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Early Shabbos – Part III


What is Kabbolas Shabbos, and when does it go in effect? What is the nature of the mitzva of Tosefes Shabbos, and what is the reason for it? Does the date change by accepting Tosefes Shabbos? Can Shabbos candles be lit before Plag? How is a woman’s candle-lighting different from a man’s? What condition can be made by a woman to avoid accepting Shabbos at candle-lighting? Who should refrain from accepting Shabbos early? Can someone who has not yet began Shabbos be asked to perform Shabbos-prohibited activities by one who has already begun Shabbos? When should emergency responders begin Shabbos?

Kabbolas Shabbos – Essence and Effect

In the previous two instalments we discussed the concept of Plag and Early Shabbos, and what it obligates individuals and the community. This week we will explore the concept of Kabbolas Shabbos – when Shabbos begins.

Tosefes Shabbos

Tosefes Shabbos is the halachic requirement to begin observing Shabbos before the day has technically begun, and end Shabbos after it has certainly concluded. There are several reasons for this mitzva:

  1. The Midrash (Bereshis Raba 10:9) writes: “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: A mortal human being who does not know [with certainty] his times, his minutes, and his hours, must add from the profane to the sacred. But the Holy One blessed be He, who knows [with certainty] his minutes, his times, and his hours, entered into Shabbat like a hairbreadth.”

Thus, the first reason for the mitzva of Tosefes Shabbos is human limitation – as humans, we cannot start Shabbos at the exact time it begins, for two reasons. A – Because we lack the means with which to measure time accurately; and, B – even the most accurate atomic clock cannot weigh through and resolve the numerous disputes and uncertainties involved in defining when is the true “nightfall”. Therefore, we begin Shabbos before sunset – when it is still certainly day; and end it after nightfall – when it is definitely night.

  1. The Mechilta (D’Rabbi Yishmael, Yisro, Masechta D’chadash, Parasha 7) adds another reason: The Torah mentions two terms in keeping Shabbos: “Zachor” – to remember, and “Shamor” – to keep. This is to teach us that one must “remember” Shabbos before it begins – i.e. begin Shabbos earlier, and “keep” it after it ends – end Shabbos after it actually ends. The Mechilta illustrates this idea with a parable: protecting a herd from a pack of wolves requires protecting them both in front, and from behind. So too, we — we must guard the sanctity of Shabbos — both before, and after.

Here, the Mechilta teaches us, that adding to Shabbos is not only a result of our deficiencies, but a mitzva to safeguard the sanctity of the day.

  1. The Ritva (Shabbos 35a) explains that there is a special mitzva to sanctify time, to make the weekday holy. Therefore, we take time which is certainly not Shabbos, and make it Shabbos. This cannot happen on its own — only when a Jew conscientiously sanctifies the time – either with Kiddush or Maariv — does the day turn into night, and the mundane becomes holy. Even the Sages who prohibit praying Maariv before nightfall agree that once a Jew accepts Shabbos, his Shabbos begins, and he can pray Maariv.

The Rama from Pano (2) explains that the Neshama Yeseira – the additional spiritual aspect of the soul which every Jew receives on Shabbos — arrives in stages. The human spirit has three parts – Nefesh, the lowest level of consciousness, which is the awareness of the physical body and the physical world; Ruach — a higher plane of consciousness, primarily manifested in the emotions; and Neshama — the conceptual grasp of the intellect. In the silent Shemone Esrei at Maariv on Friday night every Jew receives the additional Shabbos aspect of Nefesh. During the chazan’s refrain “Magen Avos” he receives the additional Ruach. And at the Shabbos meal he receives the Neshama’s Shabbos. Despite the sanctity of the meal, Jewish custom is not to hurry into it.

Summary: Accepting Shabbos early includes several mitzvos, the foremost being adding to the day of holiness and making it longer. The second is ascertaining we don’t accidently transgress prohibitions. The third is showing honor to G-d’s holy day by being ready and waiting for it to begin instead of falling into it at the last minute.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 261:2) follows the position of many of the Rishonim, that Tosefes Shabbos is a Biblical mitzva. However, the Vilna Gaon (OC 261:2) follows the Rambam’s opinion that the mitzva of Tosefes Shabbos is rabbinic.

Earliest Time to Begin Shabbos

As mentioned in our previous installments, Shabbos can begin only from Plag HaMincha which is one and a quarter seasonal hours before sunset (or nightfall – according to a minority opinion) (Mishna Brura 267:4).

Chayei Adam writes (volume II, 5:1) that people should always make sure to accept Shabbos at the beginning of the second Plag HaMincha (one and a quarter seasonal hours before nightfall). One who is scrupulous to do so even earlier, right after the first Plag (1 ¼ hours before sunset), is praiseworthy.

The seasonal hour (as explained in the previous installments) depends upon the season. Numerous websites exist to help calculate this time for every day on every spot on the globe. The time listed on calendars as ‘Plag HaMincha’ commonly refers to the first Plag.

Accepting Shabbos before the first Plag is impossible and ineffective. Therefore, before Plag no blessing can be recited for candle-lighting, neither can one pray Maariv.

One who is unable to determine the time (both physically – because he lacks the tools to calculate the Plag, or halachically – if he is uncertain which opinion to follow) can accept Shabbos orally (i.e. announce he accepts Shabbos; recite the final stanza of “Lecha Dodi”; or the Shabbos Psalm “Mizmor shir l‎’yom haShabbos”), however no blessing should be pronounced when lighting the candles, nor can he pray Maariv until it is certainly nightfall.

Candle-Lighting Before Plag

The mitzva of candle-lighting can be divided into two obligations. One is lighting candles as an expression of honor for the day. This can only be done at a time when Shabbos can arrive – i.e. from the first Plag until sunset. The other obligation is ensuring there is sufficient light so nobody falls and injures himself.

Where should one light the Shabbos candles when he plans on eating his Friday night meal away from home, but intends to walk back home to sleep after the meal? If he leaves his house before Plag HaMincha, candles should be lit where he plans to eat the meal. However, one who will only arrive at his host after Shabbos has begun, cannot, obviously, light at his host. Therefore, he should light candles at home before leaving, without a blessing. To satisfy the second reason for Shabbos candles, in this case the candles should remain lit until his planned return. Some maintain leaving an electric light on specifically for this purpose is sufficient.

Maariv Before Plag

One who prayed Maariv before Plag HaMincha did not fulfil the mitzva of praying Maariv, and must pray again (Mishna Brura 267:4). One who wishes to pray Maariv after Plag but before nightfall must daven Mincha before Plag. Only in extenuating circumstances can one rely upon those lenient opinions that permit (only on Erev Shabbos) one to daven Maariv before nightfall even if Mincha was after Plag. Optimally, if Mincha was after Plag, Maariv should only be after nightfall.

The Mishna Brura (256:1) notes that the reason we customarily recite Kabbolas Shabbos before nightfall is to prevent those who mistakenly believe Shabbos doesn’t start until it’s completely dark outside from transgressing Shabbos prohibitions. For the same reason the Mishna Brura encourages scheduling Maariv before sunset, even though it is not the optimal time to daven Ma’ariv.

Beginning Shabbos

How does Shabbos begin? The Shulchan Aruch mentions several options for starting Shabbos (261:4, Mishna Brura, ibid):

  • Lighting Shabbos candles.
  • Announcing “I now accept Shabbos”. This announcement can be made in any language, and any format.
  • Reciting the final stanza of “Lecha Dodi”.
  • Answering to the first “Barchu” at Maariv.
  • When the local congregation begins Shabbos.

Firmly deciding to hereby begin Shabbos without any of the above is ineffective according to most opinions including the Rama. However, the Bach and Vilna Gaon do see it as effective. Therefore, in order to fulfill the mitzva of Shabbos properly one should announce that he accepts Shabbos, but since accepting Shabbos in thought might be effective — one who firmly decided to accept Shabbos should refrain from prohibited activities.

Changing the Day

According to Shulchan Aruch Harahv (261:3) there are two ways of performing the mitzva of Tosefes Shabbos:

  • Accepting Tosefes Shabbos before sunset, intending the day to still remain Friday, but prohibiting weekday activities. During this time, rabbinic prohibitions remain permitted, and only Torah prohibitions are prohibited.
  • Changing the date, and accepting the full Shabbos. From this moment Shabbos begins for all intents and purposes. In this case, one cannot daven Mincha any more, and all Shabbos prohibitions are in place, biblical and rabbinic.

In line with opinion 1, some Chassidic communities have the custom of praying Mincha after Kabbolas Shabbos. However, Eretz Tzvi (volume I chapter 60), in a letter to the Imrei Emes, argues that this custom is improper.

Summary: Most poskim do not differentiate between Kabbolas Shabbos and Tosefes Shabbos, and forbid praying Mincha after accepting Shabbos. This is also the Mishna Brura’s opinion (263:43). Therefore, Mincha must be davened before Kabbolas Shabbos, and one who accepted Shabbos before praying Mincha should pray Maariv twice.

The Shulchan Aruch rules (267:2) that after Maariv, one can immediately recite Kiddush and eat the Shabbos meal, regardless of the time (Early Shabbos). The Mishna Brura explains (267:5) that it is because once praying Maariv, the day has changed into Shabbos, and one can now go on and fulfil the mitzvos of Shabbos – Kiddush, and a meal. However, the Mishna Brura cites the Sefer Chasidim (269), Maharal (Gevuros Hashem, chapter 48), and Bach (OC 472:1), who require eating an additional kezayis after nightfall to satisfy the opinions who disagree on this point.

Changing the date by accepting Tosefos Shabbos creates various halachic ramifications, some of which are:

  • Can a mohel who accepted Tosefes Shabbos perform a bris for a baby whose bris should be on Friday (OC, Taz 600:2)?
  • When Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, can one who accepted Shabbos but not Yom Kippur still eat (Yoma 81b, Gilyonei HaShas)?
  • When Yom Tov falls on Shabbos, can one who accepted upon himself Yom Tov and not Shabbos cook food for the holiday (Pri Yitzcha 600:9)?


The mitzva of lighting candles in honor of Shabbos results in different consequences for men and for women in terms of Shabbos acceptance. The Rama (OC 263:10) notes that customarily, when a woman lights Shabbos or Yom Tov candles she accepts Shabbos or Yom Tov. A special announcement must be made if she wishes to avoid accepting the day with her candle-lighting. The Mishna Brura, though, limits use of this condition only to when it is extremely necessary, because some poskim maintain the condition is insufficient. Optimally, one should not make use of it.

The Mishna Brura (footnote 43) rules that a woman who is afraid to miss candle-lighting if she prays Mincha, should light the candles on time and pray Maariv twice, rather than light the candles with a condition not to accept Shabbos.


Once praying Maariv, one cannot avoid accepting Shabbos. No condition is effective, even one explicitly expressed. When praying with a minyan, Shabbos begins with answering the first Barchu, and when praying alone Shabbos begins with Shemone Esrei (Tehila Le’Dovid 263:9). Toras Shabbos (263:25), though, maintains Shabbos begins upon reciting the blessing of “HaMaariv Aravim”.

Lecha Dodi and Mizmor Shir L’Yom HaShabbos

Reciting the prayer of Kabbolas Shabbos is another way to accept Shabbos. However, it is not at the beginning of the prayer, but rather with the final stanza of “Lecha Dodi”, or, on days on which “Lecha Dodi” is not recited, with the psalm “Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbos.” Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Halichos Shlomo, Tefilla, 14) was asked why we only accept Shabbos with the final stanza of “Lecha Dodi” and not right at the beginning? He explains that the beginning of the liturgical song is in the future tense, calling the Jews to gather and greet the Shabbos Queen. This is a declaration of intent. Only once the final words are announced, “Come O Bride! Come O Bride!” does Shabbos actually begin.

When Early Shabbos is Not Recommended

Emergency responders are encouraged not to ever accept Shabbos early. This is in order to minimize the possibility of desecrating Shabbos, should they be called up for an emergency (Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth, HaMe’ayen, 23:2 – Instructions for Soldiers During “Operation Peace of Gallilee”, 3). One who will be unable to make Kiddush later on, though, might be permitted to accept Shabbos earlier in order to merit the mitzva, even if it will force him to desecrate Shabbos earlier than necessary (see ibid, footnote 55). The same is true for a soldier who wants to pray Maariv calmly before going into battle, and does not know if he’ll have a chance to pray later on. Candle-lighting, however, should be done with the condition not to accept Shabbos.

Asking Others to Perform Prohibited Activities

The Rama (261:1) rules that even though asking a non-Jew to do forbidden activities on Shabbos is forbidden, one who accepted Shabbos early is permitted to ask a non-Jew to perform forbidden activities for him. The Mishna Brura (261:18) adds that other Jews, too, who have not yet accepted Shabbos, can be asked to perform forbidden activities. However, he stipulates (261:17) that as soon as all Jews accept Shabbos, a non-Jew can no longer be asked to do forbidden activities for a Jew, unless it is for a mitzva.

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