Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
Gemara Shabbat (25b), tells about the Erev Shabbat preparations of the Tanna R’ Yehuda bar Ila’i. He would wash his face, hands and feet with hot water and wrap himself in a linen Tallit and he thus resembled a Malach HaShem (an Angel of G-d).
The Rambam (Hilchot Shabbat 30:2) cites this Gemara among the preparations one is to perform for “Kibbud Shabbat”, the honor of Shabbat. He writes, “One must wash his face, hands and feet with hot water, wrap himself in a Tallit and seriously wait to greet the Shabbat as one would wait in anticipation of greeting a king. In former years on Erev Shabbat the Chachamim (Sages) would wrap themselves in a Tallit, gather their talmidim together and exclaim, ‘Let us go out and greet the Shabbat King”.
Rav Soloveitchik noted that it is most interesting that the Rambam’s description of greeting Shabbat parallels almost exactly the preparations required for Tefillah. In Hilchot Tefillah (3:3) Rambam states, that one should prepare oneself for Tefillat Shacharit by washing one’s face, hands and feet. Just as one prepares for Shabbat by wrapping oneself in a linen Tallit, so too, Tefillah requires special clothing. Just as one should solemnly sit and await the onset of Shabbat, so too, one must put oneself in a serious frame of mind in preparation for Tefillah.
Whether consciously or otherwise we do this by reciting chapters of Tehillim before commencing with formal Tefillah, which begins with Kaddish of the Shali’ach Tzibbur followed by Bar’chu and Yotzer Ohr. Our Pesukei DeZimrah, which consists primarily of chapters from Tehillim, if read with concentration and thoughtfulness should put us into the proper frame of mind which is required before beginning Tefillat Shacharit. We should be saying more than what is printed in the Siddurim, but time constraints and work obligations do not allow us that luxury. On Shabbat however, when we do not have to rush to work the Pesukei DeZimrah chapters have been added and elongated.