When Does Shabbos End?

Posted on Apr 18, 2016 | 0 comments

Question submitted to Ask the Rabbi” by:

Name: Cory Haffly

Full Question:

“Hello, I have always believed that the Sabbath begins at sunset Friday and ends at sunset Saturday, but I recently read in a book on Judaism that the Sabbath “officially” ends at “nightfall” on Saturday, about 45 minutes after sunset, when at least three stars can be sighted.  Is this true?

Thanks, Cory.”

Rabbi Tully Bryks responds:

In Judaism, as a general rule, days begin at night. But how does one define the end of daytime? Is it when the sun begins to set or is it when the sun has completely finished setting? And precisely when has the sun completely finished setting? Do we wait for stars? If so, how many stars do we wait for? What size? One could easily spend many weeks delving into the complexities of these questions, many of which are discussed in the Talmud Shabbos (Sabbath). Here is a VERY basic summary:

Kiddush and Shabbos CandlesIn Jewish law, it is unclear whether the period of Bein Hashmashos (Twilight), the process during which the sun sets, should be treated as day or night. As such, when it comes to biblical questions such as the sanctity of Shabbos, we must err on the side of caution. So we begin Shabbos before sunset commences and we do not end Shabbos until the sun has completely set, which is commonly defined by the emergence of three “medium-sized” stars. In addition, there is a requirement of Tosefes Shabbos (adding on to Shabbos), whereby we extend the length of Shabbos to demonstrate our love for it. The custom in most communities is to add a minimum of 18 minutes onto Shabbos, such that candle lighting is usually marked at 18 minutes prior to sunset. So the length of Shabbos tends to be around 25 hours, instead of 24 hours. Locations that are closer to the equator tend to have a slightly shorter Shabbos, since the sun sets more quickly in those communities. In some communities, such as Jerusalem, the prevalent custom is to light candles at least 40 minutes prior to sunset, so Shabbos is even longer.

It is also recommended to add onto Shabbos at the end. Unfortunately, as with many of the gifts from G-d (and from others), sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the gift of Shabbos. This could lead to a situation where someone could observe the letter of the law on Shabbos, but not the spirit of Shabbos. For example, they may light candles exactly 18 minutes prior to sunset (or maybe even 1 minute prior) and end Shabbos exactly at nightfall, rushing back to their smartphones, computer screens and their virtual world.

But Shabbos provides us with a different type of virtual world – a world which we sometimes neglect, partly facilitated by our technological wonders. It is a world that not only provides us with a greater opportunity to connect with our creator, it also provides us with a greater opportunity to connect with our friends and our family. It is a world where we may be able to take greater notice of the loved ones who surround us. I would suggest that if we spend a little more time appreciating the world of those who are closest to us, perhaps we will not feel the urge to rush out of Shabbos as quickly.

For a 2-minute related video about Shabbos, Click below:

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