¨ Discuss special meals pupils may have enjoyed. Discuss the kind of things that they use at home to set the table for a special occasion.
Use a comparison with a birthday celebration to introduce the weekly birthday of the world, the Sabbath. Explain that the Jewish holy day is called SHABBAT in Hebrew, 'the bride of the week'. It starts every Friday evening at sunset & lasts until the first stars appear on Saturday. It is the Jewish day of rest, prayer; & recreation when many Jews put aside weekday activities. A release from the cares of daily life, it commemorates God's commandment to rest on the Sabbath.
It is celebrated in the SYNAGOGUE but it is a festival of the home; 'the most important ingredient in creating a Jewish home'. SHABBAT gives Jews strength for a meaningful daily life'. It gives a chance to reflect, to take stock, to renew promises, & to relax.. SHABBAT binds Jews together & to God.
Explain the preparation for SHABBAT. By sunset on Friday the house is cleaned & prepared as if for a royal visitor, the SHABBAT Queen. Best clothes are worn. Food for the next 24 hours is prepared, as no work is permitted on SHABBAT.
In Orthodox Jewish homes light switches & heating are put on beforehand, no cooking is done & electrical equipment is not used. There is no writing, watching TV, playing music, or use of telephone. Cars, buses, boats, trains, motorbikes bicycles & planes should not be used & walking is limited to 1000 paces. These prohibitions are not regarded as negative but to allow time for remembrance, prayer & to create a disciplined response to great & small temptations.
The joy of SHABBAT is reflected in its personification as 'Queen' or 'Bride'. The TALMUD says SHABBAT is like a queen because when she appears the most miserable hut becomes a palace. Every house becomes a 'mikdash me'at', a little sanctuary. The parents become the priests; the table an altar; the riches are prayer; the power that of learning.
Set a table like an altar using:
- Clean, white tablecloth, the best china, glasses, cutlery & flowers;
- Two candles that are symbolic of joy & holiness (& of the 2 commandments 'Remember Shabbat' & 'Observe Shabbat'). The candlesticks are often silver & family heirlooms, passed from one generation to the next.
- Two braided CHALLAH loaves (or CHALLOT or HALLOT; from the same root as Alleluia) are a reminder that while in the desert with Moses the Jews gathered a double portion of manna on the sixth day of the week. The CHALLAH portion was, in Biblical times, the part reserved by the housewife for the priest.
- The CHALLAH BREAD COVER is a specially decorated cloth used so the bread does not see that the wine is blessed first.
- The KIDDUSH cup is a blessing goblet, usually made of silver for the KOSHER wine. The wine & bread are symbolic of all the gifts of God.
- Salt is a reminder of responsibility.
- The DUKKA is a charity box set at the father's place with the wine & goblets.
Flowers, decorations & Book of SHABBAT blessings & songs.
- Bowl of water & towel.
Explain that the father goes to the synagogue before the SHABBAT meal & the MISHNAH speaks of him returning accompanied by 2 angels, one good & one bad. The bad angel is overwhelmed by the household observing SHABBAT & is forced to reply 'Amen' as the father greets his family with 'SHABBAT SHALOM' (A peaceful Sabbath).
Role play the ritual of the SHABBAT meal:
The woman of the household lights the 2 SHABBAT candles a few minutes before sunset. Sometimes a candle is lit for each child. A moment is taken to reflect on the past week then she covers her eyes with her hands & prays:
'O God you have made Shabbat & the people of Israel holy.
Everyone stands round the table, father at the head, mother to his right, to sing 'SHALOM ALEICHEM - Come in peace, angels of peace, messengers from on high' then father prays:
You have called upon us to honour Shabbat with light, with joy, with peace.
May the light of the candles drive out anger from within us.
May my children walk in the ways of Your Truth.
May our house be consecrated, Oh God, by thy light.
May it shine on us all in blessing, as the light of love & truth, the light of peace & goodwill. Amen'.
'Come let us welcome SHABBAT in peace & joy'.
Father recites Proverbs 31: 10-31. This stresses the worth of women & praises them saying '...a good wife, she is far more precious than jewels'. Time is spent acknowledging the worth of all the family & not taking them for granted.
Father blesses the children with his hands on their heads & recites Numbers 6: 25
'May the Lord bless you & keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you & be gracious unto you.
He recalls the institution of Shabbat in Genesis 2:
May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you & give you his peace.
'God rested on the 7th day, he blessed the 7th day & made it holy'.
He fills the KIDDUSH cup to overflowing with wine & blesses the grapes:
'Blessed are you, Lord Our God, who brings forth fruit from the vine'.
He takes a sip & passes the goblet around to all the family. The spilt wine symbolises the blessing of SHABBAT spilling over to the following week.
Father ritually pours water over his hands, washes & dries them. He removes the CHALLAH COVER, holds both loaves & says:
'Blessed are you, Lord our God who brings forth bread from the earth'.
He breaks a loaf, shares it with all & everyone dips their piece of bread in salt as a reminder of sorrow.
There is a strong tradition of singing jolly, sentimental & sad table songs called ZEMIROT. For example:
'Lighting candles on Friday night always seems fresh & new.
The best meal affordable is eaten - fish, chicken, fruit, etc. If possible it is shared with a guest. The meal ends with a prayer:
It makes me feel so good inside, so happy I'm a Jew.
My Daddy sings the KIDDUSH prayer & lifts his cup of wine.
My cup is small, but I don't care - I'm proud that it is mine.
We have such fun on Friday nights, good food, & happy song.
I find I wait with great delight for Shabbat all week long.
All of us enjoy gaily singing ZEMIROT, sweet songs of Shabbat joy'.
'Thank you, God, for the festive Shabbat meal we have shared, for the food we have eaten, for the Torah, & the mitzvot which guide our lives, for Israel, the homeland of Jewish people, for our freedom to live as Jews, for our strength & health. Bless the family & grant us peace'.
Next morning many Jews go to the SYNAGOGUE which for Orthodox Jews lasts about 3 hours, for Reform Jews about 1½ hours. This is followed by lunch, walks, visiting friends, resting, playing, or TORAH study. Shabbat is essentially a time for the family. They may attend the SYNAGOGUE again in the evening.
Explain the farewell to SHABBAT on Saturday evening. When it is possible to count the first 3 stars & the sky is dark (42 minutes after sunset) SHABBAT ends with the HAVDALAH ceremony. HAVDALAH means 'separate' indicating that SHABBAT is unlike other days of the week. Mother chants a prayer of thanks for SHABBAT, her family & all Jews.
Father blesses the KIDDUSH wine & drinks a farewell cup of wine full to the brim (like God's blessing). He passes the SPICE BOX round for everyone to smell. It is often shaped as a tower & called a MIGDAL. This represents the sweet smell of SHABBAT & the happy atmosphere that will remain in the house.
The family says good-bye to SHABBAT by lighting a braided HAVDALAH CANDLE with several wicks that gives lots of light. The wicks of the candle represent creation & redemption. The family stretch out their hands towards the candle symbolising bringing together the joy & celebration of the occasion. It is snuffed out in the KIDDUSH cup by the youngest person. SHABBAT has ended.
Activities Children Could Do:
Discuss the commandment 'Remember Shabbat Day to keep it holy. On it thou shall do no work'. Is it a good idea to have to say 'No' to things at least one day per week? Develop the idea that SHABBAT is a special time, different from the rest of the week. What are the advantages? When do you have special times?
Watch a video of the SHABBAT meal with the blessings in Hebrew then write their own commentary for it.
Draw a plan of the SHABBAT table with the artefacts used & any symbolism.
Make CHALLAH bread, sprinkle it with salt before tasting it.
Design a CHALLAH COVER with appropriate symbols or a SPICE BOX.
Plan a menu for a special meal. Write 'blessings' which would be appropriate to use before eating each kind of food on the menu trying to relate the blessing to the nature of the food-its shape, colour, taste.
Cover a table with a white cloth, ask what is needed for SHABBAT. Children put the things in place as they remember them. Once the table is ready, role play the ritual of the SHABBAT meal. Ask each child to break off a small portion from the CHALLAH bread & to give a portion of their piece to the person on their right. Ask the children what they feel as they share with one another.
Read Hurry, Friday's a Short Day by Yeshara Gold (Mesorah Publications) which is an illustrated account of how a young boy helps prepare for Shabbat in Jerusalem's old city. Or Shabbat is Coming by Ruth Lipson (Feldham).
The Shabbat Table
Use these words to label what you can see on the Shabbat table.
- Kiddush cup.
- Challah loaves.
- Shabbat candles.