It also doesn’t mean you have to start preparing Thursday evening. Nechama G. of Lakewood tries to do something every day, “even something small like planning the menus or choosing a new recipe.” Almost all agree that setting the Shabbos table on Thursday night is crucial to giving the home a feeling that Friday is really erev Shabbos. Hadassa makes kugels, cakes and ice cream on Monday and freezes them.
Many members of the group haven’t managed to be ready by chatzos yet, but they are working on having a calmer Friday and a least bentching lecht at the right time without any last minute panic.
Michal H. of Lakewood works on Fridays and accepts that at the moment she just can’t be ready by chatzos. “I do my own version. Whatever happens after I get home from work on Friday is strictly my business. I don’t harass people to help me.”
Rachel G. of Jerusalem admits she is not always ready by chatzos but she tries for as early as possible. She points out that when recently she had some really hectic Fridays, the last minute rush was most unpleasant. “That’s when we realized how much chatzos has given us.”
If you and your family like freshly prepared Shabbos food, it’s still possible to be ready by chatzos. Make sure the cleaning, clearing, washing and ironing are completed before Friday. Set the table, clean and prepare the Shabbos candlesticks, cut aluminum foil, plastic tablecloths etc and prepare the food on Thursday night, ready to be put in the oven or on the gas on Friday morning.
The chatzos group has its detractors – people who think that it’s better to prepare another item of food in honor of Shabbos rather than stopping preparations early. But Azriela’s point is that there is a lot more to kavod Shabbos than food. “In fact you’re giving tremendous kavod to Shabbos if you prepare for it every day.”
“Some people feel no matter how much they’ve made it’s never enough. Others find it hard to give up that super-balabusta feeling of pulling out all stops on Friday with every gas burner busy and cakes and kugels lined up to go in the oven.”
But as Hadassa says “Making chatzos means so much more to me than another desert.”
There are many rabbinic sources encouraging the idea of being ready for Shabbos at chatzos and rabbonim have suggested this as a segulah for health and parnassah. The chatzos website has a section devoted to the idea as it appears in the Jewish sources.
If the idea of making Shabbos by chatzos sounds appealing, but you don’t know where to start, Malka K. of Toronto suggests making one small change to begin with, perhaps doing the shopping before Friday or baking on Thursday.
Nechama adds “If I can do it, working full time, with young children including a special needs child, you can too.”
Chatzosers agree it isn’t an all or nothing situation. Being ready ten minutes early is also a worthy goal.
It’s all about bringing in Shabbos with joy and calm.