It was one of those short Fridays. Just enough time to work, cook a quick Shabbat meal and get everyone bathed before candlelighting. Well, there would have been enough time if the baby was not cranky and expecting to be held, the kids didn’t fight, and there was no mess to clean up. In actuality, holding a baby in one arm and serving as judge between two very vocal parties, I barely managed to pull together the basics. Peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches sufficing as a side dish, could I still have a meaningful Shabbat?

But there’s much more to Shabbat than the food.

One Friday afternoon, Rebbetzin Chana—the wife of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn and mother of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson—found herself without even the minimum needed for a Shabbat meal. Her husband was exiled in the Soviet Union for his involvement in Judaism, and she followed him into exile to the city of Chi’ili, in Central Asia. Not only was food scarce, but there was no wine for Kiddush and no challah to wash on. Rebbetzin Chana watched as her husband recited the prayer welcoming the Shabbat, gazing in pain at her empty table. When he finished praying, she looked up and was surprised to see that instead of despondence, she saw joy.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, or Reb Levik, as he was fondly called, explained: “Our sages teach us that ‘We have one spice, and Shabbos is its name.’ ”

There may not have been a table laden with delicacies, but it was up to them to experience Shabbat itself as the Divine spice that it is.

It’s up to me as well.

Thoughtstream: Today, I will invest into the mood as much as the food.

Ateres Malchus, p. 289