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There's No Friday On The Jewish Calendar

10/05/2018 02:16:09 PM

Oct5

Semper  Paratus.

It's the official motto of many organizations, including the US Coast Guard.

It's a Latin phrase, meaning 'Always Ready.'

It came to mind after hearing a comment made to me the other day.

At the conclusion of the Jewish month of Tishrei, the month filled with festivals, it's common to talk about the many festival days. "It felt like every day is Yom Tov!"

But one person shared a different observation with me: "It felt like every day is erev Yom Tov!" Erev means the eve of - the day before Yom Tov.

The day before a festival (or Shabbat) can be a stressful time. Making sure one's clothes are ready and the house is clean; running around the supermarkets and in the kitchen preparing meals for many guests; supervising the children and getting them ready; brushing up on the festival's traditions and customs (or weekly Torah portion); and trying to add last minute touches to programs and events.

But erev Yom Tov and erev Shabbat is much more than all that. It's a time to get ready to be mentally, emotionally and spiritually focused on the unique experiences and energies of the special day.

In his essay titled ‘On Repentance’, the famed Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, who originated from the shtetl communities in Russia, wrote: “True, there are Jews in America who observe Shabbat… But it is not for Shabbat that my heart aches; it is for the forgotten ‘erev Shabbat’ (eve of the Sabbath). There are Shabbat-observing Jews in America, but there are no ‘erev Shabbat’ Jews who go out to greet Shabbat with beating hearts and pulsating souls. There are many who observe the precepts with their hands, with their feet, and/or with their mouths – but there are few indeed who truly know the meaning of the service of the heart!”

This was written a few decades ago, but I’m sure it is still relevant today.

For Jews, there is no such thing as Friday. We call it erev Shabbat. And there’s a big difference between the two:

‘Friday’ implies another regular weekday, business as usual. We go about our regular patterns as we would any other weekday – work, gym, leisure, Shul, etc. Perhaps the only difference is that we might leave work a little earlier to make it home on time for Shabbat (though it’d be nice if we would come home a lot earlier than with just enough time to shower and speed to Shul…).

Erev Shabbat implies that the day is very different than the other weekdays. No, it’s not a holy day, but it’s the bridge through which we reach Shabbat. Everything about this day is different, all that we do revolves around getting ready to usher in the holy Shabbat.

In my childhood, we were rarely allowed to eat sugary sweets during the week. Of course, Shabbat was different, and my mother baked special cake and cookies for Shabbat. But there was also one other exception – Friday. Each Friday, my father went to the bakery early in the morning and brought home cake for us to enjoy during our breakfast. This was a very special education my father gave us.

We tend to think that we can simply show up to an event/experience and be instantly ready to immerse in it. But it doesn’t happen that way. Without training, you can’t win games. Without practice, you can’t win competitions. Without preparation, you can’t maximize the experience.

As we prepare to enter the first Shabbat after the High Holydays, the Shabbat which we will read the opening portion of Bereishit, it would be appropriate that we evaluate how we spend our Fridays, how we can make them more special for us and our families.

Wed, December 19 2018 11 Tevet 5779