Thoughts on Judaism

Friday, September 02, 2005

Kiddush between 6 and 7

Many people have the custom not to make kiddush between 6 and 7 in the evening. Magen Avraham on the Shulchan Aruch 271:1 seems to provide the source. In a siman that permits early kiddush, that is, before Shabbos enters, MA allows that it is better to make kiddush before the first hour of the night, when Jupiter is dominant, rather than during the first hour of the night, when Mars is dominant. Refinement of the custom limits it to red wine, the halacha-preferred kiddush wine for Friday night, having something to do with the red color of Mars, its similarity to blood or Mars' bad rap as a negative omen. "First hour" is from the time that it gets dark. In most cases, we divide the entire night into 12 equal hours and refer to the first twelfth as "first hour" or "6 o'clock". Thus, the length of this hour is deeply affected by latitude, hemisphere, and season.

In Chabad today, for instance, the custom is observed in a most contrived way. The term "6 oclock" is taken literally as the hour we call 6 (or 7 if your locality has daylight savings time). If it gets dark at 4, the forbidden hour is still 6 to 7. If it gets dark at 7:30, the custom does not apply. In Chabad, they do not make kiddush early, and they always use red wine (unless vodka is available). Hence, in Brooklyn, they rush home in December to make kiddush before six oclock, or they delay until after seven. Not only that, but this practice comes from the top, I am told. Among the Chabad Rebbe's comments are an adherence to the literal 6 oclock, though no one seems certain if he held the custom at all. No one remembers seeing him make kiddush on Friday night, and his comments are conditional ("for those who do not make kiddush between 6 and 7").

One thing is clear, though. The custom, as practiced by Chabad today, is NOT sourced on the Magen Avraham. The MA is a comment on why one is allowed to make kiddush early. This is not Chabad minhag. The MA is talking about the first hour of the night. The Chabad custom is 6 oclock on the clock, whether it is broad daylight or sometime into the night. Chabad Rebbes have held against using white wine between 6 and 7. If one cannot make kiddush by 6, Chabadniks will wait until after 7, a circumstance not mentioned in the MA (though he alludes to an earlier practice from the Yerushalmi)..

So we are left with questions which render the matter almost absurd.

What does Mars have to do with kiddush? Why is Mars negative? Does it go back to its Greco-Roman "war god" mythology? Where is this mentioned in sifrei kabalah?

Now that we know about time zones, do we adjust the hour for the time zone? As we proceed west in a time zone, should we start at 6:15, 6:30, 6:45 based on where we are in the timezone? Otherwise, isn't the hour 6:00 entirely arbitrary?

It seems that the only effects possible from remote planets are by reflected light and gravity propogation. (Electromagnetism is too weak for these planets at their distance). Both reach Earth from the source at the speed of light. Should we not adjust the minutes based on the distance (in light-minutes) of these planets from us at the time of kiddush? Note that these will vary quite a bit, depending on where we are in our respective orbits. Thus, if we are on the opposite side of the sun from Mars, we would have approximately 8 minutes for the sun and another 15 minutes for Mars to affect us. should the lead edge of time zone start at 6:23 in that case?

What basis do we have to make kiddush after 7? What is gained now that the astrology is not applicable after 7? The MA brings a Yerushalmi that says that they made kiddush an hour or two later in the night, obviously connecting it. But on what basis?

Note that we might say that the time is arbitrary so we can call for 6:00 whenever we designate it, but the custom is already adjusting for daylight savings time, an arbitrary distinction. Therefore, we must say that the custom intends something reality based, not just an arbitrary point in time that we call 6 oclock.

In the end, I cannot find anything to define this custom. It seems to be an arbitrary time loosely attached to some arbitrary astrology, that has no wide source in Jewish law or history before the Magen Avraham (and his sources, the Maharil and Tikunei Shabas and a single memra in Yerushalmi). Time to dump it into the "it's secrets of Torah" bucket.


  • How do you do it?! Great post, keep up the good work.

    Best Wishes,
    Speed Reading

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:54 PM  

  • Some initial comments:

    Teshuva in (Yagdil Torah?) expressly forbids kiddush on vodka or any "yud-yud"shin = yayin saraf).

    Even those who ignore this do so only during the day, never at night.

    AFA red vs. white, od chazon l'moed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:09 AM  

  • Actually, reflected light is electromagnetic and indeed, its effect is very weak. After all, you can't see the planets during the day.

    By Blogger The Observer, at 12:47 AM  

  • OA

    We still need to adjust 6pm for the speed of light. No?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 3:43 PM  

  • This is a late response, but I think most astronomical times are already adjusted for the tiem it takes light to travel to Earth. If the weather channel says "sunrise will be at 7:32", that means that we'll see the sun rise from earth at 7:32, even though the light already left the sun at 7:24. Same thing with the rising and setting of the various constellations, planets, and other astronomical phenomena.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:55 AM  

  • Astronomical times are adjusted, but they are only observational. In this case, Mars and Jupiter are said to have an actual effect on us. Their actual positions and the time which it would take to propogate any possible physical effect to us differ.

    In astrology, the actual position makes the difference, not just the apparent position. In the times when these concepts were forming, a difference between actual and apparent positions was not known to exist.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 2:21 PM  

  • The Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch brings the same source as the Magen Avraham, Tikunei Shabbos. He specifically says that "the first hour of the night" means 6 hours after noon. If you take the day hours as 60 minutes (as the Rebbe later responded), then 6:00, plus minutes adjusted for noon, is correct, even if it is still light.

    The Alter Rebbe refers to siman Taf Chaf Ches, the last siman in hilchos Shabbos, for the 60 minute fact, which is not maintained in today's copies as far as I know. Much of the manuscript sefer was destroyed in a fire, so we do not have it today. But we do have the Rebbe's response.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:37 PM  

  • To Chabadnik - that may be so, but we do not make any such adjustments.

    By Blogger Editor, at 11:19 PM  

  • See tablmud bavli regarding a person born under the Mars constalation. -

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:11 PM  

  • Anon

    I agree that the Mars symbolism is bad, even in the talmud. I just question the source. Like that of the ayin hara, demons or other superstition, it leads us farther from Avraham Avinu and more to paganism.

    The point here is find a source for this 6 oclock custom as practiced by Chabad today. It does not seem to exist, even in the Chabad books.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:07 AM  

  • What bothers a Chabadnik most?

    a) waiting until 6:01 and THEN making kiddush b'davkah once the 6-7 hour has started?

    b) making kiddush at b'davkah 6:59 and not waiting another minute before the 6-7 hour has ended?

    c) making kiddush at precisely 6:30 b'davkah in the middle of the 6-7 hour to show complete contempt for the minhag?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:18 AM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:12 AM  

  • Tosefes Shabbos, in order to avoid the hour of ma’adim: The Maharsha (Taanis 8b,
    Chiddushei Aggadah) writes that one of the advantages of Tosefes Shabbos (accepting Shabbos early)
    is that one can thereby recite kiddush early, avoiding the influence of ma’adim. He adds
    that the influence of shabsai is also unfavorable, and therefore the custom is to daven
    later than usual on Shabbos morning, since shabsai influences the first hour of Shabbos
    morning. (See Darkei Moshe, 281)
    The Gemara often measures time in sha’os zemaniyos, (literally “periodic hours.”) These are
    flexible units of time that depend upon the length of day or night, and change throughout
    the year. The daytime is divided into twelve equal hours, as is the night. Thus, in the
    summer an hour of the day is much longer than an hour of the night, and in the winter vice
    The poskim debate whether the influence of the stars is measured in sha’os zemaniyos or
    in fixed, sixty-minute hours. In our Gemara, and in numerous other instances, Rashi
    discusses the influence of certain stars at the beginning of the day or the beginning of the
    night. This would seem to imply that Rashi understood the influence of the stars to
    depend on sha’os zemaniyos. Therefore a certain star would function at the beginning of
    the night, regardless of when night falls.
    The Magen Avraham based himself on this opinion and ruled that one should never recite
    kiddush in the beginning of Friday night. If calculated by fixed sixty-minute hours,
    ma’adim functions in Eretz Yisrael between 5:40–6:40 p.m. approximately; 6:40-7:40
    summer time). During most months of the year, Shabbos begins either earlier or later
    than this. Nevertheless, the Magen Avraham made a blanket ruling about the first hour of
    Shabbos, regardless of the time of year or the hour Shabbos begins.
    However, the Maharil writes that the influence of the stars depends upon fixed,
    sixty-minute hours. Therefore, in the winter months kiddush is usually recited before the
    influence of ma’adim begins and in the summer it is recited after ma’adim’s influence
    ends. Thus, if a person were to make kiddush during Tosefes Shabbos in the summer,
    he would be more likely to enter the problem of ma’adim’s influence. (See Machatzis HaShekel
    and Shulchan Aruch HaRav ibid, 3.)
    As we have mentioned, some Chassidic communities abide by this custom. The Mishna
    Berurah does not cite it at all, and the Aruch Hashulchan (271:11) labels it as “perplexing,
    because we are not under the dominion of the mazalos. To the contrary… non-Jews used
    to sit in darkness and mourn on Shabos because of the mazalos… but Hashem
    commanded us to light brightly and enjoy to show we are above mazalos… he who trusts
    in Hashem will be surrounded with kindness” (See Birur Halachah Telisa’ah, O.C. 271).
    It is important to note that the above discussion refers to the astrological influence of the
    stars, based on our tradition from our Sages. It has no relevance to the astronomical
    circuits of the planets and stars as seen through telescopes or satellite pictures.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:11 PM  

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