Shabbat Parashat Miketz| 5771
Ask the Rabbi: Davening mincha before lighting candles?
Question: I know that some people have begun being careful to daven Mincha before lighting Chanuka candles on Erev Shabbat, but shuls continue to have minyanim at the regular time as if it is not a requirement. Should one or should he not daven Mincha first?
Answer: There are prominent, albeit relatively recent sources that indicate that one should daven Mincha first on Erev Shabbat. (During the week, there is hardly an issue since one normally lights at night, which by definition is after Mincha.)
The Sha’arei Teshuva (679:1) says in the name of the Birkei Yosef that Chanuka lights should be done after Mincha because Mincha corresponds to the afternoon daily korban in the Beit Hamikdash and the lighting of the chanukiya/menorah is related to the miracle that occurred with the menorah in the Beit Hamikdash. Since in the Beit Hamikash, the menorah was lit after the afternoon korban, that should also be the order in our practice. This logic is not overwhelmingly compelling. First of all, Chanuka lighting is generally a mitzva of the night (which precedes by many hours the next Mincha), not one that is to follow Mincha. Secondly, it is far from agreed upon that the Chanuka menorah corresponds to the lighting in the Beit Hamikdash.
Another prominent source is the Pri Megadin (Eshel Avraham 671:10), who comments in the following context. The Darchei Moshe (OC 671:5) cites Rishonim who say that while usually the Chanuka lighting in shul is done in between Mincha and Maariv, on Erev Shabbat it should be done before Mincha. While the Rama (OC 671:7) says that the minhag is to light after Mincha even on Erev Shabbat, the Magen Avraham (ad loc. 10) says that when time before the beginning of Shabbat is short, one should light the candles first. The Pri Megadim points out that in general, for example when lighting at home, Mincha should be first. He raises the following interesting but difficult logic. Chanuka lighting is to be done at night, and while we do it somewhat early before an incoming Shabbat, lighting them makes it night-like, after which it is almost self-contradictory to daven Mincha.
The Tzur Yaakov (I, 136) objects to the Pri Megadim based on two strong questions. First, if the people whom the Rishonim discuss are davening Mincha in shul close to nightfall, apparently they already lit Chanuka lights at home previously – i.e., before Mincha. As far as the logic is concerned, he asks that if lighting Chanuka candles is like ushering in night, how can we light Shabbat candles afterward?
Besides the questions, we should remember the idea of davening Mincha first is not based on classical sources, nor is it clear that it was meant to be binding. Despite all of the above reservations, Acharonim (including the Tzur Yaakov) find it difficult to dismiss the prominent opinions. The Mishna Berura (679:2) roughly describes it as the preferable thing to do.
The great majority of poskim say that it is worthwhile only if one can daven earlier with a minyan (see Yechaveh Da’at I, 43). If one is dealing with a community which is very geographically centralized (certainly including yeshiva dorms), then it is possible to make the pre-Shabbat minyan some 20 minutes earlier than usual, thus allowing people to go back and light after Mincha. (One would not want to make that Mincha so early that people might mistakenly light before that Mincha, before the earliest time one can light.) If we are dealing with a large community, it is possible to have a very early minyan for Mincha, which can be used for those who want and are able to follow this stringency, and a regular minyan at around the regular time. We would suggest to the individual to make a small effort to attend the earlier minyan. (If he does, he also gains the advantage of probably having less pressure before Shabbat.) It would seem wrong, in standard communities, to have only a very early Mincha and thereby reject the quite accepted minhag (as apparent from several written sources and from personal experience) that one lights and then goes to shul for Mincha.
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