The High Holidays, Thanksgiving and Chanukah are over. Tu B’Shvat, Purim, Passover and Shavuot are not quite yet here. What’s a Jew to do during this interim time when there are no holidays looming? The answer is quite clear—celebrate Shabbat! There is no better way to bring you back into the folds of Judaism, to spend time together with your families and to connect with your synagogue.
In the fall, with the new school year and fresh sports and activities schedules, and then the winter holiday season, with all its crazy busy-ness, some families attend fewer Shabbat services and celebrate Shabbat together at home less frequently. Now would be the perfect time to remind ourselves of the rewards of observing Shabbat each and every week and to make the celebration of Shabbat a priority in our lives.
The fact that Shabbat comes every week should not diminish the idea that it is special and unique. As individuals, no matter how old we are, Shabbat is a perfect time to reflect on the previous week – both the good and the bad, to rejuvenate our bodies and souls and to think about the coming week ahead and make a plan for how to make the most of it. It can keep us feeling good in a powerful, spiritual and emotional way week after week.
Shabbat can also be a time to really connect with our fellow congregants at our synagogue and to get to know other people. Consider inviting some other families with children the same ages as yours to come for a Sabbath meal and then either go to temple together, where prayer and music can fill your soul or spend quality time together at home, perhaps engaging in interesting discussions, playing games or singing songs.
Family time is so precious. As our kids have become teenagers, we have less and less family time with each passing phase. Rarely is there an evening when we are all home at the same time and can enjoy a nice family dinner at the table. As a whole our Friday nights are activity-free, and we just need to take the extra step to carve out the time to make Shabbat a special family night.
How do we make Shabbat special in ways that don’t take a lot of time or preparation or cost a fortune? It’s actually easy. Consider having a special dinner, which doesn’t need to be fancy or elaborate, but might feature something you don’t usually have or something you all cook together. Put on a nice tablecloth and bring out the china and crystal, even if it’s just your family for a regular dinner. Open a bottle of sparkling apple cider for a special treat. Have the kids decorate table place cards (even if it’s just your immediate family) or make a centerpiece together. Have fun baking a special dessert or decorating cookies together.
The biggest problem we face as a family on Shabbat is what happens when there is a conflicting secular event that evening which really isn’t conducive to quality family time OR the celebration of Shabbat. Admittedly, a solution for this is actually not one at which we personally have been very successful, but it’s a goal for 2019, so we can all try it together! The idea is this: if it’s impossible to have a nice dinner as a family or to spend the evening together, then try celebrating a quick Shabbat at home as a family BEFORE everyone races off to other events. It really only takes a few minutes to light the candles, say the blessings, eat some challah and drink some wine. If that’s all you can manage, it’s certainly better than nothing and might really you connect as a family and connect with your Judaism.