- Question: [Thursday 11th Mar Cheshvan, 5781]
I fell asleep on Erev Shabbos right before candlelight and woke up when it was already time for the meal. My question is whether I have to Daven Maariv first or can eat the meal first and do so after.
While initially [due to several reasons to be enumerated below] you should always try to Daven Maariv prior to the meal, even if you are a woman, nonetheless, in a time of need such as you are extremely hungry and weak, or it’s already time for the meal and your family and/or guests are waiting to eat and your Davening Maariv will delay them, then it is permitted for you to eat the meal first. If you are a man, however, you may only do so if you can ask another person who is present and is not participating in the meal to remind you to Daven Maariv after the meal. Being that usually, this is not the case as everyone will be participating in the meal, you should therefore also set up another type of reminder such as the place in irregular object next year plate to remind you in addition to asking someone at the table to remind you. You may also choose to begin the meal and then Daven in middle of the meal after saying Hamotzi and eating a Kebeitza of bread. If you do not have a Shomer to remind you or do not want to rely on one, then you may eat less than a Kebeitza of bread, and then stop to Daven Maariv, and then upon your return eat a Kebeitza of bread.
The reasons: 1) It is always forbidden for men to begin a meal prior to the prayer of Maariv. Thus, if you are a man, you must Daven Maariv before you start your night meal whether on Friday night or any other night. If you are a woman, then there is no issue for you to Daven Maariv after eating a night meal during the week. 2) However, on Friday night there is a reason why even women should first Daven Maariv prior to the meal if they will be hearing kiddush from someone who already Davened Maariv, and that is an order so one is Yotzei Kiddush according to all opinions, as some opinions held that one who is only rabbinically obligated in a mitzvah cannot be Motzi a woman who is still biblically obligated. Nonetheless, this is a mere stringency as according to the majority of authorities a woman can be Yotzei from a man even if she has not yet Davened Maariv, and so is also the ruling of the Alter Rebbe. 3) Nonetheless, there is third reason for why men [and perhaps even women] should always Daven Maariv prior to starting the meal and that is based on Kabbalah. The above obligation however applicable to a man in the first reason is waived in the event that he has someone to remind him to Daven Maariv afterwards, and thus in a time of need even a man may first eat the meal, or begin the meal, and then Daven Maariv if he has someone to remind him, and certainly in a time of need a woman may do so even if she has no one to remind her.
1) See regarding Porei Mapa Umikadesh where the Friday night meal is eaten prior to Maariv, and so was done by the Rebbe on various occasions prior to 1984: Admur 271:9-11, Simchas torah 6:15-8:45 [shekia 7:31]
2) Requirement to pray before eating unless one has someone to remind him: Michaber 235:2; Piskeiy Teshuvos 235:6-8 for above details as well as the laws of a shomer; Admur 431:11 that a shomer may not be involved in the Melacha; Sichas Lag Beomar 1944 Lekutei Deburim
3) The preference for women to Daven Maariv before the meal in order to be Yotzei with the kiddush of a man: Kaf Hachaim 271:7; Piskeiy Teshuvos 271 footnote 94
4) The Kabbalistic preference to always Daven Maariv before the meal: See Kaf Hachaim 271:22 in name of Arizal