The Early Shabbos Conundrum
QUESTION: DOES THE HUSBAND PRAYING / ACCEPTING SHABBOS EARLY MAKE THE HOUSEHOLD ACCEPT SHABBOS TOO?
There is a Halachic reality that accepting Shabbos early (i.e. before the latest candle lighting) is not necessarily ‘each person to their own’. For example, when the only shul in a small town of Jews has already recited Kabbolas Shabbos, even those in the community who for whatever reason did not participate in the prayer are considered to have accepted Shabbos as a result of the community’s acceptance, and it is hence forbidden for them to perform any Melacha (forbidden work) from that time and on. This could theoretically apply here in West Ashley; however, this does require that a major part of the congregation participated in the Minyan - which is sadly not the case here.
I bring this to show that accepting Shabbos early should not be viewed as ‘each person to their own’. And this is even more pronounced with regard to individual households as explained below.
THE IDEAL OPINION - LECHATICHILA
Once a husband, father, or head of the household has accepted Shabbos upon themself (when saying ‘Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbos’ - i.e., the first mention of Shabbos) either in private or with a Minyan, then it is considered that Shabbos is accepted also upon his household. It then becomes forbidden for them to perform any Melacha even though it is still prior to the latest candle lighting time.
Therefore, all necessary Melacha in the home, including the lighting of Shabbos candles, needs to be done prior to that point. Keep in mind this often gives a narrow window in which to light candles, i.e., from the Earliest Candle Lighting time until when Mizmor Shir is said at the Shul - which, when Mincha is early (before Pelag), is around a 10/15 minute period.
If you know your family is not ready to accept Shabbos yet, you should have in mind to delay accepting Shabbos upon yourself until Shemoneh Esrei of Maariv (this is the latest possible time as one can’t pray Shabbos Maariv on weekday) this will give them an extra 10 minutes or so.
IN CASE OF EXTREME NEED - BEDIEVED
There are, however, some Poskim who rule that only if the husband accepts Shabbos early for the sake of the Mitzvah does it affect the acceptance of his wife and children. However, if he prays early simply for the sake of being able to eat the meal earlier (as you could argue we do here in the summer), his family may still perform Melacha. This is a debated point.
There is also the minority opinion that rules that the husband’s praying Maariv and acceptance of Shabbos does not affect the Shabbos status of the rest of his household. His wife and children may therefore still perform Melacha, and light Shabbos candles, even after he accepts Shabbos, so long as the majority of one’s Shul or community has yet to accept Shabbos through prayer.
Whilst relying on these opinions is not ideal and not widely accepted, we may fall back on this in case of extreme need.
Keep in mind that even according to these opinions, arriving home when Melachot are being performed is most certainly not in the spirit of Shabbos. Our sages tell us when we walk home on Friday night, we are accompanied by two angels, which is why we sing Shalom Alechem, they therefore stress the importance of having the Shabbos table beautifully prepared and ready when we walk in the front door and how this will be a source of Beracha to the home. It’s clear to see why, whilst Halachically the minority opinion is that the household can accept Shabbos even after the head, at a minimum when the husband arrives home the house should be in full Shabbos mode!
Households should accept Shabbos at the same time as the household head and, at a minimum, strive to do this. Even, in case of extreme need, when the household relies on the lenient opinion, Shabbos should be accepted prior to the husband returning home.
EREV SHABBOS MINCHA TIMING
To make it easier for all to follow the ideal opinion, and for women (who can only light from the earliest candle lighting time) to come to Shul, we will change the time of Mincha on Erev Shabbos, at least for now before it gets too late, to ensure that when we accept Shabbos here in Shul (i.e. at Mizmor Shir) it will be after the latest candle lighting time.
Whilst during the week there is an issue of Tartei Desasreh, i.e., praying both Mincha and Maariv between Pelag and Sunset (which is why we haven’t done this until now), one can be more lenient about this on Erev Shabbos and given the circumstances that I’ve become aware of, the issue of ensuring households accept Shabbos at the same time as the Shul goers is far more important.
P.S. Women, or men who live alone, who light Shabbos candles and want to drive to Shul afterward, need to explicitly have intention not to accept Shabbos despite the lighting and Beracha.
May we merit to see the ‘day that is all Shabbos’ with the arrival of the Moshiach speedily in our day,
Sholom S. Mimran
ערב שבת ויקהל פיקודי תשפ"ג