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Shabbos in the Air

Mishpacha Staff

The assignment: capture the spirit of Erev Shabbos. The players: 4 photographers and 8 writers. The locations: streets, stores, kitchens, and a hospital ward — wherever Jews are. The medium: camera lenses, pen and ink, computers and Blackberries. When Shabbos is coming, you can’t help but sense it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

putting challas in the ovenEXCERPT: Shined with Love

By Rabbi Emanuel Feldman


The afternoon sun gradually sinks into the western sky, the Shabbos Bride-Queen follows in its wake from the east. It is not just Friday afternoon; it is Erev Shabbos. Floors are being scrubbed, challah is lovingly being baked, the chicken is in the oven and the cholent is already prepared, as well as the kugel, tzimmes, and soup. In order to have a loving Shabbos, you have to have a loving Erev Shabbos, with all of this — plus shining shoes.

Shoes, you say? Definitely.

When I was about seven, I used to prepare my father’s black shoes for Shabbos. He was a busy rav in Baltimore, and Friday afternoon was a very hectic time. So I took it upon myself to do his shoes. Not because I was a tzaddik and a yarei Shamayim at age seven — or later, for that matter (I realize that this admission has just lost me my chance at a Gadol biography) — but simply because I liked doing it. The careful application of the black shoe polish, along with the vigorous brushing, buffing and polishing, gave me a sense of achievement.

Not for me the ersatz, phony, so-called shoe polishing represented by the bottled liquid stuff which required no effort and no brushing. I liked doing it the old-fashioned way, with elbow grease. Most of all, of course, I liked the satisfied smile on my father’s face and the kiss he gave me when I handed him the shoes just before we left for shul. “You always do such a good job!” he would exclaim.

How did I learn to do such a good job? Whenever I took a haircut I would carefully watch the shoeshine boys, who were always in barber shops in those days: how they did the pre-brushing, the cloths with which they applied the compound, the crisp way they brushed and polished and buffed. I imitated their entire routine, though I never had their professional equipment and though I could never replicate the regal, majestic snap! of the polishing cloth which signaled with a flourish that the shoes were ready. Nor could I quite attain the mirror-like luster that their shoes reached, though I worked hard at it. (Little did those amazing black shoeshine boys realize that they were helping to welcome Shabbos HaMalkah.)

Many Erev Shabbos afternoons have since flown by. I grew up, my father z"l went to his eternal rest, and I was blessed with my own sons. One of them, when he was about seven, would shine my shoes every Erev Shabbos without being asked. He, too, eschewed the liquid polish, because he too, liked the vigorous work required to attain just the right kind of gloss. I too, would give him a warm smile and a kiss as I walked with him to shul in my shiny black shoes. “You always do such a good job,” I would say….

To paraphrase the holy Koheles (4:1): “Dor holech vedor ba — a generation goes, and a generation comes ” — but loving preparation on Erev Shabbos is forever.


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