Blessing After the Wine

Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, for the vine and the fruit of the vine, for the produce of the field, and for the precious, good, and spacious land which You have favored to give as a heritage to our fathers, to eat of its fruit and be satiated by its goodness.

Have mercy now, Hashem our God: on Israel, Your people; on Jerusalem, Your city; on Zion, the home of Your glory; on Your altar; and on Your Temple. Rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city, speedily in our days; bring us up into it, elate us with the rebuilding of it, let us eat of its fruit and be satisfied from its goodness, and bless You in holiness and purity, 

(On the New Moon: and remember us for goodness on this New Moon),

(During Passover: and gladden us on this day of the Festival of Matzos),

(During Sukkos: and gladden us on this day of the Festival of Sukkos),

For You, Hashem, are good and do good to all, and we thank You for the land and for the fruit of the vine. Blessed are You, Hashem, for the land and for the fruit of the vine.


When Shabbos ends, about 60 minutes after sunset (depending on your location and the Customs of your congregation), we say “Boruch Hamavdil bain kodesh lichol.”

This means “Blessed is He Who separates between the holy and the mundane.”

Now that the Sabbath has ended, this allows us to do some basic things that are forbidden on the Sabbath, like light the candle for Havdalah. When you pray the nighttime prayers, there is a special prayer called “Attah chonantanu,” which accomplishes the same thing. So you need say this only if you have not yet said the Attah Chonantanu prayer.

Now that we have made this declaration (or the prayer), we may prepare to say Havdalah.

You will need the following things:

  • A goblet and a plate
  • Wine or grape juice (or coffee or tea, for those who have difficulty with wine or grape juice)
  • Natural aromatic spices
  • Havdalah candle – a candle with more than one wick.


It doesn’t have to look like either of those. It doesn’t have to be silver either. It doesn’t even have to be fancy in any way. Those are just samples, so you get the idea of what we’re talking about.

Goblet: The goblet should preferably be not a disposable cup. This shows that you hold the ceremony in some esteem. Most people use either silver or silver plate. Pewter is nice too, but sometimes the insides turn green from use. A glass cup is also acceptable.


Wine: Anyone who would get ill from drinking wine or grape juice may use something else. However, there is a list of precedence for what is preferable. Since using wine is to show that the ceremony is a prestigious one, we would use something else only when necessary, and certain things show more prestige than others. So wine is the most preferable, and then comes grape juice. Coffee or tea is preferred by many who cannot drink wine or grape juice. Many diabetics use tea, and many people with stomach problems (especially after Shabbos) use coffee. Some people can use raisin wine. (Ask your doctor.) If necessary, it is also permitted to use orange juice or apple juice. There may be other possibilities, so if none of these work for you, ask your Rabbi.) Water may never be used.

Spices: The reason for this is that on Shabbos we are each granted additional spiritual essences. When Shabbos ends, they leave us, and return only the next Shabbos. Our souls feel the loss (even if sometimes we don’t), and smelling aromatic spices brings cheer and comfort to the soul. It is taught in the Sefer Ben Ish Chai that smell is a more spiritual sense than most of the other senses, and in the World of Souls that is one of the spiritual benefits granted the souls there.

We keep the spice box closed so that we don’t smell the fragrance until after we have made the blessing on the spices. You don’t actually need a specific type of spice box for the spices, and they come in various styles. or you can simply keep them in the jar they come in. But here are some popular styles:


We may not use artificially created aromas. Most people use cloves, but we may also use cinnamon, or a fresh myrtle branch, or musk, and other natural fragrant sources.

Candle: The reason we light this and say a blessing on it is because Motza Shabbos (Saturday night) was the first time that Adam and Eve ever made fire. Hashem gave this as a gift to Adam and Eve on the first Motza Shabbos after Creation, so that they would not be in the dark. Now that they were exiled from Eden, they needed light and warmth at night.

If you don’t have a proper Havdalah candle, you may hold two candles together so that the flames join. The point is that preferably there should be more than one flame in the fire. Thus, we say on this light the blessing “Who creates the lights of the fire” (lights, in plural). If you can’t get two candles, you may also use one, and still fulfill the obligation, if that’s your only choice. Good Judaica stores sell Havdalah candles.

(It doesn’t have to be blue and white, or any particular color.)

The Ceremony

The first thing we do is fill the goblet with the wine or wine substitute. It is the Custom among many to overpour, spilling a little bit over the sides of the goblet. This shows that you are blessed, that you have wine in abundance in your home. also, you will use this later to extinguish the flames of the Havdalah candle.

We then loosen the cover to the smelling-spices so we can get to them easily when we need to.

Next, we light the Havdalah candle. Get someone to hold the candle while you say Havdalah. You can also buy Havdalah-candle holders that prevent the candle from falling on the table and starting a fire. Good ones will also prevent the wax from dripping down on your hands.

It is permitted to prepare the items in a different order. This is just the logical sequence, and also the order in which we must say the Blessings.

Next we recite Havdalah.

After Havdalah is over, we drink the wine, and then we extinguish the candle. Many people have the custom to extinguish the candle by dousing it with the leftover wine from the goblet (not from the wine bottle). You hold the flames in the wine that’s in the plate, and pour the leftover wine over it.

Then we recite the after-blessings over the wine.

That is Havdalah, in brief. If you get the chance, try to experience it at the home of observant Orthodox Jews. Judaism needs to be experienced in person; books and classes, though absolutely necessary, are not enough for someone to learn Judaism. See my wife’s article “The Kindness of Strangers,” and find a place to stay for Shabbos.

Grace After Meals

Some say or sing the following Psalm before the Grace After Meals.

        A Song to be sung while ascending the steps of the Holy Temple.
               When Hashem will return the exiles to Zion,
        it will seem to us as if we have been dreaming.
               Then our mouths will be filled with laughter,
        and our tongues with happy songs.
               Then the nations will say:
        "Hashem has done great things for them."
        Even while we are still in exile, we rejoice,
               because we know that Hashem does great things for us even now.
        Hashem! Return our exiles, let them flow to the land of Israel,
               bringing salvation like streams of water
        would bring salvation to a desert.
        We who perform the Commandments of the Torah in exile
               often worry about our future;
        but when the Redemption comes we will reap the reward
               for our work with happy songs.
        When a person plants,
               he might worry that the crop will not be successful,
        but when he finishes the harvest,
               and he walks away carrying the harvested sheaves,
        he returns home singing happily.
               That is how we, the Children of Israel,
        shall be brought out of exile into Redemption.

Wash as much of your hands as have been dirtied by food, or at least the tips of your fingers. It is customary to remove the dish of dirty water from the table before reciting any blessings.
All recite:
I am hereby prepared and ready to fulfill the Commandment of saying the Grace After the Meals.
When the Grace after Meals is said with a mezuman (a quorum of three or more males over the age of 13), Zimun is recited, in which the Leader (which need not be the same Leader as the rest of the Seder) invites the others to participate in the Grace After Meals. (If there is a minyan (a quorum of ten or more males) participating, the words in the parentheses are also recited.) If there is neither a mezuman or minyan, begin at the First Blessing
It is forbidden to speak from the beginning of zimun until after the end of the Grace After Meals.

Zimun: Invitation

Leader: Gentlemen, let us say Grace!

Others: May Hashem’s Name be blessed from now and forever.

Leader: May Hashem’s Name be blessed from now and forever.

With the permission of the distinguished people present,

let us bless (our God,) He whose bounty we have eaten.

Others: Blessed is (our God,) He whose bounty we have eaten, and through Whose goodness we live.

Leader: Blessed is (our God,) He whose bounty we have eaten, and through Whose goodness we live.

All: Amen. Blessed is He and blessed is His Name.

First Blessing: For the Nourishment

Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, who, in His goodness, nourishes the whole world with grace, with kindness and with mercy. He gives food to all flesh, for His kindness lasts forever. Through His great goodness to us continuously we do not lack nourishment, and may we never lack it, for the sake of His great Name. For He is God Who nourishes and sustains all, does good to all, and prepares food for all His creatures whom He has created, as it is said: You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Blessed are You, Hashem, who provides food for all.

Second Blessing: For the Land

We thank You, Hashem, our God, for having given as a heritage to our fathers a precious, good and spacious land; for having brought us out, Hashem our God, from the land of Egypt and for having rescued us from the house of slavery; for Your covenant which You have sealed in our flesh; for Your Torah which You have taught us; for Your statutes which You have made known to us; for the life, benefit, and kindness which You have graciously bestowed upon us; and for the food we eat with which You feed and sustain us constantly: every day, every season, and every hour.


For everything, Hashem, our God, we thank You and bless You. May Your Name be blessed by the mouth of every living being, constantly, forever. As it is written: When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless Hashem, your God, for the good land which He has given you. Blessed are You, Hashem, for the land and for the nourishment.

Third Blessing: For Jerusalem

Have mercy, Hashem our God, upon Israel Your people; on Jerusalem, Your city; on Zion, the home of Your Glory; on the monarchy of the family of King David Your anointed; and on the great and holy House which is called by Your Name. Our God, our Father—tend us, nourish us, sustain us, support us, relieve us; Hashem our God, grant us speedy relief from all our troubles. Hashem, our God, please do not make us dependent on gifts from human hands, nor on their loans, but only upon Your full, open, holy and generous hand, that we not feel inner shame nor be humiliated before others, forever and ever.

(On the Sabbath say: May it please You, Hashem, our God, to give us rest through Your
commandments, and through the commandment of the Seventh Day, this great and holy Shabbos.
For this day is great and holy before You, for abstaining from work and for resting on this day, with love, in accordance with the commandment of Your will. And willingly, Hashem, our God, please grant us rest so that there be no trouble, worry, sadness or grief on the day of our rest. Hashem, our God, let us see the consolation of Your city Zion, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem Your holy city, for You are the Master of salvations and the Master of consolations.)

(On a Holiday or Rosh Chodesh say: Our God and God of our fathers, may the remembrance and consideration of us, of our fathers, of the Messiah from the family of David Your servant, of Jerusalem Your holy city, and of all Your people the Family of Israel, ascend, come and be experienced, be seen and accepted, heard, considered and remembered before You, for deliverance, well-being, grace, kindness, mercy, good life and peace, on this day of

(Rosh Chodesh) (the Festival of Matzos) (the Festival of Shavuos)
(the Festival of Succos) (the Shemini Atzeres Festival) (Remembrance)

Remember us this day, Hashem, our God, for goodness; consider us this day for blessing; help us this day for a good life. With a word of salvation and compassion, spare us and favor us; have mercy on us and deliver us; for we look to You, for You are a gracious and merciful God.

Rebuild Jerusalem the holy city soon in our days. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who in His mercy rebuilds Jerusalem. Amen.

Fourth Blessing: Hashem’s Goodness

Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Mighty God, our Father, our King, our Might, our Creator, our Rescuer, our Maker, our Holy One, Holy One of Jacob, our Shepherd, the Shepherd of Israel, the King Who is good and does good to all. Who, each and every day, has done good for us, does good for us, and will do good for us; He has bestowed, He bestows, and He will forever bestow upon us grace, kindness and mercy, relief, rescue and success, blessing and salvation, consolation, sustenance and nourishment, compassion, life, peace and everything good; and may He never cause us to lack any good.

Various Requests

May the Merciful One reign over us forever and ever.

May the Merciful One be blessed by everyone in heaven and on earth.

May the Merciful One be praised for all generations, and be glorified in us forever and for all eternity, and be honored in us forever and ever

May the Merciful One grant us an honorable livelihood.

May the Merciful One break the yoke of exile from our neck and may He lead us upright to our land.

May the Merciful One send abundant blessing into this house and upon this table at which we have eaten.

May the Merciful One send us Elijah the Prophet of blessed memory, and may he bring us the good news of the imminent arrival of the Messiah, salvations, and consolations.

Blessing the Host and Hostess of the Home

May the Merciful One bless:

(Those eating at another’s table: (my father, my teacher,) the master of this house, and (my mother, my teacher,) the mistress of this house; them, their household, their children, and all that is theirs;)

me, (my wife / husband and my children) and all that is mine; us, and all that is ours—just as our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were blessed, in everything, from everything, and with everything—so may He bless all of us together, with a perfect blessing, and let us say: Amen.

May Heaven find merit (in them and) in us so that we may enjoy a lasting peace. May we receive blessing from Hashem, and justice from the God of our salvation, and may we find favor and good understanding in the eyes of God and man.

(On the Sabbath add: May the Merciful One grant us the day which will be all Shabbos and rest for all eternity.)

(On Rosh Chodesh add: May the Merciful One grant us this new month for goodness and blessing.)

(On a Jewish Holiday add: May the Merciful One grant us the day which is completely good.)

(On Succos say the previous, and add: May the Merciful One erect for us the fallen Succah-protection of king David. May the Merciful One grant us the merit to sit in the Succah-protection that He will make from the skin of the Leviathan in the World To Come. May the Merciful One spread over us His complete Succah-protection.)

(On the first two nights of Passover add: May the Merciful One grant us the day which is completely good, that everlasting day, the day when the righteous will sit with crowns on their heads, enjoying the Glory of the Divine — and may our portion be with them!)

(On Rosh Hashanah add: May the Merciful One grant us this new year for goodness and blessing.)

On all days, continue:

May the Merciful One grant us the privilege of seeing—and living in—the Messianic Era and the life of the World to Come. He is a tower of salvation to His king, and bestows kindness upon His anointed, to David and his descendants forever. He who makes peace in His high places, may He make peace for us and for all Israel; and now say: Amen.

Fear Hashem, you—His holy ones—for those who fear Him experience no lack. Even the strong and the rich feel want and hunger, but those who seek Hashem shall not lack any good. Give thanks to Hashem for He is good, His kindness is everlasting. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Blessed is the man who trusts in Hashem, for then Hashem will be his security. I have been young, and I have aged, and I have not seen a righteous man forsaken, with his children begging for bread. Hashem will give might to His people; Hashem will bless His people with peace.


Washing Hands for Challah

washing hands

  • Make sure your hands are clean and dry.

  • Grasp the washing cup with your right hand.

  • Transfer the washing cup to your left hand.

  • Make a loose fist of your right hand.

  • Pour water over your right hand — enough to wet both the inside and outside of your right fist.

  • Repeat.

  • Transfer the washing cup to your right hand.

  • Pour water over your left hand — enough to wet both the inside and outside of your left fist.

  • Repeat.

  • Loosely cup your hands, palms upwards, as if to “accept” the purity, raise your hands and recite:

  • Ba-rooch Attah A-doy-noy,

    E-lo-hay-noo Melech ha-olam,

    asher ki-di-sha-noo bi-mi-tz-vo-sav,

    vi-tzee-va-noo al ni-tee-las ya-da-yim.

    (Blessed are You Hashem (the Master) our G-d (Source of our strength) Ruler of the universe, Who has made us holy (special to Him) through His commandments, and commanded us concerning washing (our) hands.)

    • Dry your hands perfectly.

    • Do not speak until after eating bread, except to recite the blessing over the bread, or to answer Amain.

Friday Night Kiddush

Men and women are equally required to recite or hear Kiddush Friday night. After the sun goes down on Friday, it is forbidden to eat any food before reciting or hearing Kiddush.


Kiddush should be recited over wine or grape juice. If you are unable to obtain wine, or if you cannot drink wine for health reasons, you may make kiddush over bread. To do so, wash your hands first, recite Kiddush, and below, instead of saying the blessing over wine, recite the blessing over bread (see below). It is preferable to use two loaves (even small ones will do) of bread, whenever possible.

Many have the custom that only one person recites Kiddush on behalf of all assembled. Whoever hears Kiddush from another must intend to fulfill the Commandment by listening and responding «Amen» at the appropriate times. Likewise, the person reciting must intend to include the assembled people in fulfilling the Commandment. The person reciting does not answer «Amen» after his own recital.

Many have the custom to stand for Kiddush. Some stand only until ready to recite the blessing over the fruit of the vine (see below). Some sit throughout, but stand up for a moment as they begin the first few words, and then sit down for the rest.

We may not speak any other words from the beginning of Kiddush until after we drink the wine (or eat the bread).

Fill your wine cup to the very top. Grasp your wine cup in your right hand (in your left hand, if you’re left-handed). If you’re making kiddush over bread, place both hands on the bread.

Some recite quietly:

I am hereby prepared and ready to fulfill the Commandment of reciting Kiddush on wine, as it says, «Remember and Keep the Sabbath,» and the Rabbis have taught that we should remember the Sabbath over wine.

There was evening and there was morning: On the sixth day, the heavens and the earth and all their components were completed. On the seventh day, G-d completed Creation by creating rest, when He ceased doing the work of Creation. G-d blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it He had ceased all the tasks that He had been creating and which He had set in motion.

Some people sit down at this point, and recite the remainder of Kiddush sitting. Others continue to stand.


With your permission, Honored Assembled:

Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who creates produce of the vine.



If you are saying Kiddush over bread, recite: Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.

All others respond: Amen


Blessed are You Hashem our G-d, Ruler of the universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments, and Who has desired us, and Who has lovingly and fondly bestowed upon us His holy Sabbath, as remembrance of the act of Creation. First and foremost among the Holy times and seasons of the year, it is a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.

You have lovingly and fondly bestowed upon us Your holy Sabbath.

Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who makes the Sabbath holy.


All others respond: Amen

Sit down, if it is your custom to stand for Kiddush, and drink the Kiddush wine. You should drink at least about two ounces. If making Kiddush over bread, eat a few ounces.

Lighting the Candles

Every Friday, before sunset, we light Shabbat candles in the dining room. The Law is to light them around eighteen minutes before sunset.

Light the candles, then cover your eyes and recite the blessing, either in Hebrew or in English:

Boruch Attah Adonai, Elohainu Melech ha-olam, asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav, v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.

(Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Who has made us holy through His commandments, and commanded us to light the Sabbath light.)

Uncover your eyes, and gaze briefly at the candles. Then recite the following

May it be Your will Hashem my God and God of my forefathers that You show favor to me (my husband, my son(s) and daughter(s), my father and mother), and all my relatives; that You grant us and all Israel a good and long life; that You remember us with a remembrance that will
grant us good and blessings; that You consider us with a consideration that will grant us salvation and mercy; that You bless us with great blessings; that You make our homes complete; and that You cause Your Presence to dwell among us.

Make me worthy of the privilege and grant me the merit to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and understanding, who love Hashem, and fear Hashem; may they be people of truth, holy offspring, devoutly faithful to Hashem, and may they illuminate the world with Torah and good deeds and with every type of activity that serves the Creator.

Please, listen to my request at this favorable time, in the merit of our mothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. And illuminate our lights so that they never get extinguished.
Shine your «Face» upon us with joy and we will be saved, Amen.

There are three basic reasons for lighting the candles for the Sabbath:

  1. To honor the Shabbos. sort of like how people put up lights for parties, perhaps, or put the lights on high for a grand celebration;
  2. To make sure there is light in the house during the Friday night meal. This ensures that the people will enjoy their food more;
  3. For peace at home. If people stumble around and fall down there will be no peace in the house during Shabbos. Peace at home is of utmost importance in Judaism.

These days, we have electric lighting, but the first reason is still relevant.

The candles do not need to be of any particular color. Standard custom is to use white candles, but there is no law about this. They should be large enough so that they are still burning during (at least) the beginning of the meal, when the family is together at the table. Most Jewish groceries have special paraffin candles called «Shabbos Candles.» Ask for those, if you are able to shop at a store like that.

It is customary that the woman of the household light the candles, but any adult may do it. One should light at least two candles (or oil lamps). This is to honor the Torah’s double reference to the Sabbath: the Torah says both «Remember» and «Guard» the Sabbath. The most prevalent custom is to light one for each member of the family (single people living alone light two lights anyway). In other words, the minimum is two, and we add a light for each child brought into the home.

The lights should be lit in the room where you will be eating. If you are sleeping at home but eating elsewhere Friday night, light the candles where you will be sleeping.

Safety is important. If you have little children at home, place the candles where the children cannot get to them. Remember, toddlers have a habit of pulling tablecloths! They can pull off a tablecloth and the candlesticks will fall down with it. Either get strong clips for the tablecloth, or place the candles somewhere out of the reach of the children.

There is a custom to give charity just before lighting the lights. Therefore one should always have a special charity box (called a pushka) available in the house that one can put money in for charity. Every so often, distribute the money to a proper cause.

Preparing for Shabbos

As you know, Shabbos is our day of rest. Friday, however, isn’t. Friday, which we call “Erev Shabbos” (Sabbath Eve), is the day we do most of our preparations for Shabbos. This is nothing new. It was done that way even when Hashem first gave us the gift of Shabbos in the Sinai Desert, not long after we left Egypt. Here’s a little of the Written Torah says about that:

The people gathered the manna each morning, according to what each person would eat. Then, when the sun became hot, it melted. When Friday came, what they gathered turned out to be a double portion of food … for each person. All the leaders of the community came and reported it to Moses. Moses said to them, «This is what Hashem has said: Tomorrow is a day of rest, Hashem’s holy Sabbath. Bake what you want to bake, and cook what you want to cook, today. Whatever you have left over put aside carefully until tomorrow morning.» They put it away until Saturday morning, as Moses had instructed…. [On Sabbath morning] Moses announced, “Eat it today, for today is Hashem’s Sabbath. You will not find anything in the field today. You are to gather this food during the six weekdays, but the seventh day is the Sabbath, and on that day there will not be any.”
— Exodus 16:21-26

The Children of Israel would gather the manna and cook or bake it for Shabbos, because on Shabbos they were not allowed to. That is, they were not allowed to gather it, nor carry it home, nor cook it, nor bake it, on Shabbos. All that had to be done before Shabbos began.

We also need to prepare for Shabbos. Since many forms of activity are forbidden on Shabbos, a great deal of preparation is needed before Shabbos. Furthermore, Shabbos is considered like a queen that is coming to visit. For such a prestigious guest, we must certainly get ready to show her honor! If the Queen of England were coming to visit, we would clean everything and hang up all sorts of nice curtains and decorations and so forth. We must also prepare for the Sabbath Queen.

The preparations we do are both internal and external: that is, both spiritual and material. They involve preparing the home, and preparing ourselves.


When you buy something for Shabbos, say “L’kovod Shabbos Kodesh” (“For the Honor of the Holy Shabbos”).

One of the things you will need to buy is food, and ingredients for food you will cook or bake. On Shabbos we are required to eat three Seudos (Special Meals). These meals will each include Challah (a type of bread made specially for Shabbos), and fish. For the first two of the Seudos (the first on Friday night, and the second late Shabbos morning or early afternoon) we will also eat either meat or chicken, and anything fancy that you enjoy eating. Many people have a custom to eat vegetables after eating the fish on Shabbos.

This is all assuming that you can afford to purchase these things. You are not required to go broke by buying food for Shabbos. Buy what you can afford, and honor Shabbos as best you can. You may either cook or buy the Shabbos food, though it is better if you are able to cook it yourself.

Please note that if you are unable to eat any of these things, just leave it out. You are not required to make yourself suffer over a Shabbos menu. Health comes first. Furthermore, Shabbos is for enjoyment, not suffering. However, the food eaten at the Seudas Shabbos (Shabbos Meal) should be at least somewhat formal, and not the regular food you eat during the week, and certainly not snacks. Furthermore, we are required to eat at least one hot course during the first two Shabbos meals.

You will also need wine for Kiddush. There are various other options for diabetics, such as tea.

Cooking and Cleaning

Cook (and bake) for Shabbos. If possible, bake challos for Shabbos. It’s okay to buy challos instead of baking them. If you can bake your own challos, that is an extra source of blessings for your home, but it’s not mandatory. Some people bake challos Thursday or even Wednesday, and if that works better for you, then do it that way.

Every time you cook, bake, or in any other way prepare something for Shabbos say “L’kovod Shabbos Kodesh” (“For the Honor of the Holy Shabbos”) before or while doing that preparation.

The house should be cleaned for Shabbos.

Preparing for Shabbos should be done by both the women and the men. Children should also be given the chance to do something to prepare for Shabbos. It is important that everyone get involved in the preparations for Shabbos.

The Rabbis tell us that:

you have people who do your work for you, you should get personally
involved, and should prepare at least one thing you will need on Shabbos, and in this way you honor Shabbos. All the great Rabbis would do work to prepare for and honor Shabbos. Rav Chisda would slice vegetables; Rabbah and Rav Yosef would chop wood; Rebbi Zaira would light the fire; Rava would salt the fish; Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok would clean the house, and would bring out all the pots and dishes needed for Shabbos, putting away all those that were not needed for Shabbos. And
so on. Everyone should take a lesson from this, and not shrink from this duty out of personal “dignity.” In fact, it is a truer measure of your dignity that you honor Shabbos.

Tractate Shabbos 119b

The point is that they themselves would prepare it. They didn’t rely on anyone else to get the job done.

Set the table for the Shabbos Seudah. If possible, use a white tablecloth. This is to remember the extra manna (which was white) that fell in the Sinai Desert every Friday to honor the Shabbos.

During the afternoon of Erev Shabbos (Friday) you should eat only sparingly, if at all. Seudas Shabbos is not just a meal. It is a religious ceremony, and it must be honored. You should have at least some appetite before beginning the Seudah.

Personal Preparations

You should have special clothing for Shabbos, nicer than what you wear during the week. Generally, men have a special Shabbos suit, a special Shabbos hat, and Shabbos shoes. Women have special Shabbos dresses, Shabbos shoes, and some women might even have special Shabbos jewelry.

Make sure your Shabbos clothing is clean.

If you need a haircut, it is good to get it on a Friday, to honor Shabbos.

Cut your fingernails. A Jew should cut his fingernails every Erev Shabbos. You will find that if you get into that habit, your fingernails will grow enough each week to make it possible to cut them each and every Friday.

Toenails should be cut on Thursdays. Do not cut your toenails and fingernails on the same day.

Take a hot shower or bath to honor the coming of Shabbos. If this is for some reason impossible, at least wash your face, hands and feet (in that order) in hot water.

It is customary, but not mandatory, for men to immerse in a mikvah before Shabbos, and again Shabbos morning before Shacharis.

Final Preparations

Before Shabbos, make sure all your hot food is arranged according to Jewish Law. This is a complicated subject best left for another article. In short, what we generally do is place a flat sheet of metal (called in Yiddish a “blech,” believe it or not) over one or more low flames, and put the covered pots on top of the metal sheet. It is best to make sure that any food put there is either raw or already fully cooked, if possible. Whether raw or cooked, it is best that they already be piping hot and on the blech when Shabbos begins. Once Shabbos begins, you may not put anything on the blech.

It is mandatory to light special lights for Shabbos. Candles are fine, but olive oil and wicks are better.
A married couple should divide the labor in this. The woman is required to kindle the lights (eighteen minutes before sunset begins), and the man should prepare the lights. He should clean out the candle holders and arrange the candles in the holders, or pour the oil and place the wicks, and do everything that is necessary to make it possible for his wife to light the Shabbos Lights.

Before Minchah (the Late-Afternoon Prayer), men should say Shir Hashirim (the Song of Songs), which King Solomon wrote to describe the love that Hashem has for us, the Children of Israel. Women say it after lighting the Shabbos lights. You should be wearing your Shabbos clothing when saying Shir Hashirim. Saying Shir Hashirim is not a Law, but it is a good Custom.

If you have the time, spend the time before the Prayers studying Torah. That is the best way to prepare for Shabbos.

If you take the time and effort to prepare properly for Shabbos, and you keep the Shabbos as best you can, the Shabbos Queen herself will reward you, and you will experience a very uplifting Shabbos, as well as many other spiritual and material benefits.

The bulk of this article came from Ohr Tzaddikim by Rabbi Meir Paprush, and the Sefer Seder Hayom by Rabbi Moshe Ben Yehudah Machir.

The Weekly Portion of Torah

Pay close attention to all the words through which I warn you today, so that you will be able to instruct your children to keep all the words of this Torah carefully. It is not an empty teaching for you. It is your life, and with it you will long endure on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to occupy.

Deuteronomy 32:46-47

The Torah is our life, and it gives us endurance. Hashem has commanded us to constantly study Torah, whenever we can. To help us with this, the Five Books of Moses are divided into fifty-four portions, one for each week of the year. Each Shabbos of the year (except those that occur during a Holiday) the portion (or, parshah) for that week is read aloud in the synagogue.

Okay, okay, before you shout at me, I know there are really only about fifty Shabbosim in a Jewish year. So what do we do with the extra parshos? Well, actually, some Shabbosim have TWO parshos. Sometimes, when there aren’t enough weeks in the year to cover all the parshos, we read two short parshos on one Shabbos.

So why do we have those extra parshos in the first place? Because during a Jewish leap year, when there are thirteenth months, there are about four extra weeks. We need to read something that week! So one way or another it all evens out at the end of the year.

We are each obligated to study the parshah on our own each week, even though we hear the entire parshah read in the synagogue each Shabbos.1

There is, however, a specific way to study the Shabbos parshah, as we shall see.

The first thing, of course, is to know which parshah is the parshah of the week. It is vitally important that you own a Jewish calendar. Among the things found on a good Jewish calendar is the name of the weekly parshah.

Read each verse twice, even though we will hear the Reader read the parshah out loud on Shabbos to the congregation. After studying the verse twice, study Rashi’s Commentary on that verse. Or, you may read all the verses in the entire parshah once, and then read the first verse at a time

This is called “Shnayim Mikra V’echod Targum,” which means “The Verses Twice and theCommentary Once.”

Some people also include the Targum of Unkelos, which is an authoritative Aramaic commentary and translation that is part of the total body of Judaism that Hashem gave us at Mount Sinai,2 and was written down by Unkelos during the late first century CE or during the early second century CE. The original Custom was to review the parshah each week with Targum Unkelos. However, if you don’t understand Aramaic, you cannot fulfill the obligation by studying the Targum. So nowadays many people study Rashi instead, or study both Targum and Rashi. Both the Targum and Rashi explain things that are not understood by merely reading the verses, and that is why they are important.3

When studying the parshah, it is important to understand what you are studying. You might want to use a good English translation to read as you study each verse. Today, there are some excellent translations of the Chumash (Five Books of Moses) that also include a translation of Rashi. If you cannot get a good translation of Rashi’s Commentary, you may, instead of reading the Targum, read a book that has a good treatment and explanation of the Parshah according to the Talmud’s Traditions. (I recommend The Midrash Says, or the Tz’enah Ur’enah.) Under such circumstances, that counts as studying the Targum.4

A Deeper Understanding

Because Shabbos is the primary source of our holiness, we must prepare ourselves both physically and spiritually to receive that holiness each week. A very important way to prepare your self spiritually is to study the weekly parshah. Even though we hear the entire parshah read in the synagogue each Shabbos, we are each still obligated to study the parshah on our own each week.1

The kabbalists teach us that if you have not yet studied the parshah Shnayim Mikra V’echod Targum then you cannot fully receive the holiness of Shabbos.6 The study of Shnayim Mikra V’echod Targum grants us the ability to receive the holiness of Shabbos. This tells us at least some of the importance of studying the parshah.

Why do we study it three times, once with the Targum? One of the many reasons is that Hashem gave us the Torah three times. The first time was at Mount Sinai. The second time was when He reviewed it with Moses at the Holy Tabernacle in the Desert (so that Moses could teach it to us). The third time was just before Moses passed away. The third time, Hashem commanded Moses to teach it to us and “explain it very well.”7 Therefore, the third time we study the explanation.8 Unkelos and Rashi are the most heavily based on the direct transmission of the explanation of the Torah (the Oral Law), and so we study those.

While women are encouraged to study the explanation of the parshah in such works like the The Midrash Says, or the Tzenah Uri’enah (and indeed, it was the Custom in many parts of Europe for women to read the Tzenah Uri’enah on Shabbos), they can receive the holiness of Shabbos even without doing so.

When to Study the Parshah

The Talmud5 says that one should study the parshah when the congregation does, meaning that we study it during the week that it is read.

When is the parshah read? Technically, the congregation begins reading each parshah during the late-afternoon prayers on the Shabbos before the parshah is read. Each Shabbos, we read an entire parshah in the morning, and just a little bit of next week’s parshah in the afternoon.

For example, during Minchah on Shabbos Parshas Bereishis (which is the first parshah of the Torah), we read the first section of the second parshah of the Torah, which is Parshas Noach.

During Minchah on Shabbos Parshas Noach, the second parshah of the year, we read the first section of the next parshah of the Torah, the third parshah, which is Parshas Lech Licha.

And so on. So each week near the end of Shabbos we begin the next week’s parshah.

Once they have read from that section on Shabbos afternoon, it means that the congregation has begun to read the next parshah, and we may each begin studying the Shnayim Mikra V’echod Targum of the next week’s parshah.10

The best time to study the parshah is on Friday morning after the Morning Prayers, if you are able to do that. Many people find it difficult to study it all in one day, and instead read one section each day, and two on Friday. The sections are divided according to the way the reading is divided on Shabbos. On Shabbos they will call up seven people to the Torah, and for each one they will read one section (aliyah) of the parshah. So those who study the parshah during the week often read the first section (the first aliyah) on Sunday, the second aliyah on Monday, and so on. The last two they read on Friday.11

While it is best to finish studying the entire parshah before you eat the Shabbos Friday Night Meal, if you were unable to you may finish it later and still fulfill your obligation. If you were unable to finish it during Shabbos, you have until Wednesday. If you were unable to finish it by Wednesday, you can also do it any time until the Jewish year ends and the cycle of Parshios begins again.

On Yomim Tovim (Jewish Holidays) we read from the Torah passages about the Holidays. It is not necessary to study these for Yom Tov.12 (Our preparation for Yom Tov is to study the Laws of that Yom Tov.)

The Midrash13 says that Rabbi Yehudah the Prince14 instructed his sons to finish Shnayim Mikra V’echod Targum before eating the Shabbos Meal. However, if it means keeping other people waiting, especially if they are hungry, then it is forbidden to delay the Shabbos Meal for this reason.15

The Talmud says:

Rabbi Huna the son of Rabbi Yehudah explained, “One must finish studying the parshah each week, the verses twice and the Targum once . . . and whoever does so will merit long life.”9

It seems worth the small investment of our time in order to increase our time! But most importantly, what a difference it makes to the spiritual level of our Shabbos!


1. Shulchan Aruch 285:1

2. Mishnah Brurah 285:6

3. Mishnah Brurah 285:4

4. Mishnah Brurah 285:5

5. Deuteronomy 27:8

6. Rabbi Meir Paprush, Ohr Tzaddikim 28:18

7. Ziv HaShabbos, Chapter Liras Shabbos, 3, citing Levush

8. Brachos 8a-8b

9. Mishnah Brurah 285:7

10. Both suggestions are mentioned in the Mishnah Brurah 285:8

11. Mechaber 285:18

12. Mechilta Parshas Bo

13. Circa first century CE, composer of the Mishnah

14. Mishnah Brurah 271:1

15. Brachos 8b

How to Find a Place to Stay and/or Eat for Shabbos

Shabbos (or Shabbat, depending on your dialect of Hebrew) should not be spent alone. It is not forbidden, but Shabbos should be a happy time, spent with friends and family. And there are thousands of Jews all over the world who love to have Shabbos guests, either for the entire Shabbos, which includes sleeping and meals, or just for meals. Whatever works for you. is a site devoted to bringing Jews together for Shabbos. It is widely used, and I highly recommend it.

There is also Oneg-Shabbat (which means “Shabbat Delight”), dedicated to “putting you in touch with families and new friends wishing to host a Shabbat guest.” I don’t know anything about the site or the people.

To find a Rabbi or a synagogue, visit one of the following sites, and conduct a search.

Orthodox Union Synagogue Network
This search engine does not find all synagogues in an area; it has only a small percentage. However, some of them seem to be synagogues you might not find on most other lists.


A vast list of synaogues all over the world. This list looks like it’s almost a complete list.

Kosher Delight

This is actually an online magazine of some sort run by a restaurant, but one of its many features is lists of synagogues around the world.


For Chabad Lubavitch Centers around the world. Chabad Houses are great places to stay or eat on Shabbos, or just to get connected to Judaism and Jews. (Or try this link, for an alternate search engine at the same website.)

The Reason For Shabbos

The Rabbis tell us that while we cannot know the deepest thoughts of Hashem, we can know what Hashem tells us, through the Torah, about the Commandments.

Shabbos (the Sabbath), we are told (Mechilta d’Rashbi, Parshas Yisro) was given to us for several reasons, including the following two:

  1. because Hashem created the world in six days and did no act of creation on the seventh day;
  2. because of the Exodus from Egypt.

The two reasons cited above represent the two aspects of our existence, the physical and the spiritual. Shabbos offers us those same two types of benefit, the physical and the spiritual. Both are mentioned in the Torah, because both are underlying reasons for the Commandment to refrain from certain types of creative activities on Shabbos.

The Spiritual Aspect of Shabbos

In one place, the Torah says:

Do your work during the six weekdays, but keep the seventh day as a Sabbath of Sabbaths, holy to Hashem…The Israelites shall thus keep the Sabbath, making it a day of rest for all generations, as an eternal covenant. It is a sign between Me and the Israelites that during the six weekdays Hashem made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased working and “rested.”

— Exodus 31:15-17

This highlights the spiritual aspect of Shabbos. We keep Shabbos to demonstrate our belief that Hashem created the universe, and as part of that Creation Hashem “rested” on the seventh day. Moreover, Hashem actually created “rest” at that point.

Of course, it also goes deeper. The Sefer Hachinuch (Book of Jewish Education by Rabbi Aharon HaLevi, 13th century) says that when Jews all keep Shabbos on the same day of the week, and someone asks them why, and they answer that it is because Hashem created the world in six days and “rested” on the seventh, this strengthens everyone’s faith. Keeping Shabbos is both a statement of our belief, and a way of strengthening our belief.

Strengthening our belief in Hashem empowers and increases our spirituality. It makes us holy. It is in fact our primary source of holiness. When we keep Shabbos, every Commandment of the Torah that we keep gives us additional holiness.

So the Torah says, “Do your work during the six week days, but keep the seventh day as a Sabbath of Sabbaths, holy to Hashem,” as we learned above. This points to the spiritual re-energizing we experience on Shabbos, due to the fact that Shabbos is holy. Shabbos is the primary means by which we receive holiness and spirituality (among other Commandments of the Torah). And it is our source of faith as well, since it is tied up with our belief in Hashem as Creator.

So to get it in context, let’s see what the Torah tells us in the verses just before the ones we learned above:

Hashem told Moses to speak to the Israelites and say to them: You must keep My Sabbaths. It is a sign between Me and you for all generations, to make you realize that I, Hashem, am making you holy. [Therefore] keep the Sabbath as something sacred to you. Anyone doing work [on the Sabbath] shall be cut off spiritually from his people…

— Exodus 31:12-14

In other words, the Sabbath is our spiritual connection to both Hashem, and to the rest of the Jewish People. And therefore Shabbos is for spiritual development.

And finally, Shabbos was blessed during Creation, as we find in the Torah: “G-d blessed the seventh day and made it holy…” (Genesis 2:3). Shabbos is, in fact, the SOURCE of blessing for the other six days of the week. That is, a person can have blessings at any time during the week only through the medium of Shabbos. All of the six days of the week depend on Shabbos.

Physical Rest

But the Torah also tells us,

You must remember that you were slaves in Egypt, when Hashem your G-d brought you out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. It is for this reason that Hashem your G-d has commanded you to keep the Sabbath.

— Deuteronomy 5:15

This is rather hard to understand. What connection is there between the Exodus from Egypt and keeping Shabbos? Hashem’s taking us out of Egypt is the reason for Passover, but how can it be the reason we keep Shabbos?

The explanation behind this is that Shabbos reminds us that we are free. On Shabbos we have leisure time. On Shabbos we are not subservient to any human being, we have no work, no boss, and no To-Do list. We can rest when we wish, and we can take charge of our own lives.

In Egypt, we were slaves, and we couldn’t rest when we wanted to. We were slaves to the Egyptians, and we had to work when they told us to. We could not rest when we wanted to.

Then Hashem saved us from Egypt, and we became free. Now we can rest on the Seventh Day, the day that Hashem finished creating the world. Now we are free to rest.

Therefore, since Hashem took us out of Egypt, and gave us this freedom, He commanded us to remember that He rescued us from slavery, by actually resting on Shabbos. Hashem has given us the opportunity and ability to rest, and so to thank Hashem for this, we must indeed rest.

Concerning physical rest, the Torah says: “During the six weekdays, do what you must do, but on the seventh day you must rest, so that your donkey and ox will then be able to rest, and your maid’s son [i.e., even a non-Jewish minor in your employ] and the foreigner [i.e, a gentile employee] will be able to relax” (Exodus 23:12).

Shabbos, explains Rabbi Bachya, also offers the benefit of preventing our wear and tear and eventual break-down from constant work. Instead, we have one day a week to rest from our labors and from bodily toil. This way, at least one seventh of a person’s life is spent in peace and quiet.

In another article, we will discuss how the Torah defines «rest.»