Vayetzei 5778


The Gemara (Brachos 27b-28a) quotes two approaches as the source for the three daily prayers. Rabbi Yossi ben Chanina explains that the three daily prayers were founded by the forefathers: Avraham instituting Shacharis, Yitzchak Mincha, and Yaakov Maariv. The source for Yaakov introducing Maariv, Tefillas Arvis, is the second verse of Parshas Vayeitzei (Bereishis 25:11), where it says “Vayifga Bamakom.” The Gemara explains the word “Vayifga” to mean “he prayed.”
The Gemara also cites Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s statement that Shacharis and Mincha were established by the Anshei Kenesses HaGedolah (the great leaders of Klal Yisrael who lived during the time of the building and the beginning of the Second Beis Hamikdash) to correspond to the Tamid offerings that were brought every morning and afternoon in the Beis Hamikdash (see Bamidbar 28:1-8). Maariv corresponds to the burning of the remaining parts of these offerings that was done at night (Brachos 26b).
The Gemara then discusses a dispute between Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua about whether Maariv is Chovah, obligatory, or Reshus, optional. Abaye rules that it is an obligation and Rava disagrees. (The Rif 19a, Rosh 4:7, and Rambam 1:6 hold like Rava.)
A person who missed Maariv must recite a makeup prayer, called a Tefillas Tashlumim, after the next morning’s Shacharis. This ruling appears to contradict the statement that Tefillas Arvis is Reshus. If Maariv is optional, why must one make up the missed prayer?
In response to this question, Tosefos explains that when the Gemara states that Maariv is Reshus, it does not mean that it is optional, but that it is less obligatory than other requirements. For example, should one need to choose between fulfilling two different Mitzvos in a situation where one cannot fulfill both of them, Maariv is pushed aside (Tosefos, Brachos 26a). In all other circumstances, one is obligated to recite Maariv. [Rabbeinu Yonah, Rosh (Brachos 4:2), and Mordechai (Brachos Siman 91) agree with Tosefos. Rabbeinu Yonah (18a s.v. Gemara) quotes the Bahag, who maintains that Arvis is not obligatory, but after having prayed it one time, it is considered obligatory upon that individual.]
The Rif 19a quotes the ideas of both the Bahag and Tosefos, and concludes that the accepted Minhag treats Arvis as binding. The Rambam (Tefilla 1:6) arrives at a similar conclusion, noting that although not as obligatory as other prayers, it has been accepted as a requirement. [The Rabbeinu Yonah 18a s.v. Gemara (at the end) understands the Rif as holding like the Bahag. Also, the Shiltei Giborim (Brachos 19a #1) writes that Rif and Rambam agree with the Bahag.]
Does any other Halachic distinction result from this difference of opinion between Tosefos and the Rif? One area concerns whether, according to those authorities who rule that women are obligated to daven Shacharis and Mincha daily, a woman must also daven Maariv every day. According to Tosefos, who contends that Maariv is obligatory, a woman should also be required to daven Maariv daily. This ruling is stated by the Aruch Hashulchan (106:7). However, other authorities rule that women are not obligated to daven Maariv, since they never accepted it as a responsibility (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 106:2; Mishna Berura 106:4; cf. Magen Avraham 299:16). This approach reflects the opinion of the Rif that although Maariv was originally Reshus, since men daven Maariv regularly, they must continue to do so. But women, who for the most part do not regularly daven Maariv, are exempt. (see Shach, Yoreh Deah 375:14).
But why is Maariv different? According to the interpretation that the forefathers instituted the daily prayers, although Yaakov was the first to daven Maariv, he had not intended to daven so late in the day. But Hashem caused the sun to set suddenly, giving Yaakov no choice but to daven after nightfall. Since this davening was performed not as Yaakov’s first choice but because he had no other option, the prayer instituted this way is Reshus (Beis Elokim Shaar HaTefilla 18, Pnei Yehoshua, Brachos 26b).
The Beis Elokim adds another facet to the relationship between Yaakov and Maariv. Yaakov represents the last Galus, Galus Edom. Unlike Galus Mitzrayim and Galus Bavel, which both had absolute endings, Galus Edom is ongoing. In fact, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) says that the end is in our hands. On the day Bnei Yisrael turns to Hashem, Mashiach will arrive. So, too, the Tefilla of Galus Edom, the darkness of night, has no absolute obligation. It is up to the Jewish people to make it happen.
According to the approach that the prayers correspond to the daily offerings, Shacharis and Mincha each represents the daily Korban Tamid that was offered in the Beis Hamikdash. Maariv represents the remaining parts of the daily Tamid that were burnt the following night on the Mizbeach. The “left over” sacrifices have a similar duality. Unlike the daily Tamid sacrifices, there is no actual obligation to have pieces of the sacrifices on the altar at night (Rif in Ein Yaakov). On a practical level, however, there will always be such pieces left over. Therefore, burning these pieces is also formally optional but practically obligatory (Rashi to Shabbos 9b s.v. Lemaan).


The Retzuah, or strap, of the Tefillin Shel Yad is attached to the Bayis of the Tefillin with a knot in the shape of the letter Yud. This Yud comprises one third of the three-letter Name of Hashem ((שקי, and thus is considered holy. The Magen Avraham (42:3) discusses the following Shailah: If the strap tore near the Yud-shaped knot, may one flip it around and instead attach the end of the Retzuah (which was originally wrapped around the hand) to the Bayis? In general, there is a rule that “Ma’alin BaKodesh V’ein Moridin,” only ascending in holiness is permitted, not descending. In this case, changing the knot’s location (from having been next to the Yud-shaped knot) may perhaps be a violation of this directive. The Magen Avraham rules that it is indeed prohibited.
Another application of this law is found regarding a Tallis. It is customary to attach a piece of silk-like material, known as the Atara, to the top edge of the Tallis, to identify which part of the Tallis covers the head. The Elya Rabba (10:14) quotes the Lechem Chamudos and Shelah as saying that the reason for this is to avoid switching the direction of the Tallis, which would run afoul of the aforementioned rule of Ma’alin BaKodesh. Since the part of the Tallis that covers the head is more holy than that of the rest of the Tallis, changing the Tallis’ direction lowers the holiness of the top part. Perhaps this is because the Tallis should partly cover the Tefillin Shel Rosh (see Elya Rabba 8:4), which elevates its holiness status. The Elya Rabba deduces from the Lechem Chamudos and Shelah that it would similarly be forbidden to flip around the Tefillin strap in the Magen Avraham’s Shailah.
However, the Elya Rabba notes that the Knesses HaGedolah says the reason for putting an Atara on a Tallis is merely a practical one. It serves to protect the top part, which rests on the head and gets worn out quickly, and is therefore needed to reinforce that part of the Tallis. The Elya Rabba infers from the fact the Knesses HaGedolah ignored the reason of Ma’alin BaKodesh that he believes it would not be a problem in this instance and it would be permitted to switch the Retzuah from top to bottom.
Elsewhere, the Elya Rabba (42:1) cites his grandfather’s ruling permitting flipping around the Tefillin strap, not in accordance with the Magen Avraham. His proof is that Rashi (Bereishis 28:11) quotes Midrash Rabba (68:11), which says that when Yaakov placed the stones around himself before he went to sleep, the stones started arguing, with each stone demanding the Tzaddik rest his head on it. Immediately, Hashem performed a miracle and all the stones combined into one large stone, thereby putting the stones’ argument to rest.
But one could ask: The stones could have still argued that ultimately, Yaakov’s head will only rest on one part of the stone, so it is still not fair. The Elya Rabba’s grandfather explains how their argument was stilled. When something is part of a larger object, there is no difference between one part and the other; they are all equally holy. Therefore, in the aforementioned case of the Tefillin Retzuah, the Retzuah is one complete object. One side has no more inherent holiness than the other.
The Shaarei Teshuva (42:1) refutes this proof. The Elya Rabba assumed all the stones stayed in their places and just merged into one piece. The Shaarei Teshuva, however, counters that once a miracle was already being performed, to combine all the stones into one, perhaps that miracle also encompassed fitting the one stone completely under Yaakov’s head. If so, it cannot be proven that one part of a large object is not more holy than another part of it.