In honor of the Sabbath, a person should bake bread and prepare extra food (including meat, wine, and delicacies; 250:2) and special utensils (see 250:1) before the Sabbath. He should wash clothes on Thursday (242:1), bathe or wash and cut his nails (and hair, if necessary) on Friday afternoon, and dress in good clothes (260:1;262:2-3). He should straighten out the house, set the table and make the beds before the Sabbath; the table should remain set throughout the Sabbath (262:1). Even if he has many servants, he should get up early on Friday and personally make some of the preparations for the Sabbath (250:1). Close to nightfall, he should ask the members of his household whether they have made their preparations; see 260:2. A person should plan to spend the Sabbath in a place where he is expected or can arrive in time to prepare (249:1).
A person should not eat an unusually large meal on Friday (except at a religious celebration), or even a regular weekday meal during the last quarter of the day (249:2); some people even fast every Friday (249:3). A person who voluntarily fasts on Friday should specify that he will eat immediately after the evening service; but if he is fasting because of a bad dream or a public fast, he should fast until after dark (249:4).
A person should not do regular work or study intensively on Friday afternoon (see 251:1-2); but work done in preparation for the Sabbath, such as washing clothes, preparing utensils, and cutting the hair are permitted (251:2). It is customary in Jewish communities to signal or announce the arrival of the Sabbath half an hour or an hour in advance, so that people can stop working and complete their preparations (256:1).
A candle must be lit to illuminate the house; if there is a woman in the household, she does this for everyone (see 263:2-3,6-8). It is customary to light several candles (see 263:1), especially on the table (see 263:10). They may be lit early if the Sabbath is accepted early (263:4; see below); on what to do when uncertain about the time see 261:3. When the candles are lit, the blessing “…Who commanded us to light a Sabbath candle” is recited. It is customary not to derive benefit from the light before reciting the blessing (263:5), but benefit must be derived from it afterward (see 263:9). Candles whose light is used on the Sabbath must be able to burn steadily (see 264:1-10) and should be treated with respect (see 275:12).
The Sabbath begins when it gets dark. For 13 minutes after sunset it is uncertain whether it is dark yet, and things that are rabbinically forbidden on the Sabbath may be done then if they are needed for the Sabbath or for a religious purpose (see 261:1-2;307:22;342:1). Some say that a person should begin observing the Sabbath somewhat before dark; but he should not begin it more than 1-1/4 hours before sunset (261:2 and 267:2; see Ch.18). A person accepts the Sabbath by beginning the evening prayers; and a woman who lights candles accepts the Sabbath by doing so unless she stipulates otherwise (261:4;263:10-11). On what to do if the congregation has accepted the Sabbath early see 263:12-13, 15-16; on what to do if the Sabbath was accepted early by mistake see 263:14. A person who has accepted the Sabbath early, or who is still observing it after dark on Saturday night, may ask others who are not observing it to do work for him, and may benefit from their work (263:17). On what to do if it is uncertain which day is the Sabbath see 344:1-2.
Shulchan Aruch, Copyright (c) 2000 Project Genesis, Inc.