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Each week at the start of Shabbat, every Jew receives an additional soul, referred to as the neshama yeteira. The neshama yeteira then leaves at Shabbat’s end.1 The existence of a neshama yeteira is alluded to in the verse, “Between Me and the Children of Israel it [the Shabbat] is a sign forever – that in six days Hashem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.”2 The Hebrew word for “and was refreshed” is va’yinafash, which can also be translated as “imbued with an additional soul.” The neshama yeteira is an exclusive gift from G-d to the Jewish people.3

Some of our sages claimed to have been able to feel the arrival of their neshama yeteira each week as Shabbat began.4 Throughout the entire week, one’s mind should be on the arrival of the upcoming Shabbat along with one’s neshama yeteira. This is compared to the rising of the sun. We are taught that the sun slowly rises each morning so that we do not suddenly go from darkness to light and thereby shock our eyes.5 So too, a person must gradually prepare for Shabbat each week so that its sudden arrival and holiness do not shock our souls.6 Some sources teach that the neshama yeteira enters a person on Friday afternoon once one has completed the shnayim mikra v’echad targum study of the weekly Torah portion7 or after one has immersed in a mikvah, for those whose custom it is to do so.8


Believe it or not, the main purpose of the neshama yeteira is to facilitate the consumption of the many gastronomic treats and pleasures that are characteristic of Shabbat without being harmed by the excessive intake.9 Other authorities add that the neshama yeteira is given to enable one to learn Torah on Shabbat with greater energy and enthusiasm than during the week.10 It also allows one to serve G-d on Shabbat in a more elevated manner than during the week.11 The neshama yeteira is said to make one feel happy and content with all that one has and enables one to be in a calmer and more relaxed mood.12 The neshama yeteira is also said to be responsible for the phenomenon that people always look better on Shabbat than during the week.13

We smell spices as part of the Havdala service to console ourselves over the loss of the neshama yeteira, which leaves at the conclusion of Shabbat.14 According to some sources, the neshama yeteira actually remains until one has eaten the Melave Malka meal.15 Some say that the neshama yeteira of Torah scholars remains with them throughout the week and never departs.16 We are taught that the body is weakened when the neshama yeteira leaves, partly as a result of the excessive eating that is common on Shabbat.17 This weakness is said to make fasting on Sunday especially difficult.18

One should make every effort to come up with new Torah insights on Shabbat or at least to study topics that one has not previously learned. This is because when one’s neshama yeteira departs at the conclusion of Shabbat and returns to its heavenly repository, it is asked to relate anything new that came up during Shabbat. It is interesting to note that one’s father is rewarded for the Torah that one studies on Shabbat. This essentially means that Torah study on Shabbat is also a fulfillment of kibbud av va’em.19

It is a matter of dispute whether we are given a neshama yeteira in honor of yom tov.20 There is also a view that we are given a distinct neshama yeteira on yom tov that does not depart at the conclusion of yom tov. Rather, it remains with us until the upcoming Shabbat and combines with the neshama yeteira of Shabbat at that time.21

In some communities, the blessing ordinarily recited over spices during Havdala is omitted at the conclusion of a Shabbat that coincides with Yom Kippur.22 This is because since eating on Yom Kippur is forbidden, there is no need for the neshama yeteira.23 According to this approach, there would be no reason to include spices as part of the Havdala. Others argue that the order of Havdala at the conclusion of Shabbat should never be tampered with and that the spices should be included as usual even when Shabbat and Yom Kippur coincide.24 Some suggest a compromise approach of smelling the spices after Havdala.25 One should recite Havdala at the conclusion of Yom Kippur while still wearing one’s kittel.26



  1. Beitza 16a; Ta’anit 27b.
  2. Shemot 31:17.
  3. Beitza 16a.
  4. Lev Eliyahu, Devarim, p. 323; Ibn Ezra, Bereishit 2:1.
  5. See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 32:27.
  6. Reishit Chochma, Sha’ar Kedusha 7; Chatam Sofer, Vayakhel; Ben Ish Chai, Ki Tissa.
  7. David Meisels, Shabbos Secrets: The Mysteries Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Book Shop, 2003), p. 117.
  8. Aspaklaria Hameira, Yitro 46:2.
  9. Rashi, Beitza 16a; Rashi, Ta’anit 27b; Da’at Zekeinim, Shemot 16:22.
  10. Shla, Sukka 77a.
  11. Seforno, Shemot 20:11.
  12. Boruch Leff, Shabbos in My Soul: Seventy Powerful Lessons to Illuminate the Shabbos Experience (Jerusalem: Targum, 2007), p. 112.
  13. Bereishit Rabba 11:2.
  14. Bach, OC 287; Mishna Berura 491:3. An additional reason we smell spices is in order to mask the stench of the fires of hell, which are relit once Shabbat ends. Pitchei Olam 624:3. See Seridei Aish 1:29 for more interpretations.
  15. Sha’arei Teshuva 300:1; Machzik Bracha 300:2.
  16. B’ma’alot Hashabbat, vol. 2, p. 117, cited in Leff, Shabbos in My Soul, p. 134.
  17. Ta’anit 27a.
  18. Rabbeinu Chananel, Ta’anit 27a.
  19. Sha’arei Teshuva, OC 290.
  20. Tosafot, Pesachim 102b; Teshuvot Harashba 349; Rivevot V’yovlot 3:131.
  21. See Leff, Shabbos in My Soul, pp. 325–26.
  22. OC 624:3.
  23. Machzor Vitri 345; Siddur Rashi 207.
  24. Ravya 2:530; Maharil 34; Mishna Berura 624:5, Aruch Hashulchan, OC 624:1; Kaf Hachaim, OC 624:9; Salmat Chaim 1:69.
  25. Kaf Hachaim, OC 624:9.
  26. Ibid., OC 624:8, Pitchei Olam 624:2.

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Rabbi Ari Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha, including semicha, one-on-one to people all over the world, online. He is also the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (9 volumes), the rabbinic director of United with Israel, and a rebbe at a number of yeshivot and seminaries. Questions and feedback are welcomed: [email protected].