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ARVIT (Heb. עַרְבִית; "evening" prayer), one of the three regular daily services. The popular name Ma'ariv (going back at least to the 16th century) is derived from the occurrence of this word at the beginning and end of the first blessing preceding the *Shema . Its recital was originally regarded as optional (Ber. 27b, following R. Joshua against the view of Gamaliel II) since the evening service did not correspond to any set Temple sacrifice (unlike the morning and afternoon services). Tradition attributed the institution of Arvit to the patriarch Jacob (based on Gen. 28:11; cf. Ber. 26b). In the Talmud, opinions differ as to whether a third daily prayer is obligatory or optional but Psalms 55:18 and Daniel 6:11 are cited to support the view that prayers must be said three times daily. In common with the other services, its recital is the duty of the individual even outside the synagogue and congregational service.

In its present form the service consists chiefly of *Barekhu (the invitation to congregational prayer), followed by the Shema and its framework of benedictions, and the *Amidah . When Arvit is said after nightfall, the service generally opens with Psalms 134. On weekdays the service opens with Psalms 78:38 and 20:10. According to the Mishnah the reading of the Shema was obligatory at nighttime. This was based on the biblical phrase "when thou liest down" (Deut. 6:7; 11:19) and only the recital of its third section (Num. 15:37–41) was a matter of controversy (Ber. 1:5).

The theme of the first of the two blessings preceding the Shema is the incidence of evening and night. The second blessing is a thanksgiving for the love shown by God for Israel by revealing His Torah to them. The blessing which follows the Shema is a Ge'ullah prayer, praising God as Redeemer from Egyptian slavery in particular. The two blessings preceding the Shema and the one following it thus follow the pattern established in the morning prayer. They are followed by a night prayer Hashkivenu ("Grant us to lie down in peace"), imploring God's protection from a variety of dangers and mishaps. The final blessing existed in two versions, one Babylonian and one Palestinian. In the latter a prayer for peace and Zion-Jerusalem (ha-pores sukkat shalom; "who spreads the tabernacle of peace") replaces the more general formula (shomer ammo Yisrael la-ad; "who guards His people Israel forever"). The Babylonian version is now used on weekdays; the Palestinian on Sabbaths and festivals.

According to the Ashkenazi rite, a group of scriptural verses beginning with Psalms 89:53 (barukh Adonai le-olam; "blessed be the Lord for evermore"), and which originally may have numbered 18, is said between Hashkivenu and the Amidah. It is a late addition, not found in the Sephardi rite but given in *Maḥzor Vitry . Later, an additional night prayer (barukh Adonai ba-yom; "blessed be the Lord by day") and a benediction expressing messianic hopes (yiru einenu; "may our eyes behold") were attached to this. Elijah of Vilna discontinued this custom and those who follow his nusaḥ (e.g., most Ashkenazim in Israel) omit the whole addition.

The Amidah is then read silently. This is the service to which the Mishnah and Talmud refer when they speak of tefillat ha-erev or tefillat arvit (Ber. 4:1; Ber. 27b). Arvit eventually came to be considered as a statutory prayer, though in token of its optional character, the Amidah is not repeated by the reader even in congregational prayer; further blessings could intervene between it, and the Ge'ullah blessing (cf. ibid. 4b, 9b) and the half Kaddish which originally marked the end of the service is recited before the Amidah.

The Amidah is followed by the full Kaddish. In post-talmudic times this was still preceded by *Taḥanun and some other additions found in the morning service before the Kaddish. *Aleinu le-Shabbe'aḥ concludes the service, though in some rites further psalms were added.

The evening service on Sabbaths and festivals differs in some details. Thus on Friday evening, the service is preceded by *Kabbalat Shabbat , while the Amidah (which consists of the usual first and last three benedictions with a special Sabbath one between them) is followed by an abbreviated repetition consisting of Genesis 2:1–3, a shortened version of the Avot benediction, a summary of the seven benedictions of the Amidah, the middle (fourth) benediction in full, and Kaddish. On Sabbaths and festivals *Kiddush is recited here in many rites (except on the first day(s) of Passover), originally for the benefit of wayfarers. The custom to follow Hashkivenu with Exodus 31:16–17 on Sabbath and similarly appropriate verses on the various festivals was abolished in the nusaḥ of Elijah of Vilna. On Sabbath and festivals the service ends with the singing of *Yigdal or *Adon Olam .

Arvit at the conclusion of the Sabbath follows the normal pattern except for the addition of a *Havdalah formula to the fourth benediction of the Amidah and of sundry readings after its conclusion. These latter consist of biblical and talmudical passages of varying length and are not recited in all rites. At the conclusion of the Sabbath it is the general custom to preface the Arvit with the chanting of Psalms 144 and 67. Ideally, Arvit should be recited after nightfall and before dawn. It may, however, be recited after twilight and, to meet the convenience of worshipers, it is often immediately preceded by the Minḥah service on weekdays.


Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 99–106, 109–12; Idelsohn, Liturgy, 118–21, 131–4; Abrahams, Companion, cvii–cxviii, cxxix–cxxxix; E. Munk, The World of Prayer, 1 (1954), 197–209; 2 (1963), 1–20.

[Alexander Carlebach]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.