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Thought for the Day: Using Doubts to Advantage

Somehow it doesn't matter whether Shabbos starts at 4:15PM or 9:15PM... we are always running to make Shabbos on time.  Just to make things more interesting for us (apparently), HaShem created for us, "tosafos Shabbos" -- a little additional Shabbos.  Now as far as I am concerned, the more Shabbos the better.  The only problem is that we are also exhorted to work for six full days.  "Sheishes yamim ta'avod v'asisa kol m'lachtecha" - for six day you shall work to do all of your labor; "v'yom ha'sh'vi'i shabbos LaShem Elokecha" -- and the seventh day is a time of cessation [from your labor in order to concentrate on] HeShem your G-d. So here we are working for six days, then we need to stop a little early and accept Shabbos a bit early. Great; more Shabbos!

One question: what exactly is tosafos Shabbos?  Are we actually extending Shabbos into the week, or are we taking on the stringencies of Shabbos with the force of a neder (oath)?  It makes a difference for certain situations.  The situation of interest here is the following scenario: It is almost Shabbos and you haven't davened mincha yet.  It is so late, in fact, that by the time you daven mincha it will be too late to accept any tosafos Shabbos.  I know, I know, purely hypothetical; who is ever running that that late for Shabbos?  Humor me.  On the other hand, if you accept Shabbos now, then you've lost mincha.  Right?

Never fear! Halichos Shlomo (chap 14, d'var halacha 3) has a suggestion.  Accept Shabbos immediately on condition that you can still daven mincha.  So if tosafos Shabbos takes effect like a neder, then you are good to go; you have fulfilled the mitzvah to add on to Shabbos, but can still daven mincha. However, if tosafos Shabbos is really extending Shabbos itself, then a condition doesn't work.  In fact, making a condition on the acceptance actually nullifies the acceptance; which means you can still daven mincha.  That is to say, either way you are fine.  Just to cover your bases, the Halichos Shlomo adds that you should declare that you (unconditionally) accept Shabbos a few moments before the official onset of Shabbos.  Even if you are still davening mincha you are ok.  Since you are in the middle of mincha you are (b'di'avad) allowed to finish it.

Of course, the other solution would be to get home a little earlier...

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