For donations Click Here

Early Shabbos Ramifications


What are the consequences of an Early Shabbos minyan? When are those who aren’t in shul obligated to begin observing Shabbos? What happens when there are two minyanim in a city? What level of obligation does a private minyan create? What’s the halacha for guests in a small village with only one shul that makes Early Shabbos? Is there a difference between different communities and locales? Why does the Altneu Shul in Prague obligate the entire Prague community, even larger or more populated shuls? What happens when there’s a minyan that doesn’t follow halacha? Does a non-Orthodox minyan count? Does a minyan which sometimes davens before plag and sometimes after, obligate anyone? Does a plag minyan made only for the sake of convenience obligate anyone else in town? Does a husband who davenss plag have any impact on his wife and family? Of this and more, in the coming article.

Building the Mishkan

This week’s parasha begins with Moshe Rabbenu gathering the Jewish people and commanding them to build the Mishkan, while warning them about the activities prohibited on Shabbos. Despite the love and excitement that building the Mishkan generated, constructing it on Shabbos was forbidden. This serves as the source for the 39 forbidden labors on Shabbos.

Last week we elaborated on the concept of Early Shabbos, the pros and cons. This week we will focus on the question of how it impacts the rest of the residents in the town, city, community, or family.

The main reason for making Early Shabbos is convenience, particularly in the northern countries where sunset is late, and especially for the elderly, ill, and very young. On the other hand, we explained the reasons to refrain from doing so – poskim who maintain that Ma’ariv, Kiddush and Shema must be recited only after tzeis ha-kochavim (nightfall), and the difference in opinions as to the exact time of plag Ha-Minchah, which might be much later than the one that appears on most calendars. Since there are opinions supporting both sides, we recommend consulting with your local rabbi when considering making Early Shabbos.

One of the points to take into consideration is the halacha that obligates all the city residents to begin Shabbos as soon as the main shul recites “Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos” (the psalm sung at Kabbolas Shabbos welcoming the Shabbos Queen). This week, we will focus on this halacha – who it involves, what it includes, and how do these halachos play out in real life.

The Public Obligates the Individual

The Shulchan Aruch rules (OC 262:12) that once most of the residents of a city accepted Shabbos in shul, all the city’s residents must begin observing the laws of Shabbos, even against their wishes, because that is the point where Shabbos begins in that city.

The Mishna Brura (262:51), restricts this halacha to a community where most of the residents are in shul for Kabbolas Shabbos. However, if the majority was not present then in shul, the congregation does not obligate the rest of the city’s residents.

Furthermore, the Mishna Brura writes that even if there is a large shul where most residents daven early, but there is a smaller shul where a small minyan davens later, the larger shul does not obligate the smaller one. When there are several shuls in a town, every person can accept Shabbos when he wants, and one congregation does not obligate another.

However, the Mishna Brura clarifies that this is only where there is another shul that hasn’t yet accepted Shabbos. Where all shuls accept Shabbos early, and only one – even if it’s permanent – home minyan, begins Shabbos later, the members of the home minyan must begin observing the laws of Shabbos when the shuls do, not when their minyan davens.

The reason for this halacha is based on the obligation to build a shul in every town. Since residents are obligated to follow their local shul, they must follow the shul’s customs even if they, personally, happen to daven with another minyan at home.

Practical Scenarios

This halacha can have real practical ramifications. For example if a large family rents a guesthouse or complex for Shabbos in a town or village and they daven together in their own beis midrash or hall but the main village shul makes Early Shabbos, the guests are obligated to begin observing Shabbos at the same time.

Another scenario is where all the shuls accept Shabbos at plag because of the late summer sunset, and one group wants to be scrupulous and not daven before nightfall. While they meet only after nightfall to daven, they still must refrain from Shabbos forbidden activities as soon as the shuls have begun Shabbos.

Does Comfort Set The Minhag

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC III 38) maintains that this halacha is only relevant where the reason for making Early Shabbos stems from spiritual motives, such as adding holiness and making more of Shabbos, or in order to prevent people from working right up until sunset.

However, when the only reason for making Early Shabbos is convenience – because the congregation doesn’t want to eat dinner late, he wonders if the majority can obligate the minority. Practically, he did not issue a ruling on this matter.

Rabbi Moshe Stern (Be’er Moshe II, 16) rules that where a congregation makes Early Shabbos only during the summer for the sake of convenience, Early Shabbos does not become the local custom, and does not obligate the rest of the town’s residents since only a genuine local custom to accept Shabbos at plag for halachic concerns obligates the minority. A similar phenomena concerns walking to shul. Everyone knows that walking to shul is a mitzva, for which every step is rewarded. While walking is nice, nobody says driving to shul is forbidden. However, where residents agreed to always walk to shul and never drive, it might be considered the local custom, making driving to shul forbidden. However, if residents don’t drive because their shul is close, or because they don’t own cars — although they are rewarded for walking, walking to shul does not become the local custom, and those who prefer to use their cars can certainly do so.

On the other hand, many poskim (Rav Elyashiv – Shevut Yitzchak Ner Shabbos 50:4; Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach – Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 14, Orchos Halacha footnote 10; Shevet Halevi VII 35:2) disagree with Rav Stern and maintain that regardless of the reasons for it, starting Shabbos early can become the local custom which obligates the minority, because at the end of the day — beginning Shabbos early is a mitzva, Therefore, the moment Shabbos begins in shul is when it begins for all of the city’s residents and guests.

To explain this halachic rationale let’s take a look at the following example:

There are those who wouldn’t come to shul to daven, but the spirited singing, socializing, and delicious Kiddush attracts them, and they end up davening, too. While the reasons for coming are not spiritual, one still receives reward for the mitzvah he ended up performing. Furthermore, even one who walks into shul just to get out of the cold, or away from an angry dog, and ends up joining the davening or shiur, is rewarded for the mitzva.

The same is true for accepting Shabbos early for the sake of convenience – while that might be the attraction, at the end of the day — making Shabbos longer is a mitzva, and those who do so are rewarded for it, each at his own level.

Halachically Incompatible Minyan

The above rules only apply to Early Shabbos for which the motive is not halachic. However, where the earlier minyan is not a halachically viable minyan, the rules change.

The following question was presented to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 5:15): in London there was a shul which held two minyanim for Ma’ariv on Friday nights. Both were always set for the same times, regardless of the seasons: 7:15 pm, and 8 pm. In the beginning of the summer, both minyanim were after plag. Later on, as sunset got later, the first minyan was before plag and thus too early to daven Ma’ariv and to accept Shabbos. Most shul members davened in the earlier minyan, and only a few — at the later one. While the early minyan is not halachically correct when plag is later (and therefore obligates nobody), the community wanted to know if it obligated the rest of the shul members when the plag was earlier. This would mean that attendees of the smaller, later minyan, would have to begin observing Shabbos when the earlier minyan did.

In this case, Rav Moshe ruled that the 7:15 pm minyan is against the halacha, and therefore cannot set the local custom. Therefore, the first minyan, despite being the larger of the two, does not obligate the other shul members, even when their 7:15 minyan is halachically acceptable (during the spring, winter, and fall).

This ruling introduces two new concepts: that a neighborhood in London is considered a city in and of itself, to obligate – or fail to obligate – its members. And second: that had the first minyan been a halachically acceptable one (i.e. scheduled for the exact plag, whenever it was in London) it would obligate the attendees of the second smaller minyan, and they are not considered two separate congregations.

It goes without saying that a non-Orthodox “minyan” has no halachic status, even if it is the only shul in town, and most Jews daven there. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla 18:3) notes that every reference to a majority in a town only refers to the majority of Shabbos observant Jews. Those who don’t fully observe Shabbos forfeit their right to weigh in on matters of halacha.

Local Custom vs. Shul Custom

My rebbe, Rabbi Weisel pointed out, that outside of Eretz Yisroel communities often evolve around a shul, and shul members belong to “their” shul. If that is the only, or largest, shul in town, its customs become the local custom, which obligate all the local residents. However, where there is more than one shul in a city, or in Israel — where shuls do not usually create communities, customs are usually restricted only to the shul and don’t become the local custom. Therefore, in his opinion, even in small Israeli villages where there is only one shul, the shul’s customs don’t become a minhag ha-makom, and don’t obligate all residents and guests. Therefore, a guest in an Israeli village is not obligated to accept Shabbos when the main shul does. Together with Rav Moshe Feinstein’s presumption that a custom born only for the sake of convenience does not become a halachically binding custom, when necessary, one is permitted to be lenient.

Proof for this can be found in Eliya Raba (263:260) and Pri Megadim (263:24) who write that the custom in Prague was to always follow the main synagogue, the Altneu Shul, which was built over 850 years ago and used over the generations by all the chief rabbis. All Prague customs are based on the customs in this ancient shul, and when they accept Shabbos, that was when Shabbos began in the city of Prague, regardless of the number of attendants other shuls had.

Number of Attendants

Another question was posed by residents of a small town (not in Israel) which only had one shul. Since walking around outside at night was dangerous, most locals davened at home on Friday night, and only a small number of brave individuals or those who live close by appeared for Friday night Ma’ariv. In shul they made Early Shabbos, but the rest of the congregation wanted to begin Shabbos later. Could the majority that doesn’t show up in shul override the minority that does?

Rabbi Yichye Tzalach, the leading Yemenite halachic authority who lived 250 years ago (Pe’ulat Tzadik volume III, chapter 54) discussed this question and ruled that it depends upon the majority of a towns residents, regardless of where they davened or the number of shuls or congregations. Yemenite communities who follow his rulings follow the majority in the city, not necessarily those who show up in shul. However, the Mishna Brura and other poskim maintain that where there are several shuls, each shul obligates only its members. But what about those who don’t come for davening?

The Minchas Yitzchok (volume I, 24:4) opines that those who didn’t show up are not included, and the local custom follows that which is practiced in shul, even if they are less than half of the congregation.

However, Rabbi Moshe Stern (Be’er Moshe, volume II, chapter 19) argues that the opposite is true: The minority does not determine the custom for the majority, even if they are the ones coming to daven. Several halachic authorities agree with this opinion.

Rabbi Dovid Yosef (Zechor L’avraham 5754-5755 p. 344) was asked about a similar situation. In his response (signed also by his venerated father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef) he lists the issues that must be taken into consideration:

  • Usually, the majority is not required to follow the minority, even if they are the ones who arrived to daven.
  • Early Shabbos made for the sake of convenience might not be considered minhag ha-makom to obligate others.
  • The timing of plag: Some see the plag as later than others. According to these opinions, Early Shabbos means nothing, and does not obligate anyone, (which is one of the reasons to refrain from making Early Shabbos where there is no particular reason to do so. See last week’s article for more details on this issue.)
  • The concept of the minority following the majority depends upon a machlokes among the Rishonim. Although the Shulchan Aruch follows the Rivam cited by the Mordechai, since the Smag (positive mitzva 30) and the Maharm of Rothenburg (cited in Shiltei Giborim, Shabbos 2b) maintain that the minority is not obligated to the majority, their opinion can also be taken into consideration.

In light of the above considerations, Rav Yosef ruled that when it is difficult to follow the main shul’s custom, one can be lenient, and the majority does not have to accept Shabbos when the minority of shulgoers does.

Inside The Family

What happens when the menfolk daven with a plag minyan, while the women remain at home getting ready for the meal? Is a wife obligated to light the Shabbos candles and begin observing the laws of Shabbos when her husband begins Shabbos in shul, or can she continue her weekday activities until the official candle lighting time arrives?

Rav Moshe Feinstein answers (Igros Moshe OC volume III, chapter 38) that a husband who accepted Shabbos early does not obligate his wife and family, however a wife cannot perform any Shabbos prohibited activities for her husband, such as cook for him. However, Rabbi Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Halevi VII, chapter 35:3) maintains that the wife can accept Shabbos at the regular time, and in the interim she can do whatever she wants, even Shabbos prohibited activities specifically for her husband. And furthermore – her husband can even ask her directly to perform those activities. This will be discussed at length in next week’s article.


Where all local shuls make Early Shabbos to add to the holiness of the day, or to prevent people from desecrating Shabbos, this becomes the local custom, and obligates all local residents and guests.

Where locals make Early Shabbos only in the summer because of the late sunset, the poskim are divided regarding the public obligation. If Early Shabbos is the shul’s custom but not the city’s, or where most Shabbos observant resident don’t come to shul, there remains room for leniency.

A husband who makes early Shabbos does not obligate his wife, and she can begin Shabbos at the regular candle lighting time that appears on the calendar. However, Rav Moshe ruled that the wife may not perform work for him.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *