Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Traveling on Erev Shabbat: How Early Must You Leave?

Rav  Turetsky

Are there halachic limitations as to how far one is allowed to travel on Erev Shabbat? Similarly, must one ideally reach his or her destination by a particular time?

Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 291:1) writes that one should not travel more than 3 parsaot on Erev Shabbat[1], which Mishna Berurah (ad loc:1) explains is a distance that would take around a third of the day to travel by foot. He further explains (ad loc:3) that the reason for this halacha is a concern that one’s hosts did not anticipate the arrival of an additional guest and thus did not prepare Shabbat food for him[2].

There are, though, several exceptions to this halacha.
  1. Shulchan Aruch (ibid) writes that one can travel a much further distance if located in a dangerous place or in a location in which one would be unable to prepare for Shabbat.[3]
  2. Shulchan Aruch (ibid) permits one to travel if the host knows the guest is coming for Shabbat, what is certainly the most common occurrence.
  3. Mishna Berurah (ad loc:1) adds that one could travel a much further distance if one is traveling by wagon or horse, since they travel at a much faster pace. What may be most important is his citation of Bach’s implication that one could travel by wagon even after midday (Chatzot) so long as he reaches his destination with enough time to prepare for Shabbat.
  4. An additional exception is found in Mishna Berurah (ad loc:3), where he writes that nowadays there is no real need to leave early since people typically prepare for Shabbat with an abundance of food, and there isn't a real concern one's hosts will not have sufficient amounts of Shabbat food.[4]  As such, he notes Poskim who maintain that we are not careful for these halachot nowadays.

How lenient can one be?

Despite all of the exceptions, Mishna Berurah (ibid) cites Acharonim who caution one from being overly lenient and traveling too late in the afternoon. He emphasizes that one must try and be careful to avoid any potential Chillul Shabbat. Rav Dovid Yosef (Halacha Berurah ad loc pg. 380) notes earlier Poskim that add that this is all the more so true in situations in which one may get stuck in traffic.
Many of the Poskim follow Mishna Berurah and maintain that while there may be no formal halachic requirement to leave early in the day, it is certainly appropriate in order to avoid any potential issurim.[5] While most Poskim do not offer a precise amount of time by when one should plan to reach his or her destination, there are those that offer a more specific guideline.  Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Shut Ohr L’Tzion 2:16:6) writes one should plan on reaching the host’s home with at least an hour to spare before Shabbat.[6]

[1] This is based on the Talmud in Sukkah (44b). See Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 30:11) and Bach (O.C. 249). 
[2] See Rashi (ad loc) and Rambam (ibid). See, as well, the explanations of Rabbainu Chananel and Aruch LaNer (Sukkah ad loc).
[3]  See Mishna Berurah (ad loc:5) for a discussion of what constitutes a dangerous place. 
[4] This halacha comes from the Magen Avraham’s (249:2) citation of the Agudah. See, as well, Meiri (Shabbat 19a) and the discussion in R’ Dovid Yosef’s Halacha Berurah for an extensive discussion of this as well as other related halachot.
[5] Biur Halacha (ad loc) maintains there is greater room for leniency in situations in which one is traveling for a Dvar Mitzvah.
[6] It should be noted that in the Dirshu Mishna Berurah, they cite Chazon Ish’s practice, in which he was particularly stringent with traveling on Erev Shabbat.

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