"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

I believe in God.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shabbat Described

A couple of people I have met in my life have asked me how Jews celebrate Shabbat. Here is my family's Shabbat routine:

Friday afternoon, my parents cook dinner for Friday and Saturday nights because we are not allowed to cook on Shabbat. For Friday night dinner, we have chicken, rice, vegetables, and of course the special bread called Challah. Somebody (almost always one of my brothers or I) sets the table, using fancy dishes and adding candles, a cup of grape juice, and the Challah. We all take showers and put on clean clothes.

When everything is ready, we all come to the table. My mother lights the candles (two of them) and she and I say a special blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the Shabbat candles." Next, my parents bless each of us, asking that the boys be blessed like Ephraim and Manasseh, and that I be blessed like Sarah, Rebbecca, Rachel, and Leah. The blessing finishes up with, "May God bless you and guard you; may God light up His face toward you and favor you; may God turn His face towards you and grant you peace."

Once everybody has been blessed, somebody (we rotate who does this; because we have all had our Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, everyone is on the rotation) says a prayer over the grape juice. It is quite long, commemorating the Exodus and the first Shabbat at the end of the six days of creation, and ends with "Blessed are You, Lord our God, who creates the fruit of the vine." Next, we all wash our hands in a ritual way and say the blessing, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who sanctifies us with His commandments and commands us to wash our hands." Finally, somebody blesses the Challah: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth."

After all the blessings have been recited and their accompanying actions taken, we eat dinner and throughly enjoy it. Dinner conversation varies just as it does during every dinner. When we have finished eating, we get out the song books and each of us picks a song to sing. Our meal ends with the recitation of the Grace after Meals. Finally, somebody (usually my brother or I) does the dishes. Because my family uses electricity on Shabbat (some do not; this is a big debate and has been for decades), whoever is washing the dishes puts on music, usually Jewish music.

Saturday morning, around 10:30, we all gather to pray together as a family. We recite morning prayers, read and discuss some of the week's Torah portion and sometimes the weekly portion from the Prophets as well, and conclude our little service with the extra prayers for Shabbat. We all enjoy wearing our tallitot (prayer shawls; singular tallit) without tefillin (I can't explain or translate these; let me know if you would like a picture), because tefillin are only worn on weekdays. After prayers, the remainder of the day is for resting, reading, walking, or anything else one wants to do without performing an action from the 39 categories prohibited on Shabbat. (I don't know all the categories; I simply know the actions in my life that are forbidden.)

So there you go! Shabbat in a nutshell.

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!