HOW IT ALL BEGAN- By Azriela Jaffe
I never set out to start a movement. I only set out to change the atmosphere of erev Shabbos in my home. It turns out, a lot of women share the same yearning, and this group has grown, all by word of mouth and personal recommendation. Here’s a brief look at the history:
Three years ago, I read a beautiful story in Mountain Climbers, a column in the Yated, by Malky Feig, about a mother and mother-in-law who took on the commitment of being ready for Shabbos by chatzos, a practice once recommended by the Chofetz Chaim, as a zechus for the healing of their unborn future grandchild who was diagnosed with a severe birth defect in utero. The story had a happy ending, and the child was born with minor troubles, no resolved. Simultaneously, the Yated letters to the editor at that time were a firestorm (that has yet to stop) about our shidduchim crisis, and worries over how we will ever get our wonderful girls married to the right yeshiva bochurim. As I am the mother of three teenagers, two of them girls, this struck a nerve with me. Take all of this and combine it with one of my daughters telling me that she did not look forward to Shabbos, but rather, dreaded the erev Shabbos chaos and tension in our home. I knew I had to do something about it, and Chatzos resonated with me.
I am now in my third year of being ready for Shabbos by Chatzos, never missing a week. It is a commitment I expect to keep, bli neder, for my lifetime. Reorganizing my life, and my week, so that it is possible to be completely ready for Shabbos by Chatzos (Friday mid-day) was so life-changing, and brought so much kavod Shabbos into our home, I wrote an article about it for the Mishpacha magazine, touching a chord in women around the world who also crave greater serenity on erev Shabbos, and/or are looking for a new practice to bring zechus in trying times. Mishpacha readers wrote to the magazine in droves, asking for help from me to do the same.
In response, I started an email-based chatzos support group for women who wish to join me in this practice. We grew steadily by word of mouth over two years and we are now over 700 women in countries all over the world who have joined together to support one another in chizzuk and concrete suggestions that range from chatzos friendly Shabbos meals, to how to keep the toddlers from wrecking the Shabbos table set on Thursday night, to recommended shiurum to listen to while folding the laundry – on Tuesday – so that it doesn’t interfere with Shabbos preparation. Close friendships have been formed across the globe, as frum women from varied backgrounds come together with the same goals. Women who have been observing Shabbos for over 50 years are changing their practice, and their married children and grandchildren are learning about Chatzos. Shalom has increased between husband and wife, love and honor for Shabbos has grown exponentially, and we draw Moshiach closer to us by the day, as this group, and all the people they touch, elevate Shabbos observance to a whole new level.
It is our hope that we can share the joys and satisfaction of Chatzos with any woman who is looking to elevate the atmosphere of her home, and to create an intense experience of anticipation and kedusha as Shabbos nears.
About Azriela Jaffe, the “Chatzos Lady”
Azriela Jaffe is a regular writer for Mishpacha magazine, author of 24 books, a holocaust memoirist, and the chatzos lady. She founded the chatzos group over two years ago with only 4 members. She regularly speaks to women’s groups about the gift of chatzos.
Visit Azriela Jaffe’s personal website here