by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the 5tjt.com
It is something that younger couples with children and older empty-nester couples have in common. Both types want to make an early Shabbos. Regardless, throughout the summer, many homes bring up the question, “Should we make late or early Shabbos this week?”
In general, where does the idea of early Shabbos come from? is it universally agreed that it is not a halachic problem? What are some of the underlying issues?
During the summer months, in this area, surveys have shown that most families take in Shabbos early.
While this is a fairly common practice, there are numerous halachos that are associated with an early Shabbos that are not so well known. In this overview, we will discuss some of these halachos.
There is a wide debate as to whether Tosefes Shabbos, adding onto Shabbos, is a biblical concept. If it is biblical, then when one makes Shabbos early, it is actually Shabbos from a biblical perspective too. This is important.
THREE MAIN OPINIONS
There are actually three opinions on Tosefes Shabbos – adding onto Shabbos. The Rosh (Psachim 10:2) and the Ohr Zaruah (Hilchos Erev Shabbos 14) hold that it is biblical, while the Rambam (Shabbos 29:11) holds that it is only Rabbinic. The Mordechai (Megilah 2:798) holds a middle ground position that before Shabbos – Tosefes Shabbos is Rabbinic, but after Shabbos it is biblical.
A Fascinating Rambam
We also find another approach in the Rambam itself (Shabbos 29:11). He writes, if we read him carefully, that the obligation of Kiddush, emanating from “Zachor es Yom HaShabbos LeKadsho – remember the Shabbos to keep it holy” may even be fulfilled slightly before Shabbos.
In other words, the Rambam writes that one fulfills the obligation of Kiddush – even before Shabbos – but only a slight amount before Shabbos.
THE RABBI YEHUDAH APPROACH
There is another approach that we find in Tosfos, both in Brachos (27a “D’Rav”) and in Psachim (99a “Ad”). The Tosfos write that one fulfills the Mitzvah of Kiddush when it is recited early, according to the position of Rabbi Yehudah. If we recall, there is a famous debate concerning when the last time one may daven Mincha is, and when the earliest time one may daven Maariv (Mishna in Brachos 26a).
- According to Rabbi Yehudah, we may only daven Mincha until Plag HaMincha (10 and ¾ hours of the day) and we may begin Maariv immediately after Plag HaMincha.
- According to the Chachomim we may Daven Mincha until evening and we may only daven Maariv after evening – not before.
How do we ultimately rule in the debate between Rabbi Yehudah and the Chachomim? We rule like either one of them, according to the Gemorah – (but not both in the same day, as well will explain later).
According to the simple reading of Tosfos – it seems that early Kiddush on Friday night is only according to Rabbi Yehudah and not the Chachomim.
Thus, there are three explanations as to how it works:
- The first is that Tosefes Shabbos is biblical.
- The second is that the Rambam holds that the Mitzvah of Kiddush can be made even before biblical Shabbos.
- The third is that it goes in accordance with Rabbi Yehudah and we may Paskin like him.
As far as these three answers, how do we Paskin?
The Mishna Brurah paskins that Tosefes Shabbos is deoraisah – biblical. Therefore, there would be no need to re-recite the Kiddush if it was recited before sundown.
BUT SHOULD WE DO IT?
The above discussion concerned how the concept operates. Another question arises, however, as to whether to do it or not.
TZAAR BAALEI CHAIM
The Kuntrus Eitz Chaim (p. 154) cites the Baal HaPardes (brought down by Rav Moshe Shternbuch in Teshuvos v’Hanhagos II #51) that when one makes a late Shabbos during the summer months, one violates the Torah prohibition of Tzaar Baalei Chaim to one’s wife and little children.
It is unclear whether Rav Shternbuch is truly of this opinion or whether he is exaggerating the point to ensure that the husband will comply. The Aruch HaShulchan further writes (OC 267:4) that communities should make early Shabbos in order to avoid Shabbos violations.
Rav Elyashiv (Kovaitz Teshuvos Vil. I #23), on the other hand, writes that in Eretz Yisroel all effort must be expended not to daven before the correct time [unless there are extreme circumstances]. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo Tefillah 14: note 10) was less emphatic than Rav Elyashiv but did recommend that in Eretz Yisroel, Bnei Torah should refrain from davening Maariv earlier.
Here in America, however, the Gedolei HaPoskim have not taken a negative position about davening Shabbos early.
DAVENING EARLY IN GENERAL
As far as davening earlier on Fridays, in general, there is the debate we have just mentioned between Rav Yehudah and the Chachomim. The Gemorah tells us that one may choose any opinion – either like Rabbi Yehudah or like the Chachomim.
Most Rishonim understand the Gemorah that we cannot be inconsistent. We cannot do a tartei d’sasrei – an internal contradiction – by ruling like both opinions in the same day. We cannot daven Mincha after Plag in accordance with the Chachomim and then daven Maariv before evening like Rabbi Yehudah.
SOME ALWAYS DAVEN WITH THE CHACHOMIM
Some people are careful to always daven in accordance with the Chachomim. However, the Mogain Avrohom points out that on Shabbos one may daven earlier like the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah because there is a Mitzvah to add onto Shabbos from the week. One should be careful, however, to daven Mincha before the Plag.
The Mishna Brurah (267:3) cites the opinion of the Derech HaChaim that when dealing with a Tzibbur one may be lenient and daven Maariv while it is yet day, even though one has davened Mincha after the Plag. The Mishna Brurah, however, rejects this position (in both the Mishna Brurah and the Biur Halacha). He writes that it would only be permitted b’shaas hadchak – when one is in a bind and even then, the Maariv must only be said during Bain HaShemashos at the earliest.
HOW CAN THEY VIOLATE THE MISHNA BRURAH?
It is interesting to note that numerous shuls, for some reason, are going with the Derech HaChaim during these summer months rather than the Mishna Brurah. Since regarding all other issues we generally rule like the Mishna Brurah, a question arises: How can they do this?
THEY DO IT, BUT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT
One rationale, perhaps, is that they feel that they are not really arguing with the Mishna Brurah so much. Firstly, the shuls that do it, do feel bad about it.
The reason they are lenient is because people do not want to start the Friday evening meal so late. It may take away from their oneg Shabbos. Rashi in Yevamos (93a) writes that Oneg Shabbos is a biblical obligation, as does the Rashba both on Yevamos and in his responsa (1:127). The Rivash (Responsa 513) also rules that it is biblical.
Even though the Rambam (Shabbos 36:1) holds that it is only Rabbinic, the views of the other Rishonim, may make it fit into the criterion of Shaas Had’chak. It could be that in Europe, from an economical and logistical point of view – it was not viewed as oneg Shabbos to accept Shabbos earlier.
But what about the Maariv part during Bain haShemashos?
Many of those shuls that make early Shabbos and are not careful to daven Mincha before the Plag still do not daven maariv during Bain HaShemashos.
How can they do this? Perhaps they may rely on a number of other factors too.
- The first Tosfos in Brachos “VeAimasai” as well as the Rashba there, seem to hold that one is permitted to do an action that contains the internal contradiction in regard to Tefillah. Even though this position is rejected by the Mishna Brurah (MB 233: and 235), this view may be perhaps used in conjunction with other views.
- It could be that the aforementioned ruling of Tosefes Shabbos being a biblical concept may change the issue of Maariv and allow it to be recited early.
- It could be that we may accept the view of the Derech HaChaim on account of the Shaas HaD’chak.
This is not to suggest that a shul should do this ideally, it is just to provide a limud z’chus for those that do it.
TWO WAYS, AT LEAST, TO CALCULATE PLAG
It should also be noted that there are at least two ways to calculate the Plag Mincha.
- According to the Gra, Plag hamincha is calculated as 10 and ¾ halachic hours between sunrise and sunset.
- According to the Magain Avrohom it is calculated as 10 and ¾ halachic hours between dawn and star out.
For example, on August 14th – in New York, the Gra Plag is 6:27 PM and the Mogain Avrohom Plag is 7:24. Since Mincha is usually scheduled 15 minutes before the Plag, Mincha would be at either 6:12 PM for the Gra time and 7:09 PM for the Mogain Avrohom time.
The truth is that the various opinions about when dawn and star out can yield a dozen or so plag minchas.
When this author posed the question to Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita a number of years ago, he suggested that a shul may use either Plag mincha and it would not be considered Tartei D’Sasrei – an internal contradiction.
THE IDEAL TIME FOR MINCHA
There is also another issue, and that is when is the most ideal time to Daven Mincha. The Shulchan Aruch rules (OC 233:1) that the essential main time in which Mincha should be davened is from Mincha Ketana onward – that is from 9 and ½ hours onward.
The Mishna Brurah (233:1), however, cites Rishonim that hold that one may even daven ideally at Mincha Gedolah, which is at 6 and ½ hours of the day. Indeed, the Shaar HaTziyun (233:3) cites the Vilna Gaon as agreeing to this position as well.
In conclusion, as in all matters of halacha, one should speak to one’s own Rav or Posaik about how one should conduct oneself.
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