Although this issue is now behind us, making “Early Shabbat” also compromises the mitzva of Sefirat Ha’omer. The Shulchan Aruch rules that “those who are meticulous [with mitzvot]” will refrain from counting the Omer before nightfall.1 While it is true that one can simply count the Omer after nightfall, just as the Shema is repeated after nightfall when Ma’ariv is recited early, it is preferable to count the Omer together with a minyan.2 Unless ten people intend to gather together after nightfall in order to count the Omer together, this double-advantage (counting the Omer with a minyan and after nightfall) is lost when making “Early Shabbat.”
Another major issue that one must consider relates to the Shabbat evening meal. A number of authorities rule that the Shabbat evening meal may only be held after nightfall.3 According to this approach, one who eats the Shabbat evening meal before nightfall does not fulfill his obligation and will be required to eat three additional meals on Shabbat day.4
Complicating matters even more is the prohibition against beginning a meal within a half-hour before nightfall. The rabbis decreed that one may not begin a meal at this time lest one forget to recite the Shema after nightfall.5 This will often be an issue throughout the summer if one begins the Shabbat meal immediately upon arriving home from the synagogue. As such, one should consider making the necessary adjustments in order to circumvent the problem of beginning the Shabbat meal within a half-hour before nightfall.
Alternatively, some authorities permit one to begin the Shabbat meal at any time, on condition that one appoints another person to remind him to repeat the Shema after nightfall.6 In any event, one should make an effort to eat some bread/challah after nightfall in order to comply with the view that one must eat the Shabbat meal after nightfall.7
Some authorities frown on making “Early Shabbat” due to the possibility that some women might mistakenly light the Shabbat candles before the earliest permissible time. They argue that many women do not always know what time plag hamincha is and may accidentally light before this time. Also, some women may not realize the severity of lighting Shabbat candles before plag hamincha and do so anyway. A woman who lights the Shabbat candles before plag hamincha accomplishes nothing at all and the blessing recited upon them is considered to be in vain.8
A bar mitzva boy who is turning 13 on the upcoming Shabbat should certainly not make “Early Shabbat” that week. This is because the Shabbat-related mitzvot that one performs before nightfall are only considered to be discharged on a rabbinic level. In order for a bar mitzva boy to discharge the mitzva of Shema, along with all the other Shabbat evening mitzvot, for the first time in his life in the ideal manner, he must wait until nightfall when they become binding on a Torah level. Additionally, by waiting until nightfall the bar mitzva boy will be able to lead the services – something that is not possible during the “Early Shabbat” time period.9 Similarly, a person who has yartzeit on Shabbat should wait until nightfall to lead Ma’ariv and recite the Kaddish. This is because it is preferable for one to discharge the customary yartzeit customs on the actual date of the yartzeit. Keep in mind that the “Early Shabbat” time zone is essentially still Friday, the “previous” calendar day.10
Finally, a woman who makes “Early Shabbat” must remember to perform her Friday hefsek tahara before accepting Shabbat. According to a number of authorities, a woman who accepted Shabbat early but forgot or was unable to do so beforehand has lost the opportunity.11 Other authorities permit her to perform Friday’s hefsek tahara even after having accepted Shabbat, as long as it is still before sunset.12 (Similarly, it is worth mentioning that some authorities allow one who forgot to count Friday’s Sefirat Ha’omer, but already accepted Shabbat and even recited Ma’ariv, to do so, without the accompanying blessing, as long as it is still before sunset.)13 A woman who must light the candles before performing her hefsek tahara should stipulate that she does not intend to formally accept Shabbat until after she performs the hefsek tahara.14
It seems that in a home where the lady of the house is scheduled to immerse in a mikva on Friday night one may not make “Early Shabbat” at all. This is because once a woman completes her chafifa, she may not eat until after she immerses.15 Since the primary purpose of making “Early Shabbat” is in order to begin the Shabbat meal before dark, while immersion in a mikva can only take place after dark, “Early Shabbat” is simply a non-starter.
1 OC 489:2.
2 Shlah, Pesachim 3b; Yeshuot Moshe 2:76.
3 Bach, OC 472; Taz, OC 291:6; Sefer Chassidim 269; Mishna Berura 267:5.
4 Pri Megadim MZ, OC 267.
5 OC 235:2; Mishna Berura 235:16, 18. See also OC 267:1; Mishna Berura 267:2.
6 Mishna Berura 235:17,18.
7 Mishna Berura 267:5; Kaf HaChaim (Palagi) 28:27.
8 Rema, OC 261:2; Mishna Berura 261:25, 267:4. Although there is a view that women can light the candles before plag hamincha (and that even Ma’ariv can be recited), the halacha is not in accordance with this view.
9 Minchat Yitzchak 10:17.
10 Chelkat Yaakov 3:234.
11 Rema, YD 196:1.
12 Rema, YD 196:1; Chochmat Adam 117:5; Aruch HaShulchan, YD 196:21.
13 Igrot Moshe 4:99:3.
14 Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata 43, note 128.
15 Rema, YD 198:24.