Embracing a Different Shabbat

Shabbat comes every week. However, these past few weeks have been unpredictable due to COVID-19, as will the next ones ahead, which makes for a different kind of Shabbat.

In our home, Shabbat meals are typically the only ones we can consistently count on having as a family. Now we are finding that every meal is a family meal! This leads us to ask, how can we make Shabbat special during this time when many of us are staying home and schools are indefinitely closed. What does “family time” look like after so much time in our homes? How do you celebrate Shabbat when gatherings with friends and community in homes and synagogues are on hold?

Here are nine easy ways that you can bring the Shabbat spirit into your home and make its observance feel distinct in these unprecedented times:

  1. Decorate your table: Make your table fancy by using a tablecloth, nicer dishes, and linen napkins.
  2. Decorate the house, make it special: Use Shabbat greetings or flowers. Here is an example of a flower craft for school-aged children to do at home.
  3. Stage a wedding and welcome the Sabbath Bride: Dress up in your fanciest clothes and sing the traditional song “Lecha Dodi” to welcome the Sabbath Bride.
  4. Raise a glass and offer toasts to honor Shabbat: Weddings always include toasts! Raise a glass of grape juice or a sparkling beverage and give toasts to the Sabbath Bride. Everyone gets a chance to share a reflection or appreciation.
  5. Start a new Shabbat ritual: Are Fridays and Saturdays usually hectic with the end-of-the-week commutes, school pick-ups, social obligations, and community events? We gain the gift of time by not having these items on our calendar. Try welcoming Shabbat by lighting candles as a family or blessing your children. Need guidance? Check out these easy “how-to” videos from BimBam and PJ Library.
  6. Use Shabbat and Jewish themed media: Taking a break from technology is a common way to mark Shabbat. If you use technology on Shabbat, you can focus on Jewish media content, such as a Shabbat playlist on Spotify or Jewish videos for kids and families.
  7. Go virtual with online Tot Shabbats, or services via Zoom: Do traffic and logistics typically hold you back from attending Shabbat services or Tot Shabbat programs? Now that these programs are not held in public spaces, you can show up from the comfort of your home. You can find listings and links for these programs on the Federation's online community calendar, JewishLive.org, or by reaching out directly to your local congregations and community organizations.
  8. Treat yourself: The concept of Oneg Shabbat is about making Shabbat pleasurable…and eating cookies! In this spirit, Shabbat is a time to have a special treat. You could buy a delicious treat from a nearby bakery or bake one at home. Baking with kids often takes time, and indeed we have more time at home now.
  9. Make Challah: This is a project that can be started on Thursday, giving you plenty of time on Friday to braid and bake it. Children can choose their own toppings to express themselves. There are many Challah recipes and tutorials – here are a few compiled by PJ Library that are designed especially to make with kids. For additional creative inspiration, check out Mandylicious Challah on Instagram.

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March 31, 2020