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Shabbat

Taking In Shabbat Early

Why take in Shabbat early?

Taking In Shabbat Early
It is a Torah commandment to add a little bit from Friday afternoon before Shabbat actually enters to the Shabbat and sanctify it with the same sanctity of Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 261 – 2).
 
It is apparent from the Siddur HaAri z"l in the kavanot (spiritual thoughts for specific moments) for Mincha of Erev Shabbat, that Tosefet Shabbat (to add some of Friday to be sanctified with the sanctity of Shabbat) is essentially to spiritually prepare ourselves before Shabbat internally. Cleaning away all the “spiritual dirt” from within ourselves is accomplished by repentance. Although the sanctity of Shabbat is so great that even someone who hadn’t prepared can feel it, the level of holiness a person will feel is directly proportional to his spiritual and internal preparations.
 
The holy compilation of Sidduro Shel Shabbat (written by Rabbi Chaim of Tchernovitz z”l, illustrates this with an amazing parable:

A wise and benevolent king wanted to visit a certain city in one of his provinces so he sent out his personal entourage to locate suitable lodging for him. The special entourage set out before the appointed day, and upon arriving in the city of the king’s upcoming visit, they chose two homes to be suitably prepared for the king’s stay.
 
The first home owner acted wisely, and as soon as he was chosen he said to himself: "First I will focus on the cleanliness of the house in order to make sure that it be sparkling and clean - as is befitting the honor of the king". He began beautifying his home with all types of adornments, and filled it with good scented smells, so that the king would immediately experience a pleasant atmosphere upon his arrival.
Judaism
This was the main focus of his preparation. He didn’t any invest time in preparing food for the king. He understood that wherever a king travels, he takes his provisions with him. Even if the king would desire some special food that was missing from his royal meal, the king could acquire it.

However, as soon as the second home owner was chosen, he said to himself: "Now is the time for me to make a little money off of this opportunity, since the king will be coming to my house". During the few days prior to the king’s visit, he spent all his time preparing various types of food and drink that the king would need, so that he could make money off of their sale.

In the midst of all his busy preparations, he overlooked properly cleaning up his house. As the king’s visit was nearing, he still had to clean up all the dust and dirt from his house and to make the rooms as beautiful as possible. Although he tried somewhat to clean off the surface dirt - because obviously he had to do something - it wasn’t nearly sufficiently clean for a king’s visit. Such preparation wasn’t sufficient even for one of the king’s officers, most certainly not for the king himself.

When the king finally arrived at the city on the appointed day, the officers who preceded his coming came to check the first house before the king would make his entry. The home owner’s preparations were suitable, especially since he overextended himself. They allowed the king to make his royal entry, and at the same time they prepared everything that the king would need to eat in the most royal fashion.

The wise king entered and immediately recognized how much this home owner did to honor the king. It was much more than what was within his ability. So the king decided to award him with the unique privilege of eating the private meal with the king himself. At the meal, the king showed the home owner a shining countenance and smiling face, and inquired about his life and his needs. As a result, whatever the owner personally needed in his life was fulfilled by royal decree, and he received a bounty of good; lack was now part of the past.

When the time came for the king to visit the house of the second home owner, the officers came to check out the house before the king would make his entry. What they discovered was startling. Not only wasn’t the house satisfactorily clean for a king, it wasn’t even sufficiently clean enough for one of his officers. They yelled at him and struck him, saying: "How could it be that the king’s honor is so unimportant in your eyes that you didn’t even put in the effort to prepare your home by cleaning it properly". Even though he claimed that he did prepare for the king, the king’s officers disregarded his cries since they could not find a place in his house suitable for the king to even sit down.
 
Although G-d’s divine presence comes to dwell among us on Shabbat – our relationship with the King and our benefit from “meeting with Him” depends directly on how much we previously prepared our souls, the home where the King will dwell, already before Shabbat.
 
The extra time that the Torah requires us to add before Shabbat is to prepare and clean our inner “homes”. We contemplate and repent, thereby cleansing ourselves within before the arrival of the King of Kings the Holy One Blessed be He –when Shabbat begins. When He finds that we have done our very best through our repentance to prepare our inner homes appropriately for His arrival, and that our inner chambers are sparkling and sweet-smelling, we will then merit to “eat a private meal with Him”, and, as a result, all of our other personal needs may then be adequately filled by royal decree of the King whose Benevolent Hand is open to us with a bounty of complete good and blessing.