The importance of creating a special aura in our homes and in our lives on Shabbos simply cannot be overstated. We all emphasize the need to preserve a spirit of contentment with an absence of pressure and rush during this special day. But, when considering how to go from verbal emphasis to actual practice, we might be at a loss. Therefore, I thought I’d create a checklist of some “dos” and “don’ts” that I hope you, my dear readership, will find of great practical benefit.
1) Try to daven more slowly on Shabbos. Starting with “L’chu n’raninah L’Hashem – Let us go and sing to Hashem,” relax when you speak to Hashem instead of rushing the words. Remember, there’s no bus to catch or job to finish. It is for this reason that we say, “Miszmor shir l’yom haShabbos – A song for the Shabbos day; Tov l’hodos l’Hashem – (today) it is good to thank Hashem.” It is very sad that some people are unable to slow down their speedy pace of davening. I have heard about retirement minyanim in Florida where men still pray at a breakneck speed simply because they can’t break the habit of a lifetime. Don’t let that happen to you.
2) After you sing Aishes Chayil, it will be much more meaningful if you could follow it up, even once in a while, with a meaningful ‘thank you’ for something that your wife did in the previous week. The wise wife will reciprocate with some loving message of her own.
3) Fathers should bless their children – giving each one a moment of unique attention. Children have testified that they avoided temptations by conjuring up the loving image of their father blessing them before Kiddush.
4) Choose your Shabbos guests wisely. Make sure not to overburden your wife with too much company. Even more important, do not habitually invite guests who will dominate the conversation and take away the vital family-time that is needed for the bonding of spouses and parents with their children. Also make sure that the guests will not have a negative influence on the spirituality of your family.
5) Especially on the Shabbos day, steer clear of conversations that can lead to fighting and anger. The Torah tells us, “Lo s’varu eish b’chol moshvoseichem b’yom haShabbos – You shall not kindle a fire in all your habitats on the Shabbos day.” Our Chassidic masters interpret this homiletically to refer to the fire of anger, warning us to be especially careful to keep Shabbos anger-free.
6) In a similar vein, make an extra effort to be completely truthful throughout the Shabbos for the Mishna testifies to us that, in ancient times, even the am ha-aretz, the ignoramus, was careful to say only the truth on Shabbos.
7) Prepare a very short Torah thought from the weekly parsha to say at the table. It should incorporate a life’s lesson such as the destruction caused by jealousy, thwarting laziness, praying for others, etc. Remember, it doesn’t have to be ‘rocket science.’ The cumulative effect of hundreds of such simple lessons creates a moral, ethical legacy that is priceless. After your (very short) presentation, encourage family participation.
8) At the very first hint of lashon hara, sternly shut down the conversation with the declaration that, “Our family is deathly allergic to lashon hara.”
9) One time during Shabbos, remind the family that we are indulging in tasty Shabbos delicacies as our weekly statement that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. With the cholent and kishka, we are reaffirming our belief that the world wasn’t always here, nor did it come about from a big bang. Rather, it was a gift to us from Hashem.
10) In this vein, we incorporate zemiros at every meal explaining to the family that these songs remind us of how lucky we are to have the Shabbos together with many of its wonderful benefits. Thus, we sing, “Menucha v’simcha, ohr layehudim – Rest and joy, and brilliant light for the Jews.” We happily chant, “Yom zeh mechubad mikol yomim – This day is the most honored of all days.” We also cheerily thank Hashem for this bounty with the hearty praise “Boruch Keil elyon asher nosan menucha – Blessed is the Almighty upon high who grants us contentment.” Remember, if our family understands what we are singing, it is, oh!, so much more meaningful.
In the merit of our holy Shabbos, may we merit long life, good health, everything wonderful.
(To be continued)