What Happened to Minhah? Originally published November 9-10, 2018.

One night last week you attended services at 7:00 at Beth Shalom, and there was no detectable Minhah service?  So is it still an official yahrzeit observance for your departed loved one?

During the darker months, when the sun sets earlier, since we begin all our weekday evening services at 7:00, it is too late for the afternoon service, Minhah, which must be completed before sundown.  (In the Jewish calendar, a day begins at sundown and ends at sundown, so although it may seem like still the same day in American culture, “tomorrow” begins at sundown.)  So we do an abbreviated “Minhah,” including a Kaddish prayer for those who are there mourning for departed who passed away on that date that ends at sundown.  Then we continue with the Ma’ariv  -  the evening - service.

We do get calls from folks who have assumed that “Minhah/Ma’ariv” is the name of one service.  (On Saturday evenings we separate Minhah and Ma’ariv with a discussion, and between Sukkot and Pesah we hold our discussion over a meal:  Se’udah Shelishit, the Third Meal.)  And we do offer the two services consecutively on weekdays during the summer months, the lighter months.

In the “yahrzeit letters” we send reminding us of the anniversaries of our loved ones’ passings, we say:

Observing yahrzeit for your beloved … is best accomplished in the context of community. Our custom is to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer on the yahrzeit date itself, and we urge you to join us for the ma’ariv – evening – service of [Date of the Day Before the Observance], the following day during the shaharit morning service, and at the evening service on that day (since our weekday evening service is at 7:00 PM, it is too late to say minhah, but we do add an extra kaddish prior to ma’ariv). 

So the answer is yes, if you came to services late in the day on the yahrzeit date, it may still be considered an official observance of your loved one’s passing.  Please come to services also on days when you are not observing a yahrzeit!  You will be helping to make the minyan for someone else. 

And since I wrote this column two weeks ago [before the murderer attacked at Tree of Life], the movement afoot notes that the more we attend shul, the more unified a community we become.  Very glad to be back at my desk, and very grateful for our wonderful community, city, first responders, and world, and also for the opportunity to daven in the service last Shabbat.