Why Were Shaarei Orah Members Returning Home Early Shavuot Eve? – Jewish Link of New Jersey

Posted By on June 8, 2017

Ashkenazic Jews are accustomed to seeing Sephardic Jews return late on Shabbat and Yom Tov evenings. It is well known that Sephardim read each word aloud (except for the silent Amidah) and that Sephardic tefillah takes longer than the Ashkenazic version. However, Ashkenazic Jews often react with shock when seeing their Sephardic brethren returning home early from Shavuot eve Arvit.

Ashkenazim are accustomed to wait until tzeit hakochavim (nightfall) before beginning Arvit, in accordance with the ruling of the Mishnah Berurah. The Torah requires us to count seven complete weeks (sheva Shabbatot temimot), and beginning Arvit early would impinge on the temimot of the count, since Shavuot would begin before the 49th day of the Omer is complete.

Why then does Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, begin Arvit on Shavuot eve considerably earlier than nightfall? Why is Shaarei Orah not concerned for temimot?

We should first clarify that although the Taz and Mishnah Berurah require waiting until tzeit hakochavim before beginning Arvit, the Magen Avraham and Aruch HaShulchan only require that we postpone Kiddush until nightfall. The iconic Sephardic work Ben Ish Chai (Bamidbar, Year 1) adopts this approach as well. The halachic advantage of this modified approach is that by praying Arvit early, one accepts Shavuot early and fulfills the mitzvah of tosefet Yom Tov, accepting Yom Tov early. Delaying Kiddush until tzeit hakochavim suffices to satisfy the temimot requirement.

Moreover, Hacham Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yechave Daat 6:30) cites Rav David Zvi Hoffmans further modification of this rule in his Teshuvot Melamed Lehoil. The Melamed Lehoil notes that since the majority of Rishonim believe that Sefirat HaOmer in the unfortunate absence of the Beit Hamikdash is only a rabbinic obligation, it is sufficient to wait until shekia (sunset) to begin Kiddush.

Furthermore, Hacham Ovadia challenges the requirement to wait even until shekia due to the requirement of temimot. The Gemara (Menachot 66a) interprets Temimot as teaching that the Omer should be counted at night in order for the complete day to be counted. Tosafot is shocked that the Behag (the very important 10-century Geonic work of Halacha) interprets temimot as disqualifying those who missed one day of counting the Omer. The Behag interprets temimot in a manner that appears contrary to the Gemara.

Although the Behags opinion is accepted by Halacha to a certain extent, this is due to the preeminent status of the Behag and his status as one of the Geonim, earlier authorities whose teachings are assumed to be rooted in oral traditions dating back to the Talmudic era. Thus, the much-later interpretation of temimot as precluding ushering Shavuot in early comes as a great surprise. Halachic interpretation of Tanach is reserved for the Gemara and at most may be extended to the Geonic period.

Generally speaking, Sephardic halacha tends to be more conservative and less fluid than that of the Ashkenazic counterpart. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Rambam and Rav Yosef Karo in his Shulchan Aruch make no mention of a requirement to delay Kiddush on Erev Shavuot even until shekia!

Finally, Hacham Ovadia cites a well-known comment of Tosafot and the Rosh to the first Mishnah of the 10th perek of Masechet Pesachim. The Mishnah notes that one does not begin eating on Erev Pesach until nightfall since the Korban Pesach must be eaten only at night. Tosafot and Rosh note, though, that Pesach is the sole exception to the rule that permits and even requires us to begin Shabbat and Yom Tov early.

Therefore, Hacham Ovadia rules that while it is best for Sephardic Jews to wait for tzeit hakochavim to begin Kiddush on leil Shavuot, if it is difficult it is better to wait until shekia. If even this proves difficult, one may even recite Kiddush before shekia.

In light of these rulings, we at Shaarei Orah conclude Arvit considerably before shekia. Each family, in turn, decides if it is able to wait until shekia or even tzeit hakochavim to recite Kiddush. Indeed, Rav Eli Mansour cites the practice of Syrian Jewish icon Hacham Baruch Ben-Haim, who would recite Arvit and Kiddush before tzeit hakochavim on the night of Shavuot, explaining that he wanted to ensure that the children can remain awake to participate in the Yom Tov celebration.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a Rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a Dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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Why Were Shaarei Orah Members Returning Home Early Shavuot Eve? - Jewish Link of New Jersey

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