What Can I Eat on Erev Shabbos?

Bigger-than-Usual Meal

  1. On erev Shabbos and erev Yom Tov, one may not have a bigger meal than he normally does during the week, not even in the morning. This is for the honor of Shabbos and Yom Tov (שו”ע סי’ רמ”ט ס”ב). There are three explanations for this:
  2. To be hungry for the Shabbos seudah. One reason is to enter Shabbos with an appetite (שו”ע שם). This concern applies to a very large meal even if it is eaten erev Shabbos morning since one is not used to eating such a large meal (מ”ב סקי”א).
  3. Won’t prepare for the seudah. Another reason is that if one is busy with a very large meal, he will not prepare for Shabbos (מג”א בשם ר”ת, מ”ב סק”י). If someone else can prepare for Shabbos, this reason does not apply and one would be allowed to have a larger-than-usual meal; according to the first reason, it would still be assur (תוספת שבת סק”ג, כף החיים סקי”א).
  4. Disrespect for Shabbos. Yet another reason is that having a very big meal on erev Shabbos puts erev Shabbos on the same level as Shabbos, which shows disrespect to Shabbos (פמ”ג, ביאה”ל מפני כבוד).

Seudas Mitzvah

  • One may have a seudas mitzvah that falls on erev Shabbos. Still, out of respect for Shabbos he should lechatchilah make it in the morning (שו”ע שם, מ”ב סקי”ג) – i.e., before chatzos (מ”ב סקי”ג, מ”ב סי’ תרצ”ה סק”י) or at least until the ninth hour (שו”ת מהרי”ל סי’ נ”ו). Bedieved, he may even make it after the ninth hour (שער הציון סקי”ז).
  • Bris. Therefore, if a bris occurs on erev Shabbos, one may make a seudah then even if the bris was after the eighth day (רמ”א, מ”ב סקי”ג).
  • Pidyon haben. Similarly, if a pidyon haben occurred on erev Shabbos, one may make a seudah then even if the pidyon was done after its official time.
  • Siyum. If one finished a mesechta or seder of mishnayos on erev Shabbos, he may also make a seudah then (ביה”ל ד”ה או פדיון, חוט שני ח”א פ”ז סק”א).
  • Eirusin. It used to be that eirusin, i.e., the kinyan of kiddushin with a ring, was done some time before nisuin, and a seudah was made for the eirusin. When the actual kiddushin was done on Friday, it was mutar to make a seudah then, as that is considered a seudas mitzvah that falls on erev Shabbos (שו”ע שם, מ”ב סק”ט).
  • Tenaim. Today we do the kinyan of eirusin under the chuppah. What we call an eirusin or engagement is just a seudah upon completing a shidduch. One may not make a bread seudah on erev Shabbos for a “vort,” “l’chaim,” or “tenaim” since it is not a seudas mitzvah and it is a larger-than-usual meal (פמ”ג סי’ תמ”ד). However, one may have some mezonos or delicacies upon completing a shidduch on erev Shabbos (מ”ב שם).
  • Wedding seudah. If a nisuin takes place on erev Shabbos, the seudah may also take place then since it is a seudas mitzvah (מ”ב שם).

Eating a Normal-Sized Meal

  1. Strictly speaking, one may eat a regular-sized meal that he commonly eats during the week, e.g., lunch, all day on erev Shabbos, even after minchah ketanah. Thus, if one did not get a chance to eat all day and he is hungry, he may eat bread after minchah ketanah. However, from nine hours and on [half of a halachic hour before minchah ketanah], it is a mitzvah lechatchilah to refrain from starting a proper meal (שו”ע שם ע”פ ביאור מ”ב סקט”ו) with a substantial amount of bread as one does during the week (ביאה”ל ד”ה מלקבוע). One may lechatchilah eat a bit of bread, e.g., one slice, to relieve his hunger even after nine hours (ביאה”ל שם).
  2. Winter. On the very short winter days, it is a mitzvah to refrain from having a regular meal even before nine hours if one estimates that doing so will reduce his appetite to eat at night (מ”ב סקי”ז).
  3. Scrupulous people. Some scrupulous people do not eat any meal with a substantial amount of bread on erev Shabbos. Instead, they eat much less than usual (ב”ח, סדר היום) and suffice with snacks, mezonos foods, cooked foods, and fruit. The main thing is that they eat less than they normally do during the week to leave room to eat the Shabbos seudah with an appetite (ערוה”ש ס”ו).

“To’ameha” on Erev Shabbos

  1. It is a mitzvah to taste every dish on erev Shabbos in order to adjust and perfect them (מג”א, מ”ב סי’ ר”נ סוף סק”ב). However, one should not satiate himself when fulfilling the to’ameha minhag so that he will be able to eat the Shabbos seudah with an appetite.
  2. Reasons for to’ameha. The reasons for the minhag to taste the Shabbos food on erev Shabbos are: to ensure one will greet the king with properly seasoned food (שער הכוונות שער ו’ ענין טבילת ער”ש); so that the husband does not get angry on Shabbos if the food is below standard (מחזור ויטרי, מטה משה סי’ סי’ ת”ח); to get the body used to the Shabbos food (נפש חיה סי’ רמ”ט); and to ensure one does not add spices to the food on Shabbos in a forbidden manner (שש”כ פמ”ב הע’ רל”ב).
  3. Brachah. One should not just take a little taste as a person does to see if the food is good. He should actually eat some of the food so he can make a brachah rishonah (כף החיים סי’ ר”י סקכ”ג).

Shabbos Preparations

How Should I Prepare for Shabbos?

  1. Preparation. It is a mitzvah to prepare things for Shabbos kodesh, as the posuk says “והיה ביום הששי והכינו את אשר יביאו.” We learn from here that on erev Shabbos, one must make sure to have his Shabbos needs prepared (מ”ב סי’ ר”נ סק”א).
  2. Personal involvement. Each person also has a mitzvah to personally involve himself in preparing for Shabbos. The effort is not just a means to have the Shabbos needs prepared; engaging in the Shabbos preparations is inherently a mitzvah as it shows honor for Shabbos (שו”ע סי’ רנ ס”א, מ”ב סק”ג, חוט שני ח”א פ”ד סק”א). See below (25).

Arising Early on Erev Shabbos

  • One should arise early on Friday to prepare for Shabbos (שו”ע סי’ ר”נ ס”א); this means he should start preparing right after Shacharis (מ”ב סק”א). Within the first three hours of the day, which is the zman for kerias Shema (ביאה”ל ד”ה ישכים), one should make sure to start preparing for Shabbos. This is learned from the mann in the midbar, which was brought right away in the morning (מ”ב סק”א).
  • This halacha applies to the one who is actively doing the Shabbos preparation (הגר”נ קרליץ). Thus, in a house where the wife does all the Shabbos preparations, she should get an early start. If the husband is the one who does the main Shabbos preparations, he is the one who should start preparing right after davening unless he has a regular, fixed learning session after davening (מ”ב סק”א) [e.g., Chumash with Rashi, reviewing the parshah (מ”ב סי’ רנ”א סק”ח), daf yomi, daf hakehillah, or the like] or he learns with a group of people.

Buying Shabbos Items before Shacharis

  • Although one may not take care of his personal affairs before davening (שו”ע סי’ פ”ט ס”ז), on erev Shabbos one may buy items for Shabbos before Shacharis since that is considered a mitzvah activity (מ”ב שם סקל”ו), especially so if he is afraid they will not be available after davening. He should just make sure to say kerias Shema if the zman has already arrived (מ”ב סי’ ר”נ סק”א).

Saying “לכבוד שבת קודש

  • When buying. It is good to say “This is in honor of Shabbos kodesh” while buying any item for Shabbos since the words bring lots of kedushah (מג”א, מ”ב סי’ ר”נ סק”ב), and the kedushah takes effect on that activity (מחצית השקל).
  • All Shabbos preparations. Similarly, when doing anything for Shabbos, e.g., tidying and cleaning the house, showering, changing clothes, and the like, one should say out loud that he is doing it לכבוד שבת קודש (מקור חיים לחו”י סי’ רס”ב ס”ב).

Getting Personally Involved

  • Everyone should strive to personally prepare something for Shabbos to honor it (שו”ע סי’ ר”נ ס”א). The Gemara relates (שבת דף קי”ט) that the Amoraim personally made efforts to prepare for Shabbos even though they learned Torah all day and had others who could have done the preparations for them. Some Amoraim cut wood for cooking; some cooked or salted meat or fish; some spun wicks or lit candles. Every person should learn from them and not say, “I will not damage my honor,” for it is an honor to honor the Shabbos (שו”ע שם).
  • Therefore, every member of the household should have something that he always does erev Shabbos and he should do it as early as possible. For example: making the cholent, rolling the kneidlach; sweeping; dusting (מ”ב סק”ג); mopping/sponja, etc.. Those who say “לשם יחוד וכו’” before doing any mitzvah can say “הריני מוכן ומזומן וכו’ לקיים מצוה ‘והיה ביום הששי והכינו את אשר יביאו’ לתקן את שרשה וכו’ ויהי נועם וכו’” (כף החיים סק”ז).
  • Even someone who is not home, e.g., a yeshiva bochur or someone staying at a hotel, should personally do something in honor of Shabbos, such as buying a certain food or organizing the room (פסקי תשובות סי’ ר”נ סוף אות ג’).

Sharpening the Challah Knife

  • Some people are careful to use a sharp, non-serrated knife to cut the challos on Shabbos (ס’ קרבן שבת פ”א אות ז’, זמירות דברי יואל, הליכות חיים עמ’ נ”ו). Those who do this can fulfill the minhag to sharpen their knife on erev Shabbos (רמ”א סי’ ר”נ סוף ס”א) to make sure it is sharp and has no grooves; the regular knives we have are usually sharp and do not need to be sharpened.

Doing Melachah on Erev Shabbos

After “Minchah”

  • One who does melachah on erev Shabbos “from minchah and on” will not see brachah from it (שו”ע סי’ רנ”א ס”א). Some explain that this refers to minchah gedolah, i.e., half a halachic hour after chatzos (מ”ב סק”ג); others say it is minchah ketanah, i.e., two and a half halachic hours before shekiyah (שש”כ פמ”ב הע’ קי”ח) or before Rabbeinu Tam tzeis, i.e., about an hour and a quarter before shekiyah (מ”ב סי’ רנ”ו סק”א, שו”ת מגדנות אליהו ח”א סי’ נ”ב).
  • In practice. Strictly speaking, one may rely on the meikel opinion; one who does so will not lose out (מ”ב סי’ רנ”א סק”ג). However, one who is machmir to refrain from heavy melachah starting at minchah gedolah deserves a brachah (לבוש, ב”ח תורת שבת סק”ג).

Forbidden Melachos

  • The melachah forbidden from minchah and on is melachah that requires time and energy or heavy melachah, e.g., fixing things or sewing clothes not needed for Shabbos; unnecessary safrus work (כף החיים סקי”ב), professional art, or the like; or even activities not strictly defined as melachah, such as organizing shelves in a house, storage room, or store. All these are assur if they are not for the purpose of Shabbos (מו”ר בשו”ת שבט הקהתי ח”ב סי’ ק”ד).

Permissible Melachos

  • Casual melachah. Casual melachah that does not take much time or effort is mutar (רמ”א שם). For example: writing a friendly letter (רמ”א שם) or other reminder notes (כף החיים סקי”ב); sewing a button (שש”כ פמ”ב סל”ח) or fixing something minor on a garment; light home or electrical repairs, even for pay (מ”ב סק”ב).
  • For Shabbos. One may do melachah that is clearly for Shabbos (שו”ע ס”ב) even for pay (מ”ב סק”ז). For example, a tailor can fix a Shabbos garment (שש”כ שם); an electrician or plumber can repair something that is quite obviously necessary for Shabbos; and a barber can give a haircut to another Jew in honor of Shabbos (מ”ב שם).
  • Not obvious that it is for Shabbos. One may do melachah for Shabbos even if it is not obvious it is for Shabbos, but he may not take payment for it (רמ”א ס”ב).
  • For a mitzvah. One may do melachah for a mitzvah without taking payment (ע”פ מ”ב סק”ו), e.g., making tzitzis or tefillin or writing chiddushei Torah. If these things are needed right now or for that Shabbos, he may also take payment (מ”ב שם).
  • Food store. Strictly speaking, food stores may be open as close to Shabbos as possible to provide food for people who were unable to buy their Shabbos groceries due to circumstances beyond their control (מור וקציעה, כף החיים סי’ רנ”ו סק”ב). Some say these stores must close at minchah ketanah (מחצית השקל, ביאה”ל ד”ה העושה). In any event, storeowners must see to it that all their Shabbos preparations at home are done, and they should try to close at a reasonable time so that they can organize themselves and shower without entering a situation of potential chillul Shabbos ח”ו.
  • Business. Business and light work, e.g., answering a phone, sending an email, etc., are not melachos forbidden on erev Shabbos (מג”א, מ”ב סק”א). Still, one should be machmir not to get involved in these things at minchah ketanah or later if they are not for Shabbos (מו”ק).

Can I Do Laundry on Erev Shabbos?

  • One of the takanos of Ezra was to do laundry on Thursday in honor of Shabbos (שו”ע סי’ רמ”ב), but not on erev Shabbos, so that people would be free to engage in Shabbos preparations (מ”ב סק”ה).
  • Machines. The contemporary poskim discuss whether one may do laundry in a machine on erev Shabbos. Some say one may do laundry if the clothing will be dried in a dryer since that avoids the burden of hanging the laundry (אור לציון ח”ב פט”ז א’, מו”ר בשו”ת שבט הקהתי ח”ב סי’ ק”ד). Others hold one may not do laundry on Friday even with a machine (הגריש”א, הגר”נ קרליץ). However, if someone was unable to do laundry on Thursday or if someone does not have a clean garment for Shabbos, he may do laundry in honor of Shabbos even if he needs just one garment from the load (הגר”נ קרליץ).
  • Laundry machine on going into Shabbos. If one starts the washing machine or dryer close to Shabbos, he must make sure it will stop before Shabbos. Allowing it to continue into Shabbos is assur as it is disrespectful to Shabbos and it is conspicuous [אוושא מילתא] (ע”פ רמ”א רנ”ב ס”ה, שו”ת מנחת שלמה ח”א סי’ י’ אות ב’, שו”ת אג”מ או”ח ח”ה סי’ כב אות ל”ח). It must be off by shekiyah at the latest (פסק”ת סי’ רנ”ב הע’ 45).

“עשרתם, ערבתם, הדליקו נר”

  • When it is getting close to nightfall but before the time for hadlakas neiros, one should gently ask the people in his house, “Did you take off maaser? Did you make an eiruv? Did you take off challah?” He should also say, “Light the candle” (שו”ע סי’ ר”ס ס”ב). Since these things cannot be done on Shabbos, one must ensure they were done before Shabbos (מ”ב סקי”א).
  • Some of these do not apply so much nowadays. Usually eiruvei chatzeiros are made once a year, on erev Pesach; eiruvei techumin are not so common (מ”ב סקי”ב); and people usually buy food from which maaser was already taken off, unless they take off maaser again in their house from everything they buy (see Issue 141, par. 17).
  • Still, it makes sense that one should remind people about other common things, e.g., to disconnect the refrigerator lightbulb, turn off the boiler, turn on the Shabbos hot plate and other similar things, and open packages that may not be opened on Shabbos (see Issues 197, 199, and 200).

Zerachya Shicker is the translator for the English version of חוקי חיים. The Chukai Chaim is a halacha sheet in a league of its own. Started in August 2016 (Av 5776), the Chukai Chaim currently has a readership in the tens of thousands across the globe.

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