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What is Early Shabbos?

Aaron Parnes

During the spring and summer months, many families choose to make what is known as an “early Shabbos,” especially in chutz l’Aretz, due to the late arrival of Shabbos. The most common practice is to daven Minchah and Maariv at shul on Friday afternoon, then return home to make Kiddush and begin the meal even before night arrives. In the following pages, we touch upon some of the halachic considerations of which one must be aware when following this widespread practice.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

person in shabbosThe custom of being mekabel Shabbos early is not a new one. The Gemara (Brachos 27a) tells us that Rav would daven a “tefillas Shabbos” on Erev Shabbos, meaning that he would daven Maariv of Leil Shabbos before sunset on Friday. According to most commentators, this means that Rav was mekabel Shabbos through his davening. Terumas HaDeshen (ch. 1) writes that a great sage related that in the city of Krems, the entire community would daven early on Friday afternoon, eat the Shabbos meal, then gather together once again for a walk alongside the river, accompanied by their rav and the community elders, with everyone returning home before nightfall.

The widespread practice in prewar Europe was not to make an early Shabbos, but Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein in Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chayim 267:4) urges communities to institute the practice of ushering in Shabbos early all year round in order to prevent the chillul Shabbos that can occur after last-minute Shabbos preparations. In the United States and England, the practice has become more popular in recent years, because it enables the Friday evening meal to take place at a time when people are accustomed to eating.

The specific motivation that one has in making an early Shabbos has halachic ramifications regarding a community-wide kabbalas Shabbos, as we will discuss below. It is also interesting to note that most chassidic communities specifically do not make an early Shabbos, even in areas where the summertime Shabbos arrives at a very late hour, such as in Northern England and Belgium.

 

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