The Handy Torah Tidbits Guide to Early Shabbat
It's that time of year again (even a little past). This TT Pull-Out contains practical information and explanations about various aspects of "taking Shabbat early".
In many communities, people "take Shabbat early" during the summer months when nightfall is relatively late and they would prefer to eat their Friday night meal at a more civilized hour, and to have a bit more after-supper time to learn Torah, go over the sedra, read (things that are permitted to read on Shabbat), go for a walk, play with the children, etc. There are some halachic points to clarify about the topic of "taking Shabbat early".
Halachically, none of the nighttime mitzvot may be performed before Plag Mincha. Consequently, one may not "take Shababat" before PLAG MINCHA. One may not light Shabbat candles (or Chanuka candles) before PLAG, nor say Kabbalat Shabbat & Maariv, nor make Kiddush. But one MAY light candles, take Shabbat, daven Maariv, make Kiddush and begin the first Shabbat Seuda after PLAG.
Some object to taking Shabbat early because Sh'ma in its Maariv setting is not said at its proper time. Although one will repeat it later, this is not ideal.
Furthermore, it becomes too easy to forget to repeat the Sh'ma after dark.
On the other hand - not that this is a reason for davening early - when Sh'ma is repeated for the sake of the mitzva (and not just something said as part of the davening), one has the opportunity to focus on it "for the sake of the mitzva" more than we tend to do when it is part of davening. Again, this is not to suggest that this is a preferred procedure; what is preferred is that when saying the Sh'ma in Maariv, after dark, one still be able to focus on the mitzva, even though it is also "just part of the davening".
This pull-out and announcements at the end of "early minyan" are your reminders to say the Shma (and count the Omer) at the proper time. Try to remind each other in your family and at your Shabbat table, so that no one will forget these important mitzvot. Taking Shabbat early can be a positive experience, but not if it results in neglect of a Torah mitzva or two.
Another Problem Since davening Mincha after Plag is fine according to T”K but NOT according to R’ Yehuda, and davening Maariv before sunset is okay according to R’ Yehuda but not according to T”K, it is not proper to daven both Mincha & Maariv between Plag and sunset - neither opinion is followed in that case.
Therefore, it is best to schedule an early minyan to begin Mincha about 15 minutes before PLAG. This way, Mincha can be said before PLAG followed by Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, after PLAG. This would be consistent with R’ Yehuda's opinion. To begin an “early Friday” mincha after Plag is problematic, to say the least, and makes “taking Shabbat early” less than ideal.
A minyan that starts Mincha a half hour before Jerusalem candle lighting time will get people home for a "problem-free" Kiddush, if the people don't linger too much after shul. (They still have the Mincha-Maariv after Plag problem.)
Technically, if one begins his meal "with halachic permission", he need not stop for Sh'ma or the Omer (they can be be said/counted after the meal). However, it is strongly recommended that when the proper time arrives, families should interrupt their meals for Sh'ma and the Omer. This helps prevent forgetting later on,and also has a positive educational value for family and guests.
Another point to keep in mind... When people say Kiddush and begin their first Shabbat meal before dark, it is important that the meal - and the eating of some challah - should continue after nightfall.
More Problems Some object to splitting a community by having two minyanim on Friday night. Others point out potential problems if a whole community takes Shabbat early and some individual members don't, specifically, lighting candles and doing other "melachot" after the community accepted Shabbat. Ask your Rav.
Early Shabbat should be an enhancement of Shabbat and a fulfillment of Tos'fot Shabbat - but without being careless about Shma, davening, and/or the counting of the Omer.
This handy pull-out will hopefully make things easier for you. Bring it to your Shabbat table and use it for the Sh'ma and then for counting the Omer (during Omer season, that is). Remain sitting for the Sh'ma; stand for counting the Omer.
POINT in FAVOR
Taking Shabbat early can enhance one’s Oneg Shabbat, as mentioned earlier, by allowing for dinner to be at a more “civilized” hour, and being able to have young children join the rest of the family at the table. It can be an enhancement of Shalom Bayit for various reasons. But it should not involve compromising the standards of davening and other halachic matters.
It is recommended that people go over this Guide to Early Shabbat at the Friday night table on the first "early Shabbat" of the season, so that everyone hears what's involved and can discuss some of the issues.
Israel Summer Time (a.k.a.
Daylight Savings Time) went into effect this year a couple of weeks before
Pesach. Since it is not common for shuls to begin "Early Shabbat" before
Pesach, nor to continue after Rosh HaShana, this chart will reflect that
range. These times are correct for Jerusalem. (Adjust slightly for your
The saying of SHMA is a mitzva from the Torah and we should seize the first opportunity after dark to say it, even if we are in the middle of our Shabbat meal. Since it is not now being said in the davening,  there is no need to say ,nt at the end, since in the context of davening, EMET is the first word of the bracha that follows the SH'MA, which we attach to the end of Sh'ma; and  we can (should?) say L'SHEM MITVAT KRIAT SHMA B'IZMANA (for the sake of saying Sh’ma on time) before we begin.
Re KEIL MELECH NE'EMAN before the Sh'ma. several sources indicate that this three-word intro to Sh'ma is to "round out" the number of words in the full Sh'ma to 248. (This includes BARUCH SHEIM... but not EMET). 248 is the traditional number of parts in the body. "He who says the 248 words of the Sh'ma the way they are supposed to be said, HaShem will preserve his 248 parts, as it says in Mishlei (4:4), ...SH'MOR MITZVOTAI VECHYEI, keep My mitzvot and live. G-d says: you keep My 248, and I'll keep your 248.
(When davening with a minyan, the chazan's repeating aloud HASHEM ELOKEICHEM EMET brings the word-total to 248 and therefore we do not add KEIL MELECH NE'EMAN to the beginning of the Sh'ma, which might be considered an interruption between the bracha for Sh'ma and the Sh'ma - but maybe not.)
Women are technically exempt
from the requirement of reciting Sh'ma, but they may (and should?)
voluntarily say this important three-parsha recitation.
Then, after the Sh'ma between Pesach and Shavuot count the Omer
And, even if you don't take Shabbat early, you can still get some use out of this TT Pull-Out.
Note: The hard copy of Torah Tidbits contains the full text of Shma and Sfirat Haomer for Friday nights and Kiddush for Friday night.
Sfirat HaOmer: For Friday nights between Pesach and Shavuot, remember to count the Omer after saying the Sh’ma. Sh’ma should go first because it is TADIR (more frequent) and because it is a D’ORAITA (fulfillment of a Torah mitzva), whereas Counting the Omer is less frequent and it’s status as D’ORAITA or D’RABANAN in our time (without the Beit HaMikdash and the Omer & Two Loaves offerings) is disputed.
Count the Omer with KAVANA, standing...BEFORE the bracha, know the count, (Count even if you are no longer saying a bracha), For the post-counting passages, use your TT Omer Chart or your favorite Siddur