Tosefet Shabbat – adding to Shabbat

March 2, 2012

Every day consists of 24 hours, so theoretically Shabbat should also be a 24 hour period. From the appearance of three stars on Friday evening until the appearance of three stars on Saturday evening.

It is interesting to note that in the Torah, the various time periods always coincide with a change in nature, that is, sunrise, sunset, the appearance of the stars etc etc. Whereas in the secular world – midday was fixed at 12.00 and midnight at 24.00. At that point for example – one day ends and another begins. But that is totally random. Nothing happens in nature to indicate this change. Whereas the Torah is in complete harmony with nature and the movement of the heavenly bodies.

No surprise really, since God created both the Torah and nature. In fact the Kabbalists tell us the the Torah is the blueprint of the world.

Having said that, in practice, whenever there is a sudden change, like Shabbat and Yom Kippur, when one second everything is permitted and the next second forbidden; or erev Pesach when suddenly it becomes forbidden to eat chametz, both the Torah itself and the rabbis extended the time in order to avoid people breaking the Law.

So in practice we keep Shabbat for about 25 hours.

Most poskim (early decisors) wrote that the mitzvah of adding to the holiness of Shabbat by taking some time from Friday and adding it to Shabbat is a Biblical mitzvah. (see Bi’ur Halacha to Orach Chayyim 261:2). However, they did not specify how many minutes were needed to fulfil this mitzvah.

The later poskim suggest various amounts of time, ranging from a minimum of two minutes, through four, five, twelve up to fifteen minutes. (Eretz Tzvi 20; Igrot Moshe 1:96; Avnei Nezer 4:98; Minchat Elazar 1:23 and Maharshag 38). This applies to both men and women.

The very earliest time that one may accept Shabbat is “plag hamincha” about an hour and a quarter before sunset but any earlier than that is invalid. So if one light candles at midday on Friday and declared it to be Shabbat – it would be invalid and one would need to repeat within the appropriate time frame.

How do we actually accept Shabbat?

Four ways are mentioned in the sources and in order of preference they are:

1. With a prayer or a blessing. Such as saying ” mizmor shir leyom hashabbat” a psalm for the sabbath day in the evening service. Answering “borechu” the call to communal prayer. Saying “bo’i leshalom” in the Lecha Dodi song.
Women generally accept Shabbat by saying the blessing over lighting the candles.
(see Ritva to berachot 27a, Shabbat 23b and 35a; Ran to Shabbat 35a)

2. A verbal declaration. One states that one is accepting Shabbat for the sake of the mitzvah of those who keep shabbat (Mishneh Berurah 261:21)

3. A mental act. Merely thinking that one is accepting Shabbat without verbalising. (Mishneh Berurah 553:2 quoting the Bach and the Gra)

4. By stopping work and refraining from the 39 forbidden labours. (even without a verbal or mental act – Aruch Hashulchan 261:2; Eretz Zvi 60; Yabia Omer 7:34; Shevet Halevi 10:50)

In order to fulfil the mitzvah of adding on to the Shabbat, one must accept the Shabbat BEFORE sunset. That is why mincha should begin at least 20-25 minutes before sunset on Friday. However, even if a person did not accept Shabbat before sunset, at sunset the Shabbat begins regardless and all work must cease. One has lost that mitzvah though still keeps the actual mitzvah of Shabbat.

It is very important to be careful about travelling on Fridays! How many times have we heard of planes, boats, trains and cars breaking down or being delayed. Even travelling to spend Shabbat in another town is fraught with danger and has to be carefully planned with lots of time allowed for all sorts of unforeseen circumstances.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Meir Wise


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