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Hebrew term that literally means the Eve (Erev) of the Sabbath (Shabbat).

The Jewish day runs from nightfall to nightfall, so Shabbat runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Erev Shabbat is therefore Friday afternoon and early evening.

Traditionally, this would be seen as a time to prepare for Shabbat - cooking the meals, shaving and washing oneself etc. In Israel, most people used to work a 5.5 day week, with Friday afternoon and Shabbat off (and Sunday being a normal working day), although many companies now work Monday to Friday as they have more international dealings.

There is also a tradition not to eat a signifncant meal after noon on Friday, to ensure that you can eat a proper meal once Shabbat starts.

The last few minutes before Shabbat starts can be quite hectic in an Orthodox household. All lights have to be set the way you want them for Shabbat (as they can't be turned off and on), and all the food has to be cooked and put on a hotplate or left in the oven with the heat turned down. Any other "weekday related" things must be completed.

Then, just before Shabbat starts, 2 candles are lit. Usually this is by the Lady of the house, although a man living alone (or with other men), one of them should light candles. The candles are lit, then the person lighting them covers their eyes and recites a blessing.

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, Asher Kidishanu B'Mitzvotav, V'Tzivanu L'Hadlik Ner Shel Shabbat - Blessed are You, oh Lord our G-D, King of the Universe, who has made us holy with your commandments, and commanded us to light the Shabbat lights.

This is an interesting case - in almost all other situations, a Jew recites a blessing before the action (eg you recite the blessing over bread, then eat the bread). However, once the blessing has been recited, it is considered that Shabbat has started, and from this point, one can't violate the laws of Shabbat - such as lighting a candle! So, the candles are lit and then the eyes covered before making the blessing - so on completing the blessing, the eyes are uncovered and the person sees the candles.

The men of the household then go to Synagogue for the afternoon and evening services (of course, there's no reason for the women not to go, but they often don't), and when they return home, dinner is served.

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