BET MIDRASH VIRTUALI
of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel
HALAKHAH STUDY GROUP
|Most participants already know that there has been a long hiatus since the last shiur in this series because I was unexpectedly hospitalized and underwent open heart surgery and had a device implanted. Now that my strength is gradually returning I am resuming our shiurim, though I cannot yet promise that they will be regular. Thank you sincerely for your understanding. Simchah Roth.|
One should not rush and light [the Shabbat candles] too early while it is still broad daylight, for then it would not be obvious that one is lighting in honour of Shabbat. Nor should one tarry [until it is almost dark]. But if one wishes to light the candles while it is still broad daylight and [thereby] to accept [the sanctity of] Shabbat upon oneself one is at liberty to do so, because when one accepts [the sanctity of] Shabbat upon oneself immediately, so this is not like doing so too early. [This is permitted] provided that it is later than Plag ha-Minĥah, which is one and one quarter hours before dark.
The Gemara [Shabbat 23b] relates the following:
Rav Yosef's wife would light [the Shabbat candles] at a late hour. Rav Yosef quoted to her the following baraita: '"The pillar of cloud did not depart by day nor the pillar of fire by night" [Exodus 13:22]. This means that the pillar of cloud complemented the pillar of fire and the pillar of fire complemented the pillar of cloud.' She decided to light [the Shabbat candles] much earlier [in the day]. An old sage quoted to her [another] baraita: 'One must neither [light the Shabbat candles] too early nor too late.'
The Israelites in their desert wanderings were accompanied by two divine manifestations: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. According to the manner in which the baraita which Rav Yosef quotes to his wife interprets the biblical passage the pillar of cloud did not depart by day, but when the pillar of fire arrived it waited a while before disappearing; and the same happened when the time came for the pillar of fire to give place to the pillar of cloud. This, he intimated, suggested also the the Shabbat candles should not be lit when it is so late in the day that darkness is coming on apace, for the lights of Shabbat should also 'complement' the daytime that precedes Shabbat. Rav Yosef's wife obviously decided to go to the opposite extreme and light the Shabbat candles very early on, while it was still clearly Friday afternoon. An old (and anonymous) sage told her that there was also a baraita which required the Shabbat candles to be lit "neither too early not too late".
Shabbat must begin some time before sunset... the number of minutes depending on local custom. The most prevalent customs seem to be 18 minutes and 30 minutes before sunset.
Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, the celebrated author of the commentary "Mishnah Berurah", asserts that this is the optimal time for lighting the Shabbat candles: "half an hour or at least a third of an hour before sunset".
Nehama Barbiru writes:
Following the now hypothetical situation of not having money to buy both oil and wine etc., I have a question. If someone is cut off from society e.g. kidnapped, and does not know what day it is (was unconscious), how does he observe the Shabbat?
In the Torah [Numbers 15:32] there is a story that takes place during the desert wandering: a man was caught gathering wood on Shabbat. The story itself does not concern us here, but the fact that the Torah seems to emphasize that the incident took place in the desert does concern us here. In his commentary on that passage Rabbenu Beĥayyé makes the following comment:
We may also add that the reason the story of the wood gatherer is linked with the desert is to point out that anyone who is travelling in the desert or on a long journey and does not know which day it is must observe Shabbat and may not excuse himself from that observance [because of his ignorance of the day of the week]. He must count six days and then observe Shabbat on the seventh, as taught by the sages.