I’m admittedly a Shabbat newbie, but music has always been an important tool in teaching my children about Judaism. Bringing music into our burgeoning Shabbat rituals was a natural extension. I’ve learned a lot in the past year, mostly through trial and error, when it comes to engaging my kids in music on Shabbat. Here are three things to keep in mind:
Keep it Simple: Songs with simple, repetitive lyrics work best with very young children. Bonus points if the melody is upbeat. Double bonus if they can dance, clap, or do something else interactive.
Keep it Relevant: In my house, it’s perfectly acceptable to sing “Let It Go,” for Shabbat. We talk about “letting go” of the week’s stress in preparation for Shabbat before launching into the Disney classic.
Keep it Routine: My 3-year-old has a closet full of clothes, but she would wear the same Ariel the Mermaid t-shirt every day if I’d let her. Like most preschoolers, she thrives on routine. She knows what to expect, and likes it that way. If we want to introduce new songs into the repertoire, we bring them in one at a time.
1. Adon Olam and Ein Kelohanu: Very young children might struggle with the Hebrew, but it’s impossible to have a list of Shabbat songs without including them. Both have “upbeat” versions and more traditional arrangements.
2. Am Yisrael Chai: An upbeat song celebrating Israel, it’s important to have this on our list. In the words of my husband, “It’s a fun, happy, dance-around-in-a-circle song. Who doesn’t love that?”
3. Bim Bam: The first Shabbat song many of us learn. Its simple lyrics and tune is great for the youngest Shabbat celebrants.
4. Chicken Soup for Shabbat (Multiple artists): An interactive song that lets children shout out their favorite ingredients. My 5-year-old seems to think cupcakes belong in chicken soup. I just roll with it.
5. Give a Little Hug (Debbie Brukman): This sweet song suggests welcoming Shabbat by gifting family members with loving hugs.
6. Hiney Ma Tov: There are many different arrangements to this classic song about people dwelling together in harmony. It’s particularly appropriate when my daughters take a break from running amok through the house.
7. I’ve Got a Feeling (Maccabeats): Once again this favorite Jewish a capella group remake a well-known pop song into a holiday favorite.
8. Lecha Dodi: Literally translating to, “Come my beloved,” this is sung to welcome Shabbat. There are dozens of versions, but if you’re in the mood to ugly cry to beautiful music, download the Maccabeats version.
9. Oseh Shalom: My personal favorite. Another song about peace, it can be sung as a round, and the Debbie Friedman version is fun to dance to.
10. Sabbath Prayer (Fiddler on the Roof): A musical take on the blessing for daughters, the song reiterates the hopes most parents have for their children.
11. Sim Shalom: The slow version sounds like a sweet Shabbat lullaby.
12. There’s a Dinosaur Knocking on My Door (Debbie Brukman): This one is a huge hit with the under 6 crowd.
13. Tree of Life: Similar to Bim Bam, Tree of Life is an easy song to learn, and lots of fun to sing.
What are some of your favorite Shabbat songs? Tell us about yours in the comments below!