Someone once said, “more than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” He meant to say that by keeping Shabbos, Jews have an anchor and a basic Jewish identity, no matter what they’re exposed to and involved with during the rest of the week. It would seem that Shabbos is the easiest day to be Jewish. Spending the day in the confines of our community, shul, and home we are shielded from the outside influences and distractions we struggle with all week long. How sad, then, that I so often hear from parents and from children, “Shabbos is the hardest day of the week.”

The yatzer harah works hardest when the stakes are high. The greater the potential for success, the harder he tries to block us. Shabbos is the highlight of the week and sets the tone for the coming week, hence the term makor habracha describing Shabbos as the source of blessing. Clearly, the only source of blessing is Hashem, so we understand this to mean that Hashem provides us with bracha for the entire week through our experience of Shabbos. We are given the opportunity for bracha on Shabbos but it is up to us to savor or squander it.

The Angels that come home with us on Friday night represent this tension between the potential of Shabbos and the kitrig, the powerful challenge mounted by the yatzer harah against it. One angel is beneficent, but the other angel is malevolent. When they come into our homes, they look around to see the appearance and to hear the mood of our home on Friday night. If the mood is tranquil, the beneficial Angels gets to say may the next week be just like this one, and the malevolent angel has to say amen. If the home is in physical and emotional disarray the malevolent angel gets to say may next week be like this one and the beneficial angel has to say amen. (Shabbos 119b)

Rav Noson of Breslov expressed it this way:

May it be Your will, Hashem, that I receive the holy Shabbos with great joy and gladness, with happiness, song, celebration, and delight. Protect me and save me so that no sadness or sorrow should arise in my heart, nor should I sigh or groan or worry about anything on the holy Shabbos…

Yet you know how many obstacles we face, and what opposition is constantly arrayed against us to prevent us from experiencing the joy of Shabbos…

May I rejoice all day long on Shabbos from its arrival until its departure until I infuse even the six weekdays with the joy of Shabbos. (Likutei Tefilos 2:13)

To help us to overcome these obstacles, we find suggestions of aromatherapy, meditation, and the establishing of an outward focus to reduce our tensions and concerns.

Both the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 262: introduction) and the Aruch Hashulchan (262:2) mention the practice of making a bracha on smelling hadasim at the beginning of Shabbos. Perhaps this to soothe us, to help us relax.

Most of us are familiar with the meditation Ribon kal ha’olamim found in siddurim and zemiros books for Friday night. Here we slow down and ask Hashem for tranquility (shalom),health and simcha.

I hope you bentsch your children, thinking about their Shabbos and what the Shabbos table is like for them. This invites you to look outside of yourself and remind yourself that the while Shabbos is your oasis in time, it may be an obstacle between your child and his friends and many of the activities they enjoy. How large an obstacle? I’ll never forget the parent who said, “Shabbos is torture for my children.” Can you imagine telling those children that we fervently ask Hashem to bequeath to us a time when it is always Shabbos [Harachaman hu yanchilainu yom she’kulo Shabbos]? What a scary thought that would be for them!

What’s the answer? How do you make Shabbos mai’ain olam habah for yourself and for your children?

In pre-school, they make the coming Shabbos exciting by nominating a child to be the Shabbos Abba or Ima. In some schools the child is told in advance and comes to school specially dressed for the occasion. It’s something to look forward to and to enjoy.

You aren’t going to have a child be a Shabbos Abba or Ima in your home, but you can appoint a child to be this week’s “Shabbos Guest.” Notify the child a few days in advance, and ask him or her what they would like special for their Shabbos. What foods, desserts, Shabbos party nosh would they like to have, what would they like the family to join them in doing on a winter Friday night or a summer Shabbos afternoon? Would he or she like to hear a dvar Torah or say one, or be told a story, or get to choose zemiros? Would they like to play a family game like Outburst, Jr? Would they prefer some one on one time with their father or mother? Would they like to invite someone to join them at your home for their special Shabbos, maybe grandparents or a cousin or a friend?

When it’s your turn to be the Shabbos Guest, make sure to include some time with your children as well as some time to yourself.

What about real Shabbos guests, where do they fit into all of this?

A talmid of Rav Wolbe, zt”l told me the following:

The Rosh Hayeshiva said that for the time being, the only Shabbos guests I should have are my children. I asked, “but how will I know when they want to have outside guests again.” Rav Wolbe said, “when your children ask for them.”



Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackermanisa Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, relationships, and parenting.  He works with parents and educators. He can be reached at 718-344-6575.