Welcome back to “How Should I Know?” – the only advice column that starts and ends with Barchu.

Dear Mordechai,

If in Yiddishkeit, the night comes before the day, why does every siddur start with Shacharis?

Dear ,

That’s a great question. Are all our siddurim Goyish?

There are a few reasons for this, though, if you think about it:

  1. Historically, Shacharis was invented first – by Avraham Avinu. Though by that logic, if we’re going by the siddur I have in front of me at the moment, The next thing invented was Birchas Hamazon, then Mincha, then Maariv, then bedtime Shema, and then Shabbos davening. And the last thing in my siddur is Torah leining for Mondays and Thursdays.
  2. Shacharis is the tefillah that kids start with in school. No kindergarten starts with Maariv. School doesn’t start that late. They start learning Shacharis in kindergarten, Mincha in like 5th grade or so, and then they learn about Maariv when they start high school, apparently.
  3. Shacharis is definitely the best tefillah for kids to learn first, because it starts off with a bunch of fun songs they can be taught one at a time, whereas Maariv starts with Barchu, after which you’re not supposed to talk.
  4. As it is, it sometimes takes me about half of Maariv to absent-mindedly find the correct page of the siddur, and when it comes to the beginning of Shacharis, I’m even more out of it. If you don’t put it at the beginning of the siddur, I’m never going to find it.
  5. Most women don’t daven Maariv and many of them don’t daven Mincha, but most of them daven Shacharis. So the siddur is arranged in order of popularity of the tefillos, as far as women. But what about men, you ask?
  6. Men begin Shacharis by putting on our tallis and tefillin in front of an open siddur, and it keeps trying to flip to other pages. So this way, even if it flips to the table of contents, we’re still basically right there.
  7. And speaking of popularity, the most popular kind of Maariv, hands down, is Mincha-Maariv. It just makes sense to put them next to each other. Because otherwise people would have to flip during that one minute when everyone is like, “When did they just announce that Maariv is?” until Maariv actually starts. (No one actually uses the table of contents.)

But besides for those reasons, it makes very little sense. I’m not even sure how many people even start using a given siddur with Shacharis. If you buy yourself a new siddur, most of the time you buy it during the day. You don’t go out to buy it before Shacharis. The seforim store isn’t even open then, because the guy has to daven Shacharis.

Not to mention that every siddur that a kid uses, the pages start falling out, over the course of time, from page 1 and on. So putting Maariv first would actually provide a nice cushion of pages the kid can lose before it starts affecting Birchos Hashachar. Barchu would be the first page to go, but everyone would just say that at the end of Maariv.

Yet no siddurim start with Maariv.

“But wait,” you’re saying. “Machzorim start with Maariv, right?”

Wrong. They start with Mincha. Which nobody says is the first tefillah of the day. There’s literally no siddur that starts with Maariv. Besides my Artscroll Kinnus, for some reason. Tisha B’Av starts with Maariv. That’s the one. No one is bringing a Kinnus to shul for Mincha on Erev Tisha B’Av and then going home and eating.

The closest any other siddur gets to starting with Maariv is actually those little Mincha-Maarivs, where there aren’t that many choices of what should be on that first page, so what they do is they start it with both Mincha and Maariv. Every page from page one is mostly Maariv, with one line of Ashrei stringing along the top. But that’s because they had a choice: They could put Ashrei all on one page and then make you flip to get to Shemoneh Esrei, or they could say that, since you’re flipping anyway, they might as well give you something to say while you flip.

Their other option for page one is bentching, because that was invented first. Avraham Avinu made his guests bench, right?


Dear Mordechai,

We have a bunch of things in our house that we don’t use anymore, but my wife thinks it’s a waste to get rid of them. What should we do?

Name Withheld

Dear Name,

You could always consider garage sales. Behind every garage sale is one spouse saying, “We have to get rid of this stuff,” and the other spouse saying, “I’m not going to throw it in the garbage. What if someone needs it?” And then the first spouse saying, “How much work are we going to put into finding someone who needs it?”

I’m not saying you should throw a garage sale. Just go to a garage sale that someone else is throwing, and while your spouse is distracting the person by negotiating for yet another thing you don’t need, you sneak your stuff onto their tables and run.

Is that mean? I mean, they get extra money at the end of the day, plus there’s the look on their face when someone comes up to them with your stuff and says, “How much is this?” And they’re like, “Where did that come from?”

I guess if you want to be nice, you can also slap a price sticker on it. I think if you’ve ever gone to a garage sale and gotten a $100 item for like 3 bucks, this is probably what happened.

I’m not going to suggest that you hold a garage sale. To have a garage sale, you need to have a lot of things to sell. You can’t just have a garage sale every single time there’s one item that you and your spouse disagree about. You’re going to have to have a one-item sale every Sunday. So no, you’d have to wait until enough things build up that you’re bordering on leaving each other if only to have enough room in the house, and you’re having this garage sale to save your marriage.

It takes a lot of guts to have a garage sale – to say, “Yeah, I think we can charge people money for the things we were going to throw out.” And if no one buys anything, it’s just you on your lawn surrounded by your saddest possessions. Also, when the stuff is in your house, it seems like you have a lot of things to sell, but when you bring it outside and put it together, it’s just one table full of stuff, and people keep asking if you’re selling the table. Eventually, you bring out a bunch of things you don’t really want to sell just because you already advertised that you’re having a sale. And then whatever doesn’t get bought you have to schlep back inside at the end of the day, but it’s worth it, because you have like 12 bucks to show for it once everybody’s done negotiating. And then you take the $12 and pay someone to schlep away the rest of the stuff. That way you break even.

So if someone has a garage sale, they’re clearly doing it just to make sure somebody else gets the stuff who needs it. Either that, or they’re moving, and they just realized how much it’s going to cost to pay the mover to move the extra boxes of stuff they don’t need. No one wants to schlep all that stuff on a move. You think Noach took 600 years of possessions onto the teivah?

And the answer is yes, that’s probably what was on the bottom floor. His wife said it was garbage, but Noach said, “We have a basement; we might as well use it.” And then when they got out of the teivah, they said, “I don’t want to take that. It’s been under the animals for a year.” Nothing really survives a move.

The truth is, I don’t know what happened with Noach’s stuff. For all I know, he had a moving sale, and all his neighbors thought they were getting a steal.

So I say you should just add your items to their tables. And if your items don’t get sold, they can schlep it in at the end of the day. And if it turns out it was a moving sale, they get to move with it.

And why wait for garage sales – if your item is in good enough condition, why not just sneak it into a regular store? The stores check to make sure you’re not shoplifting, but nobody checks to make sure you’re leaving with all the clothing you came in with.

“Weren’t you wearing two jackets when you came in?”

I’m pretty sure that’s how Burlington works.

And that’s why stores like Walmart have a greeter at the door – to keep an eye on what’s coming in.

Have a question for “How Should I Know?” I don’t doubt it. I’m pretty sure someone’s been sneaking questions in.