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Chapter 70:1-3
The Evening Service

1. The time to recite the Shema in the evening begins with the appearance of three small stars. On a cloudy day, one should wait until there is no question in one's mind.

At present, because of the difficulty of gathering together for communal prayer afterwards, it is customary when praying communally to recite the evening service directly after the afternoon service, even though night has not arrived. This is permissible only after plag hamincha. Were a congregation to recite the evening service beforehand, even after the fact it is not considered as if they have fulfilled their obligation.

Happy is a person who is able to recite the evening service together with a minyan at night! Between the afternoon and evening services, the congregation should involve themselves in Torah study, and thus join day to night with Torah. This is an auspicious practice.

At the very least, it is proper for any G-d fearing person not to eat before nightfall if he recited the evening service together with a minyan while it is still day. Rather, he should wait until after the appearance of three stars, and then recite the three paragraphs of the Shema.

A person who does not recite the evening service together with a minyan may not recite these prayers before the appearance of the stars.

2. At the outset, it is preferable to recite the evening service immediately upon the appearance of the stars. It is forbidden to eat or begin any other activities half an hour before the appearance of the stars, as stated in Chapter 69, Law 3, with regard to beginning activities before the afternoon service. Even study is forbidden.*

* {As mentioned in the previous law, it is proper to study between sunset and the appearance of the stars. It is only after the appearance of the stars that study is forbidden (Misgeres Hashulchon 4, Mishnoh B'rurah 235:17.)}

A person who has no other option - e.g., he studies together with others - should not delay the recitation of the evening service until after midnight. However, after the fact, as long as one recites the evening service before alos hashachar (the appearance of the first rays of the sun), he fulfills his obligation.

3. Should a person come to the synagogue with the intention of reciting the evening service and finds the congregation in the midst of the Shemoneh Esreh, he should recite the Shemoneh Esreh together with them. This applies even if it is before nightfall, as long as it is past plag haminchah. Afterwards, after nightfall, he should recite the Shema together with its blessings.

If the congregation is in the midst of Kri'as Shema or its blessings, [the person should do as follows]: If he has the potential to conclude the recitation of the Shema and its blessings - i.e, until the conclusion of the blessing shomer amo Yisrael lo'ad - before the congregation reaches the Shemoneh Esreh, he should do so, even if this requires him to skip the blessing Boruch Ad-o-n-o-i l'olom...That blessing need not be recited after the conclusion of one's prayers.

A person who has not yet recited the afternoon service [and arrives while the congregation is in the midst of the Kri'as Shema and its blessings] should recite the Shemoneh Esreh for the afternoon service while the congregation is reciting those prayers. Afterwards, he should recite the Shemoneh Esreh for the evening service together with them. Later, after nightfall, he should recite the Shema and its blessings.

   The Evening Service
Paragraphs 4-5
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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 2000 ProjectGenesis, Inc.

 
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