by Mindy Davidoff
“Mom, can we do Shabbat tonight?” This was something I never expected to hear from my four year old son last year. When I inquired as to what brought about this new interest, he proceeded to tell me how three of his preschool classmates told him that they do Shabbat at home every Friday night. Although, both my husband and I were raised Conservative, neither one of us observed Shabbat as we grew up. When our older son was born, we had decided that we would start our own tradition of a family Shabbat. Well, as we often say, life got in the way. Sure, we lit the candles on occasion when my husband would get home early and/or our son wasn’t throwing a temper tantrum. Then as we subsequently had our second son, life got even busier, and our initial grandiose plan completely fell apart. Who has time for Shabbat?
Sparked by our eldest’s newfound desire, my husband and I proceeded to revive the initial plan for a new family tradition. However, reality struck when we realized that this traditional ceremony would not work with our current family dynamic. Candles, red wine and a sit down dinner with 2 boys under 5 was simply not conducive. As trial and error came and went with each attempt, my oldest would continually express more interest via the “why do we do that?” As we all know this can be exhausting, it also demonstrated his true interest in this service, which was no doubt inspired by his Jewish preschool and classmates. When I was asked to write this blog about what Shabbat means, I was admittedly a bit hesitant. Shabbat? Do I really have enough to say about Shabbat that people will find interesting? I realized that although we might not observe the holiday in the traditional sense, over the course of the past year we have indeed come up with our own family tradition. Simply put, we observe thein a way that works for our family.
We eventually purchased a child’s Shabbat set, which includes pretend wine ,challah, and candles. When everyone gets home, our oldest son runs around to gather up the kippahs for himself, his little brother and my husband. As I arrange the childproof set on the kitchen island, he pulls up the candle lighting stool (formerly known as the personalized wooden step stool for the bathroom). While holding the baby, the four of us take the next 3 minutes to recite the prayers, without any fear of fire or spillage I may add. We all take a drink from the plastic bottle, light the plastic candles, and break the challah, which on occasion is real.
As I take a second to look around the kitchen island during those 3 minutes, my heart becomes full.
Shabbat to our family means taking a few minutes out of the end of a busy to come together as a family. This is our new family tradition. Are you ready to start yours?
Mindy Davidoff and her family live in Lafayette Hill with their two boys, ages 5 and 1. She works in the central office for Camp Green Lane, a Jewish overnight camp. She is actively involved in the community as Co-President of the Parent Support Group at Beth Tikvah B’Nai Jeshurun and participates in various other local organizations.