The Ben Ish Hai (Rav Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909), in Parashat Lech-Lecha (Shana Sheniya, 9), writes that one must prepare for Shabbat not only in deed, but also in words and thought. Besides the practical preparations that we must make in anticipation of Shabbat – buying and preparing food, preparing the candles, and so on – one must also make verbal and mental preparations. This is accomplished, the Ben Ish Hai writes, through the daily recitation and study of the “Hok Le’Yisrael” text, a daily learning program arranged by the Arizal (Rav Yishak Luria of Safed, 1534-1572). The program, which is described in the work “Peri Etz Haim,” entails the daily study of portions of Humash, Nebi’im, Ketubim, Mishna, Gemara and Kabbala. By following this learning regimen, one ensures to study a portion of each area of Torah every day.
Each day, before one recites that day’s text, he should have in mind that he prepares himself for Shabbat through the recitation. The Hachamim teach that we receive an extra soul on Shabbat, and the soul consists of three components: Nefesh, Ru’ah and Neshama. On Wednesday, we prepare ourselves to receive the Nefesh component, on Thursday we prepare for the Ru’ah, and on Friday we make ourselves ready for the Neshama. This way, when Shabbat begins, we are ready to receive all three parts of the extra soul. After Shabbat, the soul gradually departs, one section at a time. The Neshama leaves us on Sunday, the Ru’ah departs on Monday, and the Nefesh returns to its source on Tuesday. On the next day, Wednesday, the process begins anew, as we prepare for the Nefesh part of the additional soul which we will receive the following Shabbat.
Thus, before we recite the Hok Le’Yisrael for any given day, we should have in mind that we wish to achieve through the recitation that day’s stage in the process of receiving or returning a part of the extra soul of Shabbat. This is how one prepares for Shabbat each day of the week in speech and thought – in addition to the practical preparations we make in preparing food and preparing the homes for Shabbat. The Hok Le’Yisrael program enables us to make ourselves ready to receive the great spiritual gift that Shabbat brings.