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An early Shabbat shalom

שולחן שבת
צילום: פלאש90

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

There are weeks when it actually happens. Already by Thursday evening the festive tablecloth is spread on the Shabbat table in the living room and the table is set with plates, cutlery, napkins and glasses. It's amazing how much this changes the energy in our home. It's as if everything has already been prepared for the arrival of the Shabbat queen. Even the children appear to be affected since they argue less.
Yet there are weeks when this does not happen at all. On Friday, the living room is still strewn with backpacks, papers, and things that need to be returned to their proper places throughout the home. The table is set at the last minute but the atmosphere is not like it was when everything was ready on Thursday night.
This week I met Efrat Askell. She told me about an initiative in the memory of her dear sister-in-law, Orit Tiberger, who recently passed away. It's called " Shabbat Table" since she always prepared for Shabbat with excitement all week long. Her Shabbat table was already set on Thursday morning.
Those who were thus inspired to adopt early Shabbat preparation practices spoke of family teamwork that was a fun experience and of women lighting Shabbat candles with a much more joyful and relaxed feeling. And there was even a woman who reported on a brief nap that she manages to enjoy on Friday afternoon even when Shabbat comes in early at this time of year.
Yet the idea is not only to finish Shabbat preparations early, but to view them differently. I heard about an Ethiopian woman who made aliyah many years ago. She related how their custom had been to bathe in a river so as to purify themselves before Shabbat. However, this was not done at the conclusion of Shabbat preparations but prior to them. They regarded the preparations as part of Shabbat itself, requiring those involved in them to be clean and pure. This is an approach to Shabbat that does not regard its preparations as a bother or, worse yet, as a punishment, but rather as acts that glow with the light of Shabbat itself.
Everyone is invited to consider how they can make Shabbat preparations well in advance of its arrival.
Today is Thursday but it's okay to announce even now: Shabbat shalom.


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