Embrace Shabbos Chapter 10: The Value Of Shabbos Preparation

Rabbi David Sutton May 9, 2024

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At first glance, the concept of “preparing for Shabbos” seems like a very simple, practical matter. Food and other necessities must be prepared ahead of time, before the onset of Shabbos, and they need to be finished by candle lighting. If one has household help, he can have them do the necessary preparations, and if not, then he needs to do the work himself, but the main thing is that preparations are completed in time.

From the teachings of our Sages, however, it is clear that this perspective is fundamentally incorrect. The Talmud tells of great rabbis who had servants working for them but nevertheless made a point of preparing the food for Shabbos themselves. Indeed, the Shulchan Aruch rules that one should personally involve himself in Shabbos preparations, even if he has a full staff of housekeepers capable of making all the preparations for him. Why is it so important to personally be involved in the process of preparing the home for Shabbos?

Rav Yerucham Levovitz explained that preparation is an indispensable prerequisite for receiving any kind of inspiration, and for reaching any kind of significant achievement. He notes the Rambam’s comments regarding prophecy, which could not be achieved without preparation. The Rambam specifies the various preparations prophets needed to make in order to receive prophecy, and emphasizes that prophecy was an outright impossibility until all these stages of preparation were completed. Rav Yerucham explained that the need for preparation is built into the nature of the world. Just as we feel hungry when we do not eat, and we feel satiated when we eat, similarly, one cannot access prophecy without the required preparations, but is able to access prophecy after making those preparations. No kedushah (holiness) or spiritual growth can be achieved without putting in the work to prepare for it.

In developing this principle, Rav Yerucham writes (Sichos Elul):

All a person’s work is just to be prepared. For through the preparation, each person according to his capabilities, one brings upon himself the spirit of the Divine Presence from above.

This is how we bring kedushah (sanctity) upon ourselves — through preparation.

When it comes to Shabbos, preparing means both spiritual preparation — through preparing divrei Torah and contemplating the messages of Shabbos — as well as the “down-to-earth” preparations, such as preparing food and preparing the home. Even these simple acts of cooking and cleaning are immensely valuable and significant.

Rav Yechezkel Sarna, the famed Rosh Yeshivah of the Chevron Yeshivah, noted that just as Chazal compared our world to an anteroom leading to a banquet hall — the World to Come — similarly, the six days of the workweek are the “anteroom” leading to Shabbos, which resembles a banquet hall. Therefore, just as we are bidden to prepare ourselves in this world so we can reap the benefits of the Next World, we must likewise prepare ourselves during the workweek so we can reap the great spiritual benefits of Shabbos. And the harder we work to prepare, the greater the benefits that we will reap. For this reason, Rav Sarna explained, Chazal teach (Avodah Zarah 3a), “Whoever toils on Erev Shabbos will eat on Shabbos.” They speak here not simply of preparing, but of “toiling.” The key is the hard work and effort that we invest in preparing. The harder we work, the more we will receive from the Shabbos experience.


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Reprinted from Embrace Shabbos by Rabbi David Sutton with permission from Artscroll Mesorah.