Perhaps the most beloved holiday of all is Shabbat. Yes, Shabbat is a holiday, and it is the grandest of them all, and it comes once a week. Shabbat is mentioned in the Torah many times from Genesis to Deuteronomy, over and over again. The most important message we get from Scripture about Shabbat is that we need to rest, that no work is to be performed, for G-d declared this day to be holy since the beginning of creation.
Today we celebrate this holiday in many wonderful ways. Families get together, delicious food is made, happiness is all around us, it is forbidden to be sad or mournful on Shabbat. Set your worries aside and enjoy a good time with loved ones.
Take out your best tablecloth, set the table with your best dishes, and polish your good silver because Shabbat is just around the corner. We need to celebrate this day of rest with our best clothes, our happiest smile, and our best disposition. This is the time we thank G-d for the wonderful gift that is Shabbat. Light up the candles at dusk, say Kiddush, say the Hamotzi blessing, eat a wonderfully prepared dinner with family and friends, invite a stranger to celebrate with you and make them feel a part of your family, sing to your heart’s content; tell Bible stories and talk only about pleasant things happening in your life. Enjoy 25 wonderful hours of glorious bliss where nothing will worry or upset you. This is your time; this is our Jewish time, a time we must use to remember and observe the commandment to keep Shabbat.
For many who are not well versed in Judaism, Shabbat is almost always seen as a day of restrictions and prayer, a day when Jews can’t get out of their houses or even have fun. Nothing can be further from the truth. We do pray on Shabbat, but then again, Jews pray every day. Shabbat is a wonderful gift from G-d that we have accepted joyfully for millennia. We actually look forward to it from Sunday to Friday. Once it arrives, we are assured our soul will be cleansed from all the happenings of the week. We rest from the world; we rest from our worries. We simply…rest.
Work may be forbidden, yes, but fun isn’t. Families can leisurely rest at home, not worrying about work or school, reading a book, playing a game, sipping a cup of tea on the back yard patio, or having guests to entertain. Others go for walks in the streets or to parks, or to the synagogue for services. Many families take this peaceful day as a time to study Torah together.
Shabbat will keep you restfully busy throughout your life. It may sound like an oxymoron, but you can keep busy while resting and restoring your soul for the week that lies ahead. Here is a simple way to observe and remember Shabbat. There is much more to it, but by doing the following, you will be fulfilling the commandment to keep Shabbat for our contemporary times.
- During the week, eagerly await, and look forward to, the arrival of Shabbat.
- If possible, finish work early on Friday so you can go home and prepare for the evening.
- Do your shopping for a grand meal (as grand as your budget will allow, even if it is just a small rotisserie chicken from the store and some vegetables), buy some wine, Kosher if you can find any, but it is OK if you can’t find it in your area. Grape juice also works well, especially if you have small children at home.
- Bake some Challah bread as it is the central part of the Shabbat dinner (Google a recipe, there are plenty out there, or buy some if you are fortunate to live in a place where it is readily available). This will make your soul soar as you prepare it, as it is a bread that has been made for thousands of years. Imagine sharing this experience with Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, or Esther!
- Put on your best clothes as this holiday is bigger and better than Thanksgiving in the USA, and feel special that it comes once a week for us.
- Set the best table setting you can set. It doesn’t matter if all you have are paper plates and plastic cups, as long as it is the best you have to offer.
- Wait for your guests to arrive if you will have any.
- Check for times for when to light the Shabbat candles, and when the time comes…
- Gather everyone at your table and…
- Put a few coins in a charity box to give away later…
- Light your candles, and say the blessing to invoke Shabbat. SHABBAT HAS STARTED!!!
- Wish everyone Shabbat Shalom.
- Say the Kiddush blessing over the wine or grape juice.
- Say the HaMotzi blessing over the bread.
- Eat, Drink, and Enjoy Yourself!
These simple steps will enhance your life greatly, for you have taken the first simple steps to observe and remember Shabbat. Like it is mentioned above, there is more to it; more blessings, more activities, more happiness, but this is good for a beginner to get started. In time, you can add more to make your experience and obligation better.
After you are finished with the meal, begin your restful day, have a good night’s rest, and on Saturday morning attend Synagogue services. If you don’t have a synagogue nearby, gather your family and study Torah together. After you are done, enjoy your Shabbat by doing any of the activities mentioned above.
If you are used to watching TV, sitting at your computer, putting on your earphones, doing financial work, and blocking the world out, try to make an effort not to do any of those activities which will only alienate you from family and friends. Rest. Enjoy. Take Shabbat in.
G-d commanded Shabbat for a reason, find out your personal reason why.