I remember going to shul with my mother and always being slightly puzzled when we left to go home after the tefillot. My mother would wish and be wished a Shabbat Shalom, but she always added something extra that left all who encountered her with smiles on their faces. She would compliment everyone she met with something personal. It might be about the clothes they wore, the inspiring way they davened, or a comment on the wonderful behavior of their children during the prayer service.
I remember asking my mother why she always felt the need to do this. She replied that while it didn’t cost her anything imagine how those few words of recognition would add to someone else’s Shabbat joy.
My brother Yehudah, a”h, would emulate my mother’s trait. He would add his own personal touch – in a literal way. He would put his arm on a burdened shoulder, and tell a joke to leave yet another person with a smile on his face.
There are many other ways to make someone feel special and noticed, and thus add to their good feelings on Shabbat. For example, there are people who make note of someone who did not come to shul on a particular Shabbat. These absentees would either receive a surprise visit that day, or a phone call after Shabbat, or even a mention of having been missed the week before when the next Shabbat arrived. I have been the recipient and doer of such an act of chesed.
A few weeks ago, I lit my Shabbat candles with a heavy heart. I had received some difficult news about someone I care about, and found that I was just not in the mood for Shabbat. What a terrible feeling! Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Three little children stood there with a paper bag in hand. “For Shabbat,” they said, as they shyly proffered the warm bag. I looked inside and found freshly baked challah, an unexpected gift from a neighbor. Suddenly, my Shabbat looked so different to me. I was able to find the joy of Shabbat in this small gesture of kindness.
When I encountered my neighbor the next day, I told her how her challah had not just added to the ta’am of Shabbat in a physical sense, but it had also returned to me the very essence of the true taste of Shabbat.
Shabbat is a time of menuchah, of rest. It is also a time of simcha, of happiness. We are often too busy during the week to stop and think about how we can do something simple to bring simcha into someone else’s life. When we can combine the menuchah of Shabbat together with its inherent simcha, we can bring ohr laYehudim, light to all of us.