nowadays is any different and also quite few would ever translate Reshut as optional (not to mention that technically speaking Maariv itself was always Chovah with the only debate being about Arvit.)
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 17:09
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    @DoubleAA what do you mean Maariv = chovah but arvit = debate?
    – robev
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 19:14
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    @robev Maariv:Arvit:Erev::Yotzer:Shacharit:Shachar
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 19:26

1 Answer 1


The idea that according to the technical law it is a reshut but that it has now been accepted as a chovah goes back at least to R. Isaac Alfasi:

Rif Berachot 27b:

והאידנא נהוג עלמא לשוייה חובה

A century later Rambam already says that this was the custom among all Jews everywhere:

Hilchot Tefilah 1:6

ואין תפלת ערבית חובה כתפלת שחרית ומנחה ואף ע"פ כן נהגו כל ישראל בכל מקומות מושבותיהם להתפלל ערבית וקבלוה עליהם כתפלת חובה

The Evening Prayer is not obligatory, as are the Morning and Minchah Prayers. Nevertheless, the Jewish people, in all the places that they have settled, are accustomed to recite the Evening Prayer and have accepted it upon themselves as an obligatory prayer. (Touger translation)

  • Notably, universal evening prayer may have been the widespread practice prior to that as well. This is just an early place such a practice was given this particular justification/context.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 18:29

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