Customs Related to the Preparation of Shabbat

Because Shabbat (the Sabbath) is a covenant between God and His people Israel, it is an integral part of our faith and tradition. The Creator brought about the creation within six days (or eras) and rested on the seventh. It is a Biblical command to refrain from labor on the seventh day of the week (from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday). It is a time of rest and spiritual reflection.

When we stop our day to day labor, we proclaim the holiness of not only the day itself, but give testimony of our willingness to obey the Mitzvoth (Commandments) of the God of Israel. However, if we reject the importance of Shabbat and refuse to be obedient to God, then we are in essence rejecting His Torah, His judgments and His Commandments as a whole. Not only that, but when we refuse to sanctify Shabbat, we are rejecting the authority of Almighty God as Melech ha’Olam (the King of the Universe). Thus, when we are disobedient, we are actually desecrating Shabbat. Our scholars view the desecration of Shabbat as equal to the worship of idols.

We should put some effort into preparing for Shabbat, some hours ahead of the coming sundown for Friday evening. For example, washing the utensils, goblets, platters, table cloths and candle holders for Shabbat is considered as putting forth effort for preparation of Shabbat – making sure our Shabbat clothing is clean, that our hair has been cut, that our nails have been trimmed and that we have bathed and are clean before lighting the Shabbat candles. (More on lighting Shabbat candles later).

We should have special clothing, if at all possible, for wearing only on Shabbat. Our children should be clean. It is also our custom to undergo a ritual mikva as part of our preparation for Shabbat.

It is also important to put forth some effort in purchasing any foods (if necessary) that will be consumed during the Sabbath day itself. If at all possible, great effort should be made so that such food is purchased well in advanced, perhaps even on Thursday, so there is no danger of violating Shabbat by making financial transactions.

It is our custom, when putting forth special effort in preparation of Shabbat, to recite “L’chavod Shabbat kodesh” (For honoring the holy Shabbat).

Other Customs in Preparing for Shabbat

It is our custom that we read all of the Torah portion on Friday morning. If one is unable to read the entire Torah portion, one may read some of it. As chasidim, we make an effort to do as much as we can. Those who are able to read Hebrew, should read the Torah portion from the Hebrew Scriptures, and those who are also able to read Aramaic, should follow the Hebrew reading with that of the Aramaic Scriptures (P’shitta or Targum). We read the Torah portion quietly while wearing the tallit. While it has been the custom of some to also wear tefillin, it is not mandatory since the passages concerning in Torah referring to the fact that we “bind them” on our hands and on our foreheads, is viewed by the majority of our scholars as symbolic of making sure the Torah is in our hands (action) and upon our foreheads (being ever mindful of the truth of Torah from HaShem). If you are unable to read the Torah in its original languages, a translation in your own language is sufficient for your situation. If the upcoming Shabbat is a Holy Day (one of the Festivals), we also read the Haftara. However, if one wishes to read the Haftara even if the next day is not a Holy Day, one is permitted to do so, for this is one of the marks of a true chasid – one who wishes to do as much for the glory of HaShem as possible within righteousness; however, extreme forms of asceticism is not encouraged.

A Note Concerning Households Which Have Non-Torah Observant Members: There are times when a family has non-Torah observant members living within the same household. It is very important for those who are mindful of their obligations to be obedient to the God of Israel, not to force our beliefs and practices on others who do not believe the same way or who do not follow our customs. It is imperative to keep peace in the family. There could also be situations where a spouse, such as a spouse of an unbelieving partner, is not permitted to practice as openly as he or she would wish to. This might even be a situation where a Torah observant spouse is not permitted by the unbelieving partner to light Shabbat candles. In a situation such as this, some have taken the custom of purchasing an electric lamp and using it only for Shabbat. The Torah observant individual will recite his or her prayers privately either silently or very quietly. Always be a fount of peace in your home.

A Note to Young People Who Live with Parents: If your parents are not Torah observant and are opposed to your practice of Torah Covenant Judaism or the practices and customs of the Orthodox Netzarim, if you are not an adult, it is important that you obey the Torah command of being obedient to your parents. When you are asked to compromise Biblical truth, for example: taking part in a pagan observance or idol worship, you must make a decision based on your Torah trained conscience. Never attempt to instruct your parents by telling them how they should be living, or how they are wrong for not permitting you to be observant of the Mitzvoth. You should be a light to them by demonstrating that you are following the Torah by being obedient to your parents. Never become the cause of discord between yourself and your parents who brought you into this world. Various Customs Regarding Erev Shabbat

Orthodox Netzarim make sure they do not eat a large meal before the onset of Shabbat. This way we are able to enhance our enjoyment of Shabbat with a proper meal on the day of rest itself. Light meals and snacks are permitted. If one is required to eat more than a light meal due to medical or some other reason, this is permitted. Some who are able, often fast on Friday from solid foods, so they may have a special meal on Shabbat. However, one should not go to the extreme by not eating anything at all. Our Friday fast does not mean a complete fast from all foods or liquids. It has become the tradition of some Netzarim to abstain from consuming meat and foods made with meats on Friday.

One should not prepare a meal that would be designated as “special” to be eaten on Friday. Our special meal should be on Shabbat instead. In the case of an unbelieving spouse requires that you indulge in a “special” meal on Friday (such as for the occasion of a wedding anniversary or birthday), it is the opinion of our rabbis that the more lenient ruling should apply, that is, keeping peace within family by partaking in the so-called special meal, even if it is on a Friday.

It is the opinion of our rabbis that the use of writing instruments such as ink pens, pencils and other similar instruments, including the use of the internet, is permissible during Erev Shabbat.

One should be very careful in not making financial transactions after Shabbat has begun (after sundown on Friday evening). Shopping is concluded by some Netzarim, as a cautious reminder to one’s self, no later than three o’clock in the afternoon on Friday. Others have made it their personal practice not to do financial transactions at all on Friday, although the lenient position is permissible.

One should check his or her clothing that will be worn for Shabbat to ensure the attire does not contain any form of currency such as paper money

, coins, credit and debit cards, money vouchers, checks, and so on. If one knows he or she is going to travel during Shabbat as a necessity of arriving at the place of meeting for Torah reading, one is permitted to take along a wallet or purse with these latter items in case of an emergency. Financial transactions are permitted on Erev Shabbat and Shabbat if the transaction is related to an emergency, for example, driving to the hospital, if one is required to pick up a relative or friend at an airport where no other arrangements could have been made, filling a prescription that was forgotten (especially if the medication is life saving or if the patient would be uncomfortable or would cause more sickness if he or she did not have the prescription), and so on. If one is forced out of necessity to conduct financial transactions into Shabbat, one should light, beginning on the next Shabbat, an extra (third) candle along with the traditional two for a period of one year as a personal reminder of the infraction.

The use of automatic appliances is permitted during Shabbat, for example: if one started laundry on Friday evening before the beginning of Shabbat in an automatic washing machine or dyer, it is permissible for the appliance to operate on its own on Shabbat. This would include automatic food dispensers for animals, water sprinklers, indoor and outdoor water features (such as fountains), security lights, computers and so on.

Maintaining Food with Heat on Shabbat

In the modern age in which we live, in most areas where the use of electric and gas stoves are common, there is usually no need to cook food on an open fire (as in a pit or outdoor oven). Some have the custom of cooking their Shabbat meal halfway through, which we customarily prepare on Friday afternoon, well in advance of the sundown; then using an electric hot plate to complete the cooking process on Shabbat in order to heat the food. This latter practice is especially useful when one would normally cook their food with a gas stove. If one only has an electric stove, an electric hotplate is not necessary.

If out of necessity one needs to prepare food on a gas stove, even if it is required that one reignite the pilot light, it is permissible, but this must be a true necessity. A true necessity in doing this would involve a situation where the food is in such a raw state that it would cause someone to become sick if it was not cooked thoroughly. If there is no other food in one’s home and the only food that is available required cooking on a gas stove, it is permissible to perform the cooking process.

Grilling outdoors, as is the custom in some lands during the season of Summer, is not permissible except out of necessity (if one has no other means at all to cook the food for one’s self or the family and/or one is completely without electricity).

The chasidic Netzarim take a very lenient stand on the use of knobs on stoves and electric hotplates for raising and lowering the heat.

The use of all kosher foods is permitted in cooking for use in the special Shabbat meal, except in the case when Shabbat falls during the observance of Pesach (Passover) or other specially designated times of the year.

Customs Related to Lighting the Candles on Erev Shabbat

It is our custom to light at least one candle before the beginning of Shabbat, though two are customary among most Jews throughout the world who regard the seventh day of the week as sacred. The two candles have significance in that the first (the candle on the right) should remind us of the Hebrew word zachor (remember) and the second candle (the candle on the left) should remind us of the Hebrew word shamor (guard) – remember Shabbat, guard Shabbat.

The candles should be used only for welcoming Shabbat and the related blessings. Even the candle holders should not be used for other purposes. If candles are not available for some reason, an electric lamp may be used instead, but even this lamp should be set aside for use in the rite alone. The use of a lamp may be out of necessity for some, especially if one is living in the same household with a spouse or parent who does not permit the observance of the rite, or when one finds him/herself in a hotel during Shabbat, when candles would likely not be permitted by the hotel. (See the note concerning unbelieving household members above).

Our tradition maintains that two candles are set aside specifically for Shabbat and never used for any other purpose. The candle holders, the lighting apparatus (matches or a lighter), the platters, goblets, and table cloth(s) are also viewed as special and should never be used for mundane purposes.

Two candles are placed on a platter large enough to contain the two candle holders with a very small space between the two. The candle holders should be as close as possible, but not necessarily touching one another. For Netzarim, this reminds us that we should remember and guard Shabbat and keep both concepts close together and that blessings come from being faithful in doing both.


It is customary that the woman of the house to light the candles and recite the blessing, although this may be carried out by men. The custom is universal among Orthodox Netzarim, thus both men and women are required to light and recite the blessing, although only one person in the household should be assigned to carry out this privilege. It is also permissible if the family wishes to take turns. This is often the case with children who have learned how to recite the blessing in Hebrew. Female children should be at least twelve or thirteen years of age. Male children should be at least thirteen years of age.

A person who is blind or visually impaired in some other form, is permitted to light the candles. There is a blessing for those who assist the blind in lighting the candles. One may hold the hand of the blind individual if necessary. The blind person may also have someone else to recite the blessing if necessary.

The two candles are lighted, first the candle on the right, then the second candle on the left, then any additional candles that are required for certain other reasons. After lighting the candles, one gently waves the hands above and around the flames, then covering the eyes, recites the blessing, preferably in Hebrew, followed, if necessary, in the language that is common to the household. (If the flames of any of the candles become extinguished accidentally, one is not obligated to relight the candles.) If one can read Hebrew (even if transliterated) but one is unable to recite the blessing without the aid of the Siddur (Prayer Book), one does not have to cover the eyes. However, one should always have the Siddur at hand and open to where the blessing is printed. The latter practice helps insure that the blessing is recited properly and that one does not add or remove certain words, making innovations to the standard text. Everyone who is able to read should practice reciting the blessing so he or she has the ability to recite the prayers in Hebrew and understand what they mean. After the standard blessing, one may recite additional prayers for one’s spouse, children, other family members, friends and associates. These latter prayers may be from the heart and not necessarily with the use of a standard text. These personal prayers, recited after the standard candle lighting blessing, may be recited in the common language of the household. This is not, however, a time to recite prayers requesting God to help with financial situations – we should be focusing our minds on the purity, sanctity and holiness of Shabbat. Besides, the King of the Universe already knows our every need. Rabbeinu Yehoshua said, “Who among you, while anxious, is able to add one thing to his importance? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the wild, how they grow without hard work and spinning, but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these. But if Elohim clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, or say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘What will we wear?’ For all these things the peoples of the world require and your Father who is in heaven also knows that you require all of these things. But seek first the Kingdom of Elohim, and His righteousness; and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself…” (Sefer R’ Yehoshua)

According to our tradition, after the reciting of the blessing, we read from Bereshit (Genesis) concerning the account of creation of the heavens and the earth (chapter 1:1 – 2:3). This may be read in the language common to the household. After reciting the text from Bereshit, we continue by reciting the ninety-second Psalm. It is preferable that this Psalm be chanted or recited in Hebrew or Aramaic, but if one is unable to read either of these languages, one may sing, chant or plainly recite this Psalm in the common language of the household.

We do not remove the Shabbat candles from the table after they have been lighted unless there is a true necessity to do so. If at all possible, we permit the candles to extinguish on their own; however, if there is some danger of a fire starting in the home because the candles are left unattended, the candles may be extinguished. One should be mindful not to place the candles near cloths, curtains, drapes or other fabrics. Some have been known to place the platter with the candles in a kitchen sink (without drapes nearby) permitting the candles to burn down and extinguish on their own. If it is required that one extinguish the flames of the candles, one’s breath may be used to do so. When doing so, however, we say, “For the safety of the family, may Shabbat be honored properly by my brothers and sisters” or “For the safety of this home, may Shabbat be honored properly by my brothers and sisters.”

(Please note that for those who might not be familiar, “Kiddush” and “Kaddish” are two separate things. Kaddish will be discussed in another section of our book on Halacha and Minhag)

Customs Related to Kiddush

Men and women may recite Kiddush, but only one person in the family should be assigned to perform this ritual on a Friday night. However, it is also permitted for all members of the family to recite Kiddush together while one person holds the blessing cup. Those assembled together stand before the Shabbat table during the recitation of Kiddush.

It is our custom to cover the table that holds the Shabbat candles with a clean white table cloth, which is to include two loaves of bread. The bread should be placed on a platter and wrapped with a clean white cloth. Some have the custom of placing a cloth on the platter, with the bread on top of the first cloth, and covered with a second. However, the first custom mentioned is the more common among Orthodox Netzarim. This reminds us of the manna provided to the Israelites by God being “wrapped” in dew.

It is our custom to use kosher grape wine in the blessing cup, diluted with a little water. If there is a situation where one or more of those assembled are unable to partake of wine because of medical or other reasons, kosher grape juice may be substituted. If at all possible however, wine should be the preferred liquid. If juices are necessary, no juice from a citric fruit is permitted to be used in the Kiddush.

[photo of someone holding up blessing cup will be placed here]

The blessing cup is lifted up with the right hand. Before reciting the blessing, all those assembled together for the blessing gaze at the cup and the burning candles. The Kiddush blessing is then recited. After the blessing, it is common for all participants to partake of the cup, however, if there is a good reason why one can not partake (for example, medical or alcohol addiction), it is permissible for that one to refrain from drinking from the cup. It is permissible for a separate cup to be used that contains kosher grape juice for anyone who is unable to drink wine. This separate cup should be on the Shabbat table prior to the reciting of Kiddush so that it too is included in the blessing. The mere tasting of the wine on the tongue fulfills the obligation of Kiddush.

Kiddush should be recited in the same place where the Shabbat meal will be consumed. It is not viewed as appropriate to recite Kiddush in one place and then consume the Shabbat meal in another unless it is out of extreme necessity. Some follow a more lenient position in that if a person is able to visually see the Shabbat table from a different area of the home, they may partake of the Shabbat meal in a different room. Likewise, with this leniency in mind, Kiddush may be recited from a different room – as long as the Shabbat table can be visually seen during Kiddush.

No wine (or substitute) should remain in the blessing cup after those assembled have partaken from it. It is the responsibility of the one who is preparing the Shabbat table to ensure that an adequate amount of wine is available for all those who will be partaking from the blessing cup and that none is wasted. If there is still wine in the cup after the others have partaken, the one who recited Kiddush should drink the remainder. If there is good reason for pouring out the wine after Kiddush has been recited, it should not be poured on the ground where it could be desecrated by passersby or by animals. The wine should never be poured into a toilet or into a dirty vessel. However, it can be diluted several times within a clean vessel and poured into a sink (for example, in the kitchen), but afterwards, the sink should be rinsed thoroughly. If the wine is in need of being poured out before Kiddush has been recited, (as in the case when one finds a foreign object or insect within it), it is permissible to dispose of it in any appropriate manner since the blessing has not yet been recited over it.

Our meal immediately follows after reciting Kiddush, but in certain circumstances, the Shabbat meal may be consumed by noon the next day. However, the bread is cut on Friday night and at least partially consumed by those assembled together who welcomed Shabbat into the home. Small portions of the bread are distributed among the family members and any others who are in attendance.

While it is permissible to rinse the mouth with water after the meal (or Shabbat bread) has been consumed, if the Shabbat meal is planned for Saturday (instead of Friday night), another meal should not be consumed between Kiddush and the Shabbat meal itself. However, a child or someone who is ill may be provided with food. If the Shabbat meal is planned for Saturday (instead of Friday night), a light breakfast may be consumed the following morning.

Praise Yah for His Torah! May Elohim bless you,
Petros Jacob Enriquez {Retired High Scribe }