Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai
Volume 2: Number 18
February 20, 2006
Mitzvah 19: Declaring the Shabbat Holy
Mitzvah 19 – It is a positive commandment to declare Shabbat holy with words.
Hafetz Hayim: Scripture states, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8) and the Sages add, “Hallow it with words, on its arrival, with Kiddush and at its departure with Havdalah. It is a law of the Sages to recite the Kiddush over wine or over bread; and it is likewise a law of the Sages to recite Havdalah at its departure over wine or some other acceptable beverage. It is forbidden to taste anything before Kiddush or Havdalah. The Prophets declared two additional Mitzvot, namely “delight and honor”. One honors Shabbat by washing face and hands in warm water and wearing clean clothing. He makes it a delight by eating enjoyable food and drink. It is a duty to have three meals on Shabbat and the more one spends for Shabbat the more praiseworthy he is. (within ones means however) Whoever makes Shabbat a delight will be given a boundless heritage, and will be granted his heart’s wishes; and he will be saved from the servitude of foreign powers. It is also a mitzvah to arrange the table for a meal after the departure of Shabbat, even through no more than an olive’s amount is necessary for the meal to “escort the Shabbat queen on her way. Rambam wrote that it is also part of the positive commandment, of remembering the day, to remember Shabbat every day. Therefore when one mentions the days of the week, he is to say “the first day after Shabbat, The second day after Shabbat” and so on. So also in other matters, if he chances to get something good, he should designate it for Shabbat, saying explicitly, “this is for Shabbat.” It is in force everywhere and at every time for both men and women.
There is almost no end to the possibilities of ways to honor Shabbat. Shabbat is not only one of the Ten Commandments, but it is designated by G-d as holy from the first chapters of the Torah, literally from the creation of the world. It is also a taste of what the world with be like in the messianic era. It is so important that the entire week should revolve around it. In fact, the weekdays do not have Hebrew names, as we see above, the days are just numbered. Only the seventh day has a name, “Shabbat”.
Next week we will list the rules of Shabbat, today is for the joy of Shabbat. The Mitzvah is to make the 25 hours of the day, as joyful and festive as possible. One begins and ends Shabbat with wine. Kiddush is recited at the beginning, declaring that the day that is beginning is holy. And ending with Havdalah, marking the end of holy time and the beginning of secular time. Abraham Joshua Heschel declares that all week long we work and live in a world of space. On Shabbat, we transfer our lives into the realm of time. Holy time is time spent in joy and celebration. That is why we dress our best for Shabbat, eat the best foods, and visit with friends. We put our work aside and get back to a less complicated world where we can do the things we enjoy; reading, playing, praying and sleeping.
It is not enough to feel this joy in our hearts, we need to speak of our plans aloud. We need to declare that we could be doing something else but we choose to spend our time enjoying the sacred time.
To fully enjoy Shabbat there are three meals, dinner Friday night, Lunch on Saturday morning and a Seudah Shelishit, a third meal late Saturday afternoon. After Shabbat, there is a Melavah Malka, a meal to escort the Shabbat Queen on her way. This is done after Havdalah.
In fact, when it comes to making Shabbat a “delight” the format is one of a wedding ceremony. Just as one is supposed to be happy and joyful when attending a wedding, so to are we supposed to be happy and joyful on Shabbat. But Shabbat is not just “any” wedding, it is a royal wedding, Shabbat is a queen who will wed the royal groom, the people of Israel. L’cha Dodi is the wedding march and the Psalm for Shabbat, Psalm 92, is the ceremony. Just as a wedding has wine and a festive meal, so too Shabbat begins with wine and a festive meal. As a guest at this ceremony, our duty is to make the bride and groom happy, and that comes from being joyful ourselves. Honor and joy are the primary hallmark of Shabbat and our first responsibility as we begin and end our weekly celebration
Next week: Mitzvah 20: Resting on Shabbat