Nighttime Shema and Dinner

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Dear Rabbi Simon,
When we daven Maariv before nightfall (as is very common in the summer months), are we supposed to say (repeat) the Shema at earliest opportunity possible after the stars are visible?  Is one supposed to not eat dinner before saying the Shema?
I presume that if you’re davening a late Maariv ie 10:30pm, it’s permissible to eat dinner before that?
Many thanks,

Dear Shimon,
Thank you for your question.
Strictly speaking, it is ideal to recite the Shema once it gets dark, ie 40-45 minutes after sunset. (This time interval is itself subject to various halakhic opinions, as well as other variables such as geographic location and time of year.) Once it is dark, one should not begin a formal meal (such as a seudah of Shabbos, Yom Tov, wedding or similar) before reciting Shema.
With regard to attending a late minyan for maariv (eg two or three hours after dark—pertinent in the winter more so than the summer), there is the consideration that one who is attending a regular, fixed minyan may engage in other activities before praying, as he is unlikely to forget to recite Shema (and tefillah) altogether.
There are several grounds for leniency, however: One may designate a friend or family member to remind him to recite Shema. This can be achieved by setting a reminder on your phone as well. Some recommend putting a siddur on your pillow as a reminder. Others are lenient altogether, since we are accustomed to reciting the bedtime Shema in any case. (Note that it is proper to recite all three paragraphs in this case. Not everyone is accustomed to doing so all the time.)
Finally, there are those who maintain that the mitzvah of Shema can be fulfilled according to the same time parameters as the maariv prayers themselves. In other words, just as one fulfils the requirement for Maariv Amidah any time after sunset (or even before, ie after pelag ha-mincha), one fulfils the mitzvah of the evening Shema then as well. In accordance with this approach, there is no need to repeat Shema at all. (However the normative “best practice” is indeed to repeat Shema after dark.)
In sum, recommended is to repeat Shema soon after nightfall or to put in place a suitable precaution so as not to forget. Ultimately, one can also rely on the bedtime Shema.
I hope this is helpful.
Best wishes
Rabbi Rashi Simon

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Ask the Rabbi: Quinoa on Pesach
Dear Rabbi Simon,
Where do you stand on quinoa (and the kitniyot ban) for Pesach?
Many thanks,
Dear Tzippy,
In line with other American authorities, I am in favour of quinoa. Although I reject completely the voices (mostly from Israel) seeking to abolish the ban on kitniyot entirely, IMO we do not need to include in the prohibition pseudo-grains that were unknown in the Old World until modern times. Best to buy with a Pesach hechsher though, to be free of any possible wheat contamination.
Rabbi Rashi Simon
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