Arrived to Shul right before Shemoneh Esrei of Maariv

What is one to do if he arrived to Shul right before Shemoneh Esrei of Maariv?[1]

One who entered a Minyan who already completed Kerias Shema and are now ready to Daven Shemoneh Esrei, he is to Daven Shemoneh Esrei with the Minyan, and [immediately[2]] after Davening he is to read Kerias Shema with its blessings.[3] [This applies only if one will not be able to attend another Minyan later.[4] This applies even if he will be able to finish Shema and reach Shemoneh Esrei towards the middle/end of the congregations Shemoneh Esrei, and start Shemoneh Esrei while they are still in middle, nevertheless he is to immediately begin Shemoneh Esrei with the congregation.[5] Some Poskim[6] rule that this applies even if the congregation is already in middle of Shemoneh Esrei, and he is able to finish Shemoneh Esrei before Kaddish is recited, nevertheless he is to immediately begin Shemoneh Esrei with the congregation.  However, based on Kabbalah[7] one is to always precede Keiras Shema and its blessings to Shemoneh Esrei, as the Shemoneh Esrei is a completion of the Divine revelation that was initiated in Kerias Shema. Accordingly, in the above situation it is better to Daven Shemoneh Esrei without a Minyan, and begin from Keiras Shema, than to change the order of Maariv and confuse the Kabalistic effects of the prayer.[8] Practically, so is the Chabad custom.[9]]

 

Summary:
According to the letter of the law, one who arrives to Shul late for Maariv is to skip Shema and its blessings in order to begin Shemoneh Esrei together with the Minyan, and is to recite Shema after Davening. However, according to Kabbalah one is always to recite Maariv in its correct order, and so is the Chabad custom.

 

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[1] Michaber 236/3; Admur 111/4 in parentheses “However in Maariv Davening with a Minyan is greater than approximating Geula to Tefila”; Kol Bo Rashba; Explained in Beis Yosef 236; Ketzos Hashulchan 27/6; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 236/9

[2] It is initially proper to say Keiras Shema and its blessings immediately after Davening or the concluding Barchu. [Halichos Shlomo 13/13] Nonetheless, there is no prohibition to speak beforehand. [Rivivos Efraim 1/178 in name of Rav Moshe Feinstein; See Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid]

[3] The reason: As it is of greater importance that one Daven Shemoneh Esrei with a Minyan than to approximate Geula of Kerias Shema to Tefila. [Admur ibid; M”A 236/3; Taz 236/4; Ateres Zekeinim; Beis Yosef 236; M”B 236/12]

[4] M”B 236/12; Ketzos Hashulchan ibid

[5] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 236 footnote 46 and 49 [See there that if he will be able to finish Shemoneh Esrei before Kaddish, then he should first say Kerias Shema and its Brachos, and begin his Shemoneh Esrei in middle of the Minyan, as according to some Poskim [Igros Moshe 4/4] this is considered a Tefila Betzibur.]

The reason: As a) Some Poskim rule that it is not considered a true Tefila Betzibur unless he begins together with the Minyan. [Implication of Admur 109/1-3; Elya Raba 66, brought in M”B 66/35; P”M 109 A”A 2; M”B 66/35 in name of Elya Raba; Biur Halacha 109/1 “Hanichnas” in name of Peri Megadim ibid; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 90/14; 109/1] b) One may not begin Shemoneh Esrei unless he can finish prior to Kaddish. [See Michaber/Admur 109/1]

[6] Piskeiy Teshuvos 236/9 footnote 46; Zeh Hashulchan 236

The reason: As some Poskim rule it is considered Tefila Betzibur even if one begins in middle of the Minyan. [Implication of Poskim [Rav Akiva Eiger; Levushei Serud; Chayeh Adam] brought in M”B 66/35 and Shaar Hatziyon 66/5 that a slight delay is valid; Beir Yitzchak [Kovna] 20; Peri Tevua 2/68; Igros Moshe 3/4; Teshuvos Veksavim 35 in name of Chazon Ish; Rav SZ”A in Halichos Shlomo 8/7; Yabia Omer 2/7 in name of Shut Meat Mayim 21 and Michaber 124/1; Piskeiy Teshuvos 90/14]

[7] See Shaar Hakavanos p. 52 and in Derushei Kerias Shema

[8] Kaf Hachaim 236/22; Ketzos Hashulchan ibid footnote 27; See regarding Shacharis: Maggid Meisharim, brought in Elya Raba 52/5; Soles Belula 52/1; Beir Heiytiv 52/1; Yifei Laleiv 52/1; Shaareiy Teshuvah 52/1; M”B 52/1; Pesach Hadevri 52; Rav Poalim 2/4; Kaf Hachaim 52/2; Ketzos Hashulchan 14/1 and 18 footnote 40; Yaskil Avdi 1/2; Or Letziyon 2/7-2; Igros Kodesh 7/139; 15/170; Toras Menachem 18/282

Other opinions: Some Poskim who incorporate the rulings of Kabbalah nevertheless rule that Shemoneh Esrei is to precede in such a case. [Shelah Chulin p. 89b]

[9] Ketzos Hashulchan ibid footnote 27; Igros Kodesh 7/139; 15/170; Toras Menachem 18/282

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