Thoughts on “Half-Shabbos”, A Strange Aruch Hashulchan and so on


Ever since Alan Brill’s revelation of “Half-Shabbos” (whereby O teens/young adults text during Shabbat but keep all the other stringencies), the O blogosphere and the media have been abuzz about the phenomenon. A disaster, they decry. A crisis of massive proportions. A “failure of Modern Orthodoxy”.

I say: Bullshit. As far as I can tell, this is a teenager/young adult phenomenon. You know, that age when children “test the boundaries” and sometimes even take “vacations from Mitzvot or emunah” for a few years (many of whom return to their communities and faith and even become religious exemplars)? Sometimes this involves having sex, sometimes it involves eating non-kosher and yes, sometimes it involves chillul Shabbat. No-one likes it, of course, but it’s hardly a disaster on the level of mass abandonment of faith or even of halachic reform. It’s a natural phenomenon that needs to be channeled, not decried as the end of Judaism and what not.

This “perpetual crisis” mentality has got to stop. Most Jews who go to Israel for a year do not become off-the-wall Charedi or remain so after 5-10 years, not every college student who gets exposed to academic Jewish studies is a closet apikores, and not everyone who isn’t a virgin is destroying religious family values. Start putting things in proportion, people.

I am proud to be a member of my OJ generation. More of us know more Torah, practice more halacha (correctly) and maintain more knowing faith than comparable generations of simple Jews at many other points in history. We do this under conditions far more tempting and difficult than those that swept over 90% of “good old Jewry” from faith 200 years ago. Many of the people “testing the boundaries” today would have merely abandoned everything but 30 years ago. How’s about some praise once in a while instead of treating us like fragile helpless children who are forever about to throw in the towel?

A Strange Aruch Hashulchan

So I was starting to learn Aruch Hashulchan on Shabbat (one of my favorite sources), and I came across this strange passage (סימן רמ”ב, סעיף ה):

ולכן יש להאיש הישראלי ליתן ליבו לשמירת שבת קודש, ולקבלו מבעוד יום גדול, ולא סמוך להשקיעה, דעל פי זה רבים מהמון ונשים ועמי הארץ מדליקין נרות אחר השקיעה.

Does anyone else know of this phenomenon in Jewish history (where Jews ended up lighting candles after shki’a/bein hashmashot)? Any explanations (custom, different halachic position a la Rabbeinu Tam &c, ignorance)?

So On

My series of posts on RZ Vs. MO wil begin this week. First we will discuss the similarities, the differences. I will try to maintain brevity to avoid boring you all.


Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at:
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6 Responses to Thoughts on “Half-Shabbos”, A Strange Aruch Hashulchan and so on

  1. Moshe says:

    I don’t see what is so surprising about the Aruch Hashulchan. If I recall correctly, it appears from the teshuvas etc that the practice among the common folk was to light when they saw the sun setting and the skies darkening, many times after the Shkia. Many Poskim tried to justify the practice, relying on R”T etc , while many Poskim fought against it and tried to change the common practice eg the gr”a and baal hatanya. (similar to ‘chodosh’ which only recently trended)

  2. AIWAC says:

    Thank you for enlightening me on the subject.

  3. דוד פילוין says:

    i don’t get it: how could the sun set after shkia?

  4. fred says:

    re rz vs. mo:
    rz is organically israeli, and is concerned with how orthodoxy/tradition should relate to a modern jewish state.
    mo: largely american based, is concerned with how orthodoxy/tradition should relate to western/american values and society. zionism and support for israel are taken as a given, but lets not make too much of this, okay?
    and there you have it, in a nutshell.

  5. AIWAC says:


    I agree, but there are other aspects which I will touch on later.

  6. דוד פילוין says:

    for some reason — my question went unanswered

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