By Rabbi Nachum Katz
In our fast-paced world, we are accustomed to seeing people rushing about. We rush to the train, we rush to work, we rush to carpool… Though understandable, this is somewhat paradoxical. We always seem to be rushing to places we would rather not go and to chores we would prefer not to attend to. Rushing to make Shabbos is far easier to relate to. Who among us does not cherish the respite of Shabbos? Running on erev Shabbos is not considered reckless behavior. It is a halachically sanctioned expression of our excitement and enthusiasm for Shabbos (Bava Kamma 32a).
An even greater, yet often-overlooked, expression of our enthusiasm for Shabbos is the mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos. According to the understanding of many Rishonim (Rif, Rosh, Ran based on Yoma 81b) we are obligated to accept Shabbos a bit early — we must extend the holiness of Shabbos by annexing a few minutes of Friday afternoon to Shabbos. Though the full extent of shemiras Shabbos does not begin until sunset (bein ha’shmashos is a safek issur kareis), it is a mitzvah d’Oraysa to accept Shabbos and refrain from melachah a brief time before sunset. Similarly, we are enjoined to delay the conclusion of Shabbos a bit before making Havdallah. This mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos may not be universally agreed upon by all Rishonim; however, it is obligatory according to the vast majority and, accordingly, it is codified in Shulchan Aruch (O.C. #261:2).
One may not daven Friday-afternoon Minchah if he has already accepted Shabbos. Consequently, we are obligated to conclude Minchah on erev Shabbos at least a few minutes before sunset so as to allow time for Tosefes Shabbos. It is better to daven Minchah b’yechidus, without a minyan, than to wait for a minyan and lose the opportunity for Tosefes Shabbos (Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa 46:5). To properly perform this mitzvah, it is not sufficient to simply refrain from melachah a few minutes prior to sunset. One must verbalize, “I am mekabel Tosefes Shabbos” to sanctify these last few minutes of the work week with kedushas Shabbos (Mishnah Berurah 261:21).
Disappointingly, many of us are accustomed to davening Minchah at the last minute and Tosefes Shabbos is generally unknown. Why do some of our shuls schedule erev Shabbos Minchah a mere 10 minutes before sunset? Have we considered that Jewish women have the custom of lighting candles and accepting Shabbos 18 minutes prior to sunset? Does it make sense that our wives perform this great mitzvah each week while we completely ignore it? Perhaps it is time for us to give Shabbos the proper kavod it deserves and rush to accept it a few minutes early as halachah requires. Perhaps it is time for us to schedule erev Shabbos Minchah no later than candle-lighting time so that it will conclude at least three or four minutes prior to sunset, allowing each of us time to verbalize, “I am mekabel Tosefes Shabbos.” What a great kiddush Hashem it would be if we would make a community-wide effort to strengthen kavod Shabbos, especially now that the clock has changed and making Shabbos on time is most challenging.
Similarly, could we not daven Ma’ariv at the conclusion of Shabbos two or three minutes later? If, for example, one follows the opinion that tzeis ha’kochavim in 50 minutes after sunset, he has not added on to Shabbos at all if he begins Ma’ariv promptly at the 50-minute z’man. The Shulchan Aruch teaches that we must delay Ma’ariv a bit to satisfy the requirement of Tosefes Shabbos (O.C. #293:1). The Mishnah Berurah comments that many congregations have the custom to recite and even sing various mizmorei Tehillim together prior to Ma’ariv. What a fitting way to end Shabbos — escorting the Shabbos Malka with song and words of praise to Hashem. At the same time, reciting these paragraphs of Tehillim causes Ma’ariv to be postponed for a few minutes in accordance with the mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos. What a beautiful minhag! Perhaps it should be reinstituted.
Kabbalistically, the mitzvah of Tosefes Shabbos is a powerful segulah. When one extends Shabbos into the weekday, he is widening the borders of kedushah. In the z’chus of this mitzvah, Hashem widens his borders and brings him relief in times of need, relieving him of stress and pressure (Rav Shteinman, zt’l, quoting Tola’as Yaakov). Could there be a better segulah for these challenging times? Shabbos Kodesh is the backbone of Jewish identity. It has been our greatest source of inspiration and strength throughout the ages. Let us extend ourselves just a bit and schedule erev Shabbos Minchah just a few minutes earlier and motzaei Shabbos Ma’ariv just a few minutes later.
Rushing to make Shabbos need not mean running late and failing to be mekabel Shabbos until the last minute. If we rush to the respite of Shabbos it will surely be a z’chus that will help us merit a respite from our troubles. Let us honor the Shabbos and rush to accept it early. May we merit the relief and salvation we have all been fervently praying for.
Rabbi Katz may be reached at email@example.com.