Excerpts from “Shabbos in my Soul”

Excerpts from Shabbos in my Soul, by Rabbi Boruch Leff:

WHEN SHOULD PREPARATIONS BEGIN? Pg. 35-37:

Any successful athlete will tell you that all of his achievements are due to the many hours of practice and preparation he invested into the sport. The key to any business dealings success almost always depends on the amount of research, effort, and preparation put into the transaction. Proper preparation for any given venture is the most likely way to guarantee success.

The same is true for spiritual matters, such as trying to experience a meaningful Shabbos. When should one begin preparing for Shabbos? You may sugest Wednesday or Thursday, or at the very latest, Friday, erev Shabbos. Surprisingly, according to the Ramban and the Kaf HaChaim, preparations for Shabbos actually begin on the previous Sunday morning. The Ramban writes:

The verse, Remember the Shabbos to sanctify it, commands us to remember Shabbos every day, so that we should not forget it nor confuse it with other days. As Rabbi Yitzchak says in the Mechilta, “You should not count the days of the week like all others. Rather, when you count, you should make reference to Shabbos.” Other nations count the days of the week in a way that makes each day separate from another. This is why they call each day by its independent name. But the Jewish people refer to each day in connection to Shabbos. Sunday is “Yom Rishon L’Shabbos”, the first day on the path toward Shabbos.

Another possible reason for the stress on remembering Shabbos throughout the week could be the fact that Shabbos is described as one-sixtieth of Olam Haba, and having Shabbos in mind cnstantly, effectively makes us dwell upon thoughts of Olam Haba, eternal life. We are then driven to base all of our actions and decisions of the week upon our attainment of the World to Come, which is called “the ultimate Shabbos“ and not involve ourselves only on the temporal and earthly existence of Olam HaZeh, the world.

The sources cited clearly indicate that Shabbos must be constantly on our minds throughout the week. Perhaps this is why the very word for a week in the Torah is “Shabbos“. Whenever we make mention or mark the passage of seven days, we are reminded of Shabbos.

THINKING OF SHABBOS WHILE SHOPPING, Pg. 38: 

It was said about Shammai the Elder that he would constantly eat in honor of Shabbos. If he found a nice animal, he would say, “This will be saved for Shabbos.” If he found an even better one, he would eat the first and save the second for Shabbos. Thus, he ate the first in order to save the second for Shabbos. But Hillel the Elder had a different approach. He would say, “Blessed is Hashem day by day, He provides our needs.”

The Mishnah Berurah explains that although we usually rule like Hillel, not Shammai, in this situation, most authorities understand that Hillel actually agrees with Shammai. It is indeed a mitzvah for most people to constantly think of preparing for and honoring Shabbos during the week. But individuals such as Hillel, who are on a high level of trust in Hashem, should not think of preparing appropriate Shabbos food until erev Shabbos comes.

Whenever we go to the supermarket, we should be looking for special items and foods that we can save for Shabbos. If we try to bring even a small sampling of these concepts into our week, if we can prepare properly and even yearn for Shabbos, we will no doubt merit Shabbos bliss in this world and in the Next.

BECOMING AN EREV-SHABBOS JEW, Pg. 41-43:

An erev-Shabbos Jew is what the Ohr HaChaim envisions in his explanation of “shomru bnei Yisrael es haShabbos”. The Children of Israel should guard (shomru) the Shabbos. The word shomer, says the Ohr HaChaim does not only mean “guard,” but at times it means to anticipate greatly, as in the verse “v’aviv shamar es hadavar”. Yaakov yearned for Yosef’s dreams to come true. Bnei Yisrael must anticipate and yearn for Shabbos:”shomru bnei Yisrael es haShabbos.”

Perhaps the most important area to concentrate on when trying to become an erev-Shabbos Jew is how to use our time and set our schedules on erev Shabbos itself. Let us take a peek at home some of our Torah giants arranged their erev Shabbos:

Rav Yechezkel Abramsky would make sure to have his table set for Shabbos already on Friday morning.

Rav Mordechai Sharabi would sit down to learn the weekly parashah right after davening on Friday morning. He would then go to buy fresh challos, and then immerse in the mikveh. He would also avoid speaking about mundane matters throughout erev Shabbos.

The Magid of Kelm, Rav Moshe Yitzchak HaDarshan, and the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchek, would treat chatzos as if it were the time at which Shabbos began. From then on, they would not contemplate worldly matters, and the spirit of Shabbos permeated their homes.

It is true that we have jobs and responsibilities on erev Shabbos that preclude us from having the freedom to spend all day involved in spirituality. But perhaps we can muster the strength to accept Shabbos a half-hour earlier than regular candle lighting time, or at the very least, ten minutes earlier. Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l rosh yeshivah of Ner Yisrael, Baltimore, would often advise people to accept shabbos upon themselves ten minutes before candle lighting time. In this way, when Shabbos comes in we are in a calm state of mind, rather than in a frenzy.

Perhaps we can start taking care of all Shabbos preparations as soon as possible, rather than waiting until the Friday afternoon rush. Maybe we can eliinate our procrastination, at least when it comes to erev Shabbos. People who have begun arranging their erev Shabbos schedules in this fashion have testified to the sanctity they feel when Shabbos comes in.

AVOIDING BLINDNESS, Pg. 102-103:

The Reishis Chochmah explains: “At dawn, the sun gradually rises; the power of its rays of light slowly increase. It does not appear suddenly in full force, so as not to blind us with an abrupt change from night to day. The same is true for the holiness of Shabbos. The kedushah of Shabbos is erev-present throughout the week, and there is a gradual build-up to Shabbos. All of the days of the week derive their value, significance, and blessings from Shabbos and they nurse their sustenance from Shabbos.”

If we don’t prepare, at minimum giving brief thought to shabbos during the week, we will be overwhelmed by the holy rays of light that will suddenly descend when Shabbos arrives. We would become blinded by the Shabbos, not being able to feel or see the holiness, just as a sudden sunrise would blind us. Only by gradually incrasing our connection to the kedushah of Shabbos during the week, preparing ourselves to be fitting receptacles for the increased sanctity, can we hope to feel the neshama yeseirah and holiness of Shabbos.

These same thoghts are beautifully expressed by the Chasam Sofer. The Torah says that we are not allowed to kindle a fire on Shabbos. This is because, explains the Chasam Sofer, on a metaphorical level we are supposed to keep a passionate fire of serving Hashem burning throughout the week, so that by the time Shabbos comes, the flame rises by itself without our having to light it afresh. We must not be oblivious to the sanctity of Shabbos throughout the rest of the week and suddenly wake up on Shabbos needing to kindle the flame.

It is most certainly true that if we are rushing around on Friday afternoon, running into the shower with twenty minutes to spare until Shabbos, quickly dressing to go to shul or for candle lighting, there is not much possibility of feeling the neshamah yeseirah as it enters. There is no question that coming into Shabbos with some true recognition of the neshamah yeseira’s entrance will make it easier to access holiness and meaning for the rest of Shabbos as well.

FEELING OLAM HABA ON SHABBOS, Pg. 147:  

Hashem chose Shabbos to show us what Olam Haba will be like. This means that as we experience Shabbos we are living in a microcosm of the World to Come. This is not just a beautiful but abstract idea; it is meant literally. It is indeed possible to feel some sense of Olam Haba on Shabbos. How? You ask.

Someone once described to me what he considers the feeling we should strive for in accessing Olam Haba on Shabbos. On occasion, when we prepare well on erev Shabbos and have not rushed into Shabbos, we feel ourselves becoming more and more relaxed as it gets closer and closer to candle lighting time. We consciously feel our psyche becoming more and more distant from worries and work projects. Rather than running around the house taking care of probems or managing crises, we offer ourselves the opportunity to enter Shabbos in a relaxed and serene mental state.By the time of kabbalos Shabbos, we enter in Olam HaBa.We are connected to Hashem. We feel the rewards of our weeklong efforts and toil.

From More Shabbos in my Soul:

THE SOLUTION TO LIVING BY ROTE, Pg. 20-22:

As Rashi explains: A person must continuously strengthen himself with all his energy. There are two keys that Rashi mentions: continuity, and with all one’s energy. In order to succeed in the four areas the Talmud lists, there must be daily, continuous, concerted, and energetic effort to inspire onself. Enthusiasm will not happen by itself.

The same is true when it comes to Shabbos. Unlike the Yomim Tovim, which breed a natural excitement when they arrive, Shabbos somehow fails to spiritually energize many of us.Too often, we work on Automatic and fail to glean fresh and new insights into the mitzvos that we perform on a weekly basis.Anything that we do all the weeks of our lives, unfortunately, loses its drama and glory.We can reinforce our passion for Shabbos by continually fortifying our deep and profound appreciation for all that it is.

EARLY SHABBOS CRUNCH, Pg 33-35:

Erev Shabbos, especially in the winter, brings with it a host of challenges. It is always difficult to get ready for Shabbos with a sense of serenity and menuchas hanefesh and in the winter it becomes extremely difficult.Occasionally, lighting 18 minutes before shkiah is ignored and people run the clock down to the wire, lighting Shabbos candles a minute or two before sunset. How can we avoid these undesireable situations and prepare for Shabbos with tranquility and calm?

The only way out of rushing into Shabbos is simply not to rush. The sole solution is to begin your Shabbos preparations as early as possible and to resist the call from our yetzer hara to procrastinate and take care of it later because there’s still so much more time. We all know from vast experience that whatever time we think we have quickly passes and we are left to wash the floors, vacuum, set up the candles, shower, set the Shabbos clocks, mend clothing, heat the food, etc. all in the last hour before Shabbos.

THE MERIT WHICH SAVED THE RIDVAZ, Pg. 34-35:

Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis recently published a wonderful book entitled, “Shabbos: A Tasting Eternity, and he writes the following: ( pgs. 23-24)

The Ridvaz was the Rabbi of Sllutzk ( in the early 20th century) and one of the greatest leaders of his generation. One day he became critically ill and his life hung in the balance. His soul was brought before the YAEL PLEASE FIX THIShbeis din shel ma’alah – the Heavenly Court. He was informed that it had been decreed that he die before his time and he was asked to state whether he possessed any significant merit that might alter the decree.

The Ridvaz asked the beis din if serving as the Rav of Slutzk, one of the largest Jewish communities of the time, was a great enough merit. The Heavenly Court weighed this, and concluded that this was not sufficient. Someone else could be the Rav of Slutzk.

The Ridvaz then mentioned that he was in the middle of writing his acclaimed commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud. If he died now, it would not be completed. The beis din considered this claim, and then rejected it. There were already a number of fine commentaries on the Yerushalmi.

In a final attempt to save his life, the Ridvaz argued that every erev Shabbos, after midday, he had a practice to stop all his weekday activities, and simply sit and eagerly await the entry of Shabbos. Surely the sincere longing that he had shown for Shabbos was a great source of merit, he thought.

After deliberation, the Heavenly Court accepted this argument, and in this merit the Ridvaz was granted another 30 years of life ( as heard from Rav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron Yerushalayim).

A FASCINATING CUSTOM, Pg. 38:

The practice of steering clear of procrastination on erev Shabbos is also seen from a fascinating custom brought in Asifas Gershon. We do not recite tachanun at mincha on erev Shabbos.  The reason for this is because the joyful spirit of Shabbos needs to be established already on Friday afternoon. Tachanun is a prayer which comprises serious and sorrowful tefilos which contradict such a goal. This is why we don’t recite tachanun during Friday’s mincha.  However, there was a minhag in the city of Rome where they did not recite tachanun even on Friday morning, but for a different reason than the afternoon. They skipped tachanun in the morning because they wanted to shorten the davening so that people would have more time to shop and prepare for Shabbos! Imagine. The Tefila of tachanun contains extremely powerful prayers which are vital to our existence. And it doesn’t even take so long to say. Yet, the additional 2-3 minutes gained in skipping tachanun was worth it if it would help people get ready for Shabbos earlier, even two or three minutes earlier! The serenity of coming into Shabbos with a few extra minutes to spare is worth not saying tachanun. True, this is not our custom. But what a powerful lesson!

THE IMPORTANCE OF PREPARING, Pg 51:

Kavod Shabbos is such an important mitzvah that it suspends the rule that if it could be done by others, we don’t take time from Torah learning. Rava salted the fish; Rav Chisda cut the beets; Rav Safra roasted the meat. Many of these tzaddikim were men of means and could have had their servants do the dirty work. The mitzvah of kavod Shabbos involves physical activity, a mitzvah incumbent upon the person and not merely arranging for the Shabbos preparations. It is a greater mitzvah to do it oneself rather than with an agent.

MAKING SHABBOS:  PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT, Pg. 58:

We quote from the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch:

One should rise early on erev Shabbos in order to prepare for all Shabbos needs. Even if one has many servants to work for him, he should try to do at least one thing for Shabbos preparations; this honors Shabbos. Rav Chisda would chop vegetables, Rabbah and Rav Yosef would chop wood, Rav Zeira would light the fire, Rav Nachman would clean the house and bring out the Shabbos dishes whil putting away the weekday utensils. From here every person should learn to avoid saying, “it is beneath my honor”, because this itself brings a person honor, that he honors the Shabbos! (Shulchan Aruch 250:1)

EREV SHABBOS NAP, Pg. 73:

Rav Shimshon Pincus writes of the practice common among certain righteous people to try to take a nap on erev Shabbos. Rav Aharon Karliner went so far as to say that anyone who doesn’t nap on erev Shabbos will inevitably transform the Friday night seudah into a weekday meal! Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah would also advise people to sleep on erev Shabbos or at the very least, to close one’s eyes and rest. This is what is meant in the pasuk ( Devorim 5:12)  “Shamor es yom haShabbos lekadsho”, we must literally guard the Shabbos. We must see ourselves as watchmen, as if we are guarding and protecting the Shabbos. Just as it is forbidden for a guard to fall asleep on his shift, so too we are not allowed to fall asleep on our Shabbos shift. By resting on erev Shabbos we allow ourselves to come into Shabbos with a clear head and a renewed spirit.Those who nap on erev Shabbos display their respect for what Shabbos can accomplish for the soul. They rest before Shabbos in order to grow spiritually on Shabbos itself.

BECOMING AN EREV-SHABBOS JEW

It was Friday. I called a friend of mine to say hello and wish him a good Shabbos. He picked up the receiver with a greeting I had never heard before: “Good erev Shabbos!”

Thinking that he must have said, Good Shabbos, I jokingly said to him, “You’re getting rid of me so soon? Shouldn’t you wish me a Good Shabbos at the end of our conversation – not at the beginning?”

“You didn’t hear me well,”came the reply. “I said, Good erev Shabbos.”

Let me explain. I just heard a speech from my rabbi about how important it is to look forward to Shabbos. He said that today, thank G-d, we have many Sabbath-observant Jews, but how many erev-Shabbos Jews are there? Jews who passionately yearn for Shabbos throughout the week are hard to find. Yes, many observe thehalachos of Shabbos with much devotion, but few strive to inject avodah shebaleiv, true service of the heart, into their shemiras Shabbos. This can only come from feeling great anticipation for Shabbos. At the very least, on erev Shabbos, we should be yearning for Shabbos.

My friend continued, “I decided that from now on I will refer to Friday as “erev Shabbos” as often as I can. Perhaps then I will succeed in giving erev Shabbos the respect it deserves. And, by improving my appreciation for erev Shabbos, the excitement and passion for Shabbos itself will be attained much more easily.

An erev-Shabbos Jew is what the Ohr HaChaim envisions in his explanation of “v’shomru bnei Yisrael es haShabbos” – the Children of Israel should guard (shomru) the Shabbos. The word shomer, says the Ohr HaChaim, does not only mean guard, but at times it means to anticipate greatly,as in the verse “v’aviv shamar es hadavar”.  Yaakov yearned for Yosef’s dreams to come true.

Bnei Yisrael must anticipate and yearn for Shabbos: “v’shomru bnei Yisrael es haShabbos.

An erev-Shabbos Jew is what the Baal HaTurim had in mind in a letter to his children:

All agricultural work, the plowing and planting is done in order to bring forth fruit. Similarly, all that a person does to take care of his body is done in order to sustain the soul’s existence in this world. The daily fruit of the soul are the times of prayer, and the weekly fruit of the soul is Shabbos.

The Baal HaTurim is describing the experience of Shabbos as the ultimate goal for all activities of the week. The erev-Shabbos Jew knows and lives this ideal.

An erev-Shabbos Jew, is a Jew who fervently yearns for Shabbos.

How can one reach such a level?

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, zt”l, was known to relate this thought.

Reminders of Shabbos

One method to attain this spiritual level is to remind oneself of Shabbos as much as possible. The Chafetz Chaim writes that even when one refers to an event that took place in the previous week he should say, “Before Shabbos, on Thursday”, instead of just saying, “last Thursday,” in order to mention Shabbos. He also writes that there was a certain Torah giant who would somehow manage to relate the topic of Shabbos to his regular Gemara shiur, so that he would fulfill the mitzvah to remember Shabbos every day.

Of course, in order to become erev-Shabbos Jews we need to understand the value and significance of erev Shabbos in its own right. Minhag Yisrael Torah cites Mishmeres Shalom who says that it is proper to eat a little meat on erev Shabbos, because the sanctity of Shabbos is “meurav”, combined with, and spills into erev Shabbos. Hence, the name erev, meaning mixed.

In addition, erev Shabbos is similar to erev Yom Kippur, because the Gemara states, “Whoever observes Shabbos properly is forgiven for his sins, even if his sins include idol worship.” Just like there is a mitzvah to eat on erev Yom Kippur, erev Shabbos has a similar feature. Now, it is certainly not a halachic obligation to eat meat or even more than our usual fill on erev Shabbos. In fact, one must be careful not to overeat in order to have an appetite for the seudah on Friday night, but the sources cited do give us a perspective on the prominence that erev Shabbos should be accorded.

Learning from Our Sages

Perhaps the most important area to concentrate on when try ing to become an erev-Shabbos Jew is how to use our time and set our schedules on erev Shabbos itself. Let us take a peek at how some of our Torah giants arranged their erev Shabbos:

Rav Yechezkel Abramsky would make sure to have his table set for Shabbos already on Friday morning.

Rav Mordechai Sharabi would sit down to learn the weekly parashah right after davening on Friday morning. He would then go to buy fresh challos, and then immerse in the mikveh. He would also avoid speaking about mundane matters throughout erev Shabbos.

The Netziv, the Chafetz Chaim, Rav Elya Lopian, and the Steipler Gaon, among others, were all known to immerse themselves in a mikveh on erev Shabbos.

The Maggid of Kelm, Rav Moshe Yitzchak HaDarshan, and the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchek, would both treat chatzos (halachic midday) as if it were the time at which Shabbos began. From then on, they would not contemplate worldly matters, and the spirit of Shabbos permeated their homes.

Rav Chaim Ozer would never sit and judge cases on Friday afternoon. The Steipler Gaon would not write on Friday afternoon.

Rav Aryeh Levin would not open letters that he received on Friday afternoon, lest there be some information in the letters that might worry him over Shabbos.

It is true that we can’t fully emulate these Torah leaders.We have jobs and responsibilities on erev Shabbos that preclude us from having the freedom to spend all day involved in spirituality. But perhaps we can muster the strength to accept Shabbos a half hour earlier than regular candle lighting time or, at the very least, ten minutes earlier.

Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Ner Yisrael, Baltimore, would often advise people to accept Shabbos upon themselves ten minutes before candle lighting time. In this way, when Shabbos comes in we are in a calm state of mind, rather than in a frenzy.

Perhaps we can start taking care of all Shabbos preparations as soon as possible, rather than waiting until the Friday afternoon rush. Maybe we can eliminate our procrastination, at least when it comes to erev Shabbos. Then, we would have time to sit and learn a little before Shabbos or read stories to our kids. People who have begun arranging their erev Shabbos schedules in this fashion have testified to the sanctity they feel when Shabbos comes in.

By taking steps toward a meaningful erev Shabbos, by becoming erev-Shabbos Jews, we set the stage for a powerful and meaningful Shabbos.