Adding to Shabbat

14 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Michael Taubes

Adding to Shabbat

In Parshat Vayakhel, the Torah tells us, “Six days you shall work and on the seventh day you shall rest.” When does the seventh day actually begin? Can one accept Shabbat early? The earliest time when one can voluntary accept Shabbat is plag mincha, approximately one and half hours before sunset.  It has become accepted in many communities to have an early minyan for Kabbalat Shabbat, especially during the long summer days when nightfall is very late. If the Torah specifically says that Shabbat begins on the seventh day, and since in Jewish law the next day is only counted from nightfall, how can one accept Shabbat when it is still day?

 

The origin of accepting Shabbat early is a verse in Parshat Emor that relates to Yom Kippur. “V’initem et nafshoteichem… You shall afflict your soul on the ninth of the month in the evening.” The Gemara asks, if Yom Kippur begins on the ninth day at night then shouldn’t the Torah refer to it as the tenth day. Why mention the ninth? The Gemara answers, “Mosifin m’chol al kodesh. The weekday is added to the holy day.” We begin fasting while it is still day. Indeed, most shuls commence Kol Nidrei before sunset. The Gemara adds that all holy days during which we refrain from work fall under the category of mosifin, we begin early and end late.

 

The Rambam, however, records this law with regard to Yom Kippur only and does not mention it in relation to Shabbat and Yom Tov. The Kesef Mishna explains that the Rambam held that tosefet Shabbat was neither a d’oraita nor a d’rabanan obligation.  The Radvaz disagrees and explains that the Rambam did hold that this law applied to Shabbat. He only mentions it in relation to Yom Kippur because it is implicit that since Shabbat is holier than Yom Kippur it would most certainly apply to Shabbat. L’halacha, there are significant opinions that hold that one should add on to Shabbat and one may certainly do so if one wants to.

 

The Maharshal asks, if one davened Maariv on Friday night while it was still daylight, can one still count the Omer? He answers that something related to Shabbat can be done after accepting Shabbat even though it is still daylight. However, something dependent on actual nightfall like Sefirat Haomer, must be done after tzeit hakochavim.  Similarly, if one davened Maariv while it was still day, he is obligated to repeat Shema after nightfall.

 

The Maharshal rules that one should not accept Shemini Atzeret early, since the two competing days would raise a problem of whether to recite a bracha before eating in the Sukkah.

 

The general consensus among many poskim is not to accept Shavuot early as the verse specifically states, “sheva shabotot temimot,” seven complete weeks. However, the Taz disagrees and counters that once one accepts the Yom Tov it automatically becomes seven complete weeks.

 

There is a disagreement among the Baalei Hatosfot if one can accept Pesach while it is still day. One opinion allows it. Others disagree based on the verse, “V’yochlu et hapesach b’layla hazeh.” The sacrifice must be eaten at night. Since matzot and marror have the same halacha as korban Pesach it must be eaten after dark. Can one still accept Pesach early if he argues that it will take untill nightfall to eat the matzot and marror? According to the Terumat Hadeshen anything unique to Pesach must be performed in the evening. This would include Kiddush and the four cups of wine. Technically, one can daven earlier, but the Seder must begin when it is definitely nightfall. Similarly, one cannot accept Sukkot early because the Gemara draws a correlation between the first night of Sukkot and Pesach.

 

The Taz notes that the obligation to eat three meals on Shabbat is derived from the verse that repeats the word hayom, this day, three times. The question then arises, does tosefet Shabbat allow a person to eat the Shabbat meal when it is still day, or does it only permit one to pray the Shabbat davening? Some opinions hold that one can eat the meal and others disagree. The Mishna Berura suggests that one extend the meal into the night and eat a kzayit after dark.

 

To summarize, one can accept kedushat Shabbat and Yom Tov earlier, as tosefet Shabbat has the power to transform a mundane weekday into a sanctified day. However, it does not transform the astronomical aspect of the day and therefore, any mitzva that is connected to nightfall must be performed after the stars emerge.

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Harmonizing Torah and Science

14 10 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Harmonizing Torah and Science

If you are a Torah Jew contemplating a career in the sciences, there are three ideas to keep in mind. Truth is essential reality, not reality plus an agenda or will. A person who is tahor is genuinely human with nothing impure inside of him to impede his soul. This divine aspect is what differentiates us from the animal kingdom. The opposite of tahara is tuma which is defined as a blockage. Sin creates a mechitza, a barrier, which blocks us from accessing holiness.

The Ramak explains that every limb and organ requires veins and arteries to feed it blood. If there is a blockage, the limb or organ will die. Similarly, spiritual blockages cause our spiritual selves to die. Because we place such great value on tahara we try to prevent ourselves and our children from being exposed to an environment where lack of tahara, spiritual integrity, and truth is normal.

You may ask, “Why be so intimidated, why not just stand up for the truth?” The Rambam writes that people are naturally influenced by their environment on two levels. They want to feel accepted in the culture they live in and they want their friends to approve of them. Inevitably, they tend to adapt their beliefs and opinions. Therefore, we are unapologetic about demanding tahara. If you haven’t heard it all before you don’t have a protective armor built up to defend yourself. It’s normal to not quite know what to do with yourself. Do not be ashamed of this. It’s a reflection of your tahara, of not being calloused and damaged.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the Torah warns us, “Do not stray after your eyes and heart.” The heart refers to heresy and the eyes to desire. This tells us that people will naturally stray after their heart and turn to heresy. The difference between a tzaddik and a rasha is that a tzaddik‘s mind controls his heart while a rasha‘s heart controls his mind. People are drawn to heresy to conveniently justify patterns of behavior.

The third thing to consider is authority. Just because the professor has letters after his name does not mean that he has the full and final picture. Science is continually evolving. Something we thought factual today can turn out not to be so tomorrow.  We can see a part of the picture in the present, while more of the picture continuously reveals itself. You have to learn to examine what is true and what is not.

The closer something is to observable physical reality, the more likely it is to be true, rather than something that requires many assumptions along the way. In every possible dating system no one tries to answer one basic question: “How did something come from nothing?” The focus of science is certainly not the mystery of life. It’s easy, especially when there is an agenda, to see absolute reality when there are only question marks. The important thing is to figure out where factuality begins and ends and where supposition takes over. This is tricky because a hypothesis can turn out to be true but many times it is not.

Judaism has never been afraid of science. Science is the picture of reality as we know it. There’s nothing wrong with taking a snapshot. There is something wrong with saying that the snapshot is everything. The same holds true with liberal theories. Identifying a problem doesn’t mean knowing the solution. Judaism isn’t intimidated by questions. It is afraid of the haphazard tendency to create solutions that solve nothing.

If you will be studying the sciences, learn to master the art of “birur“, taking what is holy and good and rejecting what is evil. May Hashem guide our steps and help us maintain our inner purity and sechel hayashar (straight thinking).