Erev Shabbos--Hilchos Shabbos Series, this week focusing on some Summer Shabbos Shailos UíTeshuvos from HaRav Belsky, Shlita:
If a family takes on Shabbos early, when does a woman have to light her candles?
Rav Moshe Feinstein, Zítl, writes (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim, 3:38) that if, as in most cases, the husband makes an early Shabbos because of convenience, not because he wants to add to the kedusha of Shabbos, then the woman is not bound by the kahalís or the husbandís Kabbolas Shabbos and may light the candles later or even at the time the husband comes home. When an entire community inaugurates the Shabbos early, such as in a bungalow colony, regardless of their rationale, no one in the community is exempt from the kahalís kabbola. If there are a few minyanim and people alternate from one to the other as the need arises, then there is no tzibbur and no kabbolas hatzibbur. If there is indeed one monolithic community, but a few stragglers continue to ride around in their cars while everyone else is greeting the Shabbos, these people are being mechalel Shabbos and should be admonished. If, as the question suggests, the particular family has decided to honor the Shabbos by adding to its kedusha, then all agree that every family member is bound by one kabbolas Shabbos.
During the summer, Plag Hamincha on some Shabbasim is after 7:00PM and the Mincha minyan is at 7:00PM. What is the proper time for women to light?
When Plag Hamincha is at 7:00PM, Mincha should be davened before then and Maariv afterwards. There is an (important) opinion which allows for both Mincha and Maariv to be davened after Plag Hamincha on Friday, but the Mishne Berurah frowns upon it and thus, it should be avoided. If no one in shul knows how to calculate the time of Plag Hamincha and no chart is available for guidance, expert help should be sought. Licht bentchen must be done after Plag Hamincha. In case candles were lit before then, the brocha is considered levatola and candles must be lit again with a brocha. Consult with a Rav for guidance in such situations, if possible.
If my husband goes to the early minyan can I still do melacha? If so, until when?
See the first answer above. Even where a woman may do melacha after her husband was mekabel Shabbos, she may not do melacha for her husband. Please note that a wife is never bound by her husbandís personal Kabbolas Shabbos, only by the kahalís kabbola where both husband and wife belong to the same kehal or by the familyís kabbola as explained above.
If my husband returned home from shul after attending an early Kabbolas Shabbos minyan, can I still light the candles since it is still not shíkiah?
It can be argued that licht bentchen is a melacha done for the husband to insure Shalom Bayis and thus should be prohibited as above. You can rely on the lenient opinion but you should strenuously avoid lighting candles after the people come home from shul. This is an affront to kedushas Shabbos and surely not conducive to Shalom Bayis as it belittles your husband. Will the malochim given their brocha when they accompany your husband home from shul and find chol there instead of Shabbos? Take your guess. Never, ever allow for that sort of occurrence.
If we make early Shabbos, am I permitted to finish the meal before nightfall or do I have to finish it after nightfall? Do I have to eat a kezayis after nightfall?
You should preferably eat at least a kezayis of challah after tzas hacochavim and do not rely on leniencies, as explained in the Mishne Berurah. There is something else to consider when addressing this question. If one began his early Shabbos davening at 7PM as mentioned earlier, he should be making Kiddush around 8PM. What will be taking place at his Shabbosdike tisch? Torah? Zemiros? A joyous, sumptuous family meal in an atmosphere of relaxed happiness and Shabbos holiness? The very question suggests a desire to rush, that the Shabbos seudah is being treated as an interference which must be over and done with as quickly as possible, RíL. In that case, a kezayis after tzas hacochavim will not do the trick (unless we are speaking of merely ensuring that challah is eaten at the end of a properly-conducted meal). Think about it.
How many candles should my wife light if she normally lights seven candles in the City? Is there a difference if my kitchen is small or if I rent a bungalow?
If there is room for setting up the full measure of lights, it should be attempted. On the other hand, many lights in cramped quarters with a bunch of small children KíEH running around is both impractical and downright dangerous RíL. Safety is also kavod Shabbos. Be careful.