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Feb 7 2014

Can I Ask My Non-Jewish Babysitter to Do Shabbat?

By at 1:00 pm

Can I ask my non-Jewish babysitter to do Shabbat?

Love our children though we may, inevitably my husband and I will eventually have commitments on Friday night. Luckily, we have the world’s most fantastic babysitter. Our children run to her when she comes through the door. Last time she left, our toddler clung to her leg and blurted out, “Miss Megan, I ruv you.” Like any good parent, I’ve instructed her to start failing her college courses so that she won’t graduate quite so fast and leave us, tearful, in her successful dust.

She’s not Jewish, and like most of our community, matters of faith don’t tend to come up regularly. However, now that Shabbat on Fridays is part of our family rhythm, I’m not sure how to approach her about it.

Don’t let me fool you. Our Shabbat practice is not picturesque nor extensive. It is a barefoot, pants-less, baby-on-the-countertop kind of thing. As we discover what traditions work for us, more often than not the mood absorbs the anxiety that comes with “don’t let the toddler grab the lighter!” than any sort of Shabbat peace.

It’s a candles-blessing-juice blitz which involves spills, laughter, singing, and usually banging on the trash can for effect.

Since we’ve started it, we haven’t skipped a single one. My son asks for Shabbat whenever he sees candles, and my infant daughter squeals and wriggles whenever the candlestick holders hit the countertop. Denying them the experience just because we’re out for the night seems unfair.

Whenever I’ve babysat for other kids, mothers clue you in on the routine. Occasionally, this involves bedtime prayers. We say prayers at bedtime every night, too, but it never occurred to me to fill our sitter in on that aspect of the routine. Shabbat feels different.

I suppose the worst that could happen is she could say no. Yet, I’m wary of putting her in an uncomfortable position. I feel like a middle ground exists. Obviously, her giving blessings to the kids would be awkward and somewhat inappropriate. But could she light the candles without the blessings and put on a Jewish CD? Give a cup of juice and say “Shabbat Shalom?” Maybe.

Not knowing the details of halakhic law, I imagine we could light the candles the following night and no one would be wiser. I’m not sure I like that idea either.

Mixing faith with business is a strange, uncharted realm for us. How do you handle babysitters on Shabbat?

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