DIY Shabbat Dinner

 Video Overview · Lighting Candles · Family Blessings  · Singing · Washing Hands · Kiddush · Challah · Gratitude

The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.

He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul.

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Shabbat can be a respite from the world - a time to step back from what we have to do and take care of some of the things we need to do - laugh, sing, connect, give thanks. It's an incredibly simple way to make sure we have the space we need to care for the seed of eternity planted in our souls. One of the best ways to make Shabbat "happen" is with a meal - some friends or family, some wine, some food and some music. 

What we have here are some of the basic rituals of shabbat dinner; feel free to add, subtract, alter as needed. 

Video Overview

Our friends at Moishe House and G-dcast have put together a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) video that covers the major rituals of Shabbat dinner in video game format. More descriptions are below, but this will give you a fun overview of what's involved.

You can read a little bit more and get the wording for each of the practices below.

Lighting Candles

Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi calls Shabbat "a period inserted into an otherwise endless run-on sentence. It lets us know when it is time to stop and take a breath."

Lighting the candles, breathing deep and trying to bring some of that light inside is how we mark the transition from regular time to Shabbat time. Whatever it is that we are letting go of - work, finances, email, the future - this is the moment when we let it go. 

The candles are a way of delighting in Shabbat and marking it as "special" - the mac and cheese dinners on Tuesday nights are rarely adorned with candlelight. Any candle and candlestick will do - you can get plain white candles in most supermarkets. They are usually lit right before sundown, in the same room where you will eat the Shabbat meal. And you can light any number, though people usually light two, to mark the unity between the earthly realm and the spiritual realm on Shabbat. Sometimes people light one for everyone in the family, or very sweetly, for every person who is coming to Shabbat dinner.

Once the candles are lit, people generally wave their hands in front of them three times to bring the light of the candles into their eyes. Check out the video above at at 0:24 to see this in action. Here's the blessing:

Hebrew:
    בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָ-י אֱ-להֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶל שַבָּת 

Transliteration: Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-dee-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo li-had-leekner shel Sha-bbat.

TranslationBlessed are You, God-of-us-All, Sovereign of the Cosmos, who has sanctified us with Divine commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of Shabbat.

Audio for lighting Candles (Cantor Ellen Gersh)

Family Blessings

At these moments of sacred time, we are acutely aware of the loved ones who make up our lives, whose presence we rely on and whose well-being we pray for. There are specific blessings for husbands and wives, sons and daughters, but one that is appropriate for all is the priestly blessing:

Hebrew

 יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ

יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ

יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

Transliteration

Y'varechecha Adonai V'yish'm'recha. 

Ya'er Adonai panav eilecha vichuneka. 

Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v'yasem l'cha shalom. 

Translation

May Adonai bless you and guard you. 

May Adonai show you favor and be gracious to you. 

May Adonai show you kindness and grant you peace.


Audio to Yevarechacha (Gaby Meyer)

Singing

Local icon Pete Seeger is fond of quoting John Phillip Sousa who said in 1910, "What will happen to the American voice, now that the phonograph has been invented?" Sadly, it's generally been muted - we sing in the car, in the shower, but not much other than that.

But on Shabbat, folk singing - by people, for people - lives. The singing is more important than the song. The question of Shabbat singing is not - 'did you get the words right?' or 'Were you flat?' but rather, 'Did singing open your heart in ways that words never can?' There are thousands of Shabbat songs, but if you want to start easy on Friday night, start with Bim and Bam. More can follow later....


Audio for singing after lighting candles - Bim Bam (Rabbi Rob Scheinberg).

Washing Hands

Before we eat we do (or should!) wash our hands to keep them clean from dirt and germs. But there is, of course, more to it than that. 

We wash our hands ceremonially as a way of purifying ourselves before eating bread. The Psalmist says "I will wash my hands in innocence and walk around your altar, Yah, raising my voice in thanksgivinig and telling all your wonders" (Ps 26:6-7). When the ancient Temple stood in Jerusalem, the priests would wash their hands ceremonially before entering it. They would do the same before eating any portions of food that were sacrificed to them. In Jewish thought though, its not just that spot in Jerusalem that is the altar of God, but every table where meals and words of Torah are shared. 

Netilat Yadayim literally refers to the lifting up of the hands, in accordance of the verse from Psalms. We wash our hands and raise them up when saying the blessing, and washing our hands and eating challah are actually considered one continuous act. The custom is to be silent from the moment of washing until we taste the challah (with the exception of reciting the Hamotzi, the blessing for bread). This small period of quiet helps us stay focused on what we’re doing, and why.

Hebrew:  בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָ-י אֱ-להֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ על נטילת ידים  

Transliteration: Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-dee-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo al netilat yedayim.

Translation: Blessed are You, God-of-us-All, Sovereign of the Cosmos, who has sanctified us with Divine commandments, and commanded us to raise up our hands [before eating with them].


Audio for washing hangs - Netilat Yedayim (Rabbi Brent Spodek)

Kiddush

The Psalmist points out that "wine gladdens the heart" (Ps 104:14) and wine is a powerful symbol of celebration at this most festive meal of the week. Traditionally, the kiddush cup is filled to near-overflowing to emphasize that Shabbat is a time overflowing with delight. The wine of kiddush is also the first thing we taste once Shabbat has started, so that we begin Shabbat with happiness and abundance.

FYI: While many people use kosher wine for kiddush, there is no need to use thick, sweet Manischewitz wine if you don't want to. There are plenty of great kosher wines on the market that are fine for kiddush, and locally, both Artisan and Viscount carry them.

Hebrew

בלחש: וַיְהִי עֶֽרֶב וַיְהִי בֹֽקֶר

יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי. וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַֽיִם וְהָאָֽרֶץ וְכָל צְבָאָם. וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה, וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי, מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה. וַיְבָֽרֶךְ אֱלֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ, כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ, אֲשֶר בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת.

סַבְרִי מָרָנָן וְרַבָּנָן וְרַבּוֹתַי

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּֽפֶן.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְרָֽצָה בָֽנוּ, וְשַׁבַּת קָדְשׁוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן הִנְחִילָֽנוּ זִכָּרוֹן לְמַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית, כִּי הוּא יוֹם תְּחִלָּה לְמִקְרָאֵי קֹֽדֶשׁ, זֵֽכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָֽיִם, כִּי בָֽנוּ בָחַֽרְתָּ וְאוֹתָֽנוּ קִדַּֽשְׁתָּ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים, וְשַׁבַּת קָדְשְׁךָ בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן הִנְחַלְתָּֽנוּ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, מְקַדֵּשׁ הַשַּׁבָּת.

Transliteration

[in a whisper] Vay'hi erev vay'hi voker yom hashishi.

Vay'chulu hashamayim v'hararetz v'cho tz'va-am. Vat'chal Elohim bayom hash'vi-I m'lachta asher asta. Vatishbot bayom hash'vi-I mikol m'lachta ahser asta. Vat'varech Elohim et yom hash'vi-I vat'kadesish oto, ki vo shavta mikol m'lachta asher bar'a Elohim la-asot.

Baruch atah adonai elohaynu melech ha'olam boray pri hagafen.

Baruch atah adonai elohaynu melech ha'olam ahser kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'ratazah vanu, ushabat kodsho b'ahava u'v'ratzon hinchilanu, zikaron l'ma'aseh v'resishit, ki hu yom t'chila l'mikra'ei kodesh zeicher litzi-at Mitzrayim, ki vanu vacharta, v'otanu kidashta im kol ha'amim v'shabbat kodshecha b'ahava uv'ratzon hinchaltanu. Baruch atah adonai m'kadesh hashabat.

Translation

And there was evening and there was morning: the sixth day. Heaven, earth, and all their beings were finished.

The Holy One completed on the seventh day the work that had been done, and ceased upon the seventh day from all the work that had been done. The Holy One blessed the seventh day and set it apart. For on it the Holy One had ceased from all the work that had been done in carrying out the Creation."

With the permission of this company:

Blessed are you, The Boundless One our God, the Source of All Life, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Praised are you, Adonai our God, Soverign of the Universe, whose mitzvot uncover the holiness of our lives, cherishing us through the gift of Your holy Shabbat, granted lovingly, gladly, as a reminder of creation. 

It is the first among our days of sacred assembly which recall the Exodus from Mitzrayim, the place of narrowness and constriction. Thus you have chosen us, endowing us with holiness by granting Your holy Shabbat lovingly and gladly. Praised are you Adonai, who hallows the Shabbat.


Audio for Kiddush (Cantor Ellen Gersh)

Challah

Challah is the delicious eggy bread that marks the beginning of Shabbat dinner. It's the first food we eat on Shabbat, and it hearkens back to manna, the first food that sustained the Israelites as they traveled through the desert. It's doughy and rich - a comfort food if there ever was one. After we say kiddush, we uncover the bread (which we have been modestly hiding so that it isn't embarrassed while we lavish attention on the kiddush wine) and give thanks for this bread, which has been brought forth from the earth.

There are two customs that go with the blessing of the challah. One is that we sprinkle the challah with salt, because since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, our dinner tables serve as our altars. Just as salt was used in during the animal sacrifices in the Temple, so too, we use salt here for this "sacrifice." Also, people generally tear, not cut, the challah, with some folks inviting everyone at the table to put their hands on the challah and tear together after the blessing. This literal "breaking bread" is a moment of unity for everyone who has come together to share this Shabbat meal.

Hebrew: בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָ-י אֱ-להֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם המוציא לחם מן הארץ

Transliteration: Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam ha-motzei lechem min ha-aretz.

Translation: Our praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth. 


Audio for Motzi (Cantor Ellen Gersh)

Gratitude

In a world of plenty, it can be incredibly hard to maintain a posture of gratitude for the blessings we receive, the abundance we enjoy, the very food we eat. It's an important spiritual practice to offer thanks after every meal, particularly on Shabbat, when we try to elevate eating to a spiritually conscious act. There is a long-form blessing called Birkat Ha-Mazon which can be found here. For people who want something a little more compact and focused, this is a beautiful offering of gratitude which comes right out of the Talmud. An easily printed out sheet with the words is here and as you can hear in the audio, it flows beautifully into the song "Sanctuary."

Hebrew (Aramaic, actaully): בריך רחמנא מלכא דעלמא מריה דהאי פיתא

Transliteration: Brich rachamana malka d'alma ma'arey d'hai pita

Translation: Blessed is the merciful One, ruler of the world, creator of this bread.


Audio for Brich Rachamana/Sanctuary (Rabbi Rachel Barenblat) 

Video Overview · Lighting Candles · Family Blessings  · Singing · Washing Hands · Kiddush · Challah · Gratitude

Many thanks to Birthright Next, Congregation Bnai JeshurunChabad-WaterlooInterfaithfamily.com, Minyan Segulah and Velveteen Rabbi who graciously made their material available to us.