I posted before about wanting to do Shabbat more often and have been more-or-less successful at doing that, especially for the past few weeks. My older children seem to enjoy it, despite it being foreign to them. I’m suprised at how easily they have embraced Shabbat traditions. It’s been harder for me to get in the routine than for them, really. But they love it – special plates and a special dinner, lots of bread, usually some desserts, lighting the candles and praying over the wine (or grape juice in glasses for them, so they can enjoy too), and music. I try to play some songs on Shabbat, and let them dance and we have fun. Last shabbat, we ate some chicken and challah, sang the “Shabbat shalom” song, and then watched the Prince of Egypt. (Which was fitting, given the Torah study of those weeks had centered around the Exodus story!)
I still don’t have a proper Shabbat set. I really would love a nice set of candlesticks, a matchbook holder, a challah plate, etc to make Shabbat meaningful. But I’ll make it as nice as I can.
Some Thoughts on Shabbat from Rabbi Kushner
Rabbi Harold Kushner in his book, To Life!: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking, wrote about Shabbat being a good starting point for imbuing spirituality into daily life.
In chapter 4, “Sactuaries in Time: The Calendar”, Kushner talks about the holidays on the Jewish calendar. He starts with Shabbat. In the typical Kushner fashion, he presents some unique ideas.
1) Shabbat reminds us that we are not slaves (p.95).
That is, that we own our time and our souls. We are free to decide how to spend our time. So it is a reminder not only of having been freed from Egypt, but we are free period.
2) Gd rested, and so we should too (p.97).
-”Sabbath rest is defined as leaving the world alone, restraining our impulse to tinker with it. There will be six days coming up to work at fixing what is wrong with the world. For one day, let well enough alone.” (p.98)
-”Sabbath rest is defined as freedom from obligation.”
- “Sabbath rest is a time of detaching ourselves for a day from all our problems…”
He, too recommends Sabbath rituals as the first thing to try when wanting to bring back spirituality into your life. (Or, for someone jumping into Judaism, the first step to Jewish living after joining a community, connecting with a Rabbi, etc). He also addresses the fear of feeling awkward or hypocritical when starting out. He writes in response,
“..[y]es, you will probably feel awkward, uncomfortable, and sel-conscious the first few times you light the Sabbath candles and say a prayer…the self-consciousness disappears after a few tries. Are you being hypocritical ify ou suddenly start observing some Jewish rituals while omitting others? Not at all. A hypocrite is a person who publicly claims one set of values while privately living by another set.”
“If we grow in our Jewishness, we will do it by climbing the ladder of observance one step at a time.”
Isn’t that a lovely quote?! That is, we don’t all start out by being perfectly halachic. And that’s okay. What’s important is that what we do is meaningful.
Resources for Learning More
I found Youtube to be a great place to learn a lot of things; Shabbat customs are one of them. Here are some videos I’ve found helpful:
One of my favorite resources for Jewish recipes, especially challah, is The Shiksa in the Kitchen. Her entire website is awesome.
And here’s a video from Rivka Malka Perlman (don’t you love her tichels? Wrapunzel for the win!):
Do you have any traditions, recipes, or thoughts you’d like to share? What do you enjoy most about Shabbat? For me, it’s the deliberate “pausing” of everything. My kids get more of my attention. I take time to make things nicer than I might otherwise. I think about my spirituality and not about all the other tech gunk that gets into my head. What about you?