In his last Bloggie Bet Midrash post on Yitro Joem brought the commentary from The Gra that says that
“Kavod refers to things that are done before Shabbos, in its honor, while Oneg refers to the things that one enjoys on the day itself. So, the festive meals, an extra measure of sleep and the like fall under the designation of oneg, and all the Shabbos preparations are actually part of the mitzva of Shabbos as well, in the category of kavod. The Gemara (Shabbos 119a) goes to great lengths to describe the ways that the great Rabbis would involve themselves in preparation for Shabbos: shopping, carrying bundles, splitting wood, fanning the fire, roasting, and salting.. The Rambam says that even an “important person” who wouldn’t normally go to the shuk himself, is required to do so in honor of Shabbos.”
Zorkie wondered in her comment how a Jewish housewife prepares for Shabbat and how we observe it, so I thought that since bloggie is an educational bloggie, I’d enlighten you regarding my experience in this regard..
To give you a bit of background: my household consists of hubby and me, 2 boys - one in the IDF, one in yeshiva, and a teenage daughter. I also have a married daughter with 3 gorgeous little girls (but that’s a whole different subject) who live in the north. I also have most of my siblings plus parents and inlaws within a 10 minute radius of our house.
A general background to Shabbat observance in an Orthodox household:
Food: We eat two main meals on Shabbat: one on Friday night and one on Shabbat morning, both after synagogue services. We recite Kiddush (blessing over wine) and Hamotzi (blessing over two loaves of challah) at each meal. There is a third meal, “Seuda Shlishit” (lit: third meal) on Shabbat but that is usually just a light meal, although many people have lechem mishneh (two loaves of challah) here too. All food preparation must be completed before Shabbat begins an hour before sunset on Friday afternoon. This includes all cooking, baking etc., and boiling water. Food may be kept warm on Shabbat either in a low oven or on a hot plate, but not on an open flame (e.g. gas burner).
House and Personal preparation: Again, from the above quote via Joem:
One is also required to bathe and to dress in special clothes before the Sabbath queen arrives. The Shulchan Orech says that one should not change into weekday clothes until after Melave Malka on Motzei Shabbat
The house is cleaned and tidied in honour of the Shabbat Queen. We bathe before Shabbat and wear clean clothes - “Saturday best”.
So how do I go about it?
My preparations for Shabbat really begin early on in the week. We often have guests for Shabbat meals, either assorted family members or other friends. Around Tuesday or Wednesday I go through my cupboards and freezer to check what I need to buy for Shabbat, and do the shopping. I will start my cooking on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on what is on the menu, how many (if any) visitors we’ll be having, what time of year it is (Fridays are very short in the winter) etc., and if I have anything in the freezer (I cook in bulk so I don’t always have to make the entire menu from scratch). Meanwhile, the house gets cleaned in honour of Shabbat too. I have a cleaner every 2 weeks, so in between it’s up to me and my slaves (the rest of the household).
By Thursday night I like to have the bulk of the cooking done, meaning gefilte fish or chopped liver or some other first course, chicken soup (obviously!), potato kugel, home-made parve ice cream, leaving just salads or other light dishes or cake to be made on Friday. If I’m making cholent I’ll have the beans soaking overnight.
Friday is the most chaotic day of the week. If hubby is in the country his job is to go to the local grocer and buy basic stuff like milk, bread, eggs, etc. Of course he brings the challot home (it’s the one thing I’ve never made I’m ashamed to say) and has been known to pop into the greengrocer to buy any fruit and veg that I’ve forgotten too. He then goes off to work (unlike many people in Israel who have Friday off) and he only returns at the last minute. Meanwhile, I will put a chicken to roast in the oven, get the cholent ready to put on the gas, and any other last minute cooking that needs to be done before Shabbat, plus clearing up the bombsite that is my kitchen. Additionally, any last minute laundry and ironing also needs to be finished before Shabbat. Of course Friday is the day my son comes home from the army (if he gets leave) and he walks in with a huge bag of smelly laundry which could probably walk to the washing machine on its own. It also needs to be washed and dried by Sunday morning. Life gets even more interesting if my other son walks in after 3 weeks in yeshiva with his huge bag of washing which - natch - needs to be done by Sunday. And when hubby is away on business (pretty often) - guess which day of the week he walks in with - you guessed - 1 or 2 weeks’ worth of washing. His can wait though. An aside here though - both my sons know how to use the washing machine and even know how to iron their shirts, which is a great help as you can imagine.
I won’t even mention what utter chaos reigns when my daughter, son-in-law and the 3 grandchildren come for the weekend. Suffice to say that this involves making up 5 beds, feeding the hungry masses after their long journey, bathing 3 lively little girls, mopping up the floor, and getting them dressed (and staying clean!) for Shabbat too.
As the day progresses the level of controlled panic rises. Yells, shouts and threats are liable to be heard as I try to cajole and chivy everyone to do their tasks and get themselves showered and changed. The hot water immersion heater usually needs to be switched on because even an Israeli summer sun cannot supply enough hot water to cope with all the washing up of pots and pans, plus an entire family showering within the space of 1 hour. (Shower earlier in the day? What an alien concept!)
By mid afternoon the children (or me) have laid the table in the dining corner with the “good” Shabbat tablecloth and the good dishes. Any last minute polishing of the silver kiddush cups or my candlesticks takes place around now. I fill up an electric thermos with water and set it to boil and then keep warm. This will be our source of hot water over Shabbat for hot drinks, warming baby bottles etc. Depending on the state of the kitchen floor (varying from “dirty” to “wouldn’t let my enemy’s dog eat off it”) it will get a mop-over. This job is usually volunteered for by my teenager, who uses the opportunity to dance around the kitchen singing into the mop handle as if it’s a microphone. American Idol she ain’t. :-)
Then comes the juggling act of heating up all the food, timing it so they all come to the boil at more or less the same time, and placing them in the oven on a low temperature or on a hot plate.
The last thing that gets done is what I call my Mad Swiss Watchmaker act. Because we don’t switch electricity on or off on Shabbat we use time-switches to do it for us. Outside on our landing with our fuse-box we have a series of time-switches (commonly known in Israel and Jewish communities worldwide as “Shabbat clocks”). We have one for the lights, one each for our 2 airconditioners, and in the kitchen one for the oven and one for the hotplate. Certain electrical appliances remain on all the time obviously, like the fridge, freezer and a couple of lights in the hallway so that there’s light even in the night.
At this point, hubby gets home from work, usually hiding behind an enormous bunch of flowers, and he dives into the shower. A few minutes later we hear the “all clear siren” (the same one that we hear in wartime) which announces the arrival of Shabbat. (A new invention in Jerusalem is that a PA system plays Shabbat songs for a few minutes isntead of the all-clear because of people’s jumpy nerves. I think it’s a beautiful idea. It hasn’t reached our area yet).
That all clear siren is the best sound in the world. I announce to the general houselold, “I’m lighting up!” to give everyone fair warning that I’m bringing in Shabbat. I light my Shabbat candles and the most wonderful peace descends upon my house.
And I collapse into the nearest armchair.
This fascinating article by Lee Ming, writing for the Falun Gong paper Epoch Times, says that a Chinese power struggle between the old guard and the new school is brewing. The two sides are supporters of current leader Hu Jintao and previous alpha-Panda Jiang Zemin.
Is there any way that both of these odious, elderly murderers can lose?
The writer indicates that Hu faced a hushed-up assassination attempt in May of 2006 during a visit to a military base, and is not fully in control of his military. When the Chinese military destroyed a satellite recently, creating grave concern here as an explicit asymmetrical threat to our ability to wage the American way of war, their Foreign Ministry was completely out of touch for days. The writer posits that the test demonstrated that Hu was being humiliated by his own military. American spokesmen hinted at an inkling of this revelation by Ming, speculating, in explanation of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s dumbfoundedness, that perhaps Hu’s circle were taken by surprise. It looks like they were more correct than they knew.
It’s plain to anyone with a room-temperature IQ: China is an even more dangerous menace than we thought. Seemingly orderly transitions of power actually mask the reality of China: an unstable arena for strife between would-be dictators. The orderly transition of power myth is further belied by the purges, assassination attempts, and deadly struggles detailed by Lee Ming. China’s leaders are nothing more than gangsters fighting turf wars, and accumulating an ever-more deadly armory financed by the same Free World that will, one day, face down the barrel of a gun and confront an existential peril.
In civilized powers, the political leadership is supreme over the military. An elaborate protocol, encapsulating the concerns of authentication of threat, chain of command, and authorization to launch, guards against the merest possibility of an accidental nuclear launch. Or a deliberate nuclear strike by a rogue general, acting alone. There is no such assurance with China’s atomic arsenal. As has just been made very clear, China’s leaders can’t even be relied upon to be in the decision and information loop. And this is an essential characteristic of their political system. It is behaving as designed.
This can’t be tolerated. We must either force China to disarm, or foment a beneficial revolution in Chinese government-peacefully or otherwise. The Falun Gong and the Christians are an unused weapon which we can roust, if we choose. So is the trade that China depends on-in that field, we unilaterally disarmed by giving China permanent Most Favored Nation status. There’s a lot we can do. There’s not a lot that we’re doing, and I don’t think our leaders appreciate the existence of the sword that hangs over our heads, thanks to the nature of China’s government. One way or another, this has to change.