June 21, 2024
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Highlighting: ‘Exalted Moments: Welcoming Shabbos: Stories, Inspiration, and Insights’ by Yisroel Besser. ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications. 2022. 130 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1422631836.

(Courtesy of Artscroll) It’s the wondrous song of Shabbos. And it’s coming, with its blessings and its peace and its delights and its beauty.

Erev Shabbos. Yes, it’s a time of rushing to get everything done. But when Yisroel Besser describes the frenetic activity, Erev Shabbos becomes not a tension-filled, stressful race against time, but an enthusiastic and joyous preparation for the incomparable delights of Shabbos.

And then we welcome our Queen, with flickering candles and uplifting song. Here, again, as we enter a new and holy dimension, “Exalted Moments” enriches our experience, bringing our tefillos and bakashos to life.

In “Exalted Moments,” Yisroel Besser—author of many bestselling books, including “Nishmas”—shows us how to experience those special first moments of Shabbos. The book includes stories, ideas and insights on Erev Shabbos preparations, the enormous power of prayer during candle lighting, Shalom Aleichem, Eishes Chayil and Kiddush.

Open this book and learn to savor those first wondrous moments, as the sun gently drifts downward and we begin to experience the energy, hope and sheer holiness of Shabbos.

The following excerpt is one sampling, a taste of this book that enables us to hear a little less of the noise around us, and a little more of the sacred song of Shabbos.

The Rush

The sun over Radin hung low, the onset of Shabbos just a few minutes away. The talmid who entered the humble home stopped in place and froze, for his rebbe, the Chofetz Chaim, was humming. His face alight, his eyes closed, the Chofetz Chaim was singing words.

“Shabbos kumt, der Shabbos kumt, der Shabbos kumt… Shabbos is coming…”

Chasidim would speak with longing of the atmosphere in the court of the Kotzker Rebbe.

“Fartzeitishe Yidden,” they would say, “Jews of a bygone time, as es iz gekimmen Shabbos, as the Shabbos approached, hut a tug fri’er di kapote gebrent, a day earlier the Shabbos’dik garb was already aflame.”

The Brisker Rav did not sing, but he sat on his porch dressed for Shabbos, waiting with reverence and awe for the arrival of Shabbos, in accordance with the words of the Rambam: “…And be seated with reverence in anticipation of the Shabbos, receiving it as if he were coming out to meet the king” (Hilchos Shabbos 30:2).

The Yerushalayimer mekubal, Rav Yeshaya Asher Zelig Margolies, had a tradition that each Erev Shabbos, the Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh would learn hilchos eidus, the laws of

witnesses. This was so that he might serve as a proper witness on leil Shabbos, when he would give testimony that Hashem created the world.

So many different approaches, but they all lead to the same destination, a million paths ascending from the valley of the mundane up toward the peak of holiness.

During those final moments, the air is laden with anticipation, charged with longing. The word “erev,” explains the Zera Kodesh, is connected with “eiruv,” which means a mixture, a fusion of mundane and holy, the radiance and holiness of the impending day already hovering even before it arrives.

It is a day of such haste.

People running, running, running…

The word for run, ratz, is connected with ratzon, desire.

Rashi in Shir HaShirim (7:6) describes the appreciation that the Creator has for one who engages in that sort of motion: “Hakadosh Baruch Hu is bound with love to those who perform mitzvos, running swiftly to do so.”

The running to do mitzvos is an expression of pure ratzon, desire.

Issi ben Yehudah says that one who runs in a reshus harabbim and causes damage is liable to pay, because his behavior is unusual. But if he did so on Erev Shabbos, he is exempt, because he is running with permission (Bava Kamma 32a).

The running on Erev Shabbos is “with permission,” for unlike the scramble of the six days of the week, this haste has a purpose, a destination, the holy haste of Erev Shabbos itself engendering hashra’as haShechinah, the Divine Presence, viewed with love in Heaven.

It is the rush to do teshuvah, to leave behind, in the week that was, those actions, words and decisions of which we are not so proud. We will turn around during Lecha Dodi, casting a final look at a week—a world—to which we will never return. As the setting sun paints the world a fiery orange, we scramble, because in a few moments, we know, all activity will cease. The days of activity were all leading up to this moment, all of creation waiting for Shabbos to set in.

This is the focus of it all.

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