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Thought for the Day: Musaf After Sundown/Levels of בדיעבד

My first week as a freshly minted rabbi was quite fulfilling.  I celebrated the achievement with family and friends; I even gave rabbinic counsel to someone on erev Shabbos to help with a issue they were facing that Shabbos.  Late Shabbos afternoon, though, an young man I know from shul approached with an interesting question: He wanted to know if he could still daven musaf.  What's the big deal?  It was already after sundown.  I thought for a few minutes and finally had to tell him that I had never seen anything about that question and I couldn't give him an answer.

I really, really wanted to tell him is was ok, because there is no תשלומין/make up for musaf.  But I just had no data.  Mincha, for example, should be finished before sundown.  Not "should" as in, "you should call your mother more often"; but "should" as in "you should pay your mortgage/rent on time every month".  None the less, in case of pressing need, you daven Mincha up to 25 minutes after sundown (according to the Mishna Brura; 9 minutes according to R' Moshe).  Once you miss that, then you are in the תשלומין category.  (Basically: If you miss a t'fila due to unavoidable circumstances, you can make it up at the next prayer service by davening second shmone esrei after the shmone esrei for that service.  There are important details, so be sure to CYLOR before trying this.)  So if he had asked about mincha and I wanted to be stringent, at least he would have had the safety net of תשלומין.  By being stringent on musaf, though, I am telling him that he has lost musaf completely.  On the other hand, to be lenient to allow risks putting him into the shmone esrei l'vatala category.  No one wants to go there; not ever, no how.

But I had no data; I'd just never seen that question addressed.  Of course, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack; its just evidence of the breadth and depth of my ignorance.  Later that week I asked a noted talmid chacham; he also hadn't seen the question discussed.  Hmm...  I wasn't ready to throw in the towel, though; not till I asked R' Fuerst, shlita.  R' Fuerst also said that he hadn't seen the question discussed, but (woo hoo!) he knew just where to look.  When I next saw the rabbi he told me that even that source did not discuss the question.  Lack of evidence is starting to look like evidence of lack.  R' Fuerst's conclusion (and therefore how I would answer someone in the future): same rule as mincha; up to 25 minutes after sundown (according to the Mishna Brura; 9 minutes according to R' Moshe).

Since there mincha still has תשלומין, though, and musaf doesn't; there are some interesting cases when one has to make up both.  For background: mincha cannot be davened before 12;30PM (on a standard 12 hour, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM day).  Musaf should be recited before 1:00PM,  ("Should" as in: if you daven later than that on purpose for no good reason, you are a sinner; if because of unavoidable circumstance, then you are fine.)  Now lets walk through the day, assuming you need to daven both.
12:30 → 1:00: Musaf first, because you are running out of time.
1:00 → enough before sunset to daven both: Mincha, because it is more frequent
Just enough before sunset to daven one: Mincha, because it is more frequent (and it is equally bad to daven either of them after sunset)
Just enough before final opportunity to daven one t'fila: Musaf, because you still have a תשלומין for mincha; but you'll lose musaf completely if you don't daven now
I really need to thank that young man.... his question has generated literally hours of torah learning and good clean fights fights in and out of the beis medrash.  That, and his honest distress at having missed a t'fila should stand as a z'chus for him.

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