Erev Shabbat: Transitioning Into Shabbat

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17 Jul 2006

Yom HaShishi – The Sixth “Day”

ShabbosJust as the human being needs a transition, a distinction, or “havdalah,” between “kodesh,” that which is holy, and that which is “chol,” or profane, so does he need a transition when he steps up from the level of the profane to that of the holy. When one speaks of the Holy Shabbat, that transition is provided by Erev Shabbat, the Eve of Shabbat. What occurred on the first Erev Shabbat? Let us look at the Bible, where that event is described.

“…And Hashem said, ‘Let us make Man in our image and in our form, and let them rule over the fish in the sea, and the birds in the sky, and over the cattle and over all creatures that are above the earth, and over all things that creep upon the earth.’ And the L-rd created Man in His image; He created him in the image of G-d; male and female did He create them…”

“…And G-d saw all that He had done, and behold it was very good; and it was evening and it was morning; the Sixth “Day.”

Thus, “Maaseh Bereshit,” the Creation of the Universe, was completed by the end of the “Sixth Day.” On that fateful “Day,” Adam and Chavah were given the first “command,” and it was almost immediately “violated.” They were punished by being removed from Gan Eden. When darkness fell, Adam and Chavah despaired. When the sun came up on the First Shabbat, they realized that their “teshuvah,” their repentance, was accepted; they exulted, and sang “A Song for the Day of Shabbat,” “It is good to thank Hashem and to sing praise to Your Name, O Exalted One; to relate Your kindness in the dawn, and Your faithfulness in the nights.”

To return to our time, let us follow the preparations for the Shabbat as described by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Z”L [“Zichrono Livracha” – “May his memory be for a blessing”], in his work, “Sabbath Day of Eternity,” published by NCSY (“National Conference of Synagogue Youth,” the Youth Division of the Orthodox Union).

Note that Rabbi Kaplan uses “Shabbos ” where we use “Shabbat.” This is a relatively minor matter of “havara,” or “pronunciation.” In Eretz Yisrael, the “Haavara Sepharadi,” the Sephardic pronunciation, which pronounces the word “Shabbat,” is used. In the Diaspora, in general, though in some places in the Diaspora (outside of Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel)), this is beginning to change, the Ashkenazic (West and North European) pronunciation is used, which spells and pronounces the word as “Shabbos.”

“…Shabbat must also be a do-it-yourself project. In order to really feel the Shabbat, you cannot wait for it to come to you. You must get into it. The Torah tells us (Shemot 31:16) ‘ to make the Shabbat.” Every person must make his own Shabbat. You must prepare yourself and get into the mood. Only then will you be able to feel its true significance, for Shabbat is not an intellectual exercise. If it were, meditating about it would be enough. We might provide explanations, but true understanding only comes from doing and feeling.”

“In a way, Shabbat is like (being in) love. You can talk about love for the rest of your life, but if you have never experienced it, you will never understand it. Once you have been in love though, no further discussion is necessary.”

“Shabbat is a bond of love between ourselves and G-d.”

“To understand it, you must experience it.”

“Do it Yourself”

“The Shabbat mood begins with its preparation. The Commandment says, “Remember the Shabbat Day to keep it holy.” Our sages teach us that in order to truly keep it holy, we must remember it all week long and prepare for it. If you see something you will enjoy on Shabbat, by all means set it aside for use on Shabbat. (Beitzah 15b)”

“The preparations for Shabbat reach their peak on Friday afternoon. You then direct most of your activities towards Shabbat. Recall the lesson of our Sages, “He who prepares on Friday, will eat on Shabbat.” (Avodah Zara 3a) Anticipate it as you would an important visitor. After all, Shabbat is the Queen of all Creation.” (Shabbat 119a)”

“Eat lightly on Friday afternoon. Work up an appetite for the Shabbat meal.”

“Make sure that you will have the tastiest possible food for Shabbat. If possible, do something to help prepare the meal. Make sure that everything will be just right for the Shabbat Queen.”

“Clean up your room and tidy your belongings. Put away all weekday things. Prepare your surroundings to reflect the Shabbat mood. “

“Take a relaxing bath or shower. Cleanse your mind and soul along with your body.”

“Put on your best clothes. Dress as if for an important occasion. If possible, have special Shabbat clothing set aside.”

“Many of our “Tzadikim,” “pious people” have the custom of reading the “Shir HaShirim” [“Song of Songs”] just before Shabbat. It is the most beautiful love poem ever written, telling of the love between G-d and His people. Read it if you have time, and try to feel this love.”

“Prepare the table for the Shabbat meal. Cover it with a fine white tablecloth. Set it with your best china and silver in honor of the Queen.”

“Set aside two “Challahs,” the “Lechem Mishneh” of Shabbat (symbolizing the double portion of mohn, the miraculous food which fell from heaven for the Jewish People while they were in the desert, regarding which twice as much fell on Friday because the Jewish People were not allowed to gather the mohn on Shabbat), and cover them with a clean napkin or special cover.

Prepare the wine for Kiddush along with a special goblet set aside as a Kiddush cup. If possible, try to have a silver one.”

“Hadlakat Nerot,” – Lighting of Shabbat Candles

At 18-20 minutes before sunset, Shabbat candles are lit in the home. Although in most households, the candles are lit by wives and mothers, if a woman or even a man, is living alone, she or he is obligated to light candles in their home.

In most cases of a “brachah,” or blessing, being recited on the performance of a “Mitzvah”, a Commandment, the blessing is recited first, followed by the performance of the Mitzvah. Examples are the reading of Megilat Esther on Purim, where the blessing “al Mikra Megilah,” “on the Reading of the Megilah,” precedes the Reading of the Megilah, and the blessing “al Netilat Lulav,” “on the bundling of the Lulav and the Etrog, the Hadassah and the Aravah,” recited on Sukkot, before the Mitzvah, their bundling and moving in all six directions, is performed.

However, in the case of Shabbat candles, the woman lights the candles first, and then pronounces the blessing, because once she has pronounced the blessing, she has accepted the Shabbat restrictions upon herself, and would not be able afterwards to light the candles.

Thus, after lighting the candles, the woman covers her eyes and recites the blessing,

“Baruch atah Adon-y, Elo-einu Melech HaOlam,
Asher Kideshanu B’Mitzvotav V’Tzivanu Lehadlik Ner shel Shabbat”

“Blessed are You, our G-d, King of the Universe,
Who Has Commanded us to kindle the Light of Shabbat”

While the woman covers her eyes, she prays for the welfare of her family. The lighting of the Shabbat candles is a moment of great significance, for it is now that the holiness of Shabbat descends upon the home. Of course, by nightfall, Shabbat will have arrived, in any case, for it does not depend on the actions of Man. But, by ushering in the Shabbat before its automatic arrival, the woman demonstrates her eagerness, and the eagerness of her family, for closeness to Hashem.

Usually, the husband sets up the candles in the “Menorah,” or candle-holder. This allows him to have some participation in this beautiful Mitzvah. In doing something for his wife, the husband is also enhancing “Shalom Bayit,” the peaceful atmosphere in the home.