As the children’s song goes:
“Mi sheh lo tarach b’Erev Shabbat—mah yochal? Mah yochal b’Shabbat?”
“He who didn’t toil during the eve of Shabbat—what will he eat? What will he eat on Shabbat?”
Of course, it’s not originally a children’s song.
Talmud Avodah Zarah 3a states: “He who didn’t toil during the eve of Shabbat—from where shall he eat on Shabbat?”
(And the phrase prior to that states: “Mi sheh tarach b’Erev Shabbat yochal b’Shabbat—He who toiled during the eve of Shabbat will eat on Shabbat”—it’s a promise.)
The well-known symbolism is the promise that whoever toils in This World to prepare for the World to Come will enjoy the fruits of that toil in the World to Come.
(Interestingly, it promises this to whomever tarach—toiled—and not to whoever was successful. It sounds as if you struggle as much as you can to do the work, then you’ll reap the rewards. Meaning, you will be rewarded for your efforts and not for your outcome. Nice!)
So is there something we can learn from our Erev Shabbat preparations that can help us live our life better in This World so as to enable a better place in the World to Come?
To figure this out, you first need to write up a list of whatever you do (or should be doing) to prepare for Shabbat and then see how it correlates to what you can do to prepare for the Ultimate Time of Rest: Olam Haba.
Make a List
Others also keep a check-off list on their fridge to make sure they cover all the tasks necessary before Shabbat (i.e., set the Shabbat timer, turn off the fridge light, plug in the heating plate, etc.).
People may have a list of phone calls to wish family members “a Good Shabbos!”
And still others make up a schedule. Their to-do list includes the times at which they need to carry out all these tasks.
So that could be something you could incorporate into your daily life right now.
Personally, I feel suffocated by schedules, but a general list of what I’d like to accomplish during the day (in whatever order or at whatever time I wish) helps me accomplish more during the day. It also helps me to see where I’m holding. And checking off whatever I’ve already done is gratifying.
It can also show me if I’m overwhelming myself by chomping off more than I can possibly chew and need to scale back or switch things around.
A list also helps you keep your eye on your goal. You’re less likely to waste time when you see that you still have a couple more things on your list to complete before bedtime.
And because we are focusing on Olam Haba, this list refers to spiritual accomplishments or avodah you’d like to tackle. (Although you could make a list of everything all together. For example, if you plan to daven Mincha before an early shkiah, it’s important to know that you also need to run the carpool that day, then take Malki to her class Shabbaton—meaning, you need to know that you need to daven Mincha as early as possible on that day if you want to daven it at all.)
Frankly, I don’t make a list every day. But when I do, it’s usually more effective than just cruising along and hoping I’ll get around to doing whatever I need to.
Get a Head Start
Whether that means getting up early in the morning, or doing as much as you can on the weekdays leading up to Shabbat, you can’t possibly have a nice relaxed early candle-lighting & a clean home with plenty of delicious food if you only start preparing 2 hours before hadlakat neirot.
A last-minute Erev Shabbat tends to usher in a Shabbat with lots of yelling and panicking, followed by complaints throughout Shabbat:
- “Where’s my Shabbat shirt—what do you mean it’s still in the laundry?”
- “Oh, I can’t believe I forgot to plug in the blech! Maybe the neighbors have room on theirs for our pots?”
- “Hey, the light’s still on in the fridge—we can’t close the door!”
- “It’s so depressing to see 2 sinks full of dishes waiting to be washed after Shabbat—and we haven’t even had our first meal yet!”
- “I hate going to shul in dusty muddy shoes, but I didn’t have time to polish them before Shabbat.”
- “I’m hungry—what do you mean there isn’t anything else to eat?”
The big secret is that most of us have already suffered through a Shabbat like that already, whether due to Erev Shabbat laziness or unavoidable emergencies.
But barring unforeseen wrenches thrown our way, many of us know what a rushed, disorganized Erev Shabbat is like and we definitely DON’T want our Eternal World blemished with the spiritual equivalent of “I can’t believe I forgot to plug in the blech!”
Using Time Wisely
Sure, some very organized or very desperate people make time for a pre-Shabbat nap or an energizing breakfast, and that’s actually a good idea if you can manage it.
Even people who completed all their Shabbat preparations by Thursday should spend Erev Shabbat in spiritual preparation for Shabbat (as will be detailed in a following section).
So Erev Shabbat isn’t the time to stretch out on the couch with a novel or start watching an endless video parade of giggling babies or recipes. And people who do waste their Erev Shabbat on Facebook or other non-essentials often find themselves on edge and rushed in order to make it on time.
Again, this is something many people have done at least once, yet don’t like it revealed to others. But rather than feeling bad about yourself or trying to push it to the back your mind, you can utilize it to learn what you should have done instead and improve your future Fridays.
So that’s something to consider within the Olam Hazeh/Olam Haba paradigm too:
- How should I best utilize this time?
- Yes, I should rest and eat, but how much & for what purpose?
Anger & Emuna Management
Our yetzer hara wants us to damage not only our regular soul, but also to damage also the neshamah yeteirah—the extra soul we receive on Shabbat.
(For more, please see: Preserving Your Soul from Anger Erev Shabbat.)
So it’s important to try as hard as we can to cultivate an atmosphere of emuna on Erev Shabbat.
However, if you have ever gotten snappish or shrieky Erev Shabbat, you probably noticed that you later forgot about whatever it was that upset you so much not long after hadlakat neirot.
Whatever you were so stressed about just disappeared. You might even wonder why you were so freaked out about it in the first place?
Or the opposite happens: You remember it only too well. You go into Shabbat with a crummy feeling, like “Why can’t I ever get this right? Why am I such an awful parent/spouse/Jew?”
Or just feeling generally frustrated or resentful or like a failure.
Likewise, it’s very important to avoid anger in This World. (Yet again, I am speaking to myself.) Everything comes from Hashem and there’s no need for anger because He is running things and everything He does is for our own good—even if it doesn’t feel like that at all.
I can’t help thinking that when we finally make the transition (after 120 years, b’ezrat Hashem) to the Afterlife, we’re also going to either go in forgetting about what was so infuriating in This World and wondering why we were so upset in the first place?
Or we might go in feeling bad that we have so many sins of anger on our account.
“Why didn’t I take the yissurim b’simcha?” we might ask ourselves. “Why didn’t I try harder to respond to my ordeals with joy and gratitude? After all Gemara Taanit 8a promises that every person who rejoices in his yissurim brings salvation to the world. So why couldn’t I have tried a little harder?”
In the World of Truth, everything is so clear. We’re finally shown the reason for everything.
And we might feel there like how we feel here in the transition from Erev Shabbat to Shabbat—depending on how our Erev Shabbat went.
But we don’t want to arrive at Olam Haba full of regret or wondering why we were so upset in the first place.
Yeah, it’s important to go into Shabbat as sin-free as possible.
In his chapter called Teshuvah, the Pele Yoetz explains that if a person does not repent of his sins the day he committed them, then he should at least do so on the Friday of that week “because it is also a time of teshuvah.”
The Pele Yoetz stresses that thoughts of teshuvah on Erev Shabbat enable one to say Kiddush on Leil Shabbat. Why? The Kiddush is a form of testimony (eidut) and a wicked man is disqualified from testifying.
On a more positive note, doing teshuvah on Erev Shabbat enables a Jew to merit the addition of nefesh-ruach-neshamah (the 3 levels of soul) and the illumination of holiness on Shabbat (he’arat kedushat Shabbat). He continues:
And from the splendor of the abundance of its holiness, it will flow over him to the days of the week to return in repentance and to serve his Creator with complete service.
Umiziv shifat kedushato yashpia alav limot hachol lashuv biteshuvah v’la’avod et bor’o avodah shleimah.
The Pele Yoetz means that by doing teshuvah (admitting your sins, regretting/making amends for them, and then accepting upon yourself to distance yourself from them), you will merit an especially enhanced soul for Shabbat, in addition to an especially enhanced light of holiness on Shabbat itself.
(As far as I know, all Jews receive an extra neshamah for Shabbat, but apparently, the quality and loftiness of your particular neshamah yeteirah depends on your behavior prior to its entry.)
In turn, the splendor (ziv) derived from the especially enhanced light (he’arah) will gush forth into the following week, enabling you to do even more teshuvah and perfect your avodah to Hashem, thereby making you even more fabulous than you already are.
So the spiritual quality and success of your week actually depends a lot on what you did Erev Shabbat of the week before.
Sure, this might sound a bit discouraging if you usually fall on your face Erev Shabbat.
On the other hand, if you’ve been stuck emotionally or spiritually during the week, you can try your best to use this coming Erev Shabbat as a time of teshuvah and anger-management to catapult you into a different state for that Shabbat and the following week.
As always, we don’t seek perfection because only Hashem is Perfect.
If you only manage teshuvah on 1 thing Erev Shabbat, then that’s still really good.
Much, much better than nothing at all.
In addition, the Pele Yoetz advises:
It’s good for a man to turn from his tasks before Kabbalat Shabbat and pour out his conversation [to Hashem]; he shall seek forgiveness, and afterward he shall go to the mikveh.
And he shall find a benefit for his soul, and purify it, and make it holy.
Furthermore, as is well-known, the preparations women invest in Erev Shabbat in honor of Shabbat--likhvod Shabbat—provide wonderful merit for her and for all of Am Yisrael.
Refraining from anger during these preparations is also a wonderful atonement.
Kol hahatchalot kashot—all the beginnings are difficult; that’s the spiritual reality. Just get up and try again. Really, that’s how it goes. It’s so normal.
So these are just a few examples of what you can learn from your Erev Shabbat to apply to your Olam Hazeh. And we share many similar aspects of Erev Shabbat (i.e. the need to start early, prepare food, etc.), individual situations vary.
For example, the Erev Shabbat of a single person is different than the Erev Shabbat of a person with 4 kids under the age of 3, which is different than the Erev Shabbat of a widow who spends a different Shabbat every week with one of her 10 married children.
And so on.
So you can make your personal list of what you do (or should be doing) on Erev Shabbat, then see how you can apply those lessons and insights to your life in This World.
May we all merit a World sheh kulo tov—that is entirely good.