Because this year is a leap year, daylight savings time began a week and a half before Purim, bringing with it consequent issues regarding “early Shabbos” and the appropriate time for Maariv. The question of defining halachic day and night thus becomes very important.
My grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Zev Bomzer z”l, passed away three years ago right before Rosh Chodesh Adar. As a talmid in Yeshiva in the ‘50s and ‘60s, he learned under Rabbi Moshe Aharon Poleyeff z”l and was quite close to him. I found a discussion of this issue in my grandfather’s writings and the explanations and elucidations he himself heard from Rabbi Poleyeff. I would like to present them here, paraphrased by me for publication in this venue:
We find that there are several areas in Halacha that are contradictory when it comes to what is defined as day and what is defined as night. For example, there are opposing positions quoted by the Rema in Hilchos Niddah (Yoreh Deah 196:1). He writes that some say that once the community davens Maariv, even if this is before nightfall, a woman must wait to check for hefsek tahara until the next night, because now it’s already considered nighttime. But he says that others hold that she can continue to check until the actual night, even if the community started Shabbos earlier. The minhag, he says, is to be machmir l’chatchila like the first opinion.
We thus have a machlokes over the definition of night when it comes to niddah. Some hold that an early start to Shabbos qualifies as a definition of night, but others hold that this does not constitute “nighttime” in regards to niddah. According to this second opinion, how can it be that acceptance of Shabbos is enough to make melacha prohibited, but not enough to make it night in terms of niddah?
The Shach marshals several proofs that there is such a distinction. He refers to a Tosfos in Kesuvos 47a (s.v. demasar lah beshabasos veyom tov) where the Gemara discusses how a father automatically has the rights to his unmarried daughter’s wages and betrothal value. The Gemara asks, where do we know a father has the right to his daughter’s work, and answers that if not, how could a father ever have the right to marry off his daughter, which would certainly interrupt her work! Obviously, therefore, he must have control over her work as well. Rav Achai asks: Perhaps he can send her to chupah at night or on Shabbos or Yom Tov, when she does not work? Consequentially, the Gemara goes on to offer other suggestions.
Tosfos asks: How can Rav Achai suggest the possibility of marriage over Yom Tov – we know from the Gemara in Moed Kattan (8b) that marriage is prohibited on Chol Hamoed! Tosfos provides two answers. The first is that the Gemara in Kesuvos refers to right before Yom Tov, when it is like Yom Tov regarding melacha, since tosefes Yom Tov has started, but marriage is still permissible. We see that there is such a concept as quasi-night.
The Shach quotes the Agur in the name of the Maharil that we also see this concept by Sefiras HaOmer, matza on Pesach, and sitting in the Sukkah which were performed between one’s acceptance of Yom Tov and nightfall. For each of these, one is not yotzei the mitzva since it is not yet actually night. It is thus possible to have issur melacha of tosefes Shabbos/Yom Tov yet not be yotzei the mitzvos pertaining to them.
We find this concept again in the Machtzis Hashekel (YD 196), who says that a woman who prayed the evening prayer of Shabbos while it is still daytime can be mafsik betahara even when she already accepted Shabbos. This implies, notes the Gra (s.v yesh omrim shemutar), “that for all other matters (besides kiddush) that are not pertinent to Shabbos it is certainly not night.”
What is the chiluk between tosefes Shabbos for melacha and kiddush, and other inyanim? Why don’t we say that just as she was mekabel Shabbos for issur melacha and kiddush, so too she accepted it be Shabbos for other inyanim, rather than creating a tartei disasrei status?
A similar problem is found in Hilchos Aveilus (YD 402:11): one who davens Maariv, even while it’s still day, and then finds out he must start sitting shiva, starts the count from the next day. How can we hold that accepting Shabbos causes it to be the next day for aveilus but not for hefsek tahara?
Furthermore, regarding Chanukah, the Taz (OC 679) says that if you accidentally light Shabbos candles before Chanukah candles, it is now assur to light the Chanuka candles. So again, does tosefes Shabbos cause the actual onset of night or not? Even if melacha is now assur, the mitzva should be performable later since it’s not actually night!
Rabbi Poleyeff’s answer, according to my grandfather z”l, was the following: We can say that tosefes Shabbos makes that zman into Shabbos with regard to issur melacha. The very source of tosefes Shabbos is “Me’erev ad erev tishbesu Shabatchem,” one can say Shabbos night kiddush any time after pelag hamincha. Even so, it does not change the reality that it is still daytime. In other words, there is a distinction between halachic day/night and metzius day/night.
We know this to be so in a few ways. For example, if someone violated a melacha during tosefes Shabbos, he would not be chayav misa, because the metzius of the day of Shabbos is required for the violator to get an onesh. And regardless of the fact that he accepted Shabbos early, it’s still not actually Shabbos in metzius.
So too, the hefsek tahara by niddah is dependant upon “yamim” and this is taluy bemetzius. (“vesafra la shivas yamim”). Thus, we can understand that tosefes through tefilah makes the zman a halachic “layla” but not actual layla. (However, if one davens the weekday Maariv after plag on Shabbos day, it would still be assur to do melacha, because the metzius is that it is still Shabbos.)
Similarly, the Mechaber writes (YD 262) that there is no application of tosefes Shabbos for a sick person. To illustrate, if a boy is born on Friday after Kabbalas Shabbos but before nightfall, we do not say that the bris should be the next Shabbos, because the din of bris mila is taluy in the metzius of “yom hashmini,” and the metzius has not yet changed into night.
This would explain why the Taz paskened that someone who lights Shabbos candles first can no longer light Chanuka candles. There the kabbalas Shabbos is on issur melacha and therefore hadlaka is assur. His kabala is no weaker than a neder not to do melacha.
The question remains, however, regarding aveilus – shouldn’t the count rely on the metzius that it’s still day more than relying on the halachic reality that it’s now nighttime? This question requires investigation.1
Based on my grandfather’s notes, perhaps we can resolve an aggadic question. The Gemara (Yoma 29a) says that Esther is compared to the dawn because just as dawn is the end of the night, Esther marked the end of open miracles. What about Chanukah? The Gemara answers that it is the end of miracles in the books included in Tanach. This Gemara seems quite strange. The reality, as the Gemara concludes, is that Esther does not represent the end of miracles. So why does it matter what is included in Tanach and what isn’t?
Perhaps the yesod of Rav Poleyeff can help us explain this. We must understand that the dawn is the end of night, but it is not quite day yet. To illustrate, we know that one ideally shouldn’t daven Shacharis at dawn, but should wait until haneitz hachama, since it is not yet fully day. So in the metaphor, the daytime, represented by lack of miracles, had not yet happened. This is evidenced by the fact that there were actually miracles that happened after the Purim story – for example, by Chanukah, which weren’t included in the Biblical canon.
We can say that in reality it was not yet day at this “dawn,” and therefore there could have been more miracles. However, the Torah reality, represented by the inclusion of Esther and not Chanukah into Tanach, indicates that in some way, there were no more miracles. In other words, it was day in a Torah sense, but not a metzius sense. The Gemara thus compares Esther to the dawn, which is day but not day.
This expresses what is so deep within Purim as a holiday. We celebrate what seems to be a natural series of events, about a political drama that involves no apparent divine influence. However, that description is only the external metzius. Its inclusion in the Holy Writ, in the books of divine communication to Man, transforms our interpretation of the events from a metzius mindset to a Torah mindset. The Torah mindset is what turns a godless tale, a story of plain metzius, into a meaningful and divine story of miracles and God’s love for the Jewish people. This is so for Purim, and this is so for our daily lives. It takes a Torah mind, a halachic mind, to see the world for what it truly is, not night at all but bright daylight.
1 My grandfather z”l also quoted the Rav, giving shiur in Boston, who provided a different answer:
Tosefes Shabbos v’Yom Tov is a halacha in which we are mosif mechol al hakodesh in regards to issurei Shabbos v’Yom Tov, i.e we are mekabel the lo saaseh’s, but not the mitzvos aseh. We can say kiddush, even though we were not mekabel the aseh’s, because of the concept of “zachor veshamor bedibbur echad neemru.” This concept tells us that the chiyuv of kiddush (“zachor”) can be fulfilled any time “shamor” is in effect – even though “shamor” is functioning only for mitzvos lo saaseh.
So for ner Chanuka, this is a lo ta’aseh of hadlakah on Shabbos, and if you forgot and lit for Shabbos first, it’s assur to light for Chanukah. But Sukkah is a mitzvas aseh – it needs layla, and tosefes is not enough to make it “layla.” Similarly, eating matza on Pesach is a mitzvas aseh and needs actual layla, and so too sefirat haomer. This also explains the father having control of his daughter’s wages, even though technically he could marry her off during tosefes Yom Tov, since kiddushin is a mitzvas aseh and needs “layla” to become asur.
However, aveilus is manifest by mitzvas lo sa’aseh. So if he heard of his relative dying after having davened Maariv, then the day before does not count because his tosefes makes it already night regarding lo sa’aseh’s – avelus included.
Is hefsek tahara an aseh or a lo sa’aseh? It would seem to be an aseh of vesafra lah, and thus her tosefes Shabbos shouldn’t count to make her wait another day, like the meikel opinion of the Rema.