Chazal tell us, “Love overrides correct decorum” (Bereishis Rabbah 55: 11). When Hashem commanded Avraham Avinu to offer his son Yitzchak on the altar, Avraham’s love for Hashem and eagerness to do His will caused him to arise early in the morning to personally saddle his donkey, even though he had servants to perform this task.
On the same note, when expecting to host royalty, we certainly begin our preparations for their arrival long in advance and personally take part in order to ensure that everything is done properly. Especially in the moments right before the king’s arrival, everyone will be busy with last-minute preparations. This sense of awe and excitement gives us the energy we need to give our homes an extra special touch.
In this light, our Sages instructed us to prepare for Shabbos at two different times. To demonstrate one’s love for Shabbos, one should wake up early on Friday morning to begin preparing for its arrival (Shulchan Aruch 250: 1). Then once again, shortly before candle- lighting, the awe of Shabbos should inspire a person to make the final preparations for the upcoming royal visit (Mishna Berura 250: 2).
Right before Shabbos, a husband should gently remind his wife to light the candles. Why should he wait until the last minute and not remind her earlier? The Chofetz Chaim explains that although zerizus (alacrity) is usually recommended, in this case it might be detrimental. If the wife knows that she is receiving advance notice, she might think there is still plenty of time before Shabbos and neglect to light on time (Mishna Berura 260: 9).
Naturally, one works energetically during these high-pressured last minutes, but one should also try to keep the atmosphere in the home as serene as possible. In the rush to make everything perfect, one could fall into the trap of feeling anger at other members of the household, which is not only negative in itself but can also lead to serious transgressions (ibid. 260: 10). The medrash says that the yetzer hara invests special effort to introduce discord and strife into the home right before Shabbos.
Text Copyright © 2014 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org