By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
The mishna in Brachos, daf chof vov, amud alef says that the zman for mincha is until the evening and according to Reb Yehuda until plag hamincha. Rabbeinu Yona says that one may not daven mincha until tzeis hakochavim because that is already night, but rather the term “erev” means shkiya. We find in Zvachim, daf nun zayin, amud alef that blood becomes disqualified from being sprinkled on the mizbeach from shkiya and on. Since Mincha is k’neged the tamid of the evening and the ikar part of the korban is the sprinkling of the blood whose deadline is shkiya, the deadline for mincha is therefore shkiya.
The Orchos Chaim argues with this and says that according to the Chachamim, the zman would be until tzeis hakochavim. The Shagas Aryeh concurs with the Orchos Chaimand says that it appears from Rashi and Tosfos that one may daven Mincha until “erev” (dark.) The Shulchan Aruch in siman resh lamed gimel says that the zman of Mincha is until the night like the shitta of the Chachamim. The Rema says it is until tzeis hakochavim.
What should Reuven do if it is right before shkiyah and he did not yet daven mincha? If he waits until after shkiyah he will be able to daven with a minyan. Should he wait to daven mincha, or should he daven b’yechidus before shkiya?
According to the Rishonim that say that one must daven before shkiya it is self understood that he should daven and not wait for a minyan. However, according to the rishonimwho say one may daven until tzeis we can still see two sides to this question. We know there is a concept of bein hashmashos, a time when it is safek yom and safek layla. There is a machlokes concerning what amount of time is considered safek yom and safek layla. If we hold that the time between shkiya and tzeis is seventy two minutes, then three quarters of that time is bein hashmashos. That would mean that fifty four minutes before tzeis is bein hashmashos and one should not daven mincha anymore. We, on the other hand, are machmirlike the shitta of the Geonim who say that right after shkiya is bein hashmashos. Therefore, one should rather daven mincha biyechidus before shkiya even if he finds a minyan after shkiya. The Mishna Berura writes that despite the fact that the mechaber and Rema write that one may daven until tzeis, since there are rishonim who say the zman is until shkiya, one should daven before shkiya even if it is at the expense of davening with a minyan.
There are many who disagree with the Mishna Berura; however one thing is definite. If you daven before shkiya you are yotzei all shittos. It is imperative on all of us to davenbefore shkiya and with a minyan so we don’t have this question. Imagine if the korban tamid in the bais hamikdosh was brought late! Kohanim were zrizim and their time and avoda was calculated to the minute.
Let us be zocha to see the korban tamid of the morning and night in the zchus of davening which is “Uneshalma parim sefaseinu.”