Chapter Ten

How the Jews prepare for the Sabbath and celebrate it.

In the second book of Moses we read Ex. 16.6: On the sixth day they shall prepare etc. And then Ex. 16.23: Tomorrow is the repose of the holy Sabbath of the Lord; bake what you want to bake, and cook what you want to cook. They understand this to mean that food to be eaten on the Sabbath has to be prepared a day ahead of time so that they may have absolute rest on the Sabbath.

For this reason they cook everything they want to eat during the Sabbath on Friday before night. The women are especially busy baking good cakes. When they prepare the dough, they leave it in one piece. If it is too big, as happens in some large households, so that it must be divided, then one piece must be covered with a piece of cloth, so that it may not be ashamed before the other part, because it was last to be prepared for the Sabbath.

They celebrate the Sabbath with three delicious meals, which are prepared as well and elegantly as possible. The first meal is Friday night, when Sabbath starts, the second on the Sabbath (Saturday) at noon, the third on the Sabbath at night. This law the Rabbis concluded from the second book of Moses, in which is written concerning the manna Ex. 16.25: Eat it today, because today is the Sabbath of the Lord; today you will not find it on the field. Here their wise ones say that "today" was written there three times. Thereby Moses wanted to point out that they would receive regularly the manna on the Sabbath, in this case three times. In their German Minhagim is written that there is another advantage to having three meals instead of one, because otherwise everybody would eat at that one meal so much, that he would be filled up for that day. In this way everybody knows that there are two more good meals coming, so they are not too eager, but eat modestly, knowing they will soon have another meal. What further they think of this matter will be explained later.

Nobody should think of himself as too elegant, rich or clever to help and work to prepare for the Sabbath. And even if you have hundreds of thousands of servants, you should still take part in the preparation to honor the Sabbath, as you can read in Talmud that the pious Rabh Chasda cut the cabbage; the very learned Rabba and Rabh Joseph split wood; Rabbi Sira made the fire; Rabh Nachman cleaned up the house and prepared all the tableware.

Boiled or baked things, which are better warm than cold, are kept warm in the oven so far as possible.

The table remains set the whole of Sabbath, day and night. The special meaning of this will follow shortly.

The men take special care to go to the barber if it is necessary, the women comb and braid their hair so that it looks clean and delicate, they take a warm bath, or wash hands and feet in warm water. They cut their fingernails every Friday, and they do that with a peculiar superstition and belief. They start with the left hand, the fourth finger, then the second, then the fifth, then the third, finally the thumb, so that they always alternate and never cut two next to each other. On the right hand, they start out with the second finger, then the fourth, etc. If someone lets the cut nails fall under his feet, he is a Rascha, a big sinner, and a godless person, because Satan has power over him, and evil people can do magic with them, and there are other dangers if a person steps on them. If you bury them in the ground you are a Tzaddik, a just and pious man. If you throw them in the fire, you are a Chasid, an upright and holy man. All this is indicated by the saying: On the sixth day they should prepare themselves. [Buxtorf quotes Exodus 16, but it is not clear to which verse he is referring.]

Each one has to prepare, clean and sharpen his own knife. This is proved from the book of Job, where it is written Job 5.24: And you will learn that your dwelling has peace, and you will take care of your house. From here the Chachamim and wise men of the Jews taught: When the knife is blunt, and cannot cut, there is no peace at the table and the house is ill provided for.

After that they put on their Sabbath clothes, and they adorn themselves as much as possible. This they prove from the prophet Isaiah where it is written Is. 58.13: And you shall honor it (namely the Sabbath). How? Your Sabbath clothes should not be like your workday clothes. Rich Jews have special Sabbath clothes which they do not wear on other days.

The Rabbis called the Sabbath Málcah, queen, and you should only wear royal clothes when you appear before the queen. If you do otherwise, it would be shameful, and an insult to the queen.

They prepare the table with a clean white cloth, napkins, plates, cups, pillows, benches and other things which are needed, so that everything may be ready for the arrival of the queen, that is, the Sabbath.

Formerly a horn or trumpet was blown six times, so that everybody should have enough time to prepare for the Sabbath, but now in well established synagogues, the Scheliach tzibbur, the sexton or shul knocker goes and calls out that everybody should cease working, and prepare for hachnasas callah, that is to receive appropriately the holy Sabbath, which will step in like a beautiful bride.

Therefore, after the time of the afternoon service, outdoor work ceases, and they celebrate the Sabbath early. They add a little of the weekday, and they go to the synagogue to sing and pray rather much, according to their custom.

When the sun sets over the tops of the mountains and trees, the women start to light the Sabbath lights. These are lamps that hang in the room where they eat. And when they burn, they spread both hands against the light and say: Praised be you God our God, King of the world, who made us holy through your laws, and bade us kindle the Sabbath light. They act similarly on other evenings before holy days. If the weather is dark, the sky covered by clouds, she will follow the chickens. When they roost, it is night-time and right to make the Sabbath. If you live in the country, outside the city, and have no chickens, you judge the time by the ravens and jackdaws, which seek their place to rest at night.

The very wise men give two reasons why women, rather than the men, were instructed to light the lights. First, after Eve had eaten from the forbidden apple, and found out that she had to die, she wanted good Adam, her husband, to eat from it too, and said to him: If I must die, you should die with me, and she forced him to eat too. When he did not want to eat, she took a branch or twig from a tree, and hit him until he ate too, as the Pasuk says Gen. 3.12: And she gave me from the tree (namely a good smack with a branch from the tree, as it is understood in the German Orach chajim) and so I ate. This way foolish Adam allowed himself to be beaten and seduced by the woman to transgress the Law of God, and bring death upon himself and his descendants. The sun was shining before they sinned, just as it will shine on the just in eternal life, but after they sinned, the sun changed its light, and with it the proper and elegant light of the world was turned off too. Secondly, they should kindle the lights, because women are always home, but not men. Further it is written Ex. 27.20: Veattah tezávveh, &c And you shall command the children of Israel to bring you the purest oil of olive trees, pounded, to light the lights perpetually. Here the very wise men ask: why did he write Tezávveh, You-shall-command, with the letter Tau? He could have written Zau! Command! The answer is that he wanted to suggest that the Naschim, the women, should light them, because Naschim has the numerical value of 400, [n=50, sh=300, y=10, m=40] and so does the letter Tau. Argute, scilicet. [The Latin tag means: a crafty argument, certainly!] Because a woman extinguished the light of life in the world, therefore as a penance she has to light the lights every holy day and Sabbath, to bring back to life the soul of man which is compared to a light, as it is written Prov. 20.27: Man's soul is the light of the Lord. The Chachámim write: If a woman kindles the lights with good Cavvánah and devotion, then it will be counted as much a holy deed as if she lighted the golden lamp in the holy temple. You can also read in the Talmud Shabbat, chap. 2 that women die in childbed because of three different reasons, namely, if she does not take Challa dough (years back a little of dough of unleavened bread was mixed with oil, which is in the second book of Moses Ex. 29.23); if she did not light the Sabbath lights, if she did not pay attention to her monthly period. These three things are interpreted in a kabbalistic sense through the name Chavah or Eve. Namely the first letter, cheth stands for challah, the second Vav stands for veseth (a Rabbinic word which is what they call Fluxum menstruum muliebrem), the third He stands for hadlakah lighting. If women are sufficiently reminded of these three laws, they will recover quickly and easily.

They usually light two or even more of those lights depending on the size of the room or house, and they have a meaning for all the parts of the human body, men as well as women. A man has two hundred forty-eight parts in his body, and a woman two hundred fifty-two parts in hers, counted according to the proper Jewish anatomy. These two figures add up to five hundred; so does the Hebrew word Ner, light, read twice, [n=50, r=200] Ner, Ner one for the man, the other for the woman. By these two Ner, that is lights, (not fools,) [Narr in German] it is meant that the light of life should again be lighted in man and woman.

The reason why she spreads out both hands in front of the light is that she should really say the prayer before the lights are lit, [benedictions are normally recited before the relevant act] but this is not possible, if she does not want to say the prayer in vain, [because by saying the benediction she accepts the Sabbath, and cannot kindle lights] therefore she spreads out her hands to prevent the light from entering her eyes, which is as if they were not burning.

There is an extensive discussion by the Jews in the Talmud, tractate Sabbath, what material is appropriate for the wicks, and what oil may be used, but I shall leave this alone at this time.

They add a little to the Sabbath, and start earlier, for the lost souls who come out of hell or purgatory for the Sabbath peace. As soon as a song with a nice, beautiful nigun, or melody, is started in the shul with Barechu, [the first word of the main evening service which Buxtorf translates "thank," rather than "bless"] the souls in purgatory run and sit in water to cool themselves off. Therefore the wise Rabbis do not allow water to be drawn at this time, so as not to rob the poor souls, as you can read in their Minhagim.

While they pray in the synagogue, two angels come, one good and the other evil, who post themselves in front of the synagogue, and if they hear someone praying with devotion, and saying his Lection, especially the verse Gen. 2.1: Thus the heavens and the earth were finished etc., and it goes on further about the sanctification of the Sabbath, the two angels accompany him home, put their hands on his head and say: Your sins are taken from you, and your misdeeds are pardoned.

Further, Rabbi Jose said in the name of Rabbi Jehudah: Two angels, a good one and an evil one, accompany everybody home on Sabbath eve. When they arrive there, and find the Sabbath light burning bright, the table set and prepared, the bed clean and white, then the good angel says: God willing, it should be like this again next Sabbath. Then the evil angel has to say Amen, even against his will. If it is lehephech, the opposite, the bad angel says: It should be like this next Sabbath too. Then the good angel has to say Amen against his will. That would annoy anybody.

So when they leave and come home, each one wishes the other a happy Sabbath, and then they sit down at the table. For it is written Ex. 20.8: Consider the Sabbath to sanctify it. In Hebrew this is Lekaddescho, that is, as soon as he comes in, you make Kiddusch over it, that is you bless a cup of wine. Therefore in many places they bless a cup of wine right after they pray in the church, [sic] because some poor people or strangers might not have any wine at home to bless the Sabbath. The one who says the blessing over the wine in the synagogue usually does not drink it, but gives some to a young boy to drink. This is because people drink from the blessed wine only at the table where they eat, when they say the blessing themselves.

Then they sit down at the table on which there has to be salt, a full cup of wine, and two loaves of bread covered by a napkin. Then the master of the house takes the full cup of wine, blesses the Sabbath and says: Jom Haschischi Vajecullu Haschamaim etc. (The four initial letters mean the exalted name of God JeHoVaH, through which God is signified in his eternal being. For this mystery they added the two first words [which are the last two words of Genesis, chapter 1] to the following words which are taken from the second chapter of the first book of Moses. Therefore they rise when they say these words, and give proper honor to God's name and say:

On the sixth day heaven and earth were completed with all their hosts. Because God had completed all his work on the seventh day, and on the seventh day he rested from his work. And God made the seventh day holy, because he rested from all his work, which God had created and made.
Here he interjects: Sabhre morai, Pay attention to the prayer, gentlemen, for all are excused as if they had said the prayer themselves. He continues with his prayer and says:
Praised be you, God our Lord, King of the world, who made the fruit of the vine. Praised be you, God our Lord, King of the world, who blessed us through your laws and gave us the holy Sabbath. You have caused us with good will and love to remember the work of creation, because it is a first of the holy convocations, a reminder of the exodus from Egypt; because you have chosen us, and blessed us, among all other peoples and you have granted us the holy Sabbath with love and goodwill as an inheritance. Praised be you God, that you have made the Sabbath holy.
After that he drinks the wine and gives everybody else to drink from it.

Then he takes the napkin from the bread and takes the two loaves of bread, but he does not cut them up before the prayer as he does on the weekdays, but says right away: Birschus morai verabbosai, that is, with the permission of my Lords and Rabbis: Praised be you God our Lord, King of the world, who brought forth bread from the earth. He cuts a piece off, eats, and gives each one at the table a piece, bigger and more ample than on other days, to honor the Sabbath, on which one should not be scanty. Then they eat whatever God has provided for them.

While the blessing over the wine is said, everybody has to look at the Sabbath lights, because the wise Rabbis write: When you take big steps during the week, you lose the five hundredth part of your eyesight, and the remedy therefor is to look at the Sabbath lights when the blessing is said, because the Hebrew word Ner (light) taken twice, equals the number 500.

They cover the bread so that it should not see its shame because of the wine, namely, that you give the first blessing to the wine on the Sabbath, although the bread is mentioned first in the Law Deut. 8.8: A country of wheat, barley, vines etc. Here the wheat, from which bread is made, is mentioned first, yet on the Sabbath it is blessed last. It would be a great shame if it were not covered. Other wise ones say it is covered to remind us of manna, because first dew fell in the desert, then the manna, and on the manna dew again, therefore the manna lay between two dews, just like between two cloths, therefore the bread lies on the tablecloth and is covered by a napkin. For this reason some good and pious women make pastry or similar baked goods, which are eaten in place of the manna. A pastry or pie has a thin dough as its base, is filled with meat, and has a cover similar to the manna.

They take two loaves of bread to remind them that at that time they gathered the manna twofold on Friday, as it is written Ex. 26.33: And on the sixth day they gathered the bread twofold.

In sum, of everything we do in this world, (they write in their Minhagim) we should take care of our body on the Sabbath, as the holy Thorah bade us in some places, as it says Is. 58.13: You should call the Sabbath Oneg, Delicias, [delight] a Sabbath of delight; namely, that we should do Taanugim, all kinds of pleasant things on the Sabbath. The same Pasuk continues about our holy days: You should make yourself happy on the holy days, all our things should be to honor God. Therefore eat and drink and live well, and think that you are doing it to honor the Sabbath, but not that somebody should buy too much on Friday, and fill his gorge, especially somebody that cannot afford it, which would be a sin rather than a good deed, because he might think on Sabbath that he will not eat so well on Sunday, and be sad about it, and therefore he would not have a happy Sabbath.

All this is summarized in a little book called Sepher Hajirah in which it is taught how a Jew should lead a god-fearing life, and it is interpreted in German by the Jews in the form of a rhyme:

Gegn dem Sabbath solst seyn bereit/
Und solst lassen all dein arbeit/
Selbst zum Sabbath rüft/ ist gar recht/
Ob du schon hast viel Mägd und Knecht/
Gegn all Gbott ist der Sabbath gleich/
Sey wolgmüt/ und gdenck du seyst Reich/
Reine Kleyder trag/ und schön Gwand/
Dann der Sabbath is ein Braut gnannt.
Gegn dem Sabbath kauff eyn das best/
Und all seine Gebott halt vest/
Hungrig gegn dem Sabbath solst seyn/
Hab Fleisch und Fisch und guten Wein.
Dein Bethe solst du recht thun schlichten/
Den Tisch auch fein ordenlich richten.
Dein Haupt solst du sauber zwagen/
Und keinerley bey dir tragen.
Dein Messer solst du recht thun schleiffen/
Und die Speise recht angreiffen.
Schneid ab dein Negl/ wirff sie ins fewr/
Wein zum Segn/ soll dir nit seyn z'thewr/
Dem Händ und Füß solln seyn gar rein/
Dann diß Gebott ist gwiß nicht klein/
Auch sollst du haben guten Mut/
Brauch alles was dem Leib sanfft thut/
Und solst gantz frisch und frölich seyn/
Alß wern geschehn all Wercke dein/
Thu hinweg allen kummer und leid/
Tisch und Bäncke solln seyn bereit/
Weiß und schön thu ihn außschmucken/
Den Braten vom Fewr solst rucken/
All trinckgeschirr sauber schwencken/
An keinen Schaden nicht gedencken/
Kauff das best alß du kanst finden/
Frew dich mit deim Weib und Kinden/
Mit grichtem Tisch drey Mahlzeit mach/
Red nicht/ dann nur ein lustig sach/&c.

You must be ready for the Sabbath,
And leave all your work.
It is good to do something yourself for Sabbath,
Even though you have many maids and manservants.
Sabbath is equal to all the commands together;
Be good-tempered and believe yourself rich.
Wear clean clothing and beautiful garments;
For the Sabbath is called a bride.
Buy the best for the Sabbath;
And observe strictly all its laws.
You must be hungry before Sabbath begins;
Have meat and fish and good wine.
You should straighten your bed nicely;
Arrange the table beautifully.
Make sure your hair is clean,
And do not carry anything with you.
Sharpen well your knife,
And eat the food with relish.
Cut your nails, throw the clippings in the fire;
The wine for blessing is not too dear for you.
Your hands and feet must be very clean;
This is no small requirement.
You should have a good disposition;
Use everything that is easy on the body.
Be refreshed and happy,
As though everything has gone your way.
Put away all grief and sorrow;
The tables and benches should be ready;
Decorate them with white, clean covers.
You should move the roast from the fire;
Rinse clean all the glasses.
Do not think of any injury;
Buy the best you can find.
Enjoy yourself with your wife and children;
Have three meals on a set table.
Speak only of joyful matters…

They also read in their Benschen or table prayer book, in which there are all the table prayers for all holy days and feast days throughout the whole year, another prayer in German and in rhyme, which starts Mah jedidus menuchasech etc., How beloved is your rest. In that poem it says:

Lustig solst du dich Kleyden/
Ein Segen mach ubers Liecht/das es wol brennt/
Von aller arbeit thu dich scheiden/
Alle Wercke am Freytag vollend/
Alle Wollüst thu dir an/
Mit Fischen/Wachteln/und Kappaun/
Am Abend thut euch fein schicken/
Allerley gute ding zuwegen bring/
Gemestete Hüner und viewl guter stücken/
Gewurtzten Wein halt nich gering/&c

Sanfft soll seyn dein gang/
Der Sanffigkeit sich besteissen/
Und am Morgen schlaffen lang/
Hat das Gesatz geheissen.

Leinen und Seiden Kleyder sind viel wärth/
Damit sie sich bekleyden/wirst köstlich geehrt/
Der Sabbath ist ein heiliger Tag/
Wol dem der ihn rechthüten mag/
Ewer Hertz euch nit sey btrübt und schwär/
Wann euch schon ist der Seckel lähr.
Ihr solt frölich seyn und wolgemut/
Wann ihr schon viel Gelt entlehnen thut/
Kauff dir guten Wein/Fleisch und Fisch/
Stell die dreyerley auff den Tisch/
Ein guter lohn wird dir seyn bereit/
Hie und dort in weigkeit.

Ihr Frawen zünden an die Liecht gar fein/
Und auff die zeit habt gut achtung allein/
Des werden ihr geniessen gar geschwind/
Wann ihr werden gehen mit eim Kind/
Wann ihr gute Küchlin thun bachen/
Werden ihr in Kindsnöthen lachen &c.

You must dress yourself gaily,
Say the blessing over the light that it may burn well.
Separate yourself from all work,
Bring to a close all activities on Friday.
Make everything you desire,
With fish, fowl and capons.
Prepare well in the evening,
Bring about every good thing!
Stuffed chicken and many good cuts,
Do not hold spiced wine as of no account, etc.

Your walk should be gentle,
Be strict about gentleness.
Sleep late in the morning,
Thus the law calls on you.

Clothing of linen and silk is very worth while,
You will be elegantly honored by what you wear.
The Sabbath is a holy day,
It is well with those who observe it aright.
Let not your heart trouble and sadden you,
Albeit your sack is empty.
You should be happy and good-tempered,
When you put out lots of money.
Buy yourself good wine, meat and fish,
Set the table three times.
A good reward will await you,
Both here, and there in eternity.

You women, light the lights beautifully,
And pay attention to the correct time,
So that you may recover quickly,
When you shall be with child.
If you will bake good cakes,
You will surely laugh in childbed! etc.

So that no one thinks that this is all just poetry and fables, I will bring a few merry tales from the Talmud, in which it is clearly and solemnly proved and made firm with miracles, that the greatest honor which can be shown to the Sabbath is to be cheerful and live well.

You can read in the Talmud, in the tractate about the Sabbath 119a, Rabbi Chaja said: Once I stayed overnight in Cyprus at a Katzubh, a butcher, (some say it was in Laodicia.) They brought before him a golden table which sixteen men had to carry, and it was covered with sixteen silver chains, some silver dishes like bowls, spoons, plates, cups with good food and delicious fruits in it. When they set the table before him, he started to praise God, and said Ps. 24.1: The earth is God's, and everything that is on it. And when they removed the table, he praised God once more and said Ps. 115.16: the heaven belongs to God, and the earth he has given to the children of men. Then I said to him: Dear Rabbi, how did you get so rich? And what good did you do all your life? The master of the house, the butcher, answered: All my days I was a butcher, and whenever I had a good animal, I saved it for the Sabbath to honor and celebrate the Sabbath with good meat. Therefore my Mamon and riches, which God has alloted to me, have come to me because I have always honored the Sabbath. Then I said: Praise to God, who has given you this and made you worthy to get rich. So it happened to this butcher.

You can read on the same page: There was a man called Joseph Mokir Schabbas, that is, Joseph who honors the Sabbath. Nothing was too expensive for him to buy for the Sabbath. If anything good came on the market, he bought it, especially fish. Now this Joseph had a neighbor who was a great Aschir, a very rich man, who always mocked him, and said to him: Hey, my dear, what help is it to you that you honor the Sabbath so much? You are not richer for it! I do not honor the Sabbath that much, but I am richer than you. Good Joseph did not pay much attention to that talk, but put faith in God that he would be rewarded for his deeds. Now at this time there were some star-gazers in the city, who said to this rich man: Dear friend, what good is it to you that you are so rich, you may not eat good fish for your money. We have seen in the stars that all your big assets will come into the hands of Joseph Mokir Schabbas who eats a good bite for his money on Sabbath. The rich man took the talk of the star-gazers to heart, went and sold everything he had, and bought precious stones and pearls for that money, and put it all into a hatband, and went to a different country, so that Joseph would not get his money. He took a boat and travelled far, but all of a sudden a big storm arose, pushed the boat so that it almost sank, and took the hat from his head, blowing it over the water. Soon a big fish came, and ate the hat with the precious hat-band. Soon after that a big fish was caught, and brought to the market in the city, on a Friday. Everybody bargained for that big fish, but they could not buy it because it cost too much money. Finally, Joseph mokir Schabbas came too; he used to buy all the big fish, and nothing was too expensive for him. He bought it, to honor the Sabbath with great joy and pleasure. Afterwards, he brought it home, and out in the open, he found the rope of pearls which the rich man had lost. What the star-gazers had said became true. Then he was happy, and he was a rich man, because the rope was worth a kingdom. Then an old, wise, understanding man came to this Joseph and said: Who lends the Sabbath much, will be paid back much by the Sabbath. Whoever does not honor the Sabbath much, God will penalise him fourfold.

You can read in Talmud in the Tractate Taanis, 20b that concerns fasting, about a man called Rabh Hone, who sent all his servants out on Fridays to buy up all the cabbage the gardeners could not sell, and to throw it into the water. The Rabbis asked therefore in the Gemara (the Complement and right interpretation of the Talmud) Why did he not give it to the Anjim the poor people of Israel? Answer: if he gave it to the poor they would rely on it, and buy no cabbage for their Sabbath. At other times when the gardeners had sold all their cabbage, and there was nothing left over for the poor, then the Sabbath would not have been honored by them. But why did he not feed it to the animals? It would have been better used than lost altogether. Answer: he did not want the animals to feed on what would have been used for human consumption; because some people might have fished it out of the water. Why did he buy it up then? So that the gardeners would be more willing to come again on Friday to sell their cabbage on the market, because, if they would not have sold it, that, or the next day, they would not have come again, and the poor people would not have anything to eat on Sabbath, and the Sabbath would have not been honored the right way. Therefore Rabh Hone did his best that the Sabbath was observed properly by the the poor, even if only with a little green cabbage.

In the Tractate about the Sabbath you read further: Whoever enjoys himself on the Sabbath with gaiety and joy, God will let him inherit land and people without number, and without end, as it is written Is. 58.13: Then (namely, if you keep the Sabbath cheerfully, as written in the previous verse) you will delight yourself in the Lord, and I will lift you up over the heights of the earth, and I will feed you with the inheritance of your father Jacob: namely, about whom is is written Gen. 28.14: you shall spread out towards evening, morning, midnight and noon, [i.e. west, east, north and south] in all four corners of the world. Rabh Nachman said: Whoever is happy on Sabbath will be saved from servitude to the kingdoms, as it is written Deut. 33.29: I will set you over the high ones of the earth, that is, you will walk over the high ones of your enemies. Rabh Jehudah said in the name of Rabh: God will give him who keeps the Sabbath cheerfully, whatever his heart wants, as it is written Ps. 37.4: Have your joy in the Lord, and he will give you whatever your heart wishes.

But the Jews are not walking on the high ones of this world, and their enemies, and they do not have what their heart wishes, namely that they should be Lord and master over the Christians, even over all the lands and the world, as they pray on all their holy days and feast days. Therefore it is obvious that they have not yet kept the Sabbath correctly, and are not sufficiently cheerful.

After they eat their Sabbath meal, they pray as we heard before. The table stays set until Saturday evening, also the lamp or lights are left burning. There is strong dispute among them what it is allowed to do and not to do under these lights, namely, for example, can you catch fleas and lice? Writing and reading is not allowed, so that no one should be tempted to clean the light or take it apart, because then the Sabbath might be desecrated.

Since the Sabbath should also mean pleasure for them, therefore the Cháchamim and wise men deem it proper that each husband, especially a Talmid chácham, a wise and learned Rabbi, should make love to his wife on this night more than on any other night. Therefore they eat garlic before the Sabbath, so that they are more virile. [Garlic was held to be an aphrodesiac, and increased the flow of semen.] Weddings are sometimes set for that day, so that the intercourse of that night should be even happier, and will give more honor to the Sabbath. Children conceived in that night usually turn out very well, and many of them will be Talmide Chachamim, wise and holy men, especially if you have clean machschabhos, thoughts, and not carnal lust, but you do everything lichbhod haschabbas, to honor the Sabbath. Finally, if a Jew travels on Friday and he has still more than a Tchum Schabbas, a length of road which is more than is allowed to travel on Sabbath from his home or inn, then he should stay in the fields or woods, and rest there, and keep the Sabbath, and he should neglect all danger, of robbers or murderers, also all need of food and drink. About this a true story follows.

Once three Jews travelled together over land one Friday, and when night fell, and Sabbath approached, one said to the other: What shall we do? The road is very mesúkkan with gazlanim (dangerous because of robbers) and many wild chaijos (animals) are in the woods. It would be better to go on, and be matzil our chayus, (save our lives) than to keep the Sabbath with all the danger to body and life. But the third said: I will not go any further until the Sabbath is over; God, who bade us keep the Sabbath, may well protect me in these woods too. Therefore the two went on, and they were mechallel Schabbas, that is, they desecrated the Sabbath. But he stayed, put up his tent, spread a cloth on the ground instead of the table, put his bread and whatever he had on it, said his evening prayers, and sat down to eat his first Sabbath meal. In the meanwhile an enormous bear came (no one had ever seen one that big!) and sat down, and showed signs of being hungry. The pious Jew was frightened, but gave him a piece of bread, and thought that God might protect him. The bear ate and sat. After he ate, the Jew said his night prayer and lay down to sleep. The bear lay down beside him. In the morning he was glad that the bear had not eaten him, thanked and praised God for it, said his morning prayers, ate his noon and evening meal, and said all the prayers afterwards. And when the Sabbath was over, he made habhdolah, separating the Sabbath from the week (more about that in the next chapter) and resumed his travels, and the bear was right next to him during the whole night. Just that night, his two fellow-travellers were held up by robbers, and everything was taken from them. Finally, the one with the bear met his two fellow travellers, and when the bear saw the two Jews, he ran towards them and tore them to pieces. The pious Jew was frightened now, and thought it would cost him his skin also. In the meantime, the robbers came too, and asked him who he was, and where he came from. He said: I am a Jew (he did not want to deny it, but he relied on God) and I come from the King's Court. They said further: Where did you get that bear? He answered: The king gave him to me to accompany me. Then one robber said to the other quietly: That Jew must be one of the King's favorites, to give him that bear. Another said: We should give him all our money, and accompany him out of the woods, so he will not betray us. So they gave him all their money, whatever they had on them, so that he would not betray them, and they led him some way, and after that they went their ways, and the bear ran back to the woods. Therefore each Jew should keep the Sabbath, and let God reign in heaven, Selah.


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Alan D. Corré
corre@uwm.edu