Minnesota Mamaleh: Summer Days, Summer Nights
While the ins-and-outs of Judaism vary, Noshin’ columnist Sara Rice said it best: Our bread and butter? That’s Shabbat.
Nothing screams “Jewish-y,” or spirituality for that matter, more to me than the smell of freshly baked challah, the girls’ sweet voices saying the blessings over the candles, wine and bread and Brody’s chubby little fingers holding tightly (oh-so-very-tightly) onto his grape juice.
The family. The fun. The together-ness. The group-sigh-and-deep-exhale in celebration of the weekend being here. Finally. The candlelight, the wine, the flowers, the dialogue, the prayers, the delicious food. Shabbat.
Shabbat comes around every single week (yes all year long), so it should feel just-right. Given that, I’ve researched, read, attempted, tried again. All to create that “Shabbat-y” feeling for my family. Different. Separate. Special.
One person’s Shabbat-iness happens between the walls of a synagogue. And another’s between the walls of their own living room. (And perhaps the kitchen.) One person’s large gathering, is another’s dinner-for-two. One person’s prayer well into the night, is another’s just-the-basics. One person’s fancy-shmancys, is another’s comfy-cozies. In my mind, there’s not a right way. Just a right feeling.
Technically speaking, on Shabbat everything should be prepared in advance so the whole evening can be dedicated to family, spirituality and yummy food. No work. No driving. No other events or activities. No distractions. How beautiful is that?
I love the notion, the sentiment and the pure bliss of it. But in reality, sometimes it’s hard to adhere to start times, end times, yays and nays. If it’s not what resonates, it starts to feel…un-Shabbat-y. There’s a technical term for you!
Before Jason and I had children, actually, before we were even married, one of our favorite rabbis asked us how we plan on remembering and observing Shabbat with our (then future, hypothetical) children.
Are you thinking that that was just a little over the top? Not so much, actually. You’d be surprised how many times we’ve chosen between doing Shabbat and an evening out with close friends, a school event or a birthday party. We’ve always been able to softly land right back onto that conversation.
Why? Because after he posed the question and let it marinade for a little bit, he weighed in. The rabbi’s son, and football star, played in Friday night games right after candles were lit and prayers were said. He never had to choose between either of his sparks– Judaism and football. Does this surprise you?
Our rabbi taught us that the Shabbat feeling is peaceful and light. Content and just-right. So if you find spirituality by observing every rule and every ritual, then that feels beautiful. To you. And if you don’t? Well then all of that observing and ritual-ing will feel like a burden. Or a restriction. Something to avoid, rather than to envelop within your heart, and take on as your own. I’ve always remembered that.
About ten years and three kids later, I often get my inspiration from play date chit-chats. I’ve moved from the rabbi’s office to a local ice cream shop. I say potato, you say po-tah-to?
This week, my moment-of-clarity happened while my children were becoming increasingly chocolate ice cream smeared, so the convo was short but powerful. I’ll just go ahead and let that image percolate in your mind a ‘lil bit…Don’t mention it. And yes, I gave my children chocolate ice cream in the middle of the day. With toppings. Don’t judge.
Besides chocolate ice cream (with toppings!), my girlfriend and I discussed how we felt working versus how we feel being at home with our children. Not comparing or weighing options, but reflecting on when something doesn’t feel right, it becomes well, hard. And stressful. And a have-to-do instead of a want-to-do. I took it as the same lesson learned as the rabbi’s. Not too shabby for two moms over ice cream.
And that brings us right back to Shabbat. And most importantly, creating Shabbat-iness. We’re amidst glorious, sun-shiny, it’s-light-out-so-Bedtime? Who needs bedtime? Summertime. So many of our Shabbats happen outside. Sometimes we eat a gourmet meal ala Jason. Sometimes we grill. And other times? We have a picnic. Or pizza. That part doesn’t really doesn’t matter. What matters is the connections made, the memories created and the feelings felt.
I am seriously awe-struck by the thought of saying the same words as so many people in so many places. Here, there and everywhere, right? My heart is equally warmed by the thought of baking challah with my children at the same time as other Mamas and their babies. Different places, different paths but same warm moments, warm hearts. Sometimes even using the same recipe! Both equally give me that warm-and-fuzzy Shabbat-y feeling. Every. Single. Week.
Some families add a set-aside dialogue time during Shabbat. While we haven’t broached Torah-topics, we have tried to incorporate a short discussion about something that might have come up for us that week. Kindness. Trying hard. Listeningtoyourmother! Just as a few ahem- examples.
The Shabbat-iest of Shabbat-iest for me is the moment that I spend whispering something kind, wonderful, appreciative to each of my children. It’s not the traditional Hebrew. And it’s not the same words that you might say to your children. But it’s ours. And it’s beautiful. And for us, that feeling can be created just as easily at a fancy table or at a picnic blanket.
There are just so many amazing ways to carve out that lovely separateness. So I leave you with a Shabbat Shalom! And the hope that your evening is filled with something…Beautiful. Wine? Good friends? Sweet words for your children? Laughter? Prayer? Pizza? Playing? Whatever it is, however it looks, I hope it’s exactly where you and your family want to be. Because that’s the good stuff right there. The good stuff, indeed.
Galit- I love your writing. I love it so much, that I CANNOT wait for my Friday mornings to come and then I savor each and every word with my cup of coffee. Or maybe water if I’ve had too much wine the night before… (NOT me!!) Your writing is gorgeous and such a blast to read, but the content. Oh, the content. HOW do you do it? I feel everything you write. I say YES! YES! YES! in my head the whole time. I get it. I feel it. Yet, I definitely could not organize my thoughts and write about it so very eloquently. THANK YOU AGAIN. This is definitely one of my favoites.
You’re one of the top reasons to love Fridays.
Shabbat-iness, I love it. I may steal it.
It’s wonderful how you weave the concept of the togetherness of a family wrapped up in this thing we call Shabbat, when we work so hard, hard, HARD, all in the name of rest. And it so worth it, isn’t it? When you run around headless chicken, getting ready, but then you light candles and a hush comes over the house and the family. And on Shabbat, at least in our house, is when family comes together, both geographically and spiritually.
BTW, thanks for the plug, I love you.
And, serendipitously, did you happen to see who posted the bread machine challah recipe? 😉
A bit early… Shabbat Shalom to you and your beautiful family!
I love your blog! I think this family time is such an important thing. We have a similar time set aside on Mondays, and its really just a great chance to be with each other.
What a wonderful, Shabbat-y post!
I’m looking forward to my first “full” shabbat on my home turf after spending last Saturday with the in-laws and the two previous Shabbats in Israel.
Services outside in a park (our synagogue does this on 3 Shabbats in the summertime), followed by a picnic dinner, then torah study Saturday morning, morning services, and then a big afternoon nap for me and the kitties! Could it be any Shabbatier?
What a great post! Sounds like you have a wonderful family who enjoys spending time together, even if it’s just doing alot of nothing. Nothing is better than family, pizza and wine 🙂
While I read (and enjoy!)this blog every week, this is my first time to comment on the website. It’s perfect that my first comment is in reference to this week’s phenomenal piece. The sense of peace generated by your words is a gift, a truly amazing thing to give. I pray that you feel the love that you share coming right back to you from the many who enjoy your work! My prediction? You definitely will.
One of my most favorite “bad Jew” moments was telling (at a local cafe in line for my bread) the rabbi’s wife that we were planning our seder brunch. She looked incredulous & then managed to smile. “That sounds great,” she offered although her face really didn’t read “great.” But the effort, that meant more than the fact she maybe didn’t like (or exactly condone) the notion; she made the tent bigger.
Lovely lovely reminders here.
Loved the post – will be back for more in the future. The rabbi I worked with for along time loved the phrase “mindfulness” – making deliberate choices instead of observance by rote. He, too, emphasized the “works *for me*” aspect. Thanks for sharing.
I agree with you that it is amazing when we think that millions of us say the same words and blessings, eat challah and try to create a spiritual haven during these 25 hours, as best as we can. I personally favor a traditional shabbat, which is quite hard when your community is small and doesn’t have regular services.
Like many of us, I spend time cooking food I hope will be appreciated and print out newsletters and divrei Torah for my spiritual “enlightenment”.
‘I am seriously awe-struck by the thought of saying the same words as so many people in so many places. My heart is equally warmed by the thought of baking challah with my children at the same time as other Mamas and their babies.’
What a wonderful moment to contemplate and savour.
thank you, friends! each and every one of your comments made me smile!
kee– wow, lady! i’m literally teary-eyed reading your note. it’s saved to be read again and again. and again! thank YOU!! xoxo
erica– aww– thank you lady! how sweet are *you?!*
mirj– three things: 1. you’re spot on, i *do* see family togetherness as all wrapped up with shabbat. are you scared that you’re seeing (not to mention getting) how my brain *really* works?! 2. love you back and 3. serendipity is only my most favorite word. EVER. and yes, i can’t believe it’s YOUR recipe posting!! poor, poor jason was awakened oh-so-very middle of the night just to hear all about that ‘lil tidbit! 🙂
jen– right back at you, lady! so great to hear from you!!
melissa– hi! agreed, 100% agreed! i’d absolutely love to hear more about your mondays. i already know that i’d be in love with the togetherness premise! thanks much for the note!
susan– lol you’re totally rockin’ the lingo– love it! i hope that your shabbat was as shabbat-y as can be! nap and all– *sigh* i love naps. A LOT!
jennifer– hi there! shabbat shalom to you and yours, too!
tara– hello! thanks so much for the note! and *cheers!* nothing better, indeed! 🙂
becky– hi lady! thanks so much for the note, it means the world to me! peace and love are, for sure, what we want to go around, right?! thanks for the smile and wishes– both are so-very-much appreciated!
sarah– hi! i’m right there with you in that coffee shop and can literally *feel* the “tent getting bigger.” i mean, really? could your word choices be any more amazing?! thanks much, as always!
morahmary– thanks so much for the visit and the note! it’s excellent to hear from you! can i just say how much i love the concept of mindfulness? that is *exactly* what i want for my children, and myself. thanks for putting it out there, where it so needs to be!
ilana-davita– thanks so much for the note! i love hearing your perspective. i love all that you do and imagine that *your* meals are always appreciated!! i’d love to hear more about your shabbat experiences in france. i can only imagine the food-for-thought there!
& julia, hello! thanks so much for the visit and note. it’s great to hear from you! “contemplate” and “savor” are such amazing words/ concepts! and why, yes. that’s *exactly* what i’d like to do with as many moments as possible!! thanks again, lady!
Reading this post brought back some lovely memories for me—memories of when I was very young and my parents were still together and my mother and grandmother would bake Challah on Friday nights, and we would eat in The Dining Room…the table set with Beautiful things.(Including those Cobalt Crystal Blue Glases you see in my “Ladies Who Lunch” Posts—there were little wine glasses that went with those tumblers, too, amd my parents drank the wine in those….) It was an event of sorts. The Candles would be lit and the dinner was always special, and it was especially so because of that Wonderful Challah….I don’t remember the word Shabat being used, at all…But, that is what it was and we celebrated as a family. I LOVE the way you write about these special nights for your family and the very loving feeling I get from reading about these nights you describe so beautifully—and it was a treat to be reminded of an earlier time when Friday Nights were very very special in my life, too. The smell of that beautiful bread baking….Oh My!
Even though we don’t observe (celebrate?) Shabbot, I can imagine how awe inspiring it must be to know that there are countless others, in all corners of the world, celebrating with you.
It’s kind of like the Super Bowl….you know millions are watching, partaking in tailgates and parties and whatnot, all at the exact same time. Except Shabbot is more meaningful and personal, of course.
I heart you Galit.
I misspelled shabbat. I guess I can chalk it up to my never using it in a sentence, or writing it before, or paying attention to the spellcheck.
I’m not Jewish, and I’m not particularly devout in my own religion (Catholicism). But one of the things that keeps me connected is that sense of ritual and one-ness that you have knowing that what you’re doing is being done by others all over the world, and has been for centuries. Not in the same exact way, perhaps, as we’re doing it, but still, the carrying on of tradition… there’s something really powerful in that, and you captured it beautifully.
Exactly. Thanks for capturing it so well.
naomi, hi! i was right there with you in your beautiful dining room, you described it all so very beautifully! and the cobalt glasses!! they strike me in every single one of your lwl posts and i am literally *thrilled* to know a bit of their story. (i just took a peak at them again– still gorgeous!). thanks so much for your ever-kind & thoughtful words. i wonder if will could whip up some challah?! 🙂
christine, hello! i heart you, too!! so very much! for the connections you make, your kind kick-butt writing and the fact that you even gave “shabbat” a try! you’re amazing lady– totally & completely amazing! <3
shana, hi there! thanks so much for the visit and the note! your words are nothing short of…lovely. and appreciated. that, too! & i agree with you 100%– one-ness, in whatever form it takes, is breath-takingly powerful. great words, lady. great words, indeed!
tzipporah, thanks lady! i wish we could high-5 through the good 'ol 'sphere right about now! excellent to hear from you, as always! 🙂
Your shabbatot sound glorious and lovely and perfectly suited to your family.
We observe a more traditional shabbat here, complete with the Dining Room and the set table and the kiddush. No tv, no computer, no driving, etc.
I did not grow up observing shabbat to this extent, but I like the way it ‘forces’ us to focus, to slow down, to have two festive meals a week.
I especially appreciate this structure now that some of my kids are teenagers. I think if you observe Shabbat in a free-form fashion, then once the kids are teens, they won’t necesssarily want to join in. A day at the beach with their friends or Fri. night at a party are a lot more appealing than dinner with mom and dad. Just something to think about.
Saw your comment and had to reply. We do the traditional thing around here – VERY MUCH SO. But growing up, we did not; just a Friday-night supper that was more or less free-form. We were allowed to go to the parties, etc but only after Shabbat dinner with the family. (I don’t think it depended on the time of sunset, which was helpful).
As well, Saturday was not “really” Shabbat at all, so we could and did almost anything that day.
In any event, it WAS free-form, yet we all did respect that one occasion each week when we made kiddush and sat down together. And I think that, in some ways, laid the foundation for the VERY MUCH more traditional “Shabboses” we now celebrate.
I should add that I am now honoured by hosting my mother, and getting a bracha from her every single week at my own Shabbos table.
An *intergenerational* Shabbat is very Shabbat-y indeed!!!
You know me. I think where ever faith finds you and what ever you do to express that faith is a good thing! Old traditions are wonderful, but I much prefer the new ones we make with our families. It is all about being together and loving one another as hard as we can. And to me, you are doing a WONDERFUL job of it!
shira, hi! thanks much for your note and thoughts. both are always appreciated! i think that the structure can look different, but the expectations still be set. non-traditional is not necessarily the same thing as “free-form.” i was not raised with weekly, traditional shabbats and look at me seeking out and creating a something special for my family! i hope that my children form the strong memories and connections that so many of us wrote about above and choose shabbats for those reasons. and maybe, just maybe, their tables will be as lovely as yours! 🙂
jennifer, i *so* love your story! so very representative of whatever will be will be– you knew your path and follow it to a “t.” and indeed, an intergenerational has sigh-worthy-shabbat-iness written all over it!
& spril, thank you, mama! that means a lot to me coming from you! and “loving each other as hard as we can?” wow! those are *perfect* words, lady! perfect words indeed!
Galit, this is so beautiful and I’m honored to be part of your Shabbat traditions. Reading your post was the perfect start to tonight’s Shabbat (okay, it wasn’t really the start, the start was when I made the challah dough). BTW–a tip for all you challah baking moms…top loaf with egg wash, dried minced garlic, dried minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, kosher salt…you’ll have an Everything Challah! So yummy. And, recently, I’ve turned my second loaf into a chocolate chip challah for a Saturday morning treat.
And, yes, it does get more challenging when the kids become teens, but if the tradition is in place, it makes it easier to keep them at the table. Plus, my daughter’s friends ASK for invites to our house Friday nights (because they love the challah!!!)
It was wanting to be with my family in a meaningful way that started my commitment to a Friday night Shabbat dinner and the reason I wrote The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat — okay, totally shameless plug 😉
Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful Shabbat.
meredith, hi! i’m *honored* that you’re here, to say the very least!! i love the challah tips– they sound like must-tries and, for the record, the shameless plug, is absolutely perfect!! 🙂
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