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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Shabbat

Adding Sanctity to the Sabbath

The precept of adding to Sabbath teaches us that there is no complete separation between mundane weekdays and the sacred Sabbath. The mundane aspires to cling to the sacred, and our job is to sanctify the mundane and make it a vessel for sanctity.
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1. Sabbath Time
2. The Precept of Adding to the Sabbath
3. Sabbath's Onset - in Practice
4. Taking Care to Light Candles on Time
5. The Sanctity of Time and the Sanctity of the Land
6. The Practice of Women to Receive the Sabbath with Candlelighting
7. When do men receive the Sabbath?
8. When the Afternoon Prayer Runs Late

Sabbath Time
In all Torah matters, the night is seen as preceding the day, as it is written, "And it was evening, and it was morning, one day." In other words, a complete 24-hour day starts with the night. The same is true when it comes to the Sabbath; the seventh 24-hour day of the week begins at night.

However, an important question then arises: when exactly does the night begin? When the sun sets and disappears from sight ("shkiya"), or when it becomes dark and three medium-sized stars can be seen in the sky ("tzet hakokhavim")? In other words, are day and night defined by the sun, or by the sun's light? This question has practice implications, for there is a difference of eighteen to twenty-five minutes between sunset and darkness.

In fact, no definitive ruling exists on this matter. Therefore, the entire period between sunset and darkness, i.e., the twilight ("bein hashmashot"), is seen as being possibly day and possibly night. And because the commandment to observe Sabbath has its source in the Torah, we must take a stringent attitude to this twilight period, for the rule is that "when in doubt regarding a Torah precept, we must be stringent." Therefore, in practice, the Sabbath enters with the setting of the sun and departs with the appearance of the stars.

The Precept of Adding to the Sabbath
Despite the fact that with respect to the fixed sanctity of the Sabbath the seventh day alone is hallowed, the Torah commands us to "add to the sacred from the mundane." In other words, we must receive Sabbath's sanctity a bit early, during the final minutes of the sixth day. The same is true regarding the Sabbath's departure: while with respect to Sabbath's fixed sanctity the moment that the seventh day ends the Sabbath is finished, we are nonetheless commanded to carry with us some of Sabbath's sanctity into the new week (Shulchan Arukh 261:2; according to Be'ur Halakhah most authorities hold that the obligation to add to Sabbath originates from the Torah).

By adding to the Sabbath we demonstrate our great fondness for this sacred day: we go out to receive her even before she arrives, and escort her out when it comes time for her to leave. This behavior gives expression to the fact that the Sabbath is like a very dear guest to us.

The precept of adding to the Sabbath teaches us that there is no complete separation between the mundane weekdays and the sacred Sabbath, for we take a few ordinary, mundane minutes and transform them into minutes of the Sabbath. From these few minutes we learn that, in essence, the true aspiration of the mundane is to attach itself to the sacred, and our job is to sanctify the mundane and use it as a foundation and vessel for sanctity.

Sabbath's Onset - in Practice
As we have learned, the Sabbath begins with the setting of the sun, and we are commanded to take from the mundane and add to the sacred before sunset. All Jews are accustomed to adding at least twenty minutes to the Sabbath, and this is the time that is printed in calenders as the "hour of Sabbath's entrance" and "candle-lighting time."

In practice, the custom in Tel Aviv and most other cities in Israel is to receive the Sabbath twenty minutes before sunset. Jerusalem and Petach Tikva observe a markedly praiseworthy custom, receiving the Sabbath forty minutes before sundown. And there is also a custom that follows a middle path, unwilling on the one hand to settle for the smaller appendage of twenty minutes, as practiced in Tel Aviv, but also not interested in taking on the stringent custom of Jerusalem. I am referring to the custom of Haifa where they practice receiving the Sabbath thirty minutes before sunset. This is also the custom in the Shomron region, in accordance with the ruling of the late Rabbi Eitan zt"l (grandson of the late Rabbi Meshulam Rata zt"l).

Taking Care to Light Candles on Time
One must be very careful about lighting candles no later than the time printed in the calender, each person in accordance with the custom of his place of residence. And even though one is considered to have fulfilled the commandment of adding to the Sabbath by lighting even just a few minutes before sunset, nonetheless, the correct path is to fulfill this commandment properly, according to the hour printed in the calender. What's more, every precept is protected by a safeguard, and when one oversteps this protective barrier, one is liable to eventually breach the commandment itself, and therefore one must be very careful to observe the hour set for Sabbath's entrance.

The Talmud teaches (Shabbat 10b): "God said to Moses, 'I have a good gift for you in my storehouse, and it is called Sabbath; I wish to give it to Israel - go tell them.'" The Sages explain that God was actually requesting that Moses inform the Jews of the great value of the Sabbath in order that they know how to appreciate the valuable gift which God was giving them.

A person who stands to receive a valuable gift generally prepares himself in a fitting manner and hurries to accept it as soon as possible. The same is true of the Sabbath. One aught to hurry to receive the Sabbath even before the hour printed in the calenders - or at least not to be a minute late. This is all the more true when it comes to the summer months when the Sabbath enters later than usual.

Furthermore, it is well known that just before the arrival of the Sabbath, the evil inclination rises up in an attempt to prevent the coming of Sabbath's sanctity. The Talmud (Gittin 52a) tells of a certain couple that would argue with one another every Friday (arguing, of course, is the antithesis of the holy Sabbath, which brings peace). R' Meir happened upon the house of these two and attempted to resolve their conflict. He returned twice more, on Fridays, before he finally managed to bring peace between them. After he achieved this, R' Meir heard the Satan say: "Woe is me, for I have been thrown out of this house."

The Sanctity of Time and the Sanctity of the Land
I heard an novel theory, connected to the current situation in Israel, which asserts that there is a link between the sacred borders of the Land of Israel and the "borders" of the Sabbath. When we are lax about protecting the sacred borders of the Sabbath, receiving the holy day later than we should, the sacred borders of the Land of Israel are also ruptured.

We indeed find the Sages teaching that if thieves come to steal straw and hay from an Israeli border town, they should be engaged in war. Even though all they want to do is take some straw and hay, they are to be attacked. The reason for this is that if we are lenient with the nations when it comes to their taking straw and hay from our border towns, they will eventually come to take life. We find, then, that the defense of straw and hay is tantamount to the defense of human life. In a similar manner, we must be meticulous regarding those minutes bordering Sabbath's entrance as printed in the calender, for they are like straw and hay - if we renounce them, we will eventually also fail to fulfill the precept of adding to the Sabbath. The final result will be our desecrating the Sabbath itself.

It is also written (Leviticus 19:30 and 26:2), "Keep My Sabbaths and reverence My Sanctuary, I am God." The Sanctuary constitutes the apex of spacial sanctity, and its holiness is bound up with the observance of the Sabbath.

The Practice of Women to Receive the Sabbath with Candlelighting
Women make a practice of receiving the Sabbath when lighting the Sabbath candles. When kindling, they recite the benediction, "Blessed are You...Who has sanctified us through His commandments and enjoined us to light the Sabbath candle." When they mention the Sabbath, they intend to receive it, and in doing this they fulfill the commandment to add to the Sabbath.

According to most authorities, a woman can, if she so desires, make a mental condition that she does not receive the Sabbath with her candlelighting, and she will thus be permitted to continue to perform labor after lighting candles. However, this practice is to be avoided, firstly, because some authorities hold that such a condition is not applicable here; once she lights the candles, she has accepted the Sabbath regardless. Secondly, because if she does not receive the Sabbath with candlelighting in accordance with the custom of all women, she runs the risk of subsequently forgetting to add to the Sabbath (Shulchan Arukh 263:10; Shemirat Shabbat Kehilkhata 43:24; Yalkut Yosef 263: 44).

When do men receive the Sabbath?
The custom of men is to receive the Sabbath verbally in the Synagogue, when reciting the "Lekha Dodi" hymn verse, "Come bride, the Sabbath queen!" In the past, the practice was to begin the "Kabbalat Shabbat" service quite early, such that "Lekha Dodi" was recited about twenty minutes before sunset.

These days, however, many Synagogue congregations fail to reach "Lekha Dodi" before sunset. Therefore, in order to fulfill the precept of adding to the Sabbath in an impeccable manner, it is necessary to begin the afternoon Mincha service a half hour before sunset. Then, as soon as Mincha comes to an end, the gabbai (Synagogue overseer) should announce, "Come bride, the Sabbath queen!" In this manner, all receive the Sabbath and fulfill the obligation to add thereto. If the gabbai does not make this announcement, each individual should say to himself, "Come bride, the Sabbath queen!" or "I hereby receive upon myself the sanctity of Sabbath."

This is the great advantage of the Jerusalem custom, for because they light candles forty minutes before sunset, Jerusalemites manage to begin Mincha in the Synagogue a half hour before sunset, and accept the Sabbath fifteen minutes, or even more, before sunset.

When the Afternoon Prayer Runs Late
Many congregations pray Mincha late on Fridays, and were the gabbai to announce, "Come bride, the Sabbath queen!" after this service, congregants would often end up receiving the Sabbath after sundown. Hence, they would not fulfill the commandment of adding to the Sabbath.

Therefore, they must receive the Sabbath before the Mincha prayer. And even though they have received the Sabbath and it is now forbidden for them to perform labor, some authorities rule that it is nonetheless still permissible for such people to pray the weekday Mincha service (Tzitz Eliezer 13:42). Others say that in such a situation one should not explicitly verbally receive the Sabbath, for once a person does this it is no longer possible to recite the weekday Mincha prayer. Rather, one should mentally accept upon himself not to perform forbidden labors. By doing this, one fulfills the obligation to add to the Sabbath, but is still allowed to pray Mincha (Livyat Chen 6; Menuchat Ahavah 1:5,6).

However, it is best to pray Mincha at least twenty minutes before sunset and then receive the Sabbath, for according to Mishnah Berurah (263:43), a person who receives the Sabbath before Mincha can no longer pray the weekday Mincha service. Instead, such a person must pray the Sabbath evening prayer and then pray the evening service a second time as a compensatory prayer for Mincha.

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