The Ultimate Shabbat How-To Guide
As Jews, we are given many gifts—and I’m not just talking about eight nights of presents on Chanukah. We get the gift of large families (and nagging mothers!), of endless kugels and knishes and kneidlach, and of dancing our hearts out on Purim and Simchat Torah. But I would argue that the greatest gift of all is the gift of Shabbat—that one day a week when everything pauses for us to spend time with friends and family, eat to our heart’s content, and remind ourselves that life moves fast, but that slowing things down makes it worth living that much more.
So, why celebrate Shabbat? First of all, it’s a commandment: In Exodus 20:11, G-d explains, “because for six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and on the seventh day, he rested; therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it." We gather each Friday night to usher in our own day of rest, as a way to distress after a hectic work week, but also to take part in a tradition that connects us to our Jewish brethren around the world.
Shabbat can be meaningful in whichever way you choose to celebrate. For me, this means an abundance of food on Friday night, followed by a hearty night of sleep and a Saturday afternoon filled with things like frolicking in Boston Common or hanging out in Harvard Square. But the possibilities are endless—whatever makes you happy, relaxed, and reminded of how awesome it is to be Jewish is entirely fair game.
And because Shabbat is obviously more fun when you DIY, I encourage you to bake your own Challah (as tempting as the store-bought variety may be, Challah always tastes better when you bake it with love!) and invite others to share the beauty of the holiday with you. Go ahead and set your own Shabbat table to welcome others into your home—nothing too fancy or time consuming, I promise (I’m a student, so I’m all about convenience!)
Maybe you like to relax on Saturdays, but you rarely take the time to properly welcome the Sabbath. Lighting Shabbat candles is a quick, yet meaningful, way to mark the start of this special time of week. And since it’s really all about the food, make sure you’re prepared with a delicious kosher Shabbat dinner come Friday night—and if you don’t want to roast your own chicken, there are plenty of yummy catering options in the Boston area!
I love me some Shabbos dinners, as well as relaxing Saturday afternoons, but I often don’t give the end of Shabbat the kind of treatment it deserves. Making a meaningful Havdalah service to say goodbye to the Sabbath and usher in the new week is a wonderful way to mark the occasion, and it’s a relatively simple ordeal.
I encourage you to take your Shabbat practice up a notch—all you need is the right materials, some yummy food, a group of great people, and the will and desire to enhance your Jewish experience. As Abraham Joshua Heschel says: “The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living.” Make Shabbat a special time; I promise you’ll feel relaxed and rejuvenated come Sunday.