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6 Elul 5763 - September 4, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Escorting the Queen -- Honoring Shabbos at Its Conclusion

by Rabbi Doniel Yaakov Travis

Shabbos is a day raised above the rest of the week for the purpose of expressing Divine Majesty. So much so, that our Sages say one should try to achieve the same level of excitement upon the entrance and departure of Shabbos as one would have when welcoming and bidding farewell to royalty. Since we do not actually see anything different with our eyes, how can we perceive Hashem's Kingship on Shabbos more than any other day?

"Hakodosh Boruch Hu gives a neshomoh yeseiroh to each person on erev Shabbos and removes it on motzei Shabbos" (Beitza 16a). Kabbalistic writings explain that on Shabbos we receive a completely new neshomoh, one that is much more powerful than the one that we possess during the week (Zohar 2, 88b). The heightened level of perception provided by an extra neshomoh raises our spiritual awareness to the point where we can actually sense Hashem's Majesty. In light of this newfound understanding, we can appreciate the many aspects of Shabbos that vibrantly proclaim Hashem's Kingship.

After Shabbos our neshomoh yeseiroh departs and we lose most of the additional awareness we were privileged to experience. As a result of its departure, our bodies enter a state of semi-shock. The fragrant spices that we inhale during havdoloh bring us back to our original state of consciousness, allowing us to continue functioning until next Shabbos (Shulchan Oruch 297: 1).

A Good Start

"Behold! G-d is my redemption, I will believe in Him and I won't be afraid! For G-d is my might and praise, [I called out] Hashem! And He was a salvation for me" (Yeshayohu 12: 2).

One cannot help but feel a sense of loneliness when approaching the conclusion of Shabbos, the time of special intimacy with our Creator. The custom is to say a number of verses that speak of Divine redemption and salvation, before reciting havdoloh. These words, if allowed to penetrate the heart, have the power to strengthen us for the upcoming week until the next Shabbos, when we will once again have the opportunity to perceive Hashem's splendor.

On Rosh Hashonoh, the beginning of the year, we eat foods that symbolize a successful new year. Similarly, on motzei Shabbos, at the start of a new week, we look for signs of prosperity. In addition to the pesukim recited before havdoloh, many have the custom to say "Veyitein lecho . . . ," a collection of verses enumerating the blessings that Hashem showers upon us. Concluding Shabbos with these words of blessing insures that we will start off the new week on the right foot.


"A house where wine is not spilled like water will not see blessing" (Eruvin 65a). Wine that is as plentiful as water is an obvious symbol of financial prosperity. In order to symbolize our desire that Hashem make our home prosper, we purposely fill the havdoloh cup until the wine overflows (Rema 296:1).

Some poskim understand these words to refer to a different type of omen. Our Sages tell us that wherever anger is prevalent, there will be poverty. When wine spills, we can detect if this cataclysmic trait is present by gauging the reaction of the members of the household. If they become infuriated, it is a sign that their financial situation will be subject to scrutiny from Above. However, if they shrug off the spill as if the wine were water, their home is certainly fit for brochoh. Thus we start off the week with a visual reminder of the destructive power of anger, with the hope that this warning will keep us away from this negative trait all week long (Taz, ibid.).


On Shabbos one may not fold his tallis on its creases. The Maharil (one of the primary sources of minhag Ashkenaz) initiated a custom to put away his tallis as soon as Shabbos ended. In the generations after him, many others followed his example. Aside from the practical benefit of avoiding a wrinkled tallis, starting the week by honoring a mitzvah is a positive omen for the forthcoming days (Magen Avrohom 300: 1).

Kabbalistic writings caution against leaving one's tallis unfolded until the next morning, since klipos, husks of impurity, cling to it until it is folded. If one was unable to fold it on motzei Shabbos, he should shake it out before wearing it the next morning (Minchas Shabbos, Shiurei Minchah 96: 5). Other sources attribute further significance to the seemingly simple act of folding one's tallis, and write that letting someone else fold it could potentially harm one's mazal (Ben Ish Chai, Noach 16).

Going in Style

All Shabbos, we acknowledge Hashem's Presence by refraining from creative activity. After such an auspicious visit, we cannot simply return to our normal routine without first acknowledging the departure of our special guest. Someone who wants to do melochoh after Shabbos has officially ended, but before reciting havdoloh (either during Ma'ariv or over a cup of wine), is obligated to say, "Blessed is He Who separates between the holy and the mundane." This indication of the day's change in status serves as a verbal farewell to the departing presence of Shabbos (Rashi, Shabbos 150b, Shulchan Oruch 299: 10).

Following this short declaration, one is permitted to do melochoh, but he still may not eat. Sitting down to a meal shows that he has already settled into the new week and is at ease with the fact that the Shabbos Queen is no longer present. With the exception of drinking water, a person may not partake of any food or drink until he has first recited the complete havdoloh (ibid. 299,1). Some Ashkenazim have the custom to recite havdoloh standing, as a further sign of respect for the departing majesty of Shabbos (Rema 296: 6).

A Royal Sendoff

"A person should accustom himself to set his table after Shabbos has concluded, even though he only needs to eat a kezayis of bread" (Shabbos 119b). Our Sages' words require explanation. Why should a person go through the effort of setting the table if he only intends to eat a minute amount of food?

On Shabbos, all Jewish households merit to host the Shabbos Queen at their tables. Just as royal visitors do not leave one's home without an entourage, so too, one may not reenter the week without first giving Shabbos a proper sendoff. Even if a person is completely satisfied after having partaken of three lavish meals on Shabbos, he should nonetheless acknowledge the departure of Shabbos by setting his table elegantly. (Although it is praiseworthy to eat a full meal with bread for melaveh malkah, one may eat only mezonos, cake, or even just fruit. Editor's Note: The Chazon Ish said that this is correct, but that anyone who relies on this will regret it in the Next World.)

Righteous individuals go out of their way to make sure that the Shabbos Queen receives the proper sendoff. "Rav Avohu would slaughter a choice cow for the sake of the melaveh malkah meal, but from the entire animal would eat only one kidney. When his son Abimi grew older he asked his father, "Why should you waste so much? Just save a kidney from the meat you prepared for Shabbos." Rav Avohu heeded his son's advice and did not prepare anything specifically for melaveh malkah. That motzei Shabbos, a lion came and devoured one of his choice cows" (ibid.).

At first glance, this story seems totally incomprehensible. What was wrong with Abimi's suggestion and why was his father punished in such a bizarre manner? We can only conclude that Rav Avohu was shown from Heaven that even if one only desires a single portion of meat, it is appropriate to pay tribute to the departing Shabbos Queen by slaughtering an entire animal.

Halachah lemaaseh, although one need not prepare more food than he desires to eat, it is proper to set a table fit for royalty. Dressed in Shabbos clothing, we escort the departing Shabbos Queen by serving tasty, hot cuisine on beautiful dishes, singing melodious tunes, and lighting candles for our farewell banquet. All this adds a special ambience to the Queen's departure. Following the example of Rav Avohu, it is also fitting to prepare at least one dish specifically for the sake of this seudah (Mishnah Berurah 300: 1-3).


When is the best time to eat melaveh malkah? In order to accord the appropriate honor to the departing Shabbos Queen, one should try to eat the seudah as close as possible to her time of leaving, preferably before the fourth hour of the night (Kaf HaChaim 300: 14) and not later than chatzos (Mishnah Berurah 300: 2).

Kabbalistic sources say that part of the neshomoh yeseiroh remains until after one has finished eating melaveh malkah, and as a sign of respect to its kedushoh, a person should try to avoid doing melochoh (other than what is necessary to prepare the seudah) until after the conclusion of melaveh malkah. In so doing, one infuses the holiness of Shabbos into his first weekday meal (Sha'arei Teshuvoh 300: 1 in the name of the Talmidei HaArizal).

All's Well That Ends Well

All Shabbos long, one is involved with the pleasures of this world and beyond. Three delicious meals, a day full of Torah learning, rest and relaxation, and uplifting tefillos and zemiros -- all contribute to an experience of rapture. How can one really know if in the depths of his heart his intention is to serve his Creator or just to engage in a weekly escape from the harsh reality of daily living?

When you leave someone's home, you can easily discern whether your host enjoyed your visit or was just waiting for you to go. If he ushers you to the door quickly with an abrupt sendoff, you can probably assume that he is not overly disappointed at your departure and is not eager to have you back again. However, if he urges you to stay a while longer, offers you more hospitality, and finds it difficult to let you go, it is clear that he enjoys your company and will be excited to host you once again.

Herein lies the essence of the melaveh malkah experience. During the last moments of Shabbos, we must do everything in our power to keep the Queen with us for a few more precious moments. Showing proper reverence to this holy day during its waning moments shows that we truly honor and love Shabbos.

Perhaps this is the underlying reason why the gemora writes that one should "accustom himself" to eat melaveh malkah (Shabbos 119b), implying that this is an optional mitzvah, unlike the three Shabbos meals which are obligatory. These deep-seated sentiments must be genuinely felt; it would be meaningless to "fake" them (Mishnah Berurah 299: 4).

In the merit of sanctifying Shabbos, may we be privileged to that which the Rambam writes in Hilchos Shabbos 30: 15: "Anyone who keeps Shabbos kehilchosoh and honors and takes pleasure in it according to his means, will receive a reward in this world greater than that hidden for him in the World to Come, as the prophet promises, `Then you will rejoice with Hashem, and He will mount you on the heights of the land, and you will receive the inheritance of Yaakov Ovinu, for Hashem has spoken' " (Yeshayohu 58: 14)."

This article is taken from Days of Majesty -- Experiencing the Royalty of Elul, Tishrei and Shabbos, a new sefer published by Feldheim.

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