Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday the Rabbi Thought it was Shabbat

One Wednesday, Rabbi Yehudah Tzvi found himself at a brit-milah with his grandfather, the great Rebbe Chaim of Sanz.  At the celebratory meal that followed, the Rebbe was asked to share some Torah thoughts.  Quoting the holy Rabbi Isaac Luria (colloquially known as “the Arizal") that the light of the approaching Shabbat seeps in as far as its preceding Wednesday, The Sanzer Rebbe expounded on the holiness of Shabbat.  He became so emotionally charged that upon finishing his discourse, he called out to all the celebrants, “Shabbes Shulem, Shabbes Shulem!”
Rabbi Yehudah Tzvi ran home as if on fire, grabbed his Shabbat attire, and hurried to the mikveh to immerse himself for the coming Shabbat.  On the way  he met another celebrant from the brit-milah and they rushed off together.  Arriving there, they were shocked to see the mikveh empty.  It was then that they realized that the Rebbe’s excitement and passion for Shabbat had infused that ordinary Wednesday with the feeling of Shabbat.

Erev Shabbat is the bridge that takes us from mundane to holy.  On the first Erev Shabbat in existence Adam and Eve were created.  On Erev Shabbat their descendents create the world – the world of Shabbat.  But to get to that Shabbat world, we must also build the bridge that leads there.
A man once came to Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, asking for a blessing for his daughter.  He was deeply concerned that she did not enjoy Shabbat.  In fact, she waited with impatience for it to be over.  “What should I do?” He cried.  Rabbi Diskin asked about the girl’s participation in Shabbat preparations.  “My wife is a supreme baalebusta, and doesn’t need anyone’s help," the man said.  "She does it all herself.”  Rabbi Diskin smiled.  “No wonder your daughter doesn’t connect with Shabbat - she needs to be part of the preparations! When’s she’s involved, she will enjoy it.”

Our Shabbat enjoyment is a product of our preparation for it.  The more your family is involved, the more meaningful the Shabbat.  There are many ways to deal with the various Erev Shabbat chores.  You might make a sign-up sheet with the various tasks and have family members sign up for jobs.  You could write them on slips of paper, fold them, and put them in a jar for people to pick (this works best if every jobs is suitable for all family members).  You can add in some breathers like, “sit down and read a story to share at the Shabbat table” or “relax for five minutes and enjoy a piece of Shabbat cake.”  Your family may find that there are certain jobs they like to do, so that the same person always tidies the bathroom, prepares the kugels or sets the table. What matters is that everyone feels that his contribution is valued and appreciated!

It’s customary for the man of the house to prepare the candles for his wife to light.  Aside from putting the candles (or oil) into the candelabrum, he also lights the candles and then extinguishes them.  This preparation of the wicks allows the man to participate in the mitzvah and makes it easier for her to light the candles at the right time  - especially if she’s rushing to beat the clock!   

It is traditional for the woman of the house to bake challah on Erev Shabbat so that the mitzvah of hafrashat challah is performed on the same day as the other two “women’s mitzvot” (marital relations on Shabbat is the third mitzvah), creating a trifecta of positive deeds that pull kedushah – holiness – into every corner of the Jewish home.   
In the Talmud Erev Shabbat and Shabbat become a metaphor for life: “One who toils on Erev Shabbat will eat on Shabbat.”  The lessons of the Erev Shabbat rush may never be explicitly stated, but for those who live it the message is clear:  to succeed, we must plan ahead, follow a list, work steadily and with enthusiasm, check our progress, work with a partner, and always keep the our purpose at the forefront of our mind. 

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