Shmul-Leibele is a simpleton, unsuccessful but honest in his trade. Although he is not scholarly, he is expert at following the basic tenets of his religion. His wife, Shoshe, is a meticulous homemaker and more competent in her trade than her husband in his. Together they create a life, a marriage, and a home devoted to the observance of Jewish ritual and customs.
The couple’s commitment to making and keeping the Sabbath is unequivocal. A recognition of the day on which God rested after completing the Creation, the Sabbath represents the culmination of the devout couple’s daily spiritual strivings. Shmul-Leibele ceases work at noon every Friday, takes a ritual bath, and aids in the temple’s preparation for the Sabbath prayers. Shoshe purchases special foods to cook and prepares herself and her home in royal fashion. Both attempt to create an earthly paradise in which to experience, as best they can, the divine presence.
On one winter Friday, the shortest Friday of the year, the couple’s preparatory rituals begin in customary manner, but the elements of nature effect change. A severe snowstorm hampers movement outside and makes it difficult to distinguish day from night. The rooster’s morning crow is not heard and the couple arise late. Shmul-Leibele decides not to work his half-day, spending the day instead at the bathhouse and in study.
When he returns home, however, the candles that announce the Sabbath’s official...
(The entire section is 536 words.)