Kabbalat Shabbat

February 26, 2013

It is with great pleasure that we resume our Tefillah Tips. We have just concluded eleven weeks of tefillah tips for Shabbat mussaf which have been archived on www.oucommunity.org, in the Tefillah section. We now focus on Kabbalat Shabbat and welcome your feedback.

Our Friday night tefillot differ from all other tefillot of the week. In fact, our tefillah on Friday night demonstrates a difference between Shabbat and all of the other mitzvot in the Torah. The Prayer Service of Kabbalat Shabbat is an actual preparation service that serves to prepare us to accept the Shabbat appropriately. In no other mitzvah does this phenomenon exist. There is no Kabbalat Tzitzit, Kabbalat Mezuzah or Kabbalat Tefillin…just Kabbalat Shabbat. Why?

Additionally, Rav Pincus, zt”l  points out in his work Shabbat Malkita that as opposed to all other mitzvoth, Shabbat seems to possess a sort of personality. We welcome the Shabbat, we send off Shabbat with a Melava Malka, we have Shabbat clothing, we discuss when Shabbat is arriving and when it departs. How do we understand the nature of Shabbat, and why it is cloaked with such a rich array of customs, rituals and deeds?

HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, shlitah explains in his sefer Matnas Chaim the fundamental difference between Shabbat and all other mitzvot. The function and task of fulfilling other mitzvot is to sanctify ourselves. Therefore, before performing a mitzvah one recites the blessing –Asher Kidishanu Bemitzvotav – that Hashem has sanctified us with His mitzvot. On Shabbat we do not sanctify ourselves, we experience the Divine Presence that arrives on Shabbat. We enter into the realm of G-dliness. Shabbat means Shveetah – the world stops as we know it and returns to the perfected state of Shabbat.

That is why we chant Ma’eyn Olam Haboh Shabbat Menuchah – that Shabbat is tantamount to the world to come. That is why we eat fish and meat on Shabbat which corresponds to the future Messianic celebrations of  consuming the Leviathan (fish) and the Shor HaBor (meat). That is why we recite on Friday night Psalms 95-99 which refer to the Messianic Era.  That is also why we prepare as much as we do for the gift of Shabbat.

The late great Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l was reputed to have said, “When the Jews migrated from Europe to America they were able to transport the Shabbos with them, but somehow they lost the Erev Shabbos.”  There were always two kugels made; one for Shabbat and one for Erev Shabbat. The Aruch Hashulchan would personally walk the streets of his town and close down the businesses at midday in order to encourage Jews to prepare for the Holy Shabbat.

Our current focus of Tefillah Tips will elucidate and explain the unique tefillot we recite every Friday night in the Kabbalat Shabbat service.

Take Home Tip: Think of two innovative activities that you can engage in to prepare for Shabbat each week. The more we prepare, the more we will enjoy.