“One who has prepared on Erev Shabbat (Friday) will eat on Shabbat.” Although this saying was used by Chazal as a metaphor for one who has properly prepared himself in this world for the World to Come, its literal meaning is still true: Shabbat requires careful preparation as well as leaving enough time in order to enter Shabbat in a peaceful frame of mind.
It is a positive Mitzvah to honor the Shabbat with special foods as well as with clean and festive clothing. Each person should honor Shabbat according to his ability, but preferably one should have a number of cooked items as well as fish at every meal if he is partial to eating fish. In order to allow time to prepare the food items on Erev Shabbat, Ezra decreed that washing should be done on the Thursday.
One should anticipate Shabbat earlier in the week and search for food items to honor it. Shammai used to take items he found even on Sunday and designate them for Shabbat, until he found a better item. Hillel on the other hand used to trust G-d that he would find items before Shabbat. However the authorities agree that it is better to designate earlier as Shammai did rather than wait for the end of the week, as Hillel was only demonstrating his high level of trust in G-d that he would find special items later in the week but not everyone can attain this level. It is preferable to say regarding each item that one buys: This is to honor the Shabbat, as this is a way to fulfill the Mitzva to “Remember the day of Shabbat”.
On Erev Shabbat one should rise early in order to purchase necessary items for Shabbat. One may even buy items before prayer, even though generally one should not do anything before prayer, as this is considered to be “Items for G-d”.
One should endeavor himself to help prepare the food items for Shabbat as it is a great Mitzva to be physically involved in preparing for Shabbat. Even the greatest Rabbis would take part in the preparations for Shabbat.
One should not do one's regular work on Erev Shabbat after most of the day has passed, and should leave a safety factor in order to prepare oneself for Shabbat. One who does work at this time will not see a blessing from that work. However if one is employed by others one may work late provided he will not desecrate the Shabbat after he finishes working.
If one is travelling away for Shabbat, one should make an effort to leave as early as possible in order to reach his destination well before Shabbat. If one is going out of town it is preferable to arrive at least two hours before Shabbat.
It is a Mitzvah to wash one's body in hot water and enter Shabbat clean. One should also wash one's hair and cut one's nails before Shabbat, as well as scuffing one's shoes. One should also make one's bed ready and set the table for Shabbat.
As there are many different items which require preparation before Shabbat and one might forget one of them, it is a good idea to make a checklist of all the things one needs to do before Shabbat. For example:
· Cut toilet paper (If one doesn't have precut paper)
· Clean shoes and Shabbat clothes
· Check pockets for Muktza, or for other items (In areas where carrying is prohibited)
· Prepare Shabbat candles and Shabbat kettle.
· Place Shabbat hot plate on stove
· Open wine bottles and other bottles (for those who do not open bottles on Shabbat).
· Open milk containers, and canned foods (for those who do not open them on Shabbat).
One should try and complete all of one's preparations before the time to light candles. One should ask members of his household calmly if they have completed their preparations and tell them that it is time to light candles, but should not speak in a harsh tone. One should then sit and await the Shabbat expectantly as one would await a king.
In order to achieve this one must anticipate and start preparing early, especially in the winter months when Friday is a very short day. In this way he will give true honor to the Shabbat and in turn will receive blessing from this holy day.