Meaningful Erev Shabbat Contest Finale

Kosher.com Staff July 18, 2023

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Sponsored by Waterdale

Last week we ran a contest for people to send in stories of how they or someone they know takes time out on Fridays before Shabbat to help others.

We must reiterate that this was not a contest to see who is more righteous or to see who can run as the next Rebbetzin Kanievsky. This was simply a peek into the lives of our neighbors, our friends, our parents, and sisters. It was a way to realize that there is so much to be said for acts of simple kindness, that maybe they are not that simple at all.

At a time when life is so hectic and all-consuming, so many of you go out of your way to show consideration and empathy to those in your surroundings.

It might seem like no big deal to you. But as you read on, we know you will be struck by how powerful these acts are, especially when they are disguised as mundane Friday tasks. And if nothing else, we hope that it spurs us all to follow suit.

Maybe, all it really takes is a quick glance over your shoulder, an extra challah set aside for someone else, a short phone call that can last five minutes. In the scheme of things, it seems miniscule. In the bigger picture, it can mean the world.

To read all the entries is to realize how lucky we are to be a part of this incredible nation and family. SO many entries stood out, and really, how can one choose a winner from a collection of wins?

While everyone truly deserves a prize, Waterdale kindly agreed to gift five winners with one of these beautiful Shabbat items from their collection. And so, there were five that caught our eye for their innovative thinking beyond the bounds of self, while also being something that we can emulate in our own ways.

The Winners

1. “My sister has a family that lives near her that invites all of the neighbors’ children, who are ready for Shabbat early. They hand out treats to any child who comes all dressed for Shabbat.

This helps my sister (who is a random family to them) and many other families, get ready for Shabbat early each week because their kids want to go get the erev Shabbat treat.

What a beautiful way to help others get ready for Shabbat and a nice way to motivate the children and get them involved in the erev Shabbat prep as well!”- RR

2. “Once a month (more or less) for the last 12 years, on Friday mornings, I make breakfasts for mothers of new babies in our community. It’s usually five or six, but sometimes even 10 as the community is really growing.

In the beginning I joined this community project with the hope that it would lead to me being on the receiving end (I have one son who was born after 12 years of waiting and by then he was about 10).

For years it was a family project, and when my husband passed away suddenly a year and a half ago, I almost stopped, but I decided to continue in his memory. Just the thought that I am helping these mothers cope helps me carry on and make Shabbat.”-MG

3. “My husband and I moved to a new country on a Friday. We were moving to Israel and didn’t know the neighborhood, language, or anything else for that matter. We had never even seen our apartment until that day. We didn’t even have linen or towels.

On the ride from the airport to our new home, we joined a nesher – a taxi service that takes a number of passengers at once. In the car was another family, returning to the neighborhood after a short vacation in the States. They realized we were just moving in and gave us valuable information such as where to get our basic Shabbat necessities and other important community info.

We thought that was all, but shortly after, we received multiple knocks on our door. She had called some of the neighbors to let them know we had arrived and clearly didn’t have everything we needed for Shabbat. We received multiple kugels, chickens, and invitations to entire seudas within a few hours of having arrived in a new neighborhood. Without knowing a single person! WOW! Mi Keamcha Yisrael!

The adjustment was hard, but knowing we were in a place where so many people cared about us and offered us so much help at the last minute on such a busy day meant so much to us. (And no one even knew this, but I had just been though a painful loss and the care and support we received from total strangers was so soothing and healing.)”-JL

4. “My husband calls a 14-year-old yosom (orphan) every Friday just to check in and see how he is.”-CD

5. “When I saw this contest, I was hesitant to enter because I feel funny writing about things I would do for others, and my erev Shabbat routines are private and special…but maybe it can inspire others.

Every Shabbat when I am cooking my regular Shabbat food, I make a few mini kugels, cut off a few pieces from my cake, and think of people in the community who can use some extra love…if they are going through something medically or emotionally or just need some food that week.

I also make a 5-pound batch of challah every week and share the extra challahs with people who can enjoy them.

In addition, I have an elderly lady friend in the nursing home who I try and visit and bring some Shabbat food, and I have a friend that I bring challah and some cake to every week.

Basically, I try to share my Shabbat food with others and spread the joy of Shabbat and give people the feeling that they are being thought of and they are loved. It’s simple on my end since I am cooking anyways but a challah/potato kugel/cake, etc. goes a long way for the recipient.”-N

Congratulations to our winners! We hope you enjoy your gifts from Waterdale. Thank you to Waterdale for providing the prizes! Keep doing what you are doing, and thank you for inspiring us all!

Keep scrolling down to see some more of our favorite entries.

Honorable Mentions

But before we log off, we would be remiss not to mention some other entries that took our breath away.

-“My brother Zevi sets my elderly parents Shabbat clocks, sets up the chairs in their garage, and makes sure ten men will be present so my father can daven with a minyan Friday night in his house. EVERY WEEK.”- Judi Adler Weiss

– “My husband took upon himself to only work until chatzos (midday) on erev Shabbat. He has been doing it for about three years now, every single week. No matter if important calls on jobs that can earn him nice money comes in, he doesn’t even bother answering. This is special for our family because we know we have our Totty home at 12:00 on Friday, and it gives us all the feeling that we are truly waiting for the Shabbat queen instead of Shabbat waiting for us.”-CM

-“My mother makes a lot of different salads each week , and then sends to her friends on Erev Shabbat or to someone who needs it. Also, she has a last min arbes (chickpea) gemach. People call us up to send to last minute Shalom Zochars. One time there was a few Shalom Zochars in town so she made an extra batch of arbes on erev Shabbat to ensure everyone had enough.”-SH

-“my mother calls at least five from a list of friends who are almanos (widows) to wish them good Shabbat. Some are friends, and some are older women by themselves.”-C.H

-“Almost every erev Shabbat, I make spelt pita bread- the truth is I make them for my family and because I want to do hafrashat challah- but we don’t need that many so I sell the rest of them. But there is an elderly couple without children from my shul, and I always send a child of mine to go and give them a pita. They don’t need my bread! They have bread! They need attention. It sounds like a small act, but its makes them happy, and I get a chance to teach my kids the act of giving.

“If there is a simcha b”H I try sending them pitas, as well- and if G-d forbid there is a shiva house, then I try to send them, too. This past Shabbat, a neighbor made a bris, and I sent them pitot – they were very touched. Another neighbor stayed in the hospital for Shabbat, as she didn’t feel so well after giving birth. I sent her pitas with her husband to the hospital- b”H!”- Hadas Yitzchaki

-Erev Shabbat is always busy but erev Shabbat of a Shabbat sheva brochos or aufruf is especially busy. That is when two neighbors (Elana and Yehudis) step in and voluntarily set up the “toameha” for the family making the simcha on our block. They get other neighbors to chip in, but they are there in middle of their busy Friday, organizing and setting up a party planner worthy table to treat the guests- and to ease the Friday preparations of the “baalas simcha”(simcha host).”-S.F

-“It was the earliest Shabbat of the year. It started around 3:30, and it was my son’s bar mitzvah Shabbat, too. Around 1.30pm, another lady who I am friendly with, who has a busy family of her own texted me, “I’m available to do any errands for you.” I was so touched. Even though I didn’t actually take her up on the offer, it still meant so much to me. It has been over three years, and I still smile every time I think of it.”-DS

– “I belong to a group of women who cook for families who have a family member that isn’t well. A link to a sign-up sheet is posted every Tuesday, and people sign up for whatever they can send that week. Food is dropped off Thursday nights and Friday mornings and is then packed up and delivered by volunteers.

“We do this week in and week out, including Yamim Tovim. Every once in a while, there’s a last minute emergency and a text will go out to the group asking what can be contributed. This has happened within an hour to the zman. (It even once happened on Pesach when we don’t usually cook but rather contribute money.) And it never fails to amaze us all how quickly (and generously) an entire Shabbat or Yom tov can be put together and delivered.”-RF”

-“Coming home from work and helping my wife. It seems pretty ordinary, but that is what takes away the glamour and makes it really meaningful. Helping a neighbor or joining an erev Shabbat kollel sounds really glamorous and inspiring, but to me, helping at home is where it’s at!”-AP

-“My mother- in -law- who is a very busy person and works full time- makes a challah and a cake for each of her married kids and also prepares individual pekelach for each grandchild . If she is away, she prepares it in advance . Her children and grandchildren are so precious to her, and this is one of her ways of showing her love, every single erev Shabbat. I hope to be able to pass that love on IMY”H to my children when they set up a home.”-AR

-“When I was growing up in South Africa I remember (now we all live in Israel,married BH) my dear parents would take 4 rolls EVERY FRIDAY, to an old lady living alone in a retirement hotel. If my parents were not available to go, they ALWAYS found a way to get her the 4 challah rolls for Shabbat no matter where they were!!!! Now as a married daughter, I take that into account. When someone has a baby BH, they receive homemade challah or rolls, made fresh Friday!!!
(Side note: My challahs get lots of compliment’s thanks to Esty Wolbe and Kosher.com demo!!!!)”-CR

– “When I moved as a single from out of town to New York, I didn’t know a lot of people there! My aunt would send me a voice note every single erev Shabbat wishing me a good Shabbat, for months.”-T.G

-“Our friend Devora spends her Erev Shabbat running an organization that sends food to families in stressful situations so that they don’t have to worry about taking care of Shabbat. She arranges groups of women who each make one extra dish each week to compile a complete Shabbat meal. And I’ve seen what it does for these families. They are beaming when the delivery comes and the feeling of Shabbat in their home is one of happiness because of it.” PG and SK

“Most young boys start off the weekend after a long week of school by coming home, playing sports, and running around outside. But there’s a family of three brothers that come to the assisted-living that I work at with their instruments and microphone every erev Shabbat and ignite the neshomos of the residents. The elderly enter Shabbat joyous and smiling, even though they may be spending Shabbat away from their loved ones. I see that the boys are not having their arms twisted but are doing this selfless act because they have hearts of gold.”MT

Our Takeaway

Thank you all for your responses. We could have filled another two pages with entries just as awe-inspiring as these. May we always find it within ourselves to give, and may we take this inspiration and use it to grow in our own lives.