Nurturing Shabbat In Your Home
“Shabbat gives us a set of values and imposes a template of meaning on our life… Keeping Shabbat brings dignity to our life.” - Dov Peretz Elkins
Shabbat is the foundation for Jewish life. It invites us to have perspective on what is or is not meaningful or purposeful in our lives.
Shabbat comes each and every week, with the setting of the sun on Friday evening. It comes whether we acknowledge it or not.
Shabbat may be experienced in many ways, depending on how a community, family or individual observes. Traditional elements of Shabbat observance include lighting Shabbat candles, blessing the wine, and breaking bread around the Shabbat table. It may include singing, praying, walking, hiking, visiting, learning and napping. For some it may be a family day.
Some people keep Shabbat according to the parameters established by a particular view of Jewish life. Others decide for themselves how to set apart Shabbat from the other days of the week. For the men and women in our armed forces, it may only possible to have a” Ten Minute” Shabbat – still, those ten minutes experienced weekly come to have great meaning. And don’t forget that even the anticipation of Shabbat’s arrival throughout the week and the ways we prepare spiritually, physically and emotionally is important.
What makes Shabbat meaningful is the commitment to turning Shabbat into a weekly practice. Shabbat makes room in our lives for reflection, which helps us determine what is or is not meaningful in our lives.
Mikdash Me’at’-Set a special table for Shabbat
Whether you are in your home, stationed at a military base, away at school or on business, it is important to make time to set your Shabbat meal apart from all other meals. One way of framing Friday night meal is to begin by lighting of Shabbat candles, reciting Kiddush, the blessing over wine and Hamotzi, the blessing over Challah. During the meal you might reflect on things you are grateful for that relate to the week just completed. You might tell a Shabbat story or share an insight into the weekly portion from the Torah.
Shabbat Menucha-Sabbath holiness & rest
What separates special activities from ordinary activities? Are there specific things you save to do only on Shabbat? Consider the meaning of quality time, especially in the context of that which is controllable and uncontrollable in your life. Reflect on the quality of our daily lives-what causes/reduces stress?
Shalom Bayit-Make peace in your home
Take time to acknowledge those you love by talking and listening to one another about the past week.
Birkat ha’banim-Bless your children/grandchildren
Consider blessing your children (of any age). This can be done in person or via any technology!
Kibud Av v’Eim-Honoring your father and mother
Call your parents at a fixed time each week to wish them, “Shabbat Shalom.” Or, if possible, invite them for Shabbat dinner.
Hachnasat Orchim-Invite guests into our homes
Take the time to begin, renew or extend our relationships with others.
Invite friends who might otherwise be alone on Shabbat.
Tzedakah-Help others through acts of generosity
Make a point, before lighting Shabbat candles, to heighten your family’s awareness of the needs of others and how you might help them. Many people use this as a time to “put tzedakah” in the tzedakah box. Present the idea that Shabbat is suppose to be a “taste of the world to come,” when every day will be Shabbat. What is your ideal for Shabbat – a sacred day dedicated to peace? How might you do your part in working to bring about the many kinds of peace needed to restore wholeness to our broken world?
Create connections between the generations
How can you incorporate inherited and new recipes, customs, rituals and ritual objects into your Shabbat experience? Share family stories and memories during dinner. Create new memories together.
L’havdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol
Distinguish between the sacred and the ordinary in your life.
How is Shabbat enriched through using all of your senses? Set boundaries and make distinctions in what you do or do not do on Shabbat. Recognize what is truly important in life, and what is not. Make time to celebrate the sanctity of the present
Special Shabbat Things To Do In Your Home
Set the Shabbat table Thursday night using beautiful tablecloth, dishes, flowers, etc.
Establish the Shabbat menu (think simple, but delicious).
Cook dinner on Thursday night. Every Shabbat try to serve a food from Israel (tomatoes, peppers, cookies, etc).
Listen to Jewish music, especially Shabbat music.
Bake your challah from scratch – or buy a frozen one and fill your home with its sweet aroma.
Put flowers on the table – either store-bought or from the garden. Consider growing a Shabbat flower garden!
Talk about Shabbat throughout the week, always with great anticipation & joy.
Erev (the eve of) Shabbat
Call grandparents to wish them, “Shabbat Shalom.”
Give Tzedakah before lighting the Shabbat candles
Give everyone his/her own Kiddush cup-each with its own history.
Incorporate ritual objects into our Shabbat celebration that represent all the generations.
Establish a fixed time and ritual for Shabbat dinner.
Invite Shabbat guests over for dinner, including your children’s friends. Keep things informal – remember this is a Shabbat family dinner, not a formal dinner party!
Dress nicely for Shabbat dinner, wearing your “Shabbat clothes.”
Get in the mood for Shabbat – take time to connect with your neshamah y’teira, your additional Shabbat soul, to the table.
Encourage everyone to participate in the blessings/berakhot & singing.
Take time to appreciate one another.
Bless the children/grandchildren using the traditional blessing and/or write your own.
Invite everyone to share something good that happened to them during the past week.
Engage in conversation together-discussing things with children and adults alike.
Good manners (Derekh eretz) should be modeled and invited.
Serve “Shabbat” cookies or cake for dessert.
Have the children clear the table on Shabbat.
Call Saturday, “Shabbat.”
Try not to do office work, homework or household chores.
Try not to run errands or go shopping.
Encourage your children to have friends over for Shabbat lunch and a playmate. Or, invite your friends and family over!
Create a relaxed feeling in your home.
Eat lunch together, calling it, “Shabbat lunch.”
Before everyone runs off for their Saturday night activities, take a moment to mark the end of Shabbat and the beginning of a new week. This can be done through the traditional Havdallah ceremony (which takes five minutes!), or create your own. The symbols used engage all of our senses to carry us through a new week until Shabbat arrives once again: Blessings (heart), singing (sound), wine (taste), spices(smell), braided candle (eyes) Afterwards, invite each person to share a serious wish and a silly wish for the coming week. This is a wonderful opportunity for those gathered to become more aware of what is going on in our lives, our concerns, thoughts, etc.