A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
AN EARLY START TO SHABBOS: HOW and WHEN
During the summer months, when the sun sets late in the evening, it is
common practice in many communities to daven Ma'ariv and begin Shabbos
early, long before sunset. There are a number of halachic issues associated
with this practice that require review and clarification.
IS IT "PROPER" TO BEGIN SHABBOS EARLY?
The idea of extending the Shabbos by ushering it in earlier than required
has its roots in the Biblical mitzvah of tosefes Shabbos.1 Indeed, as far
back as the Rishonim Shabbos was ushered in early,2 and the custom
persisted in many European communities for centuries.3 As we will explain,
the poskim even permitted davening Ma'ariv before its proper time in order
to begin Shabbos earlier. Many people feel that an early Shabbos enhances
their oneg Shabbos and shalom bayis as it allows the family to enjoy the
Shabbos meal at a reasonable hour and thus be imbued with the spirit of
Shabbos.4 Nowadays, early Shabbos begins when the congregation recites
mizmor shir l'yom ha-Shabbos in shul. Once that psalm is recited, it is
considered as if Shabbos in all its aspects has begun even though it is
still bright daylight outside.5 Thus one may no longer daven the Friday
Minchah,6 but instead, he may daven Shabbos Ma'ariv, recite Kiddush and eat
the Shabbos meal.7 Obviously, he may no longer transgress any of the
forbidden Shabbos Labors, neither Biblical nor Rabbinic.8 It is permitted,
however, to instruct a non-Jew - or even another Jew who has not yet begun
Shabbos - to do a forbidden Shabbos Labor on his behalf.9 Women accept
Shabbos when they light the Shabbos candles at home. L'chatchilah, they
should daven the Friday Minchah before lighting candles,10 but b'diavad
they may rely on the poskim who permit women to daven Minchah even after
Note: Starting Shabbos early means that one accepts upon himself the
sanctity and all of the halachos of Shabbos; it does not necessarily mean
that it is no longer Friday and the calendar day of Shabbos has begun.
1. The Friday evening Kerias Shema, which was recited during Ma'ariv, must
be repeated at home after tzeis ha-kochavim, since the evening Kerias Shema
is invalid if recited before nightfall.12
2. The Shabbos Sefiras ha-omer should not be counted until night falls,13
so one should count the omer at home after tzeis ha-kochavim. B'diavad,
though, some poskim hold that if the omer was counted before nightfall, it
is a valid count, and the counting may continue on the following days with
3. B'diavad, Friday's Sefiras ha-omer may be counted [without a blessing]
after davening Ma'ariv on Friday night, if it is not yet sunset.15
4. A woman who failed to make her hefsek taharah before ushering in the
Shabbos may, b'diavad, do so until sunset.16
5. A baby born on Friday evening before sunset but after the parents began
Shabbos, will still have his bris the following Friday morning. His bar
mitzvah, and a girl's bas mitzvah, will be based on their Friday birth date.
6. The yahrtzeit of a parent who died on Friday before sunset but after
Shabbos was begun, will be held on the Hebrew date of that Friday.17
HOW EARLY MAY SHABBOS BEGIN?
Early Shabbos may begin at any time after plag ha-minchah. Shabbos candles,
which were mistakenly lit before plag ha-minchah, are not valid even
b'diavad;18 they must be extinguished and rekindled, and the proper
blessing repeated.19 One who davened Ma'ariv before plag ha-minchah must
repeat his Ma'ariv.20
When is plag ha-minchah? While it is agreed upon that plag ha-minchah takes
place one and a quarter seasonal - a seasonal hour is one twelfth of the
day - hours before the end of the day, there is disagreement as to what
exactly is considered "day." Some poskim21 maintain that the day begins at
alos ha-shachar and ends at tzeis ha-kochavim. Plag ha-minchah, then, is an
hour and a quarter before tzeis ha-kochavim.22 But others23 hold that "day"
begins at sunrise and ends at sunset, which makes plag ha-minchah an hour
and a quarter before sunset. Most calendars and luchos have adopted the
second opinion as basic halachah,24 and this is the custom today in most
HOW MAY ONE DAVEN MA'ARIV BEFORE SUNSET? ISN'T THIS THE TIME FOR MINCHAH?
On weekday nights, one should not daven Ma'ariv before sunset since this is
the time designated for davening Minchah. Since each of the tefillos has
its own time slot, davening Minchah and Ma'ariv during the same time period
in the day is considered a "contradiction" which should be avoided. Still,
on Friday night, most poskim permit davening Ma'ariv even before sunset,
since by doing so we are gaining the benefit of extending the Shabbos.26
But in order to avoid a direct contradiction with Minchah, the poskim
suggest that Minchah be davened before plag ha-minchah and Ma'ariv after
plag ha-minchah, thus retaining for each of the tefillos an exclusive time
L'chatchilah, one should make every effort to follow this ruling.27 For
technical reasons, however, congregations sometimes find this time-frame
difficult to adhere to, and they daven both Minchah and Ma'ariv after plag
ha-minchah on Friday night. Some poskim have found grounds to justify this
IF A COMMUNITY OBSERVES THE EARLY SHABBOS MUST EACH INDIVIDUAL COMPLY WITH
THE EARLIER ONSET OF SHABBOS?
Yes. In a small community, e.g., a Yeshiva, camp, hotel or bungalow colony
that has only one congregation which ushers the Shabbos in early, all
members of the community are obligated to begin Shabbos at that time.29 But
in communities which feature several congregations, some of which accept
Shabbos early and others which do so on time, each household may join the
congregation of its choice with the following provisions:
1. An individual must accept the Shabbos at the time "his" congregation
does. "His" congregation means the shul where he is planning to daven this
Friday night.30 An individual may rotate from week to week, sometimes
beginning Shabbos early and sometimes on time.31
2. Although an individual must refrain from transgressing any forbidden
Shabbos labors once the community Shabbos begins, he may still privately32
daven the Friday Minchah.33
3. A temporary or a permanent minyan which meets in a private home is not
considered a separate congregation. Therefore, a private minyan may not
make Shabbos on time if the rest of the community accepts Shabbos early.34
4. Many poskim hold that if a husband accepts Shabbos early, his wife and
children must do so as well.35 Others hold that a wife and children may
accept Shabbos whenever they wish regardless of when the husband or father
began the Shabbos.36
5. Poskim debate the status of a shul where the majority of the congregants
wants to accept the Shabbos early and a minority wants to make a second
minyan in the same shul which will begin Shabbos on time. Some authorities
do not allow for such an arrangement,37 while others are more lenient.38
WHAT IS THE RATIONALE FOR NOT BEGINNING SHABBOS EARLY
Many communities, especially in Eretz Yisrael, do not begin Shabbos early
under any circumstances.39 There are several halachic reasons for their
stance. To name but a few:
The opinion of the Gaon of Vilna40 and other poskim, that even on Friday
night Ma'ariv should be davened only41 after tzeis ha-kochavim.42 As stated
earlier, there is a difference of opinion as to the exact time of plag
ha-minchah. According to the first opinion quoted, plag ha-minchah is
actually much later than the one that is published in most calendars. Thus
a woman who lights candles after the earlier plag but before the later one,
and men who daven Ma'ariv and recite Kiddush at that time, subject
themselves to a possible brachah l'vatalah.43
Some opinions hold that the Shabbos meal must be eaten on Shabbos proper,
not on the extended part of Shabbos.44
In addition to the basic rationale for starting Shabbos on time, there are
a number of specific situations where some poskim recommend - as an extra
stringency - that Shabbos not begin early. Among them:
1. When Rosh Chodesh falls on Friday night, it is questionable whether or
not yaaleh v'yavo can be said before Shabbos proper begins.45
2. One, who is commemorating a Shabbos yahrtzeit by reciting Kaddish and
serving as the sheliach tzibbur, should do so on Shabbos proper and not on
the extended period of Shabbos.46
3. A bar-mitzvah boy who is turning thirteen on Shabbos should wait until
he becomes a certified adult - which does not take place until Shabbos
proper sets in - before reciting Kerias Shema and davening Ma'ariv.47
1. See O.C. 261:2 and Beiur Halachah (s.v. yesh). [Although not all Rishonim
require tosefes Shabbos,all would agree that one may begin Shabbos early;
see explanation in Meishiv Davar 1:18.]
2. See Terumas ha-Deshen 1. See also Tosfos, Berachos 2a (s.v. m'eimosai).
3 As is reported by Beiur Halachah 60:5 (s.v. v'chein) and Aruch
ha-Shulchan 235:8 and 267:8.
4 See Chayei Adam 6:1.
5 The poskim debate whether an early Shabbos is considered Shabbos min
ha-Torah or only
mi-derabanan; see Rav Akiva Eiger's commentary to Magen Avraham 253:26 and
Beiur Halachah 261:2 (s.v. miplag).
6 O.C. 263:15.
7 O.C. 267:2.
8 O.C. 261:4. Once Shabbos was accepted [by reciting mizmor shir] it cannot
be retracted in any way;see Minchas Shabbos (Minchah Chadashah 76:1); Aruch
ha-Shulchan 263:28 and Kaf ha-Chayim
9 O.C. 261:1 and 263:17.
10 Mishnah Berurah 263:43.
11 See Minchas Yitzchak 9:20 and Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 43, note 128.
12Mishnah Berurah 267:6.
13 See O.C. 489:3 and Beiur Halachah (s.v. v'yevarech) and Aruch
14 See Beiur Halachah 489:3 (s.v. mi-beod yom). See Shraga ha-Meir 6:41 who
quotes some Rishonim who did so even l'chatchilah.
15 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:99-3.
16 Chochmas Adam 117:5; Aruch ha-Shulchan Y.D. 196:21.
17 Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 375:6. Concerning sitting shivah, however, the
halachah is that a mourner who found out about the death of a relative after
davening Ma'ariv, does not start sitting shivah until the following morning;
Y.D. 375:11 and Shach 14.
18 Mishnah Berurah 261:25 and 263:18
19 Beiur Halachah 263:4 (s.v. kodem).
20 Mishnah Berurah 267:4. See Aruch ha-Shulchan 263:19 for a dissenting
21 O.C. 263:4 as explained by Mishnah Berurah 19.
22 According to this opinion, the day beginning with alos ha-shachar and
ending with tzeis ha-kochavim is divided into twelve parts, and one and a
quarter parts before tzeis ha-kochavim is plag ha-minchah. But the exact
moment of plag ha-minchah will depend on two more unresolved factors: 1)
When, exactly, is alos ha-shachar - is it always 72 minutes before sunrise,
or is it when the center of the sun is 16.1 degrees below the horizon? 2)
When ,exactly, is tzeis ha-kochavim, is it 42, 50, 60 or 72 minutes after
23 This is the view of the Levush and strongly endorsed by Beiur ha-Gra
24 While Chayei Adam 33:1 and Mishnah Berurah 233:4, 261:25, 263:19 and
443:8 quote both viewswithout rendering a clear decision, Shulchan Aruch
ha-Rav 443:4, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 69:2 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 233:14,
267:3: and 443:5 rule in accordance with the second opinion.
25 Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling, quoted in Sefer Hilchos Chanukah, pg.
21). See Minchas Yitzchak 4:53.
26 O.C. 267:2. See Magen Avraham for an additional reason to distinguish
between Friday night and weekday nights.
27 See Mishnah Berurah 267:3. Note, however, that Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
does not mention this preferenca altogether, which explains why many
communities are lax about davening Minchah before plag.
28 See Mishnah Berurah 233:11, Kaf ha-Chayim 233:12 and Ketzos ha-Shulchan
77:3. But only congregations are entitled to do so; individuals who davened
Minchah after plag may not daven
Ma'ariv until after sunset.
29 O.C. 263:12-13. See Igros Moshe O.C. 3:38 who questions - and remains
undecided - whether or not this ruling applies nowadays, when accepting
early Shabbos is made for the sake of convenience, and not for the sake of
extending the sanctity of Shabbos. But other poskim, including Harav S.Z.
Auerbach (addendum to Shulchan Shelomo O.C. 263, pg. 22), Harav Y.S.
Elyashiv (oral ruling, quoted in Shevus Yitzchak vol. 8, pg. 234) and Shevet
ha-Levi 7:35, reject this distinction.
30 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 551:56.
31 Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 263:19. See, however, Machatzis ha-Shekel 263:24
who holds that one is obligated to accept Shabbos at the time designated by
the congregation where he regularly davens [even if he davens elsewhere that
particular week]. Harav Y.S. Elyashiv is quoted (Shevus Yitzchak, vol. 8,
pg. 237) as ruling that an individual who regularly davens with the early
minyan in his shul must accept early Shabbos even if he is planning to daven
in a later minyan which will meet in the same shul.
32 In his home or in the shul hallway.
33 O.C. 263:15 and Beiur Halachah (s.v. shel). See explanation in Chayei
34 Mishnah Berurah 263:51. For a definition of a congregation, see Beiur
Halachah 468:4 (s.v. v'chumrei).
39 Indeed, Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Koveitz Teshuvos 23) writes that he advises
against making Shabbos inEretz Yisrael early except in special cases. This
also seems to be the view of Harav S.Z. Auerbach; see Shemiras Shabbos
K'hilchasah 43, note 63. Many Chasidic communities, especially, do not begin
41 Even if it menas davening with no minyan.
42 Still, in order to satisfy this opinion, one can begin Shabbos early and
daven Ma'ariv after Kiddush and the Shabbos meal; Mishnah Berurah 271:11.
See Ma'asei Rav 117 and Peulos Sachir.
43 See Mishnah Berurah 261:25 who seems to rule like the second opinion
only l'chumrah but not l'kulah.
44 Mishnah Berurah 267:5.
45 Eretz Tzvi 1:25 quoting the Imrei Emes. See also Teshuvos v'Hanahagos