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shabbat

For The First Time, We Did Shabbat At Someone Else’s House

shabbat

“We’re going to Aunt E’s house next Thursday, and we’ll stay in New Jersey for a few days,” I told my daughters. “Won’t that be fun?”

My 5-year-old nodded happily, excited to see her toddler cousin. But then she suddenly looked confused. “We’ll be at Aunt E’s on Friday? But what about Shabbat?”

The 3-year-old looked up from her coloring book, concerned. “What about Shabbat?” she echoed.

I paused. What about Shabbat?

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“I don’t know,” I answered slowly. Two little faces instantly fell. I was a little surprised, given that we’ve only been observing Shabbat for six months. We started this past summer. Some nights are more challenging than others, but overall, it has been wonderful for our family. After a long week of school and work, it’s become our collective “time out.” Phones and TVs are turned off and we enjoy our time together.

Their attachment startled me, but I was proud that Shabbat had become so quickly ingrained in our family’s routine. Every week, my daughters look forward to it. They swiftly learned the blessings. They love the music, and their favorite food, challah. But with the exception of going to an occasional Tot Shabbat, we’d spent every Friday night at home. Could we take Shabbat with us?

I wasn’t sure what to do. We were going to celebrate my nephew’s first birthday, and I didn’t want to overshadow his day. I didn’t want to force Shabbat on my sister and her family. Though I thought they’d be supportive, I was afraid of overstepping. But new traditions are fragile, and I didn’t want to risk breaking ours.

I called my sister and asked how she’d feel if I brought my candlesticks. I held my breath, but then I could hear her smiling through the phone. “Of course!” she told me.

READ: Why a Huge Fight with My Teens Ended Up Making Shabbat Better

I prepared for our trip. In addition to the bags of gear necessary for entertaining two small girls, I packed my candlesticks, candles, and a fresh homemade challah. My husband and I shepherded the girls into the car and buckled our unwilling children into car seats. We doled out toys and snacks, and set out.

The ride was uneventful, until my younger daughter let out a squeal. She bounced in her car seat and frantically pointed out the window. I turned, concerned that something was wrong. She waited until she had my attention before shouting, “Look, Mama! The moon is following us!”

She was right. The moon was on her side of the car, still visible in the morning sunshine. It appeared in the center of the rear passenger window. I grinned at her, and once again I am grateful for the gift of my children, for whom every new discovery is a joy.

We arrived and settled the children. They played together, mostly happily. We celebrated my nephew’s first birthday and watched as he realized that at all of the new toys were his. He eyed the cake with suspicion. My daughters made silly faces at him, and he rewarded us with his delicious belly laugh.

The sun set, and we lit the candles. My daughters led us in saying the blessings. My parents smiled at them, and whispered that they were proud. The girls heard them and grinned. They continued, saying the hamotzi together. Everyone munched on challah. We all sang “Oseh Shalom” and other favorite songs. My nephew bopped in his high chair, moving to the beat.

READ: It’s Finally Time to Start Our Friday Night Tradition

As we cleaned up from dinner, my sister pulled me aside. “Well, that was fun! What a nice way to connect with your family.” She looked over at her husband and son, wheels clearly turning in her head. “I wonder if they have Tot Shabbat out here.”

My husband and I begin the marathon that is putting our children to bed. After baths, we struggled to get two energetic children into pajamas. It didn’t go well. Our 5-year-old bounced around the room, wearing her pants on her head like a hat.

Both girls ran to the window and tried to hide behind the curtains. The 3-year- old paused and peeped out. “Look, Mama!” she said, clearly excited. “The moon followed us here!”

“Like Shabbat!” added the 5-year-old, still concealed by the panels.

“Like Shabbat,” echoes the 3 year-old, giggling madly.

“That’s right,” I agreed. “It comes with us, wherever we go.”

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