We are Shabbat rookies in every way.
Before we got married, we decided to raise the kids Jewish. I am Jewish, my husband is not. It was important to me, and my husband liked the idea of them growing up with a faith.
Some of the best advice I got on raising kids Jewish was from a religious school administrator who told me, “Just do Jewish.”
Got it. Do Jewish.
I hadn’t grown up doing Shabbat at home. For me, doing Shabbat was something that only happened in Fiddler on the Roof, where the women looked like they knew what they were doing and had the head doilies to prove it.
When my son was born, I decided golly, wouldn’t it be nice to have our own Shabbat tradition? Hm. Pizza. We like pizza. So I made pizza every Friday night. For a total of four weeks. Then we got sick of pizza.
Atmosphere. We need atmosphere to make it Shabbat. So I busted out the nice wedding china we registered for, and we used it no matter what we ate. Peanut butter and jelly, leftover spaghetti, it all went on the china. Which went straight into the dishwasher. For another three weeks.
We attempted variations of this for a while, taking long breaks of doing nothing in between.
After my daughter was born, enough was enough. I had to really start a legitimate tradition which would work for us.
I started by lighting a candle and saying the blessing. Never mind that the candle was the triple wick “Autumn Foliage” candle from Bath & Body Works. It was all I could do. So we did it. It seemed to work, and by that I mean something we could stick with.
Now our Friday nights look something like this:
Kitchen a disaster, husband not home yet from work. Infant in swing, toddler covered with his dinner in his high chair shrieking “SHABBAT! SHABBAT! SHHHHAAAAAA—BAAAAAT!!” as soon as I plunk down trusty Mr. Autumn Candle, which is now running low.
I am usually bedraggled and running behind. I somehow wrangle both kids onto the countertop where I grab out the lighter and say the blessing, making some sort of fanning motion to my eyes with one hand because the other’s holding the baby on my hip.
I say the Shechechiyanu and yes, I know it’s not correct to do this every Friday night. But for me, I need to say it in the spirit of “enabling us to reach this season”….aka me making it through one more week with the kids.
I do the blessing over each child and the translation. I give my son The-Forbidden-Except-For-Shabbat-Thing, known commonly as apple juice, which he spills all over himself while I’m singing the Kiddush blessing because, let’s face it, that’s about all the Hebrew-on-the-spot I remember from my Bat Mitzvah days.
Then we say a big “Shabbat Shalom” and sing “There’s a Dinosaur Knocking At My Door,” as it is the only song I know that involves both Shabbat and dinosaurs. Oh yes, I’m attempting to get all the mileage I can out of my Debbie Brukman CD.
And that’s it.
I have a million ideas for how to do it right, or better, or just doing it at all from Meredith Jacob’s excellent book A Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat–but I’m just not there yet.
The kids seem to like Shabbat. I seem to like it too. There’s a very nice feeling that comes with going through the ritual of it all.
Does it get easier? When? How? Or am I just an embarrassment to the Fiddler ladies?