Erev Shabbat


It was the fifth day. It was the sixth day. It was, at last, Shabbat.

Fortunately, my family’s much needed weekly opportunity to focus on consecrated matters had arrived, once more. Neither the virus that was sweeping our home nor the rice that had gotten burnt did anything to preempt the arrival of this special day.


To wit, one of our children changed from his army garb to his other uniform, i.e. his black and white one. Another hastily added a missing button to a cuff on one of his shirt sleeves. A third fussed over her hair, attaching and removing a ribbon again and again. She made her final choice as to whether that ornament ought to remain on her head or not mere moments before joining me for candle lighting.


Outside, the pastels of sunset became the hues of night. Our neighborhood calmed. More and more children’s voices could be discerned in the fresh quiet, while fewer vehicular sounds were heard. At dark, our community seemed free from the whir of tires and the “cantillations” of emotionally energized drivers. The most distinct vibration, among them all, was the call of a crepuscular bird.


In short measure, the men, who had left their homes for afternoon and evening prayers, returned. At our address, the front door opened and closed, opened and closed. Family, friends, and unfamiliar guests gathered around our table. Prayers were recited. Hats are removed. Jackets get hooked on the backs of chairs.


First, a wine stain, and then one from gravy, marked the tablecloth. Here and there, challah crumb trails ran in various directions. A few flower petals, too, had fallen to the white surface.


Beneath the table, a festive-colored, forgotten napkin waited, whereas nearby sat an olive pit. A dropped fork, too, hid in those depths. No one would bring along the broom until after the meal.


Torah words were shared. Dessert was passed. A friend’s little lovely nodded, her face flush with her pastry. Her brother traced his finger through her portion of cake before snatching it, thinking no one would be the wiser.


More Torah words were proffered. Blessings were sung. Hugs were exchanged. Hat and jackets got gathered. Small groups of people congregated, first at our door and then a few amot beyond it.


Slowly, those others climbed the staircase closest to our home. At the top of its more than one hundred steps is a main thoroughfare. I peeked through our upper window to watch them ascend and to watch my husband as he was busy with escort.


Inside, the three of our children that are still single, and, blessedly still at home, stack plates, changed the tablecloth and swept under the table. They made few comments about their discoveries; it was late and they were eager for bed.


One sweet one lingered, though, long enough to helps me put leftovers into plastic boxes. When my husband returned, that sleepy darling sat with him and learned a little Torah. The two of them were careful to sit on the second sofa, the one not covered by the daughter who had fallen asleep, her troublesome ribbon loosened on her hair.


Later, when I, too, bedded down, I shut no lights and adjusted no thermostat; those are not the ways of Shabbot. I did, however, return pillows to their positions on our comfy chairs; morning and its prayers would come soon enough, as would another festive meal and then a third one.


Before turning to my bedroom, I smiled at my sleeping child. That young adult had been covered with a warm blanket by the first of my grown offspring to go to bed. Before retiring, he had also wished his brother, his father, and me “A Good Shabbat.”