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Short Friday Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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 arrival are lit and the home, as usual, sparkles with a spiritual essence. Shoshe is dressed beautifully, adorned with her wedding necklace and a polished wedding band. Despite the physical manifestations of winter, to Shmul-Leibele the experience is particularly enchanting. He leaves for the synagogue, where his prayers seem assuredly to transcend his earthly lips and find an audience with God’s ears.

After temple, Shmul-Leibele tries to hurry home to Shoshe, anxious that some ill may have befallen her. Instead, she greets him looking radiant; their home sparkles with a Sabbath glow and the scents from the Sabbath meal are alluring. Having fulfilled the ritual obligations to partake of their dinner, the couple intersperse...

(The entire section is 536 words.)