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The Day Before

Shabbos as a child was magical. It all started on Friday — you couldn’t have Shabbos without Erev Shabbos.

Sometimes in life, much of the joy is in the anticipation. It’s the same with Shabbos. As a child (and now too), I felt that on Erev Shabbos the Shabbos Queen starts shaking herself from her weekly sleep and comes to life.

Waking up Friday morning, I sensed something was different. There was an energy that hadn’t been there the morning before. A sense of hurriedness, as if a race was on — the rush to beat the clock by sundown.

Erev Shabbos in school was also special. Shabbos was in the air, that energy, that intangible buzz. It was the childish delight of knowing dismissal was early, the smile on our teacher’s face as she handed out cartoon parshah sheets and Olomeinu. Lunch was quick, consisting of simple, bland fare, as if it had good-naturedly surrendered, knowing it couldn’t compete with the Shabbos food that awaited us at home.

Even recess was different. Our hopscotch and jump rope games were interrupted as we obligingly moved to the side to make room for all those scurrying back and forth to 13th Ave for last minute shopping. (Yes, we actually played on the sidewalk!) Absorbed as we were in our games, we still noticed the women with strollers, men with flowers, and grandmothers with bubby carts, all walking with that same sense of purpose. We all understood their hurried, determined gait. They were getting ready for Shabbos. That was far more important than our inconsequential playground games.

My cousin Rivky and I were more vigilant than most during recess. If we were lucky and our Bobbie had finished her Shabbos preparations early, she would stop by at school during recess, offering us gum and candy from her weekly shopping trip. We took turns standing watch. At first sight of Bobbie we’d grab each other and run to meet her.

Then, before we knew it, school was over and we tumbled onto our respective buses, joking, jostling, and making plans. We needed to discuss whose house we were meeting at the next day. That usually involved a discussion on who had the best nosh. What was better; strawberry or chocolate Twizzlers? Stella D’oro shtreimel cookies or ices made out of grape juice? Malka’s mother’s caramel squares? Shulamit’s grandmother’s chocolate chip or rainbow sprinkle cookies? That would, of course, determine where we’d meet for our Shabbos party.

The negotiations were intense. After that important decision was made we had to decide who was picking up whom and at what time.

We spilled out of our buses at our respective stops and ran into our homes. We knew what we’d see. A house that looked perfectly spic-and-span, from the polished candlesticks to the neat lines made by the vacuum cleaner on the carpets. A pristine white tablecloth spread out on the dining room table. My father’s gleaming becher and the velvet challah cover poised to embrace its warm braided loaves of bread. We could hear the chicken soup bubbling on the stove.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 614)


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