How to Celebrate Shabbat – Bringing Your Family Together

Written By

Debbi Ballard

Published on

September 18, 2023

visual shabbat shalom with hearts and flower drawings, how to celebrate shabbat to bring your family togetherHow to celebrate Shabbat.  You heard me, Shabbat.  In today’s day and age, when we all have so much going on, it’s easy to forget.  But because we are so busy is precisely the reason we shouldn’t.

Think about your week.  Carpools, homework, sports, work, housekeeping, doctor’s appointments, dance, music lessons…you can probably go on and on.  It’s exhausting, and the weekends are not much better.  What little quality time a family has is often interrupted by phone calls, social media or must see TV!  We all need a break.

Celebrate Shabbat.  I mean it.  Make it a priority.  Set aside some time on Friday evening to spend with your family.  There are so many ways to do this.  Below I have shared some tips.

The Traditional Shabbat Meal

Mmmmm, can you smell the chicken roasting?  Do you see the challah rising on the stove?  Nothing better than that.  But, I have not just emerged from an alternative universe.  While some may have time to roast a chicken, others may not.  No problem.  Grocery stores and restaurants throughout south Florida are happy to sell you a delicious, hot and fully cooked chicken.  Stop by Publix, Two Jays, BJs  or any one of the many other local restaurants and they can help you out.  And here’s an extra tip, some have yummy chicken soup too!

As for the challah, here is a link to an easy-peasy recipe that’s so much fun to make with your kids . No time to bake this week?  Several of those same stores sell a delicious loaf!  Or, do the half-way method.  Kineret makes a great frozen Challah dough.  All you need to do is let is rise and bake; it’s delicious.  Nobody will know it wasn’t made from scratch.



The “Modern” Shabbat Meal

Okay, I know your wondering now, what have you missed?  You’ve never heard of a “Modern Shabbat” meal.  Well, I’ll tell you why, it’s because I made it up.

Traditional Shabbat food is delicious.  It brings us all back to a time of family and a place of relaxation.  And while I’m all for it; sometimes even heading to Publix to pick up the chicken just doesn’t fit into my crazy day.  So, here we go — order a pizza and a salad, Chinese food or sandwiches.  Here is my secret:  it doesn’t matter! Obviously, your family needs to eat; but a specific food truly doesn’t define Shabbat. You do.

Shabbat means the Jewish Sabbath and it indicates a day of rest.  Traditionally, it begins at  sundown on Friday evening and ends at Sundown on Saturday.  While the idea of down time for 24 hours is, to me,  heavenly, it may not be realistic.  However, we should all be able to find an  hour or two to relax with our families.

Here are some things you can do to share the traditional feeling of Shabbat  with your family and make your evening special.

  • Light the Candles:  One of the most symbolic acts, we light the candles traditionally just before sundown and place them on our dinner table.
  • Pour the Wine:  Wine is a special part of the Shabbat meal. Glasses are poured and a prayer (shared below) is recited. Consider pouring grape juice into “special” children’s glasses, used only on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, for your young children.  By including them in the rituals of Shabbat, they will appreciate them even more.
  • Challah:  This bread sits at the center of our dinner table, and the prayer we say before we eat, it is  one most all of us remember! Children can make a Challah Cover which can be used on the Shabbat table and also for other holidays.

This link will take you directly to the Shabbat prayers.  I encourage you to share them with your children.

How to Celebrate Shabbat In Your Own Style

Since our most vivid memories often revolve around traditions, both religious (taking turns lighting the candles on Hanukkah) or secular (celebrating each birthday with an ice cream cake).  I encourage you to make Shabbat special and unique to your family. And, I mean that — but please add this one “new tradition”:   no electronics.

We are all so “dialed-in” 24/7, even our kids.  I desperately believe we need a break.  So, for this meal, I’m asking that we put our electronics away.   Make it a family decision.  Have a younger child?  Have them decorate a “Shabbat Box” to hold the phones.

Here are some other ideas for new family traditions.

“Sharing Time”:

Everyone in the family shares the single best part of their week.  Often, the days of the week just begin to blend into each other.  This forces us to look back and celebrate the good in our lives.

Interactive Dessert:

Of course, I’m a huge fan of healthy eating (my family can attest to the fact that I purchase every “healthy cooking” gadget on the market).  But, a special treat on a special day is fun!  Perhaps members of the family can take turns choosing dessert, and it can be a surprise.  Homemade chocolate chip cookies, ice cream sundae bar,  or make your own fruit kabobs (snuck that healthy one in there)?  A different person gets to choose each week.

Game Night:

We all have a game cabinet. Open it up and pull one out.  Are you a Scrabble family?  Maybe your kids are young, grab Candy Land.  How about Clue, or Life, or if you have hours….Monopoly!  You will be so surprised how much fun a game can be when you are not distracted by your phone.  Be all in.

Invite Your Friends:

If they are Jewish, they will probably welcome some tradition; and if they are not, Shabbat is a beautiful thing to share.  It  encourages us to take a break, relax and appreciate all that we have.  Spending time with family and friends is a gift we forget to appreciate.  Let’s make it a priority.

Why I Love Shabbat

Obviously, Shabbat is special to me. It reminds me to take a break, something so important to my health and well being.  It’s also easy; I feel like the preparations can be low key and  everyone will be happy to be included.

Recently, I hosted a Shabbat dinner in Boynton Beach for some of my favorite families.  In addition, we invited some new friends and families.  The evening was magical.  Check out my next blog post and I’ll share the highlights!

Cantor Debbi Ballard has been serving the unaffiliated Jewish and Interfaith Community in South Florida for over 20 years.  Interested in speaking with her to learn more about Jewish education with edjewcation station as well the programs and services she provides?  Contact her at 954-850-0453.


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