We are running in so many directions during the week that we barely have time to check in with each other. Or, if we do, it’s crammed time, with constant reminders about table manners and bedtimes looming. I think that’s why we all look forward to the breath of Friday nights as a family. Sometimes we do movie nights. But, more recently, we’ve been incorporating a more formalized ritual, lighting the shabbat candles and sharing the braided bread challah.
In Judaism as in all religions, the celebration of shabbat is to separate the work week from the time for spiritual reflection. And while we don’t follow all of the religious requirements of not working or turning on lights until sundown the next day, it serves a similar purpose for our family. It makes us come together. It makes us pause. Reciting the same words that have been recited by others for thousands of years connects us to a tradition that’s bigger than us.
But it is also deeply personal. My children, in learning to strike the match, light the candles, and say the prayers, are repeating exactly what I did when I was their age. Of course, this, like weekly church services, has the effect of instilling religious values into our children. But equally important for us is the fact that it instills the importance of taking time out to ensure we are still connecting with each other.
During the monotony of Covid, having a ritual has become even more critical. As we now work from home, not only is the division between the week and weekend less pronounced, the daily division between work and home has blurred. Rituals help us make special family memories where otherwise we would just be ploughing straight through. So, we gather together to bake the challah (which is a perfect cooking project for even the youngest of kids with this super easy recipe from whether it’s lighting the candles, taking a daily walk together, or cooking dinner, we actively seek to create moments to savor together.