The Erev-Shabbos Jew

In his article “Shabbos Is More Than One Day a Week” (winter 2013), Rabbi Hillel Goldberg quotes Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik as saying that “America has many Sabbath-observant [shomer Shabbat] Jews, but no erev-Sabbath-observant Jews.”

Interestingly, the word “shomer” is typically translated as “to watch” or “to guard.” After Yosef tells his brothers and father his dreams, the Torah tells us “v’aviv shamar es hadavar, and his father watched the matter.” Noting the unusual usage of the word “shamar,” Rashi comments that Yaakov Avinu was, in fact, “mamtin u’mitzapeh masay yavo, waiting with eager anticipation for the time when [Yosef’s dreams] would come true.”

Drawing upon this Rashi, I would like to add that “shomer Shabbos” should not be translated as “Sabbath observant,” but rather as “Sabbath anticipant.” A shomer-Shabbos individual doesn’t just “observe” Shabbos by refraining from doing melachah, forbidden activities, and by eating three seudos; rather, he waits all week, excited about the upcoming Shabbos and anticipating its arrival.

In his article, Rabbi Goldberg managed to answer a question that has bothered me for quite a while. The Sefas Emes Siddur (Roedelheim) does not print the last three pesukim of the “Shir shel Yom” (Daily Psalm) for Yom Revi’i (Wednesday), beginning with “Lechu Neranena,” et cetera. The siddur directs the reader to the beginning of the Kabbalas Shabbos prayer recited on Friday night. I always wondered about this. The siddur in general is very well organized and attempts to be reader friendly. Why not print the three verses at the end of the “Shir shel Yom”?

Most likely, Chazal wanted us to “feel” Shabbos coming at the earliest possible moment. Since one may recite Havdalah until Tuesday evening, the earliest possible time to appreciate the coming Shabbos is Yom Revi’i. Hence, Chazal placed “Lechu Neranena” at the end of the “Shir shel Yom” of Wednesday. The editor of the siddur must have intentionally wanted the reader to turn to Kabbalas Shabbos, leading to a greater anticipation of the coming Shabbos.

Joel (Yossi) Shandelman
Monsey, New York

This article was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Jewish Action.