Embrace Shabbos Chapter 17: The Segulah of Rushing to Greet Shabbos

Rabbi David Sutton June 27, 2024

add or remove this to/from your favorites

Tradition teaches that accepting Shabbos 10 minutes early on Friday afternoon is a segulah that can bring help for different kinds of problems and crises.

It is worth taking some time to reflect upon the concept of segulos in general, to ensure that we approach it in the proper way and with the correct mindset. We must not be misled into perceiving a segulah as a kind of magical, “hocus pocus” mechanism. When we say that accepting Shabbos early is a segulah for help, this does not mean that a person who has a problem can just begin Shabbos before the actual time and then feel as though he pressed the right button that has solved his dilemma. The concept of segulah is much deeper and more profound.

A recent experience I had may help explain and clarify for us the nature of segulos. On a trip to Israel, I was privileged to meet and speak with Chacham Yehuda Ades, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Kol Yaakov. He told me that the previous night the yeshivah held a gathering for alumni for the purpose of giving them inspiration and also enlisting their help in raising funds for the yeshivah. A certain avreich (young married student) approached the Rosh Yeshivah afterward to discuss a certain personal problem that he was confronting. He said that if Rav Ades would pray for him that this problem would be resolved, then he would commit to raising a certain sum of money for the yeshivah.

Rav Ades told me that he agreed and prayed for the young man, but he was disturbed. He lamented the attitude that many people have, feeling that they can simply “buy” a tefillah from a rabbi, as though the rabbi has a warehouse of blessings like merchandise, and people simply need to pay him for some merchandise. In his great humility, Rav Ades added that he feels especially uncomfortable when people approach him to ask for his blessings and prayers, as he does not view himself as worthy of having his prayers answered. He remarked that 40 years ago, he prayed with greater concentration, so perhaps then he was worthy of being asked to pray for people in need of help.

Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that people donate money to his yeshivah and his prayers for them are effective. The reason, he explained, is twofold. First, supporting Torah in itself, irrespective of the rabbi’s prayers for the donor, connects a person to the realm of Torah and thus brings blessing. Torah is a great source of berachah, and thus connecting oneself to Torah learning, such as by supporting it, has the capacity to bring blessing. Indeed, the famed Mashgiach, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, often related that when people would come to the Chafetz Chaim asking that he bless them, he would respond, “Do you think I am a blessing factory? There is more berachah in a single chapter of Mishnayos than in my entire body. If you want berachah, go learn!” It is similarly told that Rav Elchanan Wasserman, a student of the Chafetz Chaim, would tell those who approached him for a blessing, “Do everything the Torah tells you to do, and then your blessing is guaranteed.”

On one occasion, when Rav Elchanan was visiting London and spent Shabbos with Rav Asher Sternbuch, his host asked him to bless his son, who was a schoolchild at the time, and Rav Elchanan replied that he would learn with the boy. The boy at first did not understand the segment of Gemara they were studying, and Rav Elchanan explained it to him. “This is his berachah,” Rav Elchanan said. “He now understands the Gemara.”

Second, Rav Ades said, donating to a yeshivah expresses emunas chachamim, respect and reverence for, and trust in, Torah sages. This, too, is a great source of blessing. The rabbi does not have magical powers, as though he has a “genie” in a bottle that he releases in exchange for some money. Rather, when one demonstrates his respect for Torah and Torah authority, he becomes worthy of the special berachah that the Torah brings into the world.

The message the Rosh Yeshivah was expressing is that the significance and power of a segulah lies not in the act itself, but rather in the person’s connecting to a source of holiness and blessing.

Rav Yitzchak Alfia (Haddad) (1878-1955) was a great scholar and Kabbalist who was born in Aleppo and later moved to Jerusalem. He composed a work named Kuntrus HaYechieli, which is well-known for introducing a program for a taanis dibbur, whereby one recites the entire Book of Tehillim three times in a single day and refrains throughout that day from all idle chatter. This work also contains a section about segulos, in which he notes a segulah to give charity when someone in one’s family is seriously ill, Heaven forbid.

Rav Alfia tells of a man named Rabbi Yaakov ben Yosef Menashe Sutton, who had a large family that he struggled to support. Yet, despite his financial hardship, whenever a family member needed to see a doctor, he would first make a charitable donation to Torah scholars equaling twice the fee for the medical treatment. He felt that when someone in his family fell ill, he should first seek out Hashem’s assistance before seeking the help of a doctor, and as Hashem’s help is, without question, far more important, He deserved at least twice the sum the doctor received. Rav Alfia explained that when a person turns to Hashem and supports scholars beyond his capabilities, then Hashem treats him lifnim mishuras hadin — granting him more than he deserves. Hashem will then ensure that the doctor gives the correct diagnosis and provides effective treatment.

This is the proper attitude we should have toward rabbis’ blessings and segulos. This is not “hocus pocus,” or a warehouse of blessings that a rabbi puts up for sale and which we can then purchase. It’s about connecting to Torah and to Hashem in a serious and meaningful way, raising our awareness of Providence and G-d’s control over the world and over our lives, and this is what brings us the berachah we need.

With this in mind, let us return to the segulah of accepting Shabbos 10 minutes early on Friday afternoon. Rav Shlomo Levenstein, in his work U’Masok HaOhr, comments that in the Friday evening Lechah Dodi prayer, we express our desire to go out to greet Shabbos: Likras Shabbos lechu v’nelcha ki hi mekor haberachah — “Come, let us go greet Shabbos, because it is the source of blessing.” We do not want to wait for Shabbos to come, but rather want to rush out to greet it, because we recognize that it is the source of all blessing. This is the meaning of the segulah of accepting Shabbos early. It means that we understand and appreciate the special sacred quality of Shabbos, and so we cannot wait for it to come. We run out to greet it with enthusiasm and excitement, rather than waiting indifferently for it to arrive. Indeed, Rav Chaim Kanievsky instructed that when one fulfills this segulah of beginning Shabbos early, he should spend the extra time reading Tehillim, praying, or studying Torah. This is not some kind of magical force that we trigger by starting Shabbos 10 minutes before other people do. Rather, it is about appreciating that Shabbos is special, that it has a unique dimension of kedushah that we wish to connect with, and this is what brings us berachah.

Let us, then, raise our awareness of the special sanctity of Shabbos, appreciate the kedushah that it brings, and rush to welcome it on Friday afternoon with excitement and fervor. We will then be able to connect and bond with its unique holiness, which is the greatest segulah of all.

Check out our Shabbat page for recipes and articles here!

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