By Rabbi Nachum Scheiner
Part I—Making Kiddush Before Nightfall
This is from a new series of shiurim, given on Friday morning at the Kollel Boker of Beis Midrash Ohr Chaim, on the topic of “Rules and Regulations for Early Shabbos.”
We are all familiar with early Shabbos minyanim, which take place after plag, but before nightfall. The Shulchan Aruch tells us that one may make an early Shabbos, go home immediately to recite kiddush, and start his meal without any waiting time. Although reciting kiddush before nightfall is, indeed, allowed according to the Shulchan Aruch, there is a discussion in the Rishonim as to whether this is halachically sanctioned.
In order to properly understand the scope of this discussion, we must step back for a moment and understand what is happening when someone “makes an early Shabbos.” Making an early Shabbos is in essence extending the Shabbos, sanctifying Friday and giving it kedusha of Shabbos.
The concept of adding on to the Shabbos is not just something done for convenience; it is actually a requirement. The Torah tells us—in regards to Yom Kippur—that one must start fasting on the eve of the ninth day of Tishrei. Yet, we know that the fast commences on the tenth. The Gemara deduces from this expression that one must actually start the fast at the end of the ninth day. The Gemara continues that, in addition to starting the fast on the ninth, one must also continue the fast into the beginning of the eleventh. This is known as tosfos Yom Kippur, adding on, both at the beginning of the fast, as well as at the end. The Gemara then applies this requirement to every Yom Tov, as well as to Shabbos. According to most Rishonim this is a Scriptural requirement, known as tosfos Shabbos and tosfos Yom Tov, meaning that one is required to add on a few minutes of keeping Shabbos, both at the commencement of Shabbos, as well as at its conclusion. The Rambam, however, omits this requirement. Many commentators explain that, even according to the Rambam, there is a rabbinical requirement to add on a few minutes to the Shabbos. Getting back to the recitation of kiddush before nightfall, according to the majority of the Rishonim, since it is a scripturally recognized part of Shabbos, we can understand how one can fulfill the Scriptural mandate of reciting kiddush at that time. However, according to the opinion of the Rambam, inasmuch as it is not a scripturally recognized part of Shabbos, how can one fulfill his requirement to recite kiddush at that time?
Furthermore, even according to the other Rishonim, the Pri Megadim writes that starting Shabbos as early as plag—which is more than the Scriptural requirement—is only of a rabbinical nature. That being the case, we must understand: if the early Shabbos is not a scripturally recognized part of Shabbos, how one can fulfill his requirement to recite kiddush—which is a Scriptural requirement—at that time? In fact, there are Rishonim, who although they do allow ushering in the Shabbos before nightfall, do not allow reciting the kiddush before Shabbos itself arrives at nightfall (or possibly sunset). The Mishna Berura (Biur Halacha 271) maintains that one should follow this opinion, if possible.
This question is discussed by the Magen Avraham, who quotes the Mordechai, who explains that since the Scriptural mandate is looming ahead, one can, indeed, fulfill his requirement even earlier.
The Netziv, in his classic sefer on chumash, Ha’amek Davar, as well as in his sefer Ha’amek Sheila on the She’iltos, has a different take on why one can recite kiddush before nightfall. He posits that even according to the aforementioned opinion of the Rambam that there is no Scriptural requirement to add on to the Shabbos, one can daven and recite kiddush.
He points to the pasuk—in regards to the yom tov of Shavuos—that uses the expression “b’etzem hayom,” (on the actual day). He explains that the Torah is stressing that only the yom tov of Shavuos requires one to daven and recite kiddush at nightfall. That is the reason, says the Netziv, for the minhag of not making early Shavuos. On the other hand, when it comes to Shabbos as well as many other yomim tovim, this expression is not used. We can infer from this omission that the Torah does sanction davening and reciting kiddush prior to nightfall. Consequently, when it comes to Shabbos, the Rambam will agree that one can daven and recite kiddush prior to nightfall.
In conclusion, there are those who will refrain from reciting kiddush before nightfall and the Biur Halacha does mention that this is preferable. However, the Shuchan Aruch does sanction the recital of kiddush before nightfall and that is indeed the prevalent custom.
Part II—Finishing the Meal
There is another discussion when making early Shabbos, in regards to the finishing of the meal. The Sefer Chasidim (written by Rav Yehuda Hachasid, who was one of the Rishonim) writes that even if making an early Shabbos and commencing the meal before nightfall, one should also eat some more bread at the end of the meal, the size of an olive (a k’zais) after nightfall.
Many others take issue with this suggestion: if it is considered Shabbos, why should one not fulfill his obligation of partaking in the Shabbos meal? Why should it be necessary to eat more after nightfall?
The Eliyahu Raba, among others, explains that the Sefer Chasidim agrees that the Shabbos Queen, in her full glory, has arrived. However, the Shabbos meals are an exception, the requirement to partake of three meals on Shabbos is learned from the expression “hayom,” used three times in the Torah—in regards to the man. Since the Torah specifically requires one to partake of three meals on the actual day of Shabbos, for that requirement, turning Friday into Shabbos will not suffice. It is still, technically, not considered the actual day of Shabbos. The Maharal—in his commentary on the Haggada, Gevoros Hashem—also concurs with this ruling.
In fact, the Pri Megadim explains that according to this opinion, eating the extra piece of bread must be done after nightfall: even eating during twilight (bein hashmashos) will not suffice. The commentators raise the question: In general, one is required to eat bread for a Shabbos meal which is greater than the size of an egg, which constitutes an established meal; the size of a k’zais is sometimes eaten as a snack. That being the case, one should be required to eat—at the end of the meal—bread which is greater than the size of an egg.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, explains that to create a meal, one needs to eat bread the size of an egg. But once the meal has started, any eating which is done is considered significant and it is sufficient to continue the meal with bread the size of a k’zais. However, not all concur with this notion of the Sefer Chasidim; there are many Rishonim who assert that one can finish the entire meal before night has arrived.
The Terumas Hadeshen, also one of the great Rishonim, in discussing the rules of early Shabbos, mentions that many of the early sages would make an early Shabbos and finish their meal long before the sun went down. In fact, he quotes a fascinating anecdote, where one great rabbi used to take a walk after the meal, with all of the great members of the congregation, along the Dunai River, and returning from their stroll when it was still light outside.
In conclusion, the Magen Avraham and the Mishna Berura recommend that one should try to eat a k’zais after nightfall.
Rabbi Nachum Scheiner of Bais Medrash Ohr Chaim has been raising the bar of Torah learning with great success throughout the Monsey community. Rabbi Scheiner heads the Kollel Boker, the Evening Kollel, the Sunday morning Halacha Chabura, Yeshivas Bein Hazmanim, Yarchei Kallahs on legal Holidays, and the Friday morning Shovavim Learning.