It is a mitzva to make Shabbat enjoyable through superior food and beverages, depending on one’s means. Spending generously and preparing many tasty foods is praiseworthy (MT 30:7) and a fulfillment of the verse: “Call Shabbat ‘delight’” (Yeshayahu 58:13). The Sages state that whoever fulfills the mitzva of oneg Shabbat (making Shabbat a delight) merits great things: he receives a limitless portion; his heart’s desires are fulfilled; he is saved from the birth-pangs of the Messiah, from the pre-messianic wars, and from hell; and he becomes wealthy (Shabbat 118-119a). This is because life and blessing depend upon the connection between the material and spiritual realms. One is alive if his soul inhabits his body; when one dies, his soul departs his body. When one’s material existence is linked to higher realms, it is invigorated and blessed at its root; when it is distanced from the source of its vitality, from faith and spiritual values, its life is diminished, it deteriorates, and it is cursed. What makes Shabbat special is that it has increased sanctity expressed in both body and soul – through Torah, prayer, and festive meals. This unifies the spiritual and material, the body and the soul. Life is strengthened, and blessing flows to the world. Therefore the Sages state that whoever properly enjoys Shabbat merits many blessings and is saved from evil (see also below, 7:1).
One must spend as much as he can on Shabbat food, taking into account his weekday habits. In other words, he need not buy the most expensive foods in the market to honor Shabbat, but he must buy better food than what he and his family normally eat on a weekday. The specifics vary from family to family. It seems reasonable to suggest that one should spend twice as much on food for Shabbat as on food for a weekday. Those who go above and beyond spend even more, and they receive great reward for this.
One who is struggling financially and is unable to buy superior food for Shabbat should cut back on his food expenditures during the week, so that at the very least he will be able to buy something special, like small fish, in honor of Shabbat (Shabbat 118b). There are many people who waste money on luxuries, but when they have expenses connected with mitzvot they suddenly become thrifty and stingy. In fact, it is appropriate for one to cut back on luxuries and indulge in mitzvot. The Sages state that one’s annual earnings are allotted by God on Rosh Ha-shana (Beitza 16a), and that one must take care not to waste money on frivolous purchases, because he may exceed his allowance and be left penniless. This allotment, however, excludes money spent on Shabbat and Yom Tov and on his children’s Torah study. If he spends less on these, it is deducted from what was allotted to him; if he spends more on them, his allotment is increased (Taz 242:1).
One who does not have money available to buy food for Shabbat should borrow money in order to make Shabbat enjoyable. He should not worry that something will happen to prevent him from repaying the loan. God assures the Jewish people: “My children, borrow money and sanctify the day. Trust Me, for I will repay it” (Beitza 15b). This is on condition that one does not rely on a miracle, but rather has a business or a regular salary or savings upon which he can rely. The Sages have such a person in mind when they state that one should not worry that he might not succeed in repaying the debt; if he acts properly, works diligently, and is not a spendthrift, God will help him repay.
But one who does not know how he will repay his debt must not borrow money to make Shabbat enjoyable, because he may become a wicked person who does not repay his debts. He also should not ask for charity. Rather, he should eat simple food on Shabbat, following R. Akiva’s recommendation: “Make your Shabbat like a weekday, and do not rely on others” (Pesaĥim 112a). As a reward for not becoming a burden to others, one will become rich (m. Pe’ah 8:9). However, a poor person who has already been forced to accept charity to meet his various needs should also accept charity in order to make Shabbat enjoyable (MB 242:1).