“Early Shabbat”: Pushing the Halachic Envelope – Part III

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Continued from here: link/

Some authorities frown on making “Early Shabbat” due to the possibility that some women might mistakenly light the Shabbat candles before the earliest permissible time. They argue that many women do not always know what time plag hamincha is. So too, women may not understand the severity of lighting Shabbat candles before this time and do so anyway. A woman who lights Shabbat candles before plag hamincha accomplishes nothing and the blessing recited upon the candles is in vain.[1]

A Bar-Mitzva boy who is turning thirteen on the upcoming Shabbat should not make “Early Shabbat” that week. This is because the Shabbat related mitzvot that one performs before nightfall are only considered to be discharged on a rabbinic level. In order for a Bar-Mitzva boy to discharge the mitzva of Shema and other Shabbat evening related mitzvot for the first time in his life in their ideal manner, he must wait until nightfall when they are binding on a Torah level.  So too, by waiting until nightfall the Bar-Mitzva boy will be able to lead the services — something that is not possible during the “Early Shabbat” time period.[2] Similarly, a person who has yartzeit on Shabbat should wait until nightfall to lead Ma’ariv and recite the Kaddish. This is because it is preferable to discharge the customary yartzeit customs on the actual date of the yartzeit. Keep in mind that the “Early Shabbat” time zone is still essentially Friday, the “previous” day.[3] 

A woman who makes “Early Shabbat” must remember to perform her Friday hefsek tahara before accepting Shabbat. According to a number of authorities, a woman who accepted Shabbat early but forgot or was unable to do her hefsek tahara beforehand has lost the opportunity to do so.[4] Other authorities permit her to perform Friday’s hefsek tahara even after having accepted Shabbat, as long as it is still before sunset.[5]  Similarly, some authorities allow one who forgot to count Friday’s Sefirat Ha’omer, but already accepted Shabbat and even recited Maariv, to count Friday’s Sefirat Ha’omer, without the accompanying blessing, as long as it is still before sunset.[6] A woman who must light the candles before performing her hefsek tahara should stipulate that she does not intend to formally accept Shabbat until after she performs the hefsek tahara.[7]

It seems that a woman who is scheduled to immerse in a mikva on Friday night may not make “Early Shabbat” at all. This is because once a woman completes her chafifa, she may not eat until after she immerses.[8]  Since the primary advantage of “Early Shabbat” is the ability to begin the Shabbat meal before dark, while immersion in a mikva can only take place after dark, “Early Shabbat” is simply a non-starter.

[1] Rema, OC 261:2; Mishna Berura 261:25, 267:4.

[2] Minchat Yitzchak 10:17.

[3] Chelkat Yaakov 3:234.

[4] Rema, YD 196:1.

[5] Rema, YD 196:1; Chochmat Adam 117:5; Aruch Hashulchan, YD 196:21.

[6] Igrot Moshe 4:99:3.

[7] Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43 note 128.

[8] Rema, YD 198:24.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com


  1. ‘It seems that a woman who is scheduled to immerse in a mikva on Friday night may not make “Early Shabbat” at all. ‘

    What if she lives in a community where EVERYONE makes “early Shabat” and therefore all are obligated to follow?

  2. william gewirtz

    I tend to agree that “the “Early Shabbat” time zone is still essentially Friday, the “previous” day.” however, it is a famous machloket haposkim, Taz and Maharshal. See Rav zolti’s essay on an early kiddush on shavuot and/or SA.

    BTW it is not just women who may not know the time of plag haminkha. I dare say, many men who follow the approach of the MA (as was/is the minhag of many in Jerusalem despite talmidai Hagra) and follow the custom in Jerusalem of lighting 40 minutes before sunset, cannot explain their behavior. using either MA kenahug or MA ala Ramban, plag haminkha is later. try the calculation, even this week, let alone in the winter, and see what is derived!

  3. R’ Charlie-

    You’re right – in such a community she would have to accept shabbos early and light the candles…….but who says she has to eat the Shabbat meal??

    She must wait till after she immerses to eat the Shabbat meal.

    Ari Enkin

  4. Why would eating the Friday night meal before Tzeis be different or worse than eating any Seudas Mitzvah, for which there is a general heter given by most poskim to eat after chafifa as long as the teeth are cleaned again?

  5. Dear Yehupitz-

    Even accoridng to the approach you presented:

    a) It is only b’dieved
    b) Meat is forbidden (and meat is often the main course on Shabbat)
    c) It is only if one can brush and floss before the mikva — both of which are controversial to do on Shabbat.

    Ari Enkin

  6. Many of the issues that you’ve raised about early Shabbos in this series are because one cannot be yotzei according to every single opinion. But why must we always seek to satisfy every opinion? Each person should consult his rabbinic authority about the issues that have been discussed rather than say, “Oh, well, I guess I can never make early Shabbos and those who do are just ignorant.” Many poskim, who I’m sure were aware of these issues, have given the green light for this practice.

  7. a) Shaas Hadechak (like the inconveniences that lead people to make Early Shabbos to being with), is accorded the same heteirim as b’dieved.

    b) Those who are meikil about eating are generally just as meikil with regard to meat. (like someone who has to go to Mikvah on second night YomTov, or YomTov after Shabbos.)

    c) flossing with pre-cut floss is fine for non-bleeders, which is most people.

  8. “while immersion in a mikva can only take place after dark.”

    Not in many situations, certainly in a “shaas hadechak”.

  9. I’m pretty sure main stream psak in America allows women to have meat meals on shabbos (even for seuda shelishis) when going to the mikvah motzei shabbos. The same is true for meat on friday night when going to the mikvah later. The Shulchan Aruch quotes a minhag not to eat meat on the day of tevilah but it is trumped by the mitzvah of oneg shabbos.

  10. Hesh –

    Immersion by day is sooooooooo bdieved and rare…Lets not even go there. Its not an option. Period.

    Ari Enkin

  11. Talmid–

    But a woman can do another chafifa motz”ash, so the seudat shlishit is not such a chiddush.

    Friday night….not so pashut

    Ari Enkin

  12. at the end of the day, not eating meat is a minhag, oneg shabbos is a mitzvah. There are ways to clean your teeth. Most poskim I’ve spoken to are meikil on this issue. I will try to confirm with them before quoting them by name on a blog.

  13. Also, in your response to Yehupitz you said that it is only b’dieved, and meat is forbidden, implying that she shouldn’t eat anything at all, and even if you will eat at a seudas mitzvah she may not eat any meat. That is not the impression I get from Taz 198:25. In fact, it seems from the Taz that she can eat meat lechatchila on shabbos, leaving only your last point about doing another chafifa. Flossers seem to solve that last problem

  14. The way you are retorting is not how poskim, MO, Centrist or Chareidi, are noheig. They are meikil.

  15. Immersion by day is sooooooooo bdieved and rare…Lets not even go there. Its not an option. Period.
    Ari Enkin

    And now its clear that you are a baal habas and not a rav. Come back to us when you have a kehilla to paskin for and your not everyone is living in your ideal conditions.

  16. Yehupitz-

    The poskim I consulted with are not meikil when the sole purpose for eating before mikva is in order to eat the Shabbat meal early.

    Ari Enkin

  17. rabbi enkin, i appreciate what you are doing. I have long since been bothered with many aspects of early shabbat but i still do it because a)i have a family with young children and b) everyone else, including the rav of my shul does it and im not such a baal gaava to think that there are no answers to my questions. I was hoping you would answer the problems as opposed to just listing them. How can we daven mincha and arvit within the same time zone?(as per tos, its a no no) unless we pasking that zman arvit is later in which case we have other problems. Please, in your next installment, address the issues and explain how it is permissible.

  18. Ami-

    Indeed, you are right — there are times when it is the right thing to do.

    I have not yet written on how to explain all of the the issues because it is obvious that they are pemritted, as you yourelf note – everybody does it….Maybe I will in the future.

    Ari Enkin

  19. MiMedinat HaYam

    “customary yartzeit customs” — double custom does not (necessarily) trumpet early shabbat. seriuosly, its just a custom. (but dont tell that to the old men in back of shul, who want to make sure their children say kaddish for them.)

    bar mitzvah — this is the stuff of bar mitzvah derashot are made of. (ok — sefirah. same idea, according to you. but i’ll accept it.)

  20. rav sobolofsky talmmid

    see p. 277 of the sefer you reviewed where rav sobolosky says women can eat meat at seudas shabbos even if going to mikva.

  21. “Similarly, a person who has yartzeit on Shabbat should wait until nightfall to lead Ma’ariv and recite the Kaddish. This is because it is preferable to discharge the customary yartzeit customs on the actual date of the yartzeit.”

    I haven’t looked up this source, but this seems really crazy. First, a person who has Yahrzeit on Shabbos doesn’t lead the davening. Secondly, ma’ariv is d’rabbanan, kaddish is a custom, the person is going to say more kaddishes the next day, etc. I have never heard of anyone worrying about this.

    Some of your other points are also just weird. Why are we more worried that a woman will not know when to light candles if she makes early shabbos than if she makes regular shabbos? Does her brain suddenly stop working, or does her clock break?

    The omer point is a half-truth: yes, counting after tseis is best. But making kiddush during the 1/2 hour before tseis is more of a problem. Early shabbos allows you to start the meal well before then, and then just count later.

    The notion that shuls wait until tseis to daven ma’ariv is also just plain odd. The vast majority of shuls I have been in in America do NOT wait until nacht to daven ma’ariv, even on Shabbos during the winter. So you have say sh’ma again anyway.

    I don’t have time to debunk this whole series, but it is full of weird stuff like this.

  22. Rav S talmid-

    Yes, I am aware there are mekilim. Shiurei Shevet Halevi says she cant eat meat.

    Rav S doesnt discuss whether she hsould use the “double kula” of early shabbos and eating meat before tevila.

    Of course, where there is hardhsip we should follow the mekilim, but where it is only a matter of convenience……………..

    Ari Enkin

  23. Dear Eskimo–

    I dont have time to debunk your entire cooment (-wink-) but to give you a sampling of what I’d respond:

    re: “I haven’t looked up this source, but this seems really crazy”

    ……the Chelkat Yaakov obviously didnt think it was really crazy!

    Ari Enkin

  24. rav sobolofsky talmmid

    There are machmirim and mekilim on everything. I assume that you are aware that the readers of this blog are by an large modern/centrist orthodox or whatever you would like to call it, and thus by and large dont follow the pesakim of Rav Vozner binyanei nidda. Have you seen all the chumras he has in there? saying rav vozner is machmir is like saying rav abadi is mekil.

  25. william gewirtz

    Given this thread, perhaps it is time to take a broader perspective. Besides the explicit gemara about making shabbat early, i was always struck by the first tshuvah in the trumot hadeshen where R. Isserlein is unwilling to question those who make shabbat super-early, up to 4 hours before the end of shabbat. Practice, even when not entirely correct, likely has a legitimate source or at least origin. It is more useful to try to find it, than assume it is incorrect.

    I appreciate that one who is committed to the correctness of a particular halakhic theory may (or even ought to) wish to practice it as well, but implying that others should abide is hardly traditional. In this case, where no one that I have heard of in the US or Israel, typically starts shabbat before the Gra’s time for Plag haminkha, this is particularly true.

    the only real issue, is operating inconsistently wrt plag haminkha; that is a complex topic in its own right.

  26. My gut tells me that the chelkas yaakov is an outlier. I live in the real world, and have seen many, many people lead ma’ariv on a yahrzeit before nightfall. Apparently, the welt isn’t worried about the chelkas ya’akov. It is a rather obscure point, and not worth my time to look into. But I didn’t post a piece implying that the chelkas ya’kov’s position was normative.

    You completely ignored my other points.

    There is apparently a lot of discomfort about these postings. And I think it stems from the fact that — despite a tepid disclaimer at the beginning of post one — you have tendentiously collected sources attacking a practice that is very-well established among very frum people in the US at least. Others have already pointed out that apparently people were doing this in the time of the Gemara. (A Jacob Katz-like piece tracing the history of it would be fascinating. I know he does this with the issue of ma’ariv bizmano.)

    And others have rightly pointed out that one can easily amass sources challenging almost any well-established practice in Jewish law. This is true in kashrus, niddah (as pointed out), shabbos, etc. Would you like me to trief your house according to many rishonim? Would you like me to declare you mechalel shabbos according to many rishonim? Easily done.

    So then what is the value of posting a piece like this, if it is not meant as p’sak (which it clearly is not?)

    I would be very interested in an equally tendentious list of poskim who permit or even encourage early shabbos as an enhancement of oneg shabbos and tosefes shabbos. Perhaps you could refer me to one.

  27. MiMedinat HaYam

    dr gewirtz reminds me of the r ovadia mi’bartenura (i think in a book titled something like “19 letters”) that when he came to yerushalayim, they started shabat at noon time. i thought that meant just no melacha, but he says they went to shul then. (and he had no problem with it.)

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