Halacha for Wednesday 24 Cheshvan 5784 November 8 2023

Acceptance of Shabbat by a Majority of the Congregation

Today's Halacha is dedicated for the merit and protection of
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May Hashem give them strength and courage to vanquish our enemies and may they return home safe and sound amid health and joy. May Hashem protect all the captives and have mercy upon them so that no harm befalls them and may they be released quickly, Amen!
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Question: I live in the United States in a place where almost all of the synagogues in the city pray Arvit early (at Pelag Ha’Mincha) on Shabbat eve during the summer months. My question is, once my husband leaves to the synagogue and I begin setting the Shabbat table, may I still turn the lights on and off since there is still plenty of time until sunset?

Answer: Let us first discuss the basis for this question.

One Who Accepts Shabbat
The Poskim and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 263, Section 11 and on) rule that one who accepts Shabbat, such as by reciting “Mizmor Shir Le’Yom Ha’Shabbat” in the synagogue by which everyone accepts Shabbat, one may no longer perform any works forbidden on Shabbat.

Even if one did not explicitly accept Shabbat and merely prayed the Arvit prayer of Shabbat night at an earlier hour, one may not perform any works forbidden on Shabbat any longer. Furthermore, even if one specifically states that he does not wish to accept the sanctity of Shabbat yet, if one prayed Arvit on Shabbat eve, one is bound by the sanctity of Shabbat by default and one may no longer perform any forbidden works.

Accepting Shabbat in the Synagogue
It is not only forbidden for an individual who accepted Shabbat to perform work, rather, even if one did not yet accept Shabbat, but a majority of the congregations in one’s city already have, the minority of the city’s Jewish population is bound by the acceptance of Shabbat made by the majority of the city, and it is as though the entire congregation accepted Shabbat explicitly. Indeed, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, rules:

“If a majority of the congregation (i.e., the city’s Jewish population) accepted Shabbat, the minority is bound by them against their will.” This would mean that even the minority population of the city that did not yet accept Shabbat may not drive cars or turn on and off lights from this point on.

The Warning of the Acharonim
Based on the above, Hagaon Harav Shmuel Ha’Levi Wosner zt”l warns (in his Responsa Shevet Ha’Levi Volume 9, Chapter 56) that those who travel to small vacation villages and destinations in the summer (such as the Catskills in Upstate New York) and there is one central Minyan for the village or colony where they accept Shabbat early, if a majority of the congregation prayed in this Minyan, the majority of Jews in this location have accepted Shabbat and the rest of the village is bound by them, even if they are at home.

The Bottom Line
Thus, in a place where most people in most synagogues in that location have already accepted Shabbat, they bind the minority with their acceptance and these people may no longer perform forbidden works, such as driving a car or turning on and off the lights.

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