Embrace Shabbos Chapter 18: Wishing Shabbos Will Never End

Rabbi David Sutton July 4, 2024

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There is great benefit to prolonging Shabbos, both at the beginning — by accepting Shabbos several minutes earlier, and at the end — by finishing Shabbos a few minutes later. Of course, the challenge of prolonging Shabbos depends on the time of the year. In the summer months, accepting Shabbos early is not very difficult, but it is a challenge to end Shabbos late; in the winter, accepting Shabbos early is exceedingly difficult, but ending Shabbos later is relatively easy. The highest level is accepting Shabbos early even in the wintertime, and ending Shabbos late even in the summertime.

The source of this concept is a comment made by Rabbi Yose, cited by the Gemara (Shabbos 118b). Rabbi Yose expressed his admiration for those people who, in his words, “begin Shabbos in Teverya and end Shabbos in Tzipori.” Rashi explains that Teverya is situated in a valley, where, in the days before the invention of clocks, it was difficult to determine when the sun set, as the horizon was obstructed by mountains. Therefore, people in Teverya would begin Shabbos early to ensure that they accept Shabbos before sundown. Tzipori, by contrast, was on a hilltop, and people there would end Shabbos late, to ensure that the sun had really set and night had indeed fallen. The Chida, citing the Ri Mi’gash, added that it was possible to walk on Shabbos from one of these two cities to the other. Rabbi Yose therefore expressed his admiration for those people who began Shabbos in Teverya, accepting Shabbos early, and then ended Shabbos in Tzipori, where people would end Shabbos late. This is the source for the concept that one earns special rewards for adding onto Shabbos at both ends, at the beginning and at the end.

Rav Eliezer Papo (author of Pele Yoetz), in his work Chesed LaAlafim (263), cites Rav Chaim Vital as teaching (based on Rav Hai Gaon) that there is great value to praying the Maariv prayer service on Motza’ei Shabbos slowly, with melodies, in order to prolong Shabbos. This is, indeed, the custom in some communities. Each minute that we extend Shabbos is immensely valuable, and thus just as one should endeavor to begin Shabbos several minutes early, we should try to end Shabbos several minutes later, as well.

This tradition dates as far back as the time of the Exodus from Egypt. As we know, the Shabbos before Pesach is called “Shabbos HaGadol” (literally, “the Great Shabbos”), and several different reasons have been offered for why this Shabbos is given this name. One explanation, which is offered by the Maharit, citing his father, the Mabit, is that the final Shabbos before the Exodus was, in a sense, a “long” Shabbos, a Shabbos that never ended. Pharaoh allowed Bnei Yisrael a day off from their slave labor every week, on Shabbos, but once Shabbos ended, the people immediately returned to their backbreaking labor and harsh suffering. The final Shabbos in Egypt, however, never ended. It was the “long” Shabbos, in that Bnei Yisrael did not have to report for their labor when Shabbos ended.

This should be our attitude every week as Shabbos draws to a close. Rather than be relieved that it is ending, we should wish that it could continue forever. We should long for the yom shekulo Shabbos, for the time when Shabbos will never end, when we will never be forced to return to the rigors and pressures of the workweek.

Rabbi Dov Loketch of Congregation Agudas Yisrael Magen Avraham in Southfield, Michigan related in this context the memories that his father shared with him of his experiences as a child in Warsaw, Poland in the 1930s. Times were exceedingly difficult in Warsaw at that time, and many people were unable to earn a living. Rabbi Loketch’s grandfather was fortunate to operate a small coal business, through which he was just barely able to eke out a meager living for the family. Unable to afford an actual home, the family rented some space next to the coal store, which served as their residence. There was just one room that provided their living space, and at night they would set out cots and partitions for sleeping. The father worked from early morning to late at night delivering coal, and the children would assist in the backbreaking work as soon as they returned home from school.

Shabbos was an oasis of life when the family received a break from the grueling and bleak workweek. The coal store closed several hours before Shabbos, whereupon the entire family immediately got to work removing the thick layer of soot and coal dust that had settled on the walls over the course of the week. They scrubbed and washed their humble living quarters, and the father, who was covered with grime and filth all week, transformed himself into a king for Shabbos. This transformation, however, was short-lived. As soon as Shabbos ended, the coal store reopened, and the harsh workweek resumed. Rabbi Loketch’s father recalled seeing his mother on late Shabbos afternoon looking out the window, seeing the sun poised to set, crying and praying, “Hashem, please don’t end Shabbos just yet. Please, let Shabbos continue for just a little longer.”

We, of course, do not have to endure the harsh conditions of 1930s Poland, or the slave conditions of our ancestors in Egypt. Nevertheless, we, too, should have this feeling that we do not want Shabbos to end, that we want it to continue forever. We should look upon Shabbos as a schoolchild looks upon his summer vacation — counting down the days until it begins, and wishing it never ends. Shabbos is our “vacation” lovingly given to us by Hashem, Who allows us one “off day” each week, when He guarantees to sustain us without our having to work. It is a time that we are given for spiritual rejuvenation, and which we should therefore cherish and wish would last forever. Once we appreciate this great gift of Shabbos, we will eagerly begin Shabbos early and end it late each week, thereby deriving the maximum benefit and blessings that it offers us.

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