Shalom Aleichem: Preparation
To attain a taste of the World-to-Come every Shabbat, one must have earned that distinction through one’s efforts during the six weekdays preceding the Shabbat. The sages (Yalkut
Bereishit 340) relate that Jacob entered Shechem immediately before the onset of Shabbat. Perhaps, they are indicating that he exploited every moment of the week, until he achieved perfection at the week’s close. The verse states: “Jacob arrived intact (shalem) at the city of Shechem” (Vayishlach 33:18)- when he was complete (shalem), having attained as much spiritual perfection as possible while still in the mundaneness of the week. Once he completed this process, Jacob received a taste of the World-to-Come, as the verse continues, “and he encamped (vayichan) before the city”, which can also be interpreted as “he was graced (related to the word ‘cheyn’) as he entered the city” with God’s blessing from above. (Sfas Emes, Vayishlach 5639).
Accessing the gifts of Shabbat is a direct result of what we invested in the weekdays. Indeed, the Talmud (Shabbat 119b) describes what the angels notice when they enter our home:”a burning lamp, a set table and a made bed”. The lamp must have been kindled before the start of Shabbat; it carries its light from the everyday to the holy day. The food was prepared, the table set and the bed made prior to Shabbat.
The Talmud (Avodah Zara 3a) states that one who toils on the eve of Shabbat will eat on Shabbat. Whether refering to our efforts in this world which will allow us to enjoy God’s Presence in the World-to-Come, or our efforts during the week which enable us to benefit from the Shabbat, the focus is that the preparation is fundamental.
As we sing Shalom Aleichem, we can reflect on the weekday endeavors we carried out in anticipation of Shabbat. The more connected we feel with the physical and spiritual products of our efforts, the more pleasure we will derive from this day of delight.