There is one day of the week I always look forward to experiencing. From my childhood, I remember the entire household getting ready for this day. My mother would begin the preparation on Wednesday or Thursday morning with baking. I would come home from school and the smells of rugelach, a type of chocolate cake, would greet me at the door. Thursday afternoon meant my sisters and I would help my mom with cleaning, chopping vegetables, and going to the store for last-minute shopping to buy any items my mom forgot during her earlier trip to the market. Friday afternoon would be setting the table and then the day would arrive—the Sabbath, known in Hebrew as Shabbat, the day of rest. It was a day I cherished.
Even though my father would go to synagogue every Friday evening, the girls stayed home. We would do our nails and then light the candles and wait for the men to return. My mom would stand for a few minutes by the candles after they were lit, whispering silent prayers from her lips to be heard only by God: words of thanks and appreciation, words of acknowledging Hakadosh Baruch Hoo, Blessed Be He, and words asking God to protect her children. A holy and sacred moment that was, and still is, special for me as I light my own candles, decades later. Friday night growing up meant no one was going out to parties. It meant sitting together around the table, singing songs, eating the best food of the week and enjoying each other’s company. Saturday morning meant reading novels while waiting for my dad to return from synagogue and then having our special chamin, a Persian cholent, a slow cooked dish traditional to many households. A dish that has been cooking on a hot plate since the evening before.
As I grew up and had my own family, I continued the tradition of getting ready for this day with fun and anticipation. We often would have guests come and join us for the Shabbat meal. My family’s favorite foods are always made on Shabbat. My mom’s Persian cooking is duplicated in my kitchen and when my husband enters the house on Friday afternoon, his first words are “ahh, it’s the smell of Shabbat.”
I have discovered and am immensely grateful for the egalitarian aspects of my life. I not only learned the prayers and their importance, I am now helping to pass them on to the younger generations. And for that I am grateful. I cherish the ability and the right for any Jew to participate in the service in any way that shows their knowledge and commitment, regardless of their gender. This day is the highlight of my week.
So what is so special about this day?
As the Hebrew word indicates, Shabbat means “to cease”—to stop and pause from our everyday life and just appreciate what is. All week long, beginning on Sunday (just as it is the first day of the creation, it is also the first day of the week), we do what we need to do for our lives: work, chores, and obligations. But on Shabbat, the seventh day, we nourish our neshama, our soul. We don’t worry about working or creating, only enjoying what was created thus far.
The root of the word Shabbat—shin, bet, and tav ( ש.ב.ת ), is also shared with the Hebrew word meaning strike, shvita. Shabbat is a day where we do not do our regular tasks. It is also no coincidence that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week (not the fifth, sixth, etc). The number seven in Judaism is a special number. It is a number that exudes a completion and an elevated status. A bride circles her groom during the marriage ceremony seven times. There are seven weeks between the holidays of Passover, where we secured our physical freedom upon leaving Egypt, and Shavuot, when we received the Torah on Mount Sinai, thereby acquiring the spiritual freedom and the road map to living an ethical life. It is a day that we need so our week ahead can be full of vigor and creativity. It is a day to “unplug,” a day where we take the time to enjoy our friends and our family. Shabbat is a day when a busy parent can be totally devoted to their children without worrying about being on social media or meeting a work deadline.
Shabbat is not only an Ah-hah moment, but an Ah-hah day! The seventh day!
So, if you have read all the way to here– I got you! Are you coming this Friday to shul? We hope you’ll join us this Friday for a really beautiful service lead by our Religious School youth and a couple Wednesday School teens. A delicious dinner will follow!
Click the link below to learn the children blessing. You will find the recording on my blog.