By Yosef Brecher
If a woman has already lit Shabbos candles, is she still permitted to perform melacha until nightfall? What about her husband?
Last week we gave two possible explanations for why we light Shabbos candles 18 minutes before shkiya. The first suggestion was that since there is an opinion that holds bein hashmashos begins 3/4 mil (18 minutes) before sunset, we want to light candles (and accept Shabbos) at that point. According to this opinion, it would seem obvious that both men and women cannot perform any melacha after the candles have been lit.
As we mentioned, however, the above explanation is problematic. We find that most men are accustomed to perform melacha even after their wives have already lit candles and are clearly not concerned that bein hashmashos has actually begun. Therefore, for the purpose of this week’s discussion, we will assume that the reason we light candles 18 minutes before shkiya is as a means of fulfilling the concept of tosfos Shabbos¸ accepting Shabbos while it is still daytime on Friday, as suggested by Rav Moshe Feinstein.
In terms of a man (whose wife has already lit candles) performing melacha after hadlaka, the halacha seems quite clear. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 261:4) writes that if a man does not specifically decide to begin Shabbos early, then he is considered to have accepted Shabbos when he recites mizmor shir before maariv on Friday night. (See also the Mishna Berura (ibid. s.k. 31) who cites the opinion of the Derech Chochma who explains that because today we are nohaig to recite lecha dodi every Friday night, a man is considered to have accepted Shabbos with the words “bo’ey kallah, bo’ey kallah” that appear at the end of lecha dodi).
A woman who has actually lit Shabbos candles, however, has entirely different guidelines. The Rama writes (OC 263:10) that under normal circumstances, a woman who lights Shabbos candles is considered to have accepted Shabbos at the time of her lighting, thereby prohibiting all meleches Shabbos immediately. In addition, the Mishna Berura (ibid. s.k. 43) writes, that for this reason a woman cannot daven mincha after she has already lit Shabbos candles. Since she has accepted Shabbos with her lighting, a weekday tefilas mincha is no longer appropriate. The Rama adds, though, that a woman can stipulate, even in her mind, that she does not wish to accept Shabbos with her candle lighting, but rather wishes to do so at nightfall. A woman should only stipulate this, however, if there is a “tzorech”, i.e., an important need, to do so. The Rama does not specify, however, what is considered to be an “important need”.
The Mishna Berura (ibid. S.K. 21) cites two examples of important needs that would permit a woman to stipulate not to accept Shabbos at the time of her lighting. The first example is that of a woman who is getting married Friday night (after nightfall) and needs to perform preparatory melachos until right before nightfall. In this case, a woman may stipulate that she does not want to accept Shabbos until actual nightfall. The second example the Mishna Berura offers is that of a woman who needs to immerse in a mikvah Friday night. In this case as well, a woman may delay accepting Shabbos until after she has completed whatever preparations she must do prior to her immersion.
Another interesting and relatively common example is discussed by modern-day poskim. What if a woman in Eretz Yisroel wishes to light candles and subsequently take a taxi to the kosel hama’aravi – can she stipulate during her lighting that she does not wish to accept Shabbos until she disembarks from the taxi? Is davening at the kosel considered an “important need”? The Tzitz Eliezer (Chelek 10, S. 19) writes that in the above case a woman may indeed ride a taxi after lighting Shabbos candles (provided that she has stipulated that she will do so) because the spiritual gain of accepting Shabbos at the kosel is great enough to be viewed as an “important need”. The Shmiras Shabbos Kehilchaso (Perek 43, Note 137), however, writes that he personally heard from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Aurbach that accepting Shabbos at the kosel is in fact not considered an important enough reason for a woman to refrain from accepting Shabbos at the time of her lighting.
As for all other cases, a Rav must be consulted to determine whether the particular melacha one wishes to engage in can be viewed as an “important need”.
The purpose of this column is not to render halachic decisions, but rather to provide readers with a helpful overview of basic hilchos Shabbos. All specific halachic inquiries should be asked to a local halachic authority. General questions about the content being discussed, however, are welcome and can be sent to: email@example.com.
©2013 Yosef Brecher, Matzav.com