Kiddush Levanah 15 Minutes After Sunset

QUESTION

Any reason not to do Kiddush Levanah before night falls? Shekiah was 15 minutes ago, but the moon is pretty bright (see photo). I see the Shulchan Arukh and Rema are against.

ANSWER

In this situation, you may do so.

You are correct that Beit Yosef OC 426, quoting Agur (no. 591) states that one should not make this berakhah until it is nightfall, because “what good is a candle during the daytime?”. This is ruled by Rema (Shulchan Arukh OC 426:1), on the basis that the berakhah should only be made at a time when “the moon is shining and one can benefit frobem its light.” Mishnah Berurah (426:2) states that this ruling is meant to exclude the period of Ben HaShemashot. According to this, one may only make the berakhah after Tzeit.

Nevertheless, in this case it is permitted, since:

  1. Given that it is 15 minutes after Shekiah, this is already צאת according to Gra (see Biur HaGra OC 261:2)
  2. It’s a practical question of how bright it is and it seems pretty bright.
  3. It seems from the context of your question, that if you don’t do it now some people won’t do it, and that is always a major factor in Halakha. For example, doing Sefirat HaOmer early in shul, even before Shekiah. See Shulchan Arukh OC 489:3, where Shulchan Arukh acknowledges that people in shul count an early sefirah, with a berakhah, and just advises those who are concerned to not make a berakhah, and do it again with a berakhah when they get home. Mishnah Berurah 489:16 states that, most simply, we are talking about Bein HaShemashot, but in Biur Halakha he spells out that the Shulchan Arukh might well be including the practice to do it in shul even from Plag with a berakhah (see also Chok Yaakov, there),

ודע דיש הרבה אחרונים [הלבוש והא”ר והח”י ומאמ”ר ונה”ש] דמפרשי מבע”י היינו מפלג המנחה ולמעלה ומאי דקאמר מונה עמהם היינו משום דאע”ג דמעיקר הדין כ”ז שאינו לילה אינו זמן ספירה וכדלעיל בסעיף הקודם מ”מ יש מקומות שנהגו להקל בזה משום שהיו רגילין להתפלל מעריב קודם חשיכה וחששו שאם לא יספרו אז בצבור וילכו כ”א לביתו ישכחו מחמת טרדא ולא יספרו ותתבטל עיקר תורת ספירה וע”כ סמכו במקום הדחק איש מי שאומר דבספירה בזה”ז שהוא רק זכר למקדש לרוב הפוסקים אין להחמיר בה יותר מבק”ש ותפלה וכיון דחשבי זו להתחלת לילה וקורין שמע ומתפללין מעריב כמו כן יש לנו לחשוב ללילה לענין ספירה

Or saying Keriat Shema before Shekiah when the tzibur is relying on the position of R. Yehudah to daven Ma’ariv (i.e. Shemoneh Esrei). Mishnah Berurah (235:8),

וע”כ סומכין עצמן על דעת ר’ יהודה שס”ל דמפלג המנחה ולמעלה נחשב ערבית להתפלל תפלת ערבית וכדאיתא לעיל סימן רל”ג דשרי לעשות כן בשעת הדחק וכיון שנחשב לענין תפלה ללילה היה מנהגם שהיו קורין אז ג”כ ק”ש אף שהוא דלא כהלכתא לרוב הפוסקים:

Or davening Ma’ariv and Mincha during the same time slot – between Plag and Shekiah – which often happens in some shuls during the summer. See Mishnah Berurah (233:11) –

אבל אם באותו היום גופא התפלל מנחה אחר פלג שוב אסור לו להתפלל ערבית קודם הלילה דהוי תרתי דסתרי באותו יום גופא וכ”ז אם מתפלל ביחידי אבל צבור שהתפללו מנחה וכשילכו לביתם יהיה טורח לקבצם שנית לתפלת ערב ויתבטל תפלת הצבור לגמרי הקילו האחרונים שמותר להתפלל ערבית סמוך למנחה

In terms of poskim who have dealt with this issue, see Tzitz Eliezer (17:17-18) who states that the language of Rema (and Agur quoted in Beit Yosef) is pretty emphatic – אין לקדש החדש אלא בלילה – which he reads as being pretty absolute. Counterbalancing that, he cites Gur Aryeh Yehudah (no. 144) that it really is permitted earlier, and quotes those who also argue that this limit is not mentioned by Rambam, and Rav Yosef Karo did not mention it in the Shulchan Arukh, although he does so in Beit Yosef. He concludes that when necessary, one can do it with a berakhah, provided there is some shining of the moon.

On a conceptual level – see Divrei Yatziv (OC 178), who also rules that earlier is permissible. He says that based on the reason that a “candle in the daytime is of no purpose” which is cited regarding why we do bedikat chametz at night, it should work Bein HaShemashot, since there is some benefit at that time, and also that according to some poskim we rule that it is an acceptable time for bedikat chametz (see Magen Avraham 431:1). He also mentions a different reason to wait until night – that the dominion of the moon is in the night, and the sun in the day. He does not focus on this reason, but based on it, one could argue that Bein HaShemashot is no good – see Pesachim 2a, that in the context of the opening verse, seems to make it clear that darkness/night in the context of the opening verses of Bereishit, only starts at Tzeit.

Also, for an interesting conceptual (if lengthy) discussion, see Birkei Yosef OC 426:4, who analyzes whether it is required to actually derive benefit from the moon or only that it be shining enough that it is fit to benefit from it. There are parallels here to the berakhah on the candle on Motzei Shabbat – these are not ברכות הנהנין, they are ברכות השבח. But in order to have the experience that evokes shevach, one must have received benefit (עד שיאותו לאורו), or that it be fit for such, – and we rule that it suffices that it is fit for such (see Berakhot 53b). [Important note re havdalah berakhah – the berakhah is AFTER one looks at one’s fingernails. The language is עד שיאותו. It is a birkat hashevach, not a birkat hana’ah – see Mishnah Berurah 296:31, but see in contrast Iggrot Moshe OC 5:9, who argues to first make the berakhah, and then look]. Since this berakhah is not a birkat hana’ah, the being fit for deriving benefit is only to connect to the experience, so a high degree of (potential) benefit is not necessary. Also – he points out that for Rambam and others one can make the berakhah already on the first day of the new moon, when there is no strong shining/real benefit yet. Finally, one can point to the concept of כאילו מקבל פני שכינה, that it is about seeing it, not benefiting from it.

For a summary of all this, see Yabia Omer (OC 5:36.3), who also rules that Bein HaShemashot is fine.

Bottom Line: When necessary one can recite birkat levanah during Bein HaShemashot, and this is certainly true when it is 15 minutes after shekiah, which is Tzeit according to Gra, and even more so if it is necessary to do so in order to ensure that the tzibur will do it.

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