Shabbat Afternoon

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by R. Ari Enkin

Three of our greatest leaders passed away on a Shabbat afternoon: David, Yosef, and according to most sources, Moshe Rabbeinu.1 Other sources seem to indicate that Moshe Rabbeinu died on a Friday.2 A number of customs are observed on Shabbat afternoons to commemorate their passing, some of which are lesser-known and may even go completely unnoticed or unrecognized.
One of the customs intended to commemorate these great leaders, especially Moshe Rabbeinu, is that of “bitul Beit Hamidrash” — not holding public Torah study sessions on Shabbat afternoon.3 The custom of bitul beit hamidrash on Shabbat afternoon is appropriate even according to the view that Moshe passed away on a Friday. This is because the custom would go virtually unnoticed if it were observed on Fridays, as everyone is busy preparing for Shabbat on Fridays and couldn’t attend a Torah class even if they wanted to. Furthermore, even if he really died on a Friday, it would still be appropriate to observe this custom on Shabbat afternoon to commemorate the fact that the Torah was given on a Shabbat through Moshe Rabbeinu. Studying alone or even with a partner, however, is permissible even for those who abide by this custom.4 Nevertheless, it is far better to provide the public with Torah study opportunities if they would otherwise spend Shabbat afternoon engaged in idle pursuits, and common custom is to do so.5
A more familiar Shabbat afternoon custom reflecting the theme of mourning is the recitation of “tzidkatcha” after the repetition of the Amida at Mincha. Tzidkatcha contains three verses, corresponding to each of the three leaders.6 The verse tzidkatcha k’harerei el corresponds to Yosef who was especially righteous, the verse tzidkatcha Elohim ad marom refers to Moshe who sat on High for forty days studying Torah, and the verse tzidkatcha tzedek l’olam refers to David who pursued righteousness and judgment for the entire Jewish people.7
Tzidkatcha is intended to serve as a form of “tziduk hadin,” the prayer that is recited at every funeral, in which we accept God’s judgments and decrees. Just as tziduk hadin is recited while standing, tzidkatcha should be recited while standing, as well.8 Some sources suggest that the recitation of tzidkatcha is connected to the souls, especially of the newly deceased, that return to Gehenom after the weekly Shabbat respite. Reciting tzidkatcha shows that we accept God’s judgment regarding those who have recently passed away, and, by extension, for any “purification” that they must go through.9 Tzidkatcha is not recited on days on which tachanun would not be recited if it were a weekday.
There is also a custom in some communities not to greet people with the customary “Shabbat Shalom” or “Good Shabbos” on Shabbat afternoon. This is in order to further highlight the mourning flavor of Shabbat afternoon.10 Most authorities, however, reject this custom, arguing that it goes against the established rule that it is forbidden to display any form of mourning publicly on Shabbat. It is explained that not greeting others in the traditional Shabbat manner over-emphasizes the mourning aspect of Shabbat afternoon, and is therefore forbidden accordingly.11
Studying Pirkei Avot during the summer months also recalls that Moshe Rabbeinu died on a Shabbat. This is because Pirkei Avot, which famously opens with the teaching that Moshe received the Torah from Sinai, is an appropriate study in his honor on Shabbat afternoon.12 The peculiar custom found in some Chassidic circles not to eat seudat shlishit is related to mourning for Moshe Rabbeinu, as well.13
In some Chassidic circles, a specially designated plain black kapote is worn on Shabbat afternoon in order to recall that we are mourning for these three great leaders.14 So too, the custom of eating eggs at seudat shlishit, and by extension, at any Shabbat meal, also serves to recall the “mourning” components of Shabbat, as eggs are called “the food of mourners.”15 Finally, the paragraph of “yismechu v’malchutcha,” which is recited as part of every Shabbat Amida (according to nusach sefard), is omitted at Shabbat mincha in order to recall the passing of these three leaders.16
According to many authorities, the customs discussed above only apply after one has recited mincha.17 For this reason (among others), most congregations recite mincha late in the afternoon on Shabbat so that these customs remain inconspicuous and not overly inconvenient.


  1. Zohar, Teruma; Menachot 30a; Elya Rabba 292:17. 

  2. Tur, Bach, OC 292 

  3. Tosfot, Menachot 30a; Rema, OC 292:2. 

  4. Darkei Moshe, OC 292. See also Magen Avraham 292:5 and YD 344:18. 

  5. Mishna Berura 292:9; Kaf Hachaim, OC 292:21. See also Chelkat Yaakov, OC 95. 

  6. Mishna Berura 292:6; Elya Rabba 292:1,7; Siddur Hashla. 

  7. Seder Hayom 

  8. Shibolei Haleket 126. 

  9. Rosh, Pesachim 10:13; Elya Rabba 292:16,17; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 292:5; Kaf Hachaim, OC 292:15. 

  10. Minhagei Yeshurun 80; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 292:6. See also Yerushalayim Bemoadeha Shabbat Vol. 2 p. 196 and Derech Sicha Vol. 1 p, 271. 

  11. Shevet Halevi 10:26. 

  12. Sefer Hapardes 4. 

  13. Sefer Hayashar 45:6; Tur, OC 292. 

  14. This custom is cited in Shalom Rav 42:7:7. 

  15. Maharil, Shabbat 14; Kaf Hachaim (Palagi) 36:54; Shiyarei Knesset Hagedola 288:8. 

  16. Siddur Yaavetz, Mincha 13. 

  17. Tur, OC 292 

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot.

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