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Shabbat Parashat Terumah | 5768

Fulfilling the Mitzva of Tosefet Shabbat

Ask the Rabbi

Question: Can one fulfill the mitzva of tosefet Shabbat (extending Shabbat) by deciding a few minutes before that she is accepting Shabbat?

Answer: The concept of tosefet arises in connection with holy days (or Shemitta years), originally regarding Yom Kippur. The gemara (Yoma 81b) learns from the Torah’s mention of fasting from 9 Tishrei in the evening until the next evening that the fast begins a little before day’s end and ends a little after it. It shows that one should act similarly regarding refraining from melacha (forbidden work) on Shabbat and Yom Tov. Admittedly, the Rambam omits this concept in the laws of Shabbat and even in the laws of Yom Kippur mentions it in regard only to fasting (see Maggid Mishneh, Shvitat Asor 1:6). However, the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 261:2 requires tosefet Shabbat.

There are two or three elements to tosefet. 1) One violates tosefet if he ignores the coming day’s laws until it begins (Beitza 30a, regarding those who ate “until dark” on Yom Kippur. 2) One’s acceptance of the new day is binding even if he did so earlier than necessary (Shulchan Aruch, OC 263:10). 3) It is a mitzva or even an obligation to accept tosefet actively. It is #3, which is not clear, about which you are inquiring.

The Mishna Berura (261:21) says that accepting Shabbat is accomplished orally. He cites the Rama (608:3 and 553:1) that cognitive acceptance without speech is invalid and therefore one who only mentally decided to end eating before a fast may eat again. The Mishna Berura (553:2) cites important poskim who feel that a mental decision is binding and does not seem to decide between the approaches. Based on these passages, the Shemirat Shabbat K’hilchata (46:2) says that one is required to accept Shabbat before day’s end, preferably with speech, although it is possibly binding with a cognitive decision. Neither author mentions dissenters to this concept (#3).

Two things trouble us. First, few observant Jews or shuls are careful to actively accept Shabbat early. In fact, many shuls finish Mincha moments before or even after sunset, at which time tosefet has likely kicked in automatically and one has lost the mitzva. (It is unclear how long tosefet is but it is a matter of (almost certainly single digits of) minutes- see opinions in Piskei Teshuvot 261:2). It is also strange that the Mishna Berura does not cite a source for the need to accept Shabbat early. The Rama he cites refers only to element #2, that oral voluntary acceptance is binding. Possibly, it just makes sense that one should accept (even though it is not done before Shemitta or at Shabbat’s end) rather than be forced into tosefet and that it is meaningful only if done in a binding manner. However, it is still troubling that the classical sources do not seem to mention this requirement, even regarding Yom Kippur, the original source (see Shulchan Aruch, OC 608:1).

In fact, it is not clear that explicit acceptance is necessary. Rav O. Yosef (Yabia Omer VII, OC 34) argues that if one is in a shul where Mincha (which must be done before Shabbat) will finish after sunset, he may daven without accepting Shabbat, claiming that the essence of tosefet is simply refraining from melacha. Shevet Halevi (I, 50) is also not convinced that acceptance is necessary, although he says that many Rishonim consider it a mitzva (mentally may suffice). Ohr L’Tzion (18:2) concurs and understands even the Mishna Berura to have been referring only to element #2.

There is little reason not to actively accept Shabbat a few minutes before sunset, when it is unlikely to need to do melacha. However, the fact that most people do not do so need not be a mistake. For Ashkenazi women, the matter is a non-issue, as they normally accept Shabbat when lighting Shabbat candles (Rama, OC 263:10). When they do not do so, their status is like a man’s.

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld


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