Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The spiritual view
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicatedin the memory of

Rachel Bat Asher

Shabbat Preparations

Even a person who has many servants should try to prepare personally something for the Sabbath. R' Chisda would mince vegetables; Rabbah and R' Yosef would chop wood. Every person should make them his example, for honoring the Sabbath is a privilege.


Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Zt"l

1. "Have you tithed? Have you prepared the Eruv? Light the candle."
2. The "Setting Aside" Procedure
3. Give tithes [‘asser] so that you become wealthy [tith'asher]
4. Helping the Wife Prepare for Sabbath
5. Sabbath Candle Lighting
6. Lighting with Pure Olive Oil
7. Guests

"Have you tithed? Have you prepared the Eruv? Light the candle."
The Talmud tells us (Shabbat 34a) that a husband must say three things in his house on Sabbath eve at sundown: "Have you tithed? Have you prepared the Eruv? Light the candle."

Just before candle lighting time a husband should ask his wife if she finished all of the preparations for the Sabbath, and he should do this in a pleasant and relaxed manner. Even in modern Israel a person must ask "Have you tithed?" because we buy fruits and vegetables in stores, and a person must make sure that tithes have been separated from them.

I once gave lessons on the laws of terumot and ma'asrot (offerings and tithes) in the Minchat Yehudah Synagogue, and they brought me a bag of almonds so I could demonstrate in practice the manner of separation. I explained the laws, but when I finished, one of the participants said that the matter was still not clear to him and asked me to explain the procedure again.

I thought to myself that perhaps I explained too tacitly, in a manner befitting advanced students, when in fact the lesson was being attended by ordinary householders. So I again explained the laws in detail. But when I finished, the same individual made the same remark and asked me to explain again. I went through it a third time, and when after this he still did not understand I told him to go and ask his wife how to separate tithes. I said, "Every Sabbath eve we ask our wives, 'Have you tithed?' It follows that your wife must be sufficiently versed in this matter.

If a person is not thoroughly acquainted with tithing procedures, or if he is running late and does not have time to recite the entire text for setting aside tithes (for example, on Sabbath eve), he should do as follows: take hold of a portion as teruma, ma'aser rishon (first tithe), and ma'aser sheni (second tithe) or ma'aser ani (tithe of the poor), and say, "I hereby set this aside in accordance with that which is written in the Kol Eliyahu Prayerbook (p. 908)," or "I hereby set aside in accordance with the terumot and ma'asrot table." By doing this, a person discharges his obligation.

The "Setting Aside" Procedure
This is the procedure for separating terumot and ma'asrot (offerings and tithes): In the time of the Holy Temple people would separate 2% for the priest. This is called "teruma gedolah," and it is holy.

Next, of the remaining 98%, a person would separate 10% and give it to the Levi. This is called "ma'aser rishon." Now 88% remains.

The Levi would then separate 10% from the "ma'aser rishon" and gives it to the priest. This is called "terumat ma'aser."

After this, a person would separate another 10% on the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of the seven-year Sabbatical cycle, and bring it to Jerusalem to be eaten there. This is "ma'aser sheni." Today, we redeem it on a perutah (small coin). On the third and sixth year it is given to the poor as "ma'aser ani." In the end, about 78% remains of the entire amount of produce one started out with.

Some people continue even today to give portions of their tithes to the poor and the Levites. It is possible to make an agreement with them, and one should ask a Torah scholar how exactly to do this.

A person should not despair and feel as if he is losing money as a result of separating tithes, for the Almighty promises us that no person loses as a result of separating tithes. Quite the contrary, one who sets aside tithes is guaranteed a great blessing.

Give tithes ['asser] so that you become wealthy [tit'asher]
In addition to fruit tithes there are money tithes. If a person wants to protect his earnings he should separate tithes and give them to the poor. In this respect the sages teach, "Give tithes [asser] so that you become wealthy [tit'ahsher]," and God says, "Test me now with that" (Malachi 3:10).

Ben Ish Chai relates an anecdote about a person who went to the synagogue and heard the rabbi sermonize: "Give tithes so that you become wealthy." Hearing this, he went and began giving tithes. And, indeed, he became wealthy.

On another Sabbath the rabbi told his congregants, "Honor your wives so that you become wealthy" - if a husband honors his wife and buys her nice clothes for the holidays, etc., and speaks with her calmly and pleasantly, he will be blessed with wealth. After the sermon, the congregant accosted the rabbi and asked, "Why did you not teach us the power of honoring one's wife before teaching us the power of giving tithes?"

The rabbi responded, "It is written, 'Wealth and riches shall be in his house; and his righteousness will endure for ever' (Psalms 112:3). Buying things for your wife and honoring her brings prosperity in this world - 'Wealth and riches shall be in his house' - but the tithes that you separate provide you with merit in the World to Come. This is the meaning of, 'His righteousness will endure forever.' "

Helping the Wife Prepare for Sabbath
Every Jew is commanded to take an active part in preparing for the Sabbath. The Shulchan Aruch writes (250:1):

"Even if one has many retainers at his service, one should try to prepare personally something of the Sabbath needs, so as to thereby honor it. For R' Chisda would mince the vegetables; Rabbah and R' Yoseph would chop the wood; R' Zeira would light the fire; and Rav Nachman would arrange the house, bring in those items needed for Sabbath and clear away the weekday items. Every person should make them his example and not say: 'I will not compromise my dignity' where preparations for Sabbath are involved, for it is to one’s privilege to honor the Sabbath."

They also teach that R' Nachman would busy himself running errands in preparation for the Sabbath, and all of this was in order to have the merit of fulfilling the commandment to prepare for Sabbath, an immeasurably important commandment (see Shabbat 119a, and see Beur Halacha 250, s.v. Yishtadel B'Sofo).

A person must not think that he is above honoring the Sabbath. Rather, one should follow the example of the sages of the Talmud mentioned above. All of them were Torah scholars and teachers of immeasurable greatness; nevertheless, they did not consider themselves above taking part in preparations for the Sabbath.

It is especially important to help one's wife in the winter months, when the days are short and the Sabbath enters early. A person should not feel as if by doing this he is wasting valuable Torah study time. Quite the contrary, one fulfills a very important commandment by helping his wife finish all of the work before the Sabbath enters.

Sabbath Candle Lighting
Ben Ish Chai writes in his book "Chukei HaNashim" that some women light Sabbath candles while wearing a dirty apron, and this is unfitting. Therefore, it is best that a woman shower and change her clothes before candle lighting in order to receive Sabbath in an appropriate manner.

Some people are accustomed to turning off all of the lights in the house when the woman lights candles, and when she is finished they turn them on again. The reason they do this is so that the electric light act as an addition to the candles. This, however, is not our practice.

A person should not bless over an electric light, for one cannot be certain that there will not be a problem with the electricity which will cause the lights to go out, and a person does not fulfill his obligation with such light. Therefore, a person should place the Sabbath candles by the dining table so that if the electricity goes out he will still have light to eat by. A person should use large candles which will last until the meal is finished.

Lighting with Pure Olive Oil
The choicest manner of fulfilling the commandment to light candles is to light with pure olive oil. The Talmud relates (Shabbat 23b): "R' Huna says, 'If one is accustomed to lighting Sabbath candles he will have sons who are Torah scholars.' "

The Talmud also teaches (ibid.): "R' Huna was accustomed frequently to pass the door of R' Abin the carpenter. Seeing that he habitually lit many lights, he remarked, 'Two great men will come forth from here.' R' Idi ben Abin and R' Hiyya ben Abin came from him. R' Hisda was accustomed frequently to pass the house of R. Shizbi's father. Seeing that he habitually lit many lights, he remarked, 'A great man will come from here.' R. Shizbi from him."

Occasionally, a number of couples are the guests of one family, or a daughter-in-law is guest by her in-laws, or a married daughter by her parents, or in a hotel. How should Sabbath candle lighting be carried out in these situations?

Shulchan Aruch writes: "Some authorities hold that two or three householders who eat in one place must each make a blessing over his own Sabbath lamp. Other authorities express doubt over the matter [i.e., as to whether this ruling is correct]. Therefore, it is proper, since a question of a doubtful blessing is concerned, to be scrupulous and have only one of the householders make a blessing. But in [Ashkenazi] communities it is not customary to do so."

In practice, Sephardic custom is that if everybody lights in the same place, the woman who lights first blesses and the rest of the women light without blessing. And if they wish to bless, they should light in another room they are using. The Ashkenazi custom is that all of the women may light and bless in the same place because each candle adds light.

If there is an infant or sick person in the house, it is best to leave a light on throughout the night in the kitchen or in one of the other rooms so that if they need something in the middle of the night there will be light. Indeed, there is no greater form of Shalom Bayit (domestic peace) than this.
Some of the translated biblical verses and Talmudic sources in the above article were taken from, or based upon, Davka's Soncino Judaic Classics Library (CD-Rom). Translated portions of Shulchan Aruch were taken from or based upon Davka's CD-ROM edition of Feldheim's Mishnah Berurah.

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