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Erev Shabbos

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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        Erev Shabbos

R’ Pam[1] once remarked that what he missed from Europe was the Erev Shabbos. Chatzos came and people stopped their activities, focusing entirely on the holy Shabbos. People would come to shul early and say Shir Hashirim, learn a Sefer on the Parsha and so on. You felt Shabbos coming in. R’ Yaakov Kamenetzky expressed it in this way: At the beginning of the 1900s, there was Chillul Shabbos in America. Over the years we recaptured the Shabbos. However, we have yet to reclaim the Erev Shabbos.


Preparing for Shabbos is biblical[2] as it saysוהיה ביום הששי והכינו את אשר יביאו,[3] on the sixth day when they prepare what they bring.[4] The importance of preparing for Shabbos is shown in the Gemara[5] that says Eliyahu won’t come on Erev Shabbos[6] because of the difficulties this would impose on those who would need to interrupt their Shabbos preparations to greet Eliyahu.


We know there is a special Yetzer Hara of arguing and getting angry on Erev Shabbos. This is demonstrated in the story related in the Gemara[7] of two people whom the Satan regularly incited so that during every twilight period on Erev Shabbos they fought with one another… Why is this so? Because the first sin was on Erev Shabbos. Consequently, the Yetzer Hara has dominance then. We can be caught up in such a rush on Erev Shabbos that it can lead to quarreling. Indeed, נחש is rooted in חיש, act quickly, rush.[8] To counter this, we need to be ready early.


Erev Shabbos should be peaceful and not rushed. Then we can live up to וזכנו לקבל שבתות מתוך רוב שמחה, to receive Shabbos amid abundant gladness.[9] This can be attained by following a unique interpretation of מת בערב שבת סימן יפה לו:[10] make yourself like you are dead on Erev Shabbos. Meaning, that you only deal with matters of Shabbos so that Shabbos can be brought in early and without tension.


We say in Kabbalas Shabbos פני שבת נקבלה, let us welcome the Shabbos presence. Another explanation is to put on your Shabbos face (פני שבת). All week a person walks around with a face of anxiety, tension and the like. But on Shabbos we should feel as if all our work is done and our worries gone. Our face should feel and look relaxed. This is how we should welcome (נקבלה) in Shabbos.[11]


We need to be ready with time to greet Shabbos. We should live up to the words לקראת שבת לכו ונלכה, let us go welcome Shabbos.[12] The Rambam[13] writes …one should wrap himself in Tzitzis and sit with proper respect, waiting to receive Shabbos as one goes out to greet a king. R’ Chanina would wrap himself in finery and stand towards evening on Friday and say בואו ונצא לקראת שבת המלכה, come, let us go out to greet Shabbos the queen. R’ Yanai would put on his Shabbos clothes on Friday and say בואי כלה בואי כלה.[14]


One can already feel Shabbos on Erev Shabbos. Indeed, ערב (שבת) means mixture like תערובת since Erev Shabbos has the Kedusha of Shabbos mixed into it and one can already feel it on Erev Shabbos.[15] The Meor Einayim would actually feel Shabbos through his Shabbos preparations such as the Mikva and the like. Once, on Erev Shabbos after his preparations, he still felt some Kedusha lacking. He then realized he was wearing his weekday socks!

[1] In 1993, a Sefer Torah was written to coincide with R’ Pam’s 80th birthday. Posters with R’ Pam’s picture were posted informing people of the event. Rebbetzin Pam noticed a poster with her husbands’ picture on their block and she felt violated the privacy of her neighbors which were mostly non-Jewish. Since it was late at night, she decided that in the morning she’ll remove the poster. The next day she noticed that the sign was gone. Nevertheless, she still felt an apology was due at least to the neighbor whose house was closest to the sign. She went to apologize to the neighbor (Just to get a picture of who these neighbors were: They were Italian and owned a huge German Shepherd dog. Their son who also lived there was a lieutenant in the police force.) explaining that she didn’t post the sign but she felt it was a violation of their privacy. Rebbetzin Pam said that the sign was gone although she was unaware of who took it down. Her neighbor interjected and said, “We live next to R’ Pam all these years and are so enamored with him, as we never met anyone like him. We admire him! All this time we wanted a picture of him in our house and now the opportunity arrived when we saw that poster. We are the ones who removed it from the outside so that we can have it in our dining room!” And so it was: This Italian family with their big dog and lieutenant son had a picture of R’ Pam hanging in their dining room!

[2] See Biur Halacha 250, s.v. ישכים. See there regarding one going shopping prior to Shacharis on Friday because preparing for Shabbos is biblical in contrast to Tefila which is Rabbinical.

[3] Shemos 16:5. So, we should bake and cook what we wish to—את אשר תאפו אפו ואת אשר תבשלו בשלו (Shemos 16:23).

[4] The holy Amoraim would prepare for Shabbos in their way. To name just a couple: Rava would salt fish for Shabbos whereas R’ Huna would light lamps (Shabbos 119a. See the Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 30:6). This shows happiness and anticipation for Shabbos. This isn’t just for Friday but the entire week like we see with Shamai. Beis Shamai said from Sunday, one should prepare for Shabbos (Beitza 16a).

[5] Pesachim 13a, Eruvin 43b.

[6] or Erev Yom Tov.

[7] Gittin 52a.

[8] As in כי גז חיש ונעפה, for it is cut off swiftly and we fly away (Tehillim 90:10).

[9] רבון כל העולמים on Friday night. When this is done, one can fulfill showing special warmth and love to his wife on Erev Shabbos (Mishna Brura 280:3).

[10] Kesubos 103b. The simple meaning is that if one dies on Erev Shabbos it is a good omen for him. A deeper meaning is that he truly lived his life and fulfilled his purpose and then died (מת בערב שבת), so that is a good omen as he is prepared for next world, the world of Shabbos. This is similar to the idea ofמי שטרח בערב שבת יאכל בשבת, whoever toiled on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos, meaning one who labored to perform Mitzvos in this world will be rewarded in the next world (Avoda Zara 3a).

[11] See R’ Menachem Bentzion Zaks, the son-in-law of R’ Tzvi Pesach Frank, in his sefer Menachem Tzion.

[12] Lecha Dodi.

[13] Hilchos Shabbos 30:2.

[14] Shabbos 119a. The Gemara says that one is permitted to run through the public domain just prior to Shabbos so that he can greet the incoming Shabbos and wouldn’t be liable to pay for damages (Baba Kamma 32. See the Rambam, Chovel Umazik 6:9).

[15] See שיחות התחזקות, Chanuka, תשנ”ח, 1. To attain the Kedusha of Shabbos, we need הכנה, preparation for Shabbos. Although preparation for all Avodas Hashem is important, the only time it is stated explicitly is by Shabbos והיה ביום הששי והכינו את אשר יביאו (Shemos 16:5).

Author of three books including the recently released Extraordinary Insights

Listen to the short Fascinating Insights Podcast at

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