Maariv or Ma'ariv (Hebrew: מַעֲרִיב, [maʔăˈʁiv]), also known as Arvit (Hebrew: עַרְבִית, [aʁˈvit]), is a Jewish prayer service held in the evening. It consists primarily of the evening Shema and Amidah.
The service usually begins with two verses from Psalms, followed by the communal recitation of Barechu. The three paragraphs of the Shema are then said, both preceded and followed by two blessings, although sometimes a fifth blessing is added at the end. The hazzan (leader) then recites half-Kaddish. The Amidah is said quietly by everyone, and, unlike at the other services, is not repeated by the hazzan. He recites the full Kaddish, Aleinu is recited, and the mourners' Kaddish ends the service. Other prayers occasionally added include the Counting of the Omer (between Passover and Shavuot) and Psalm 27 (between the first of Elul and the end of Sukkot).
Maariv is generally recited after sunset. However, it may be recited as early as one and a quarter seasonal hours before sunset. This is common only on Friday nights, in order to begin Shabbat earlier. At the conclusion of Shabbat and holidays, the service is usually delayed until nightfall. While Maariv should be prayed before midnight, it may be recited until daybreak or even sunrise.
The word Maariv is the first significant word in the opening blessing of the evening service. It is derived from the Hebrew word erev, which translates to evening. Maariv is a conversion of this word into a verb, which means "bringing on night." "Arvit" is the adjective form of this word, roughly translated as "of the evening".
Maariv is said to correspond to the evening observances in the Holy Temple. Although there were no sacrifices brought at night, any animal parts which were not burned during the day could be offered at night. Since this was not always necessary, the evening prayer was declared to be optional as well. However, the Jews long ago accepted it as an obligation, so it is now considered to be mandatory. However, there remain some vestiges of its original voluntary status; for example, the Amidah is not repeated by the hazzan.
Another explanation is that as the third prayer, Maariv corresponds to Jacob, the third patriarch. Support is brought from Genesis 28:11, which says that after Jacob left his hometown of Haran, he "met at the place for the sun had set." The Talmud understands this to mean that Jacob prayed at night, and hence instituted Maariv. Some suggest that he first started reciting the prayer after he fled from his homeland, and as a result, the prayer service has become associated with trust in God.
Generally, the time when Maariv can first be recited is when the time for reciting Mincha ends. But there are varying opinions on this. Maariv should not begin before 1¼ hours before shkiah (sunset). Others delay Maariv until after sunset or after dusk. This is so the Shema can be recited in its proper time. To satisfy this requirement, if Maariv is recited prior to this time, the Shema is repeated later in the evening.
Back-to-back Mincha and Maariv
In many congregations, the afternoon and evening prayers are recited back-to-back, to save people having to attend synagogue twice. The Vilna Gaon discouraged this practice, and followers of his set of customs commonly wait until after nightfall to recite Ma'ariv (the name derives from the word "nightfall").
On the eve of Shabbat, some have the custom to recite the Maariv prayer earlier than usually, generally during Pelag Hamincha (1¼ hours before sunset). This is in order to fulfill the mitzvah of adding from the weekday to the holiness of Shabbat. However, this is too early for the recitation of Shema, so Shema should be repeated later under these circumstances.
Then comes Barechu, the formal public call to prayer, and Shema Yisrael embraced by two benedictions before and two after. Ashkenazim outside of Israel (except Chabad-Lubavitch and followers of the Vilna Gaon) then add another blessing (Baruch Adonai L'Olam), which is made from a tapestry of biblical verses. (This prayer is also said by Baladi Temanim in and out of Israel, albeit combined with the last blessing.)
Sephardim (and, in Israel, most who follow Nusach Sefard) then say Psalm 121 (or another topical Psalm), say the Mourner's Kaddish and repeat Barechu, before concluding with the Aleinu. Ashkenazim, in the diaspora, neither say Psalm 121 nor repeat Barechu, but conclude with Aleinu followed by the Mourner's Kaddish (in Israel, Ashkenazim do repeat Barechu after mourner's Kaddish).
At the beginning of Shabbat on Friday night, the Amidah is immediately followed by the recitation of Genesis 1-3 which discusses God's "resting" on the seventh day of creation. Although these verses were already said during the Amidah (and will be recited yet again during Kiddush) they are repeated. This is because when Shabbat coincides with a holiday, the Amidah does not include the passage.
The three verses are followed by the Seven-faceted Blessing. This is a single blessing designed to summarize the seven blessings of the Amidah, for those who came late. While originally this was said only by the hazzan, it is customary for the congregation to recite the middle part before the hazzan does so.
During the Maariv service following Shabbat, several additions are made.
A paragraph called "Ata Chonantanu" is inserted into the fourth blessing of the Amidah. The recitation of this paragraph officially ends Shabbat. One who forgets to recite this paragraph may also end Shabbat through Havdalah or by saying the words "Blessed is He Who differentiates between the holy and the secular."
Two sections of prayers beginning with the verses "Vihi Noam" (the last verse from Psalm 90, followed by the full Psalm 91, and V'Ata Kadosh (all but the first two verses of Uva Letzion)) are added to the service. Nusach Ashkenaz also adds "Veyiten Lecha" (whereas Sfardim and Nusach Sfard say this at home after Havdala). These prayers are recited out of mercy for the wicked. The wicked are given a reprieve from Gehinnom during Shabbat, and the reprieve continues until all evening prayers following Shabbat are concluded.
Counting of the Omer
During the seven weeks from the second night of Passover until (but not including) Shavuot, the day is counted. This is usually done during Maariv, just before Aleinu. Others postpone the counting until the end of the service.
In general, relatively few prayers are added onto Maariv, even on holidays, although there are exceptions. On Simchat Torah, the Torah is read during Maariv. On Purim, the Book of Esther is read, followed by V'Ata Kadosh, and on Tish'a Ba'av the Book of Lamentations and some kinnot are recited, also followed by V'Ata Kadosh. On Yom Kippur, an extended order of Selichot is recited, followed by Avinu Malkeinu (except on the Sabbath). On both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many congregations recite Psalm 24.
- Wein 2002, p. 88.
- Donin 1991, p. 72.
- Berakhot 26b
- Wein 2002, p. 90.
- Donin 1991, pp. 340–341.
- In strict law, one should only recite Mincha between sunset and nightfall if one recites Arvit after nightfall; conversely one should only recite Arvit between sunset and nightfall if one recites Mincha before sunset; in other words one should not take advantage of both flexibilities at once so as to combine the prayers. The prevailing practice, of doing exactly that, is regarded as an emergency measure. On yet another view, the disputed period is not that between sunset and nightfall but the last seasonally adjusted hour and a quarter before sunset.
- One reason for this is that, while the prevailing practice may satisfy the law concerning the timing of Arvit in the sense of the evening Amidah, it means that the evening Shema is recited too early.
- Appel 1978, p. 60.
- It is not clear whether this is meant to replace the latecomers' Amidah, or to give them additional time by prolonging the service.
- Appel 1978, p. 409.
- Appel 1978, p. 410.
- Donin 1991, p. 278.
- Appel, Gersion (1978). The Concise Code of Jewish Law. New York: Ktav Publishing House. ISBN 978-0-881-25314-6.
- Donin, Hayim H. (1991). To Pray As A Jew: A Guide To The Prayer Book And The Synagogue Service. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-08633-7.
- Wein, Berel (2002). Living Jewish: Values, Practices and Traditions. New York: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 978-1-578-19753-8.