of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel


Bet Midrash Virtuali



There are some [authorities] who say that [time] must be added from the secular to the sacred, and that this extra time extends from the beginning of sunset, when the sun is no longer visible above the horizon, until twilight; and this [period of time] is [the time it takes to walk] three and one quarter mils. If one wishes to make all of that [period of time] the addition one may do so, if one wishes to make part of it [the addition] one may do so - provided that some time which is definitely daytime is added from the secular to the sacred. Twilight extends for [the time it takes to walk] three quarters of a mil, which is a distance of one thousand five hundred cubits before night time. Note: If one wishes to accept Shabbat upon oneself much earlier, from Plag ha-Minĥah onwards, this is permissible.


The Torah [Leviticus 23:26-32] calls Yom Kippur "the Sabbath of Sabbaths":

God spoke to Moses, saying: The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall practice self-denial, and you shall bring a fire-offering to God; you shall do no task throughout that day. For it is a Day of Atonement, on which expiation is made on your behalf before your God. Indeed, any person who does not practice self-denial throughout that day shall be cut off from his kin; and whoever does any task throughout that day, I will cause that person to perish from among his people. Do no work whatever; it is a law for all time, throughout the ages in all your settlements. It shall be a sabbath of sabbaths for you, and you shall practice self-denial; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall observe this your sabbath.

In several ways, of course, Yom Kippur is different from all other sabbaths. The very fact that it can fall on a day other than Saturday is an obvious difference; the fact that it can hardly be described as "a delightful day" (Ĥemdat Yamim) is another obvious difference. But there are also ways in which Yom Kippur is similar to all the other sabbaths: for example, the prohibition of performing 'tasks'. One thing concerning Yom Kippur is very clear from this text: although the sacred day falls on the tenth of Tishri it is described very clearly as beginning on the ninth day of the month in the evening. Obviously, there is some addition implied here: some part of the secular ninth of Tishri, towards nightfall, is to be added to the sacred day itself.

The Gemara [Yoma 81b] has a very convoluted midrashic extrapolation of the Torah text. In translation it goes something like this:

"You shall practice self-denial ... on the ninth day of the month at evening": this could be understood as implying that the self-denial [fasting] starts on the ninth; so the Torah adds 'in the evening'. But 'in the evening' could be understood to mean 'when it gets dark' [which is already the tenth]; so the Torah says 'on the ninth'. How is this possible? One begins fasting on the ninth while it is still day. Thus it follows that one adds [time] from the secular onto the sacred. Now that is good only for the start [of the sacred day]: what about its conclusion [- does one have to add sacred time onto the secular then as well]? The Torah says 'from evening to evening' [implying reciprocity between the start of the day and its end]. All this [midrashic extrapolation] is good for Yom Kippur alone; what about other sabbaths? The Torah says 'you shall observe this sabbath'... Any place [in the Torah] where cessation from tasks is implied we must add from the secular onto the sacred.

This last sentence of the Gemara certainly seems to imply that some part of late Friday afternoon must be added to Shabbat, just as some part late in the day of the ninth Tishri must be added to Yom Kippur.

Many great and distinguished decisors [poskim] do so decide. However there are several very great decisors who demur and maintain that nevertheless the Torah only intends to mandate the extension of the day for Yom Kippur and not for other sacred days. Even though halakhah is decided according to the former view, Rabbi Karo shows deference towards those great authorities who disagree by starting his paragraph "there are some authorities who say..."

Thus we have established that some part of Friday before dark must be added on to Shabbat. We must now address the vexed question of when is it dark? As we noted in our last shiur there are two major halakhic views on this matter. One view is that daylight officially ends at sunset, when twilight begins, and twilight is not part of the daytime. (Put more clearly, according to this view the day ends at sunset.) Another view is that the new day does not begin until complete darkness sets in, and this is some time after sunset. Rabbi Karo, in this paragraph, adopts this latter view, and does his best to define how much time may elapse from sunset until complete darkness sets in. His view is that there is a period of time that starts with the disappearance of the sun beneath the horizon and continues for quite some time (more than one hour) while the redness gradually disappears from the sky and then there is twilight for a few minutes before complete darkness sets in. According to this view some of the period between sunset and twilight must be made part of Shabbat.

One can say that the overwhelming majority of later poskim reject this view utterly and completely. (When we hear inaccurate statements to the effect that whatever is stated in the Shulĥan Arukh is halakhah for all time, we should quote this most salient point as to when Shabbat begins as an example of the inaccuracy of such a statement.) It is now commonly held that the day ends with sunset and that therefore some period of time before sunset must added from Friday to Shabbat. In other words, we hold that Shabbat begins some time on Friday afternoon before sunset. In a later shiur we shall discuss how much 'some time' denotes.

In his additional note, Rabbi Isserles clarifies a certain point: even though 'some time' might be understood as implying a 'short while' if it is convenient to do so, shabbat may be 'brought in' as early as plag ha-minĥah. For more information concerning plag ha-minĥah see the discussion after mishnah 7 of chapter 4 of tractate Pesaĥim. This link will take you to that chapter. We can briefly say that plag ha-minĥah occurs approximately seventy-five minutes before sunset. From that time onwards (but not before) it is permissible to 'bring Shabbat in'. In the long summer evenings there are many communities all over the world who avail themselves of this possibility, so that Shabbat will not start at a very late hour. (When summer time is in force in the more northern (or southern!) parts of the world sunset can be at a very late and very inconvenient hour indeed.)


In Shabbat 009 I enumerated the thirty-nine 'tasks' which are prohibited on Shabbat. One of them I translated as 'trapping a deer'. Yiftah Shapir writes:

According to all the works on biology that I know the word you have translated as "deer" refers to the animal called a gazelle. This is an animal found in abundance in Eretz-Israel - then as now. (The Latin terminology has its origin in Arabic where the word means 'beautiful'. This is also the connotation of the Hebrew term. On the other hand, 'deer' refers to an animal called in Hebrew ayyal, which was much less abundant. (The gazelle lives in both the plains and the hills, but the Israeli deer lives only in the hills.) The "Carmel deer", which is much smaller that the deer known to residents of more northerly lands, became extinct in Eretz-Israel at the beginning of the 20th century. In recent years a kindred breed has been brought from Turkey which is multiplying in protected areas on the Carmel.


The next shiur in this series will be on Tuesday, 26th October 2004.