Chatzos Basics

What is “Chatzos”?

Chatzos is the Hebrew term for midday or midnight. In reference to Shabbos, Chatzos is midday on Erev Shabbos, and it is a time when the Kedusha of Shabbos already begins to descend upon us. The Rabbinic Guidance page has sources from various Rabbanim, highlighting the signifigance of this time, and the virtues of being ready for Shabbos early.

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What does “Making Chatzos” mean?

The general plan is to finish all cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry by midday on Friday and to have the table ready early for Shabbos. In most families, people come home on Friday after Chatzos, therefore there is a certain amount of bathing, changing, serving food and cleaning up from it that will take place later in the day. In families with small children (and big ones) there are inevitably last minute messes and emergencies. But if the bulk of the work is done, they can be handled calmly.

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How can I finish my Shabbos preparation by Chatzos?

Many women want the “formula” – just tell me what to do, and not do, to make chatzos, and I’ll do it. As tempting as it is for us to give out such a prescription, it is not wise, because every family is different. Some women work full time outside of the house, others work in the house. Some women are mothers to little kids, and others are bubbes with married children and grandchildren visiting for Shabbos. Some women are married to men who insist on fresh food, and other women rely upon their freezer. Some women are naturally very organized and calm, and others are more scattered and chaotic in their approach to Shabbos preparation. Some women LOVE the adrenalin rush of erev Shabbos preparations, and others LOVE the calm of a house completely ready for Shabbos Friday morning. Your way is not your neighbor’s way, and all ways that lead to Hashem and kedusha are welcomed and encouraged. Do not look for THE way, but do look for YOUR way.

Having said that, there are a few basic ideas to keep in mind when aiming to be ready for Chatzos:

  • Try to do as much as you can earlier in the week. If you don’t like to cook food ahead of time and freeze it, then look for other things you can do clear up time later in the week- such as shopping, laundry, ironing, etc. It is very difficult to be ready for Chatzos on Erev Shabbos if you’ve done no preparations ahead of time.
  • The challenge for many people is to get rid of the ‘just one more’ temptation, as in, I will make just one more cake, salad, side dish. These extras tend to throw off the entire day.

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What am I allowed to do after Chatzos?

Please note, making chatzos does NOT mean that you are obliging yourself to any of the restrictions of Shabbos. You are not bringing in Shabbos, you are simply readying yourself for welcoming Shabbos when the time for candlelighting draws near. What you do with your time on Friday afternoon is your decision.

Most people make salads and cook or warm up food in the afternoon but all the preparation is done earlier. For example, the chicken is cleaned, spiced, marinated, breaded and put in a pan in the fridge. Then later in the day it might be put in the oven to cook. Many Chatzos women prefer to do no baking or cooking or food preparation after Chatzos, only placing the food into the oven or on the blech at the proper time before candlelighting.

The basic idea is that whatever you leave for after Chatzos is not something which will ruin the calm atmosphere you’ve worked so hard to create.

Here’s some advice from Rivky P. from Lakewood, a long-time member of the group:

1) Know yourself!! Some people find that they set a boundary of being ready by chatzos and they jump right in from week one. Many other people need to move by baby steps – week one be ready 10 minutes before licht benching, week two be ready one hour, etc.

2) Don’t set yourself up for failure. Any woman who is striving for a calmer Friday is a valued member of this group even if she is not yet ready by Chatzos.

3) By moving much of the house work and cooking earlier in the week, you are not simply freeing time on Friday. Rather, you are bringing the kedusha of shabbos into your week every day. This was the biggest chiddush to me when joining the group. It is not about completing chores, it is about adding kedusha!!

4) Many women find that when they first start focusing on Chatzos, they need to cut back a little. Make one less kugel, or a simpler dessert. Most women find that once they get into the routine however, they find they have more time to do more than before and still be ready early. and when you read some of the inspiring menus and recipes that will be posted, and when you start appreciating more and more the kedusha of Shabbos, you will be inspired to do more and more.

5) Remember, your family wants a calm serene wife and mother. A peaceful Friday is more important to them then anything else.