I am currently in New York celebrating a family simchah. As I walked into shul this past Friday night, the gabbai ran over to me and said, “Shmuel, we’d love for you to daven for us tonight. Can you daven fast?” I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You asked the wrong question. It’s not about if I can daven fast – it’s about if I can daven b’simchah.” He looked at me, smiled cordially and said, “Maybe next time.”
What’s wrong with us? The year is ending – and life is racing by – and all we want to do is finish the spiritual stuff as fast as possible so we can devour some chicken? We complain that kids are going “off the derech” and how The New York Times is bashing our yeshivah system, but do we ever take a good, honest look at ourselves? Do we look to improve our homes by adding more k’dushah or by buying a larger flat-screen TV? Do we spend quality time with our children or with our iPhones? Do we sing z’miros at the Shabbos table or waste time talking nonsense?
Wait – don’t answer those questions! Instead, realize that it’s not too late! The holy s’farim teach us that the last week of the year has the power to repair every week prior! This means that the last Shabbos of the year – this one right now – has the ability to change and uplift every Shabbos that came before it, all year long. It is our chance to make things right, and our opportunity to enter Rosh HaShanah with 52 quality Shabbasos like they were meant to be. Here’s how to do it.
First of all, start this last, great Shabbos with a fantastic Erev Shabbos. Realize that for Jews, the sixth day of the week is not Friday – it’s Erev Shabbos! Don’t work until 11 minutes before candle-lighting and come to shul with a dripping shampoo head. Instead, stop working as early as possible and start preparing for Shabbos without the stress. Help with the last-minute shopping and with bathing the kids. Show your children that you love these preparations, and while the whole world is busy talking about the Queen’s funeral, you are about to welcome a queen that is very much alive: Shabbos HaMalkah – the Shabbos Queen!
Then, do what you probably haven’t done in a very long time (if ever) – get to shul ten minutes early! Help set up the shul with the last-minute preparations, including the things that nobody will ever thank you for: enough paper in the bathroom, cups for people to drink, and locking away the tz’dakah boxes. As your friends start coming to shul, meet them with a big smile and a “Gut Shabbos” that truly warms their heart.
When the davening starts, realize that this is the last Friday night of the year. Sing “L’cha Dodi” with all your heart and soul. Encourage the congregation to join in your happiness – there’s plenty to go around! Don’t look at your watch; as a matter of fact, don’t even bring one to shul. This is the time to be above time and enjoy every moment. When you arrive home, bless your children the way Yaakov blessed Efraim and Menashe. Sing “Shalom Aleichem” as if you see the angels dancing in front of you, and give your wife a hug that will make your kids’ faces turn red. During the meal, sing as many z’miros as you know and keep the neighbors awake with your voice. Go over the parshah – not with deep commentary, but with pure simplicity that brings the words to life.
Then, do this all again on Shabbos day. Daven with joy, not speed. Show your children how much you enjoy being in shul – and not just at the kiddush. During the second Shabbos meal, sing once again and play games with your kids. Talk about Rosh HaShanah, which is just a few hours away, and get them excited about that awesome day. After your nap, learn Torah and show the children how energized it makes you feel. Remember that energy is contagious, so if they see a happy, excited father learning Torah, they will want that as well! After Minchah, eat the third Shabbos meal and realize how special it is! As the world around us complains about the stock market, inflation, and what will happen with Iran, we Jews are sitting and basking in the glory of Hashem. Three Shabbos meals and not a worry in the world! Sitting with our family, singing songs written 500 years ago, and doing exactly what Moshe Rabbeinu and King David did – how can that not put a smile on your face?
Dearest friends: This is our last chance at the last Shabbos. By making these 25 hours the most amazing ever – filled with Torah, simchah, and love for simply being Jewish – we can turn around every Shabbos that came before it and finish the year by making Hashem proud of His nation. Let’s make it happen!
Am Yisrael Chai!