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The "Y" Behind

Shabbat Traditions

Shabbat Traditions
Shabbat Traditions
Shabbat Traditions
Shabbat Traditions
Friday Night Kiddush in Shul

In many shuls in the Diaspora,it is traditional as part of ashkenazic custom that the chazzan says Kiddush on Friday night in shul as part of the service. The wine is distributed to children who have not yet reached the age of mitzvot. The obvious question is what is the purpose of making Kiddush in shul if we are all going to return home straight after the service and make Kiddush for our families? In fact in Israel Kiddush is not said in shul on Friday night.


There are two beautiful reasons. The first being, that Kiddush was instituted for the benfit of guests who used to spend Shabbat and eat their meals in rooms adjacent to the shul. Although nowadays this is generally not the case, nevertheless the practise was not halted. This is because any legislation enacted by our sages, even if the initial reason may no longer apply is not usually annulled unless under very special conditions. The second explanation is based on a concept we derive from mishlei which states "amongst the multitude of people there is the majesty of a king". Just like the halacha requires Chanukah candles to be lit in shul even though everyone lights the candles in his own home, so also it is proper to recite Kiddush in shul in the presence of the kehilla the community even though everyone is still obligated to recitye it again at home.


A third explanation is that some people do not know the words of Kiddush. Hearing it recited in shul will inspire them to treat this matter seriously, to learn how to say Kiddush and recite it in their own homes. A final explanation is that some individuals come to shul to pray but do not recite Kiddush at home. By hearing Kiddush from the chazzan such people fulfil their Kiddush obligation. Even though Kiddush should ideally be said only where one east ones meal, nevertheless according to Torah law one fulfils his obligation even if he recites Kiddush in a place where he is not going to eat his meal.


The Challot

The loaves that are baked in honour of the Shabbat and Yomtov are called challot. Many women baked their own challot in honour of the Shabbat thereby enabling them to separate challah a small portion of the bread that when one bakes must be set aside as required according to halacha.

The Candles

It is customary to light two shabbos candles. The reason being that each one corresponds to one of the themes of the shabbos the first being zachor meaning you shall remember the shabbos and the other to shamor symbolising you should observe the shabbos. It is customary to pre-light the wicks and immediately extinguish them, so that they kindle faster when the woman of the house lights them.


A woman who once forgot to light shabbos candles must thereafter light three candles for the rest of her life. The reason for this law is that the additional candle will remind her to always be careful not to forget kindling the shabbos lights. It goes without saying that this law is only applicable where one forgot to light, but where a woman fails to light candles through events beyond her control then not a question of being lax and would not be required to light an additional candle.

Nail Cutting

The comprehensive nature of the jewish law is often unknown. In fact we find that from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until the time we fall asleep at night we have guidance in the laws and customs as to how we are expected to lead our lives.


The shulchan aruch rules that as part of the honour we confer on the Shabbat it is a mitzvah for one to cut ones nails on the eve of the Shabbat. The rationale posited for this by the ketzon hachoshen is that since finger nails are visible one should be more particular about their appearance in honour of the Shabbat, and cut them as close as possible to Shabbat. Because whatever is is done on erev Shabbat is obviously being carried out in honour of the Shabbat.


Furthermore it is customary not to cast away one's cut off in a place where others walk. This is in accord with the statement in pirkei d'R. Eliezer that Adam before his sin was completely covered with a garment of nails. After his sin, Hashem stripped off his coat of nails leaving them only at the edges of his fingers and toes. Kabbalistically, it is considered dangerous for a pregnant woman to walk over cast away nails and therefore they are flushed down the toilet and not just place in a bin.

The Shabbos Meals

It is customary to recite the poem shalom Aleichem to the ministering angels on shabbos night before Kiddush. The piyut was composed around 250 years ago by an unkown poet who was an adherent of the mekubalim. This is in accord with what our sages in the Talmud said: we learned in a braisa R. Yosi Bar Yehuda said two ministering angels accompany a man home on shabbos evening after leaving shul: one good angel and one evil. Upon arriving home, if he finds candles lit, the table set etc the good angel says: May it be thus the following shabbos. And the evil angel is forced to answer amen against his will. If such is not the case, then the evil angel says: May it be thus the following shabbos and the good angel forced to respond Amen against his will.

Eshes Chayil

Before Kiddush on shabbos evening, it is customary to recite mishlei chapter 31 verses 10-31, which are arranged in alphabetical order. The chapter begins with the words Eshes chayil mi yimtza (a woman of valour who can find). Rav shimon bar Yochai taught in Bereishis Rabbah "shabbos declared : Master of the Universe! Every day of the week has a spouse except for me. The Almighty answered: the community of Israel is your spouse. This chapter contains praises for ones wife who exerted herself and prepared the shabbos delicacies.

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