The evening prayer, from the first benediction in which the name is taken, the Talmudic term being "Tefillat 'Arbit"; one of the three daily prayers instituted in conformity with the practise of David ("Evening, and morning, andat noon, will I pray," Ps. lv. 18 [A. V. 17]) and Daniel (Dan. vi. 10). The Talmud ascribes to the Patriarchs the origin of the prayers, and credits Jacob with the "Ma'arib," because it is said: "And he lighted ["wa-yifga'"] upon a certain place . . . because the sun was set" (Gen. xxviii. 11), interpreting "wa-yifga'" as "and he prayed" (comp. "tifga'" = "make intercession," Jer. vii. 16).
In Biblical times prayers were devotional in character and were considered as voluntary offerings. But after the destruction of the Temple, prayers became obligatory as substitutes for the sacrifices: "So will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips" (Hos. xiv. 2, R. V.). But inasmuch as the offering of sacrifices in the Temple occurred only twice a day, morning and afternoon, only the corresponding two prayers became an obligation, while the "Ma'arib" still remained a voluntary prayer, according to the best authority (Ber. 27b). This of course refers to the standing-prayer, "Shemoneh 'Esreh," and not to the "Shema'," which it is obligatory to read morning and evening. Consequently in Talmudic times and in a greater part of the geonic period, as the "Seder R. Amram Gaon" clearly shows, the standing-prayer was omitted from the "Ma'arib" service. To replace the Eighteen Benedictions, eighteen scattered Biblical verses, each mentioning the name of God, were introduced at the end of the "Ma'arib" service. This composition, beginning with "Baruk Adonai le-'olam," was arranged by the rabbis of Babylonia and accepted by the rabbis of Palestine. Maimonides admits that the "Ma'arib" is only voluntary, but he claims that since the Jews everywhere, by common custom, consented to say the prayer regularly, it is equivalent to an obligation ("Yad," Tefillah, i. 6).Order of Prayer.
"Ma'arib" usually follows the "Minḥah" prayer at the synagogue, to avoid the trouble of a second gathering of the congregation. The time for the "Ma'arib" service begins when three stars are visible in the heavens. The time may be extended to midnight, and in case of an emergency to the rising of the morning star (Ber. i. 1). The service begins with "Wehu Raḥum" and "Baraku," and continues with the first benediction, "Asher bi-Debaro," the second benediction, "Ahabat 'Olam," "Shema'" (Deut. vi. 4-10, xi. 13-22; Num. xv. 37-41), the third benediction, "Emet we-Emunah," the fourth benediction, "Hashkibenu" (Ber. 4b), the eighteen verses mentioned above, "Yire'u 'Enenu," the standing-prayer, and the "'Alenu." If the "Ma'arib" service is conducted by a quorum of ten, the leader does not repeat the standing-prayer.
On Friday evening the "Ma'arib" service commences somewhat earlier, preceded by "Leku Nerannanah." The Sephardim begin with "Wehu Raḥum," as usual, but the Ashkenazim omit this, as the Sabbath is a day of joy not to be disturbed with any supplication or devotional prayer of the character of "Wehu Raḥum." The Zohar gives another reason for the omission—that on Sabbath "the Higher Judgment must not be revoked" (Zohar, Terumah, p. 130a, ed. Wilna, 1882). The leader of the congregation repeats a part of the standing-prayer for Sabbath, "Magen Abot," "Bame Madliḳin" (the second chapter of Shabbat, relating to the lighting of Sabbath lights), the "Alenu," and "Yigdal." See Devotional Literature; Prayer.
- Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, §§ 235-237;
- Yarḥi, Minhagim, pp. 22b et seq., ed. Goldberg, Berlin, 1855;
- Shibale ha-Leḳeṭ, §§ 43-48, ed. Buber;
- Dembitz, Services in Synagogue and Home, p. 80. For the text and English translation see Singer, Authorized Daily Prayer-Book, London.