Tag Archives: Shabbos

Preparing for Shabbos

As you know, Shabbos is our day of rest. Friday, however, isn’t. Friday, which we call “Erev Shabbos” (Sabbath Eve), is the day we do most of our preparations for Shabbos. This is nothing new. It was done that way even when Hashem first gave us the gift of Shabbos in the Sinai Desert, not long after we left Egypt. Here’s a little of the Written Torah says about that:

The people gathered the manna each morning, according to what each person would eat. Then, when the sun became hot, it melted. When Friday came, what they gathered turned out to be a double portion of food … for each person. All the leaders of the community came and reported it to Moses. Moses said to them, «This is what Hashem has said: Tomorrow is a day of rest, Hashem’s holy Sabbath. Bake what you want to bake, and cook what you want to cook, today. Whatever you have left over put aside carefully until tomorrow morning.» They put it away until Saturday morning, as Moses had instructed…. [On Sabbath morning] Moses announced, “Eat it today, for today is Hashem’s Sabbath. You will not find anything in the field today. You are to gather this food during the six weekdays, but the seventh day is the Sabbath, and on that day there will not be any.”
— Exodus 16:21-26

The Children of Israel would gather the manna and cook or bake it for Shabbos, because on Shabbos they were not allowed to. That is, they were not allowed to gather it, nor carry it home, nor cook it, nor bake it, on Shabbos. All that had to be done before Shabbos began.

We also need to prepare for Shabbos. Since many forms of activity are forbidden on Shabbos, a great deal of preparation is needed before Shabbos. Furthermore, Shabbos is considered like a queen that is coming to visit. For such a prestigious guest, we must certainly get ready to show her honor! If the Queen of England were coming to visit, we would clean everything and hang up all sorts of nice curtains and decorations and so forth. We must also prepare for the Sabbath Queen.

The preparations we do are both internal and external: that is, both spiritual and material. They involve preparing the home, and preparing ourselves.


When you buy something for Shabbos, say “L’kovod Shabbos Kodesh” (“For the Honor of the Holy Shabbos”).

One of the things you will need to buy is food, and ingredients for food you will cook or bake. On Shabbos we are required to eat three Seudos (Special Meals). These meals will each include Challah (a type of bread made specially for Shabbos), and fish. For the first two of the Seudos (the first on Friday night, and the second late Shabbos morning or early afternoon) we will also eat either meat or chicken, and anything fancy that you enjoy eating. Many people have a custom to eat vegetables after eating the fish on Shabbos.

This is all assuming that you can afford to purchase these things. You are not required to go broke by buying food for Shabbos. Buy what you can afford, and honor Shabbos as best you can. You may either cook or buy the Shabbos food, though it is better if you are able to cook it yourself.

Please note that if you are unable to eat any of these things, just leave it out. You are not required to make yourself suffer over a Shabbos menu. Health comes first. Furthermore, Shabbos is for enjoyment, not suffering. However, the food eaten at the Seudas Shabbos (Shabbos Meal) should be at least somewhat formal, and not the regular food you eat during the week, and certainly not snacks. Furthermore, we are required to eat at least one hot course during the first two Shabbos meals.

You will also need wine for Kiddush. There are various other options for diabetics, such as tea.

Cooking and Cleaning

Cook (and bake) for Shabbos. If possible, bake challos for Shabbos. It’s okay to buy challos instead of baking them. If you can bake your own challos, that is an extra source of blessings for your home, but it’s not mandatory. Some people bake challos Thursday or even Wednesday, and if that works better for you, then do it that way.

Every time you cook, bake, or in any other way prepare something for Shabbos say “L’kovod Shabbos Kodesh” (“For the Honor of the Holy Shabbos”) before or while doing that preparation.

The house should be cleaned for Shabbos.

Preparing for Shabbos should be done by both the women and the men. Children should also be given the chance to do something to prepare for Shabbos. It is important that everyone get involved in the preparations for Shabbos.

The Rabbis tell us that:

you have people who do your work for you, you should get personally
involved, and should prepare at least one thing you will need on Shabbos, and in this way you honor Shabbos. All the great Rabbis would do work to prepare for and honor Shabbos. Rav Chisda would slice vegetables; Rabbah and Rav Yosef would chop wood; Rebbi Zaira would light the fire; Rava would salt the fish; Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok would clean the house, and would bring out all the pots and dishes needed for Shabbos, putting away all those that were not needed for Shabbos. And
so on. Everyone should take a lesson from this, and not shrink from this duty out of personal “dignity.” In fact, it is a truer measure of your dignity that you honor Shabbos.

Tractate Shabbos 119b

The point is that they themselves would prepare it. They didn’t rely on anyone else to get the job done.

Set the table for the Shabbos Seudah. If possible, use a white tablecloth. This is to remember the extra manna (which was white) that fell in the Sinai Desert every Friday to honor the Shabbos.

During the afternoon of Erev Shabbos (Friday) you should eat only sparingly, if at all. Seudas Shabbos is not just a meal. It is a religious ceremony, and it must be honored. You should have at least some appetite before beginning the Seudah.

Personal Preparations

You should have special clothing for Shabbos, nicer than what you wear during the week. Generally, men have a special Shabbos suit, a special Shabbos hat, and Shabbos shoes. Women have special Shabbos dresses, Shabbos shoes, and some women might even have special Shabbos jewelry.

Make sure your Shabbos clothing is clean.

If you need a haircut, it is good to get it on a Friday, to honor Shabbos.

Cut your fingernails. A Jew should cut his fingernails every Erev Shabbos. You will find that if you get into that habit, your fingernails will grow enough each week to make it possible to cut them each and every Friday.

Toenails should be cut on Thursdays. Do not cut your toenails and fingernails on the same day.

Take a hot shower or bath to honor the coming of Shabbos. If this is for some reason impossible, at least wash your face, hands and feet (in that order) in hot water.

It is customary, but not mandatory, for men to immerse in a mikvah before Shabbos, and again Shabbos morning before Shacharis.

Final Preparations

Before Shabbos, make sure all your hot food is arranged according to Jewish Law. This is a complicated subject best left for another article. In short, what we generally do is place a flat sheet of metal (called in Yiddish a “blech,” believe it or not) over one or more low flames, and put the covered pots on top of the metal sheet. It is best to make sure that any food put there is either raw or already fully cooked, if possible. Whether raw or cooked, it is best that they already be piping hot and on the blech when Shabbos begins. Once Shabbos begins, you may not put anything on the blech.

It is mandatory to light special lights for Shabbos. Candles are fine, but olive oil and wicks are better.
A married couple should divide the labor in this. The woman is required to kindle the lights (eighteen minutes before sunset begins), and the man should prepare the lights. He should clean out the candle holders and arrange the candles in the holders, or pour the oil and place the wicks, and do everything that is necessary to make it possible for his wife to light the Shabbos Lights.

Before Minchah (the Late-Afternoon Prayer), men should say Shir Hashirim (the Song of Songs), which King Solomon wrote to describe the love that Hashem has for us, the Children of Israel. Women say it after lighting the Shabbos lights. You should be wearing your Shabbos clothing when saying Shir Hashirim. Saying Shir Hashirim is not a Law, but it is a good Custom.

If you have the time, spend the time before the Prayers studying Torah. That is the best way to prepare for Shabbos.

If you take the time and effort to prepare properly for Shabbos, and you keep the Shabbos as best you can, the Shabbos Queen herself will reward you, and you will experience a very uplifting Shabbos, as well as many other spiritual and material benefits.

The bulk of this article came from Ohr Tzaddikim by Rabbi Meir Paprush, and the Sefer Seder Hayom by Rabbi Moshe Ben Yehudah Machir.

The Reason For Shabbos

The Rabbis tell us that while we cannot know the deepest thoughts of Hashem, we can know what Hashem tells us, through the Torah, about the Commandments.

Shabbos (the Sabbath), we are told (Mechilta d’Rashbi, Parshas Yisro) was given to us for several reasons, including the following two:

  1. because Hashem created the world in six days and did no act of creation on the seventh day;
  2. because of the Exodus from Egypt.

The two reasons cited above represent the two aspects of our existence, the physical and the spiritual. Shabbos offers us those same two types of benefit, the physical and the spiritual. Both are mentioned in the Torah, because both are underlying reasons for the Commandment to refrain from certain types of creative activities on Shabbos.

The Spiritual Aspect of Shabbos

In one place, the Torah says:

Do your work during the six weekdays, but keep the seventh day as a Sabbath of Sabbaths, holy to Hashem…The Israelites shall thus keep the Sabbath, making it a day of rest for all generations, as an eternal covenant. It is a sign between Me and the Israelites that during the six weekdays Hashem made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased working and “rested.”

— Exodus 31:15-17

This highlights the spiritual aspect of Shabbos. We keep Shabbos to demonstrate our belief that Hashem created the universe, and as part of that Creation Hashem “rested” on the seventh day. Moreover, Hashem actually created “rest” at that point.

Of course, it also goes deeper. The Sefer Hachinuch (Book of Jewish Education by Rabbi Aharon HaLevi, 13th century) says that when Jews all keep Shabbos on the same day of the week, and someone asks them why, and they answer that it is because Hashem created the world in six days and “rested” on the seventh, this strengthens everyone’s faith. Keeping Shabbos is both a statement of our belief, and a way of strengthening our belief.

Strengthening our belief in Hashem empowers and increases our spirituality. It makes us holy. It is in fact our primary source of holiness. When we keep Shabbos, every Commandment of the Torah that we keep gives us additional holiness.

So the Torah says, “Do your work during the six week days, but keep the seventh day as a Sabbath of Sabbaths, holy to Hashem,” as we learned above. This points to the spiritual re-energizing we experience on Shabbos, due to the fact that Shabbos is holy. Shabbos is the primary means by which we receive holiness and spirituality (among other Commandments of the Torah). And it is our source of faith as well, since it is tied up with our belief in Hashem as Creator.

So to get it in context, let’s see what the Torah tells us in the verses just before the ones we learned above:

Hashem told Moses to speak to the Israelites and say to them: You must keep My Sabbaths. It is a sign between Me and you for all generations, to make you realize that I, Hashem, am making you holy. [Therefore] keep the Sabbath as something sacred to you. Anyone doing work [on the Sabbath] shall be cut off spiritually from his people…

— Exodus 31:12-14

In other words, the Sabbath is our spiritual connection to both Hashem, and to the rest of the Jewish People. And therefore Shabbos is for spiritual development.

And finally, Shabbos was blessed during Creation, as we find in the Torah: “G-d blessed the seventh day and made it holy…” (Genesis 2:3). Shabbos is, in fact, the SOURCE of blessing for the other six days of the week. That is, a person can have blessings at any time during the week only through the medium of Shabbos. All of the six days of the week depend on Shabbos.

Physical Rest

But the Torah also tells us,

You must remember that you were slaves in Egypt, when Hashem your G-d brought you out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. It is for this reason that Hashem your G-d has commanded you to keep the Sabbath.

— Deuteronomy 5:15

This is rather hard to understand. What connection is there between the Exodus from Egypt and keeping Shabbos? Hashem’s taking us out of Egypt is the reason for Passover, but how can it be the reason we keep Shabbos?

The explanation behind this is that Shabbos reminds us that we are free. On Shabbos we have leisure time. On Shabbos we are not subservient to any human being, we have no work, no boss, and no To-Do list. We can rest when we wish, and we can take charge of our own lives.

In Egypt, we were slaves, and we couldn’t rest when we wanted to. We were slaves to the Egyptians, and we had to work when they told us to. We could not rest when we wanted to.

Then Hashem saved us from Egypt, and we became free. Now we can rest on the Seventh Day, the day that Hashem finished creating the world. Now we are free to rest.

Therefore, since Hashem took us out of Egypt, and gave us this freedom, He commanded us to remember that He rescued us from slavery, by actually resting on Shabbos. Hashem has given us the opportunity and ability to rest, and so to thank Hashem for this, we must indeed rest.

Concerning physical rest, the Torah says: “During the six weekdays, do what you must do, but on the seventh day you must rest, so that your donkey and ox will then be able to rest, and your maid’s son [i.e., even a non-Jewish minor in your employ] and the foreigner [i.e, a gentile employee] will be able to relax” (Exodus 23:12).

Shabbos, explains Rabbi Bachya, also offers the benefit of preventing our wear and tear and eventual break-down from constant work. Instead, we have one day a week to rest from our labors and from bodily toil. This way, at least one seventh of a person’s life is spent in peace and quiet.

In another article, we will discuss how the Torah defines «rest.»

Shabbos: A Personal Contract

There are some things that are hard to explain, because even though they may be highly intellectual, they are also very emotional experiences.

The holy day of Shabbos is one of those things. Shabbos is not merely a day of no work for us. It’s day of enjoyment, a day of delight, a day of holiness and joy. It’s our special day of close and personal relationship with Hashem.

Even though we are obligated to keep Shabbos, nevertheless it’s a joy to do so.

And moreover, it’s part of our personal and national contract with Hashem. Shabbos is the special “sign” between Hashem and His people Israel.

The Torah tells us:

God told Moses to speak to the Israelites and say to them: You must keep My Sabbaths. It is a sign between Me and you for all generations, to make you realize that I, Hashem, am
making you holy.

— Exodus 31:12-13

What does it mean that Shabbos is a sign? How can there be a sign “between” people? What does it mean when the Torah says that Shabbos is a sign between Hashem and Israel?

Imagine that you walk one morning to your favorite candy store only to find, to your chagrin, that it is closed. There’s nothing you can do, so you simply hope they will be open tomorrow, and perhaps you’ll go somewhere else for today.

But when you return the next day, it’s still closed. “Oh, well,” you think, “the owner must be on vacation. I hope he’s not sick or anything like that.”

This could go on for a while, without you ever knowing for certain what has happened. As far as you know, the store is only temporarily closed and will reopen as soon as the owner either gets back from vacation or gets better or whatever the case may be.

But once the sign above the store is removed, the sign that says CANDY STORE, the sign you’ve looked for in delightful anticipation every day as you walked towards the store — once that sign is taken down, you know that the store is closed, and that it will never reopen.

Shabbos is the sign of a Jew. A Jew might at times falter, he might slip and slide and sin from time to time, but as long as he’s keeping Shabbos, you know that person is still attached to Judaism. Once a Jew stops keeping Shabbos, the Torah says that he has, Heaven forbid, officially severed ties with true Judaism. He has removed the sign that identifies the store. He has closed the shop.

Shabbos is a sign between Hashem and His people. It is part of our special and personal relationship with Hashem. It is part of our “contract” with Him.

And Shabbos is indeed so much like a candy store.

When someone keeps Shabbos properly, his face shines on Shabbos in a way that it doesn’t shine during the week. The delight that Jews experience on Shabbos is incomparable. It begins when we hurry to complete our preparations on Erev Shabbos (the day before Shabbos, i.e., Friday), steadily increases as we near Shabbos, reaches its peak on Shabbos itself, and remains in full force until Motza Shabbos (when Shabbos departs). And when we fully immerse ourselves in the experience of Shabbos, we feel this delight and holiness to a smaller degree throughout the week as well.

Like in the allegory above, we look forward to Shabbos all week. We long for it, and can hardly wait for it. Whatever we buy, we buy for the honor of Shabbos. We plan our entire week around Shabbos.

When we pray each morning we mention the importance of Shabbos in relation to each day of the week. On Sunday, we say “Today is the first day until Shabbos…,” On Monday, we say “Today is the second day until Shabbos…” and so on. On Shabbos, we say, “Today is the holy day of Shabbos…”

Shabbos is so much a part of who and what we are as Jews. It is the very heart of Judaism. The Torah itself equates it to all the Commandments of the Torah. The Torah says:

On the seventh day, some of the people went out to gather [food], but they found nothing. Hashem told Moses [to say to the Israelites], ‘How long will you refuse to keep My
Commandments and My Laws?

— Exodus 16:27-28

The Israelites had not violated any other of the Commandments, yet the Torah asks why they refused to keep them. This is because violating the Shabbos is like violating not just the Commandment of Shabbos, but like violating all the Commandments.

This is because Shabbos is the sign of a Jew. If you remove the sign, where is the Jew?

The Midrash (Tamchuma Bereishis) says that honoring Shabbos is greater than keeping a thousand fasts.

The Talmud tells us that Hashem told Moses, “I have a good present in My treasure house, and its name is Shabbos. I want to give it to Israel. Go and tell them this” (BT, Shabbos 20b; Beitzah 16a).

Now Moses was required to teach the Children of Israel all about each and every Commandment that Hashem taught him. So why was Hashem telling him, “Go and tell them this?” What new thing is being said here?

The answer can be explained with a story told about a great Rabbi named Rabbi Shimon. A poor man came to his house to ask for charity, and he couldn’t find any money to give him. So instead he gave him a piece of jewelry, a ring that he thought might be worth a little money. “Here, take this and sell it,” he said. ”With the money you make, you can buy a little food.”

When his wife came home and found out what he had done, she got upset. “That ring was worth three hundred ruble! How could you just give it away?”

As soon as Rabbi Shimon heard this, he said, “Thank you for telling me that!”

He ran outside and chased after the man and told him, ”That ring is worth a lot of money! Make sure that you don’t get cheated!”

This is what Hashem was telling Moses. Hashem wanted Moses to explain to the Israelites what a valuable treasure Shabbos is, how special it is to Hashem, and how Hashem took it out of His treasure house especially for the Jews. This way, they would know the proper way to treat Shabbos, and how much honor to give it.

In order to know how much honor to give Shabbos, we must learn about it. We must learn how to appreciate it, and what each element of Shabbos means, and how it is to be treated.

Only then can we fulfill the words of the Prophet Isaiah, who said, “If you turn away your foot from traveling on Shabbos, and refrain from doing your affairs on My holy day, and you treat Shabbos like a delight, honoring Hashem’s holy day; if you honor it by not doing your business, attending to your affairs or speaking of weekday matters, then you will delight in Hashem. I will let you ride the heights of the earth and enjoy the inheritance of your forefather Jacob, for so has Hashem’s own mouth promised” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

In other words, if you teach yourself to experience Shabbos as a delight, you will be rewarded with the delight of Hashem Himself!

Come, give it a try.