Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath. It begins every Friday at sundown and lasts until sundown on Saturday. It is the central observance in Judaism and although there are weekly services in the the synagogue, it is first and foremost a family celebration. In traditional homes, work concludes early so the house can be cleaned and a special dinner prepared. No work is performed on Shabbat; just as God rested after six days of creating heaven and earth, we take time off to rest and enjoy family.
I’m certainly not what I’d call a “traditional” Jew, but I took up this custom in 2015 as a goal for a workshop I was attending and it stuck. It has become well-known among our friends that hubby and I aren’t available on Friday nights because it is Shabbat. My husband isn’t Jewish, yet he loves this weekly respite because it is sacred time for us as a couple.
On most Fridays I plan a special menu for dinner. Something that takes more time than I have most weeknights, is often several courses and always includes dessert. Aaron brings me a bouquet of fresh flowers, puts on music and opens a good bottle of wine. We chat and listen to music and each other. No electronic devices, no television. Just human interaction.
Once the food is plated, I light two candles, take a deep breath and wave my hands slowly over the flames three times, drawing the light towards me. I shield my eyes with my hands and say the prayer:
בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָי אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶל שַבָּת
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam,
Asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.
Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe,
Who sanctified us with the commandment of lighting Shabbat candles.
Aaron has learned the prayer over the years and recites it with me, which always brings a smile to my lips as we say “Amen.”
There is something magical about Shabbat. I look forward to it all week long, knowing that millions of Jews around the world will also be observing in a similar fashion. It turns our home into a sacred sanctuary no matter where our travels take us.