Shabbat is meant for holiness and rest, and it should not be used to prepare for the holiday that follows it * In order to maintain an appetite for the holiday meal, Seudat Shlishit should be held earlier on Shabbat * Dishes should not be cleaned or washed on Shabbat for the holiday, but if necessary you can take holiday dishes out of the freezer * On Shabbat one may bathe in lukewarm water, and on Chag, also in the water that was heated with permissibly * The laws of Birkat HaShachar for those who stay awake at night * Jews who live outside of Israel, but are celebrating the Chag in Israel – if they have family, an apartment, or intentions to live in Israel – are exempt from Yom Tov Sheni of the Diaspora
The Joy of Chag Shavuot – Spiritual and Physical
Chag Shavuot enjoys an exceptional status above and beyond that of other holidays; therefore, even those rabbis who are of the opinion that a person is permitted, if he desires, to spend the majority of his time on the holiday learning Torah, and minimize time spent on meals, on the holiday of Shavuot – according to all opinions – along with the study of the Torah it is obligatory to hold very substantial meals, because it is “a day in which the Torah was given” “(Pesachim 68b).
The unique virtue of the Torah is that it is designed to instruct the path of undivided emuna (faith), and continue blessing and vitality into all walks of life, both spiritual and physical. Therefore, the joy of Shavuot must be expressed both in Torah study, but also in eating and drinking. This is the complete ‘tikkun’ (perfection), which encompasses both the soul and body. At first, the revelation of Divinity through spiritual manifestations from above absorbed by the neshama (soul) which guides the body, and thus, the deep-rooted fabric of the human body and its feelings are revealed. Therefore, complete ‘d’vey’kute‘(attachment) to God encompasses both the soul and the body, as will be the case after ‘Techiyat Ha’Meytim’ (the Resurrection of the Dead), when the soul will return to the body, and Godliness will be revealed completely on all levels.
Seudat Shlishit on Shabbat
Since this year Chag Shavuot falls out on Motzei Shabbat, ‘l’chatchila‘(ideally), it is best to eat ‘seudah shlishit’ (the third Shabbat meal) earlier, before the last three hours of the Shabbat day. Preferably, ‘seudah shlishit’ should be held a little after ‘chatzot Yom Shabbat‘(midday), i.e., at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. If one did not do so, he should nevertheless eat ‘seudah shlishit’, even during the hours close to the beginning of Yom Tov, but should try to limit his eating so as to have an appetite for the evening meal of Yom Tov.
Preparing from Shabbat to the following Yom Tov
It is forbidden to prepare anything from Shabbat to Chag, because Shabbat is intended for holiness and rest, and not for preparations made for another day, even if it is Chag (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 22:15-17).
Consequently, it is forbidden to wash dirty dishes from Shabbat to use on Yom Tov; only after Shabbat has departed (20:10) can dishes be washed in order use them on Yom Tov. It is also forbidden to clean the table on Shabbat in honor of the holiday, but the table can be cleaned so that it is tidy on Shabbat, even though this will be beneficial for the holiday.
It is forbidden to place food on a ‘platta‘ (hot plate) on Shabbat to be eaten at the evening meal of Yom Tov, but only after Shabbat is over (20:10) and one says, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh” (“Blessed be He who distinguishes between holy and holy”). Only then is one permitted to start organizing the needs of ‘ochel nefesh’ (food preparation allowed on Yom Tov), and to cook and heat the food.
‘B’sha’at ha’dachak’ (times of distress), on Shabbat one is permitted to perform routine actions that do not involve great effort, for the sake of the Chag. Therefore, when waiting for Shabbat to depart will cause a significant delay in the Yom Tov meal, it is permissible to take frozen food out of the freezer on Shabbat.
Candle Lighting for Chag
It is forbidden to light the holiday candles before Shabbat has departed (20:10), and one must first say, “Baruch ha’mavdil ben kodesh l’kodesh“, or recite the Havdalah within the Kiddush,
Since it is prohibited to light a new fire on Yom Tov, one must prepare before Shabbat a candle that will burn for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light the Yom Tov candles. If one did not prepare such a candle, he should transfer fire from one of his neighbor’s candles to light the Yom Tov candles.
It is permissible to push the candle forcibly into the candlestick holder, even though this causes the candle to be slightly crushed. Similarly, one may remove by knife the remaining wax in the candlestick which interferes with the placement of the new candle, and one is allowed to remove the metal disc stuck to the bottom of the glass cup in which ‘neronim‘ (candles that turn into oil) were used. It is also permitted to insert a floating wick into a floating cork.
But it is forbidden to heat a wax candle to attach it to a candlestick holder, lest one transgress the rabbinic decree of ‘ma’rey’ach‘(spreading or smearing), which is a ‘toledah‘of ‘mi’ma’chake‘(scraping/sanding a surface to achieve smoothness). It is also forbidden to cut or file the bottom of the candle to insert it into the candlestick because of the prohibition ‘mi’cha’taych‘(cutting any object to a specific size).
Bathing on Shabbat and Chag
Since Shabbat and Yom Tov are adjacent, and many people are used to showering every day, those who feel the need to shower on Shabbat afternoon are permitted to wash themselves in warm water – i.e., water in which they do not suffer from its coldness, but on the other hand, is not hot. One should not wash in hot water because of the rabbinical decree of ‘mirchatz‘. But on Chag, since bathing is ‘shavei l’kol nefesh‘(equal for all), one is allowed to wash even in hot water, provided the water was heated in a permissible way, such as by a ‘dude shemesh’ (solar heater), or by a Shabbat-timer (Peninei Halakha: Shabbat 14:8; Moadim 5:10).
In addition, after showering one should remember not to comb or brush one’s hair, because doing so sheds hair, which is a Torah prohibition.
Those Who Remained Awake All Night
Washing hands: Even a person who remains awake all night must perform ‘nitilat yadayim‘ (washing of the hands) before morning prayers, however, the poskim were divided on whether to recite a blessing over this washing, or not. According to the Ashkenazi custom, it is best is to relieve oneself before prayer, and to touch one of the covered areas of one’s body which had become a bit sweaty since one’s last bathing, and thus, be obligated to wash one’s hands with a blessing. However, according to Sephardic custom, one does not recite a blessing over this washing of the hands in any case.
Birkat Ha’Torah: The prevalent custom is according to the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam, that even one who did not sleep at all during the previous day – since he came to pray Shacharit in the morning of the new day, he must recite Birkat Ha’Torah. However, l’chatchila, whoever has not slept at all since he blessed the blessings of the Torah the previous day, in order to fulfill all opinions, he should hear the blessings from a friend, and have the intention to thus fulfill his obligation.
Birkot Ha’Shachar: Even those who remain awake all night recite ‘Birkot HaShachar’ (the Morning Blessings), because ‘Birkot HaShachar’ were fixed as prayers of gratitude for the general good in the world, and not just the self-interests of each and every individual. Therefore, even a blind person recites the blessing ‘po’kay’ach ivrim’ (‘Who gives sight to the blind’), and one who did not sleep recites the blessing ‘zokayf ke’fufim’ (‘Who straightens the bent’). However, regarding the blessings of ‘Elokei Neshama’ and ‘Ha’ma’avir Sheyna’, there are some authorities who hold that a person who did not sleep should not recite these blessings, because these blessings are recited in the singular, as individual thanks for the return of one’s soul, and the passing of sleep. Therefore, it is proper to hear them from someone who actually did sleep, and have ‘kavana’ to fulfill one’s obligation.
When there is no one to recite the blessings, according to the majority of poskim, one should recite the blessings himself, because although they are recited in the singular, they also contain thanks for the general good – that in the morning, God returns souls to those who have slept, and wakes them from their slumber. This is the custom of all Sephardim, and some Ashkenazim. There are other Ashkenazim whose custom is to be ‘machmir‘(stringent), and due to the ‘safek‘(doubt), recite the blessings without ‘Shem and Malchut’ (“Hashem Elokenu Melech Ha’olam). An Ashkenazi who does not know what his custom is, may act according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, and recite all the blessings himself.
In summary, according to the custom of the majority of observant Jews, those who remain awake all night recite all ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar ’and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’. The ‘mehadrin’ (those who embellish the mitzvoth), when possible, fulfill the obligation of ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ and the blessings “Elokei Neshama” and “Ha’Ma’avir Sheyna” by hearing them from someone who slept at night.
When to Recite Birkot Ha’Shachar
According to halakha, ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar’ and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah’ are recited close to the morning prayers. According to kabala, ‘Birkot Ha’Shachar‘are recited after ‘chatzot ha’layla’ (midnight), and ‘Birkot Ha’Torah‘after ‘Amud Ha’Shachar’ (dawn).
Eating Prior to the Morning Prayers
During the night, one may eat and drink without limitation. However, from half an hour before ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat a ‘seudah’ (a meal), lest one get over-involved in his meal. This includes the prohibition of eating bread or cakes whose size is equal to, or larger, than a ‘beitza‘(an egg), however, one may eat without ‘keviyut seudah’ (setting a meal) fruits and vegetables and cooked ‘mezanot‘ foods without limitations. From ‘amud ha’shachar’, it is forbidden to eat anything or to drink coffee or juice, and even one who had started eating or drinking beforehand – should stop. One is allowed to drink only water after ‘amud ha’shachar’. (This year on Chag Shavuot, ‘amud ha’shachar‘is at 4:06 A.M.).
Second Day Yom Tov For those who Live Abroad, but are in Israel
Our Sages instituted that in Chutz La-Aretz, all the Chagim must be observed for two days; however the poskim (Jewish law arbiters) differed about the halakha concerning a Jew who lives outside of Israel, but is visiting Israel. There are those who say that when he is in Israel, his status is that of one who lives in Israel, and should hold only one day of Yom Tov (Chacham Tzvi, 167; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, 496:11), but according to most halakhic authorities, since his place of residence is in Chutz La-Aretz, even when visiting Israel, he is considered a ben Chutz La-Aretz, and this is the accepted practice (Birkei Yosef, 496:7; Mishna Berura 496:13).
Even though according to the principle of the law, the halakha should have been lenient, since the second day of Yom Tov is of rabbinic ordinance, and the rule is safek d’rabanan l’kula (a rabbinic ordinance with a doubt is ruled leniently), nevertheless, the accepted minhag (custom) is to be machmir (strict), and since this is the minhag – the unique brachot for Yom Tov are even recited on Yom Tov Sheni. However, it seems that when the visitor has a deep attachment to the country, when he is in Israel, he should act according to the minhag of Eretz Yisrael.
Those Who Reside Outside of Israel but Have an Attachment to the Land
Therefore, 1) a person who comes to Israel for a year of study, his long stay in Israel turns him into ben Eretz Yisrael (a resident) for the duration of his stay. 2) One who occasionally comes to visit Eretz Yisrael, if his visits accumulate to a year, he is considered somewhat of a resident, and from that point onward, if during the Chagim he is in Eretz Yisrael, he should keep only one day. 3) Someone who comes to visit Israel and intends to immigrate when possible, even if he visits for a short period of time, and it will be many years before he can realize his plan, while he is in Israel he should act as ben ha’aretz, and keep one day. 4) A visitor who has children or parents who immigrated to Israel is considered to have an affinity to the country, and during his stay in Israel, should keep one day. 5) One who purchased an apartment in the Land of Israel in order to live there during his visits, even though his visits have not yet accumulated to a year, while he is in Israel, he is considered a ben Eretz Yisrael in the merit of his apartment. 6) A ‘yored‘ (one who has left Israel on a permanent basis) who determined his home is abroad, even if he lived there for decades, since for a significant period he lived in Israel – as long as there is any chance of his returning to Israel, when he visits Israel, he should act like b’nei Eretz Yisrael.
However, when such people are abroad, since in practice they have not yet immigrated to Israel, they are considered to be foreign citizens in every aspect, and it is their obligation to observe Yom Tov Sheni of the Diaspora (these laws are explained in ‘Peninei Halakha: Moadim’ 9: 8).
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melalmed can be found at: http://revivimen.yhb.org.il