Religious School Director
As a Jewish parent of young kids, I often felt like my observance of the fourth commandment was half-hearted. Until recently, I found it easy to “remember Shabbat,” but challenging to “keep it holy.” Attending services familiarized my children with the liturgy, symbols, and their Jewish community, but the rest of Shabbat was often filled with social activities and athletics. I wanted to mark the day but felt like there was too little time to make it special beyond worship. Then we experienced the onset of the pandemic and my kids started full-time school.
As soon as we became acquainted with our new routine, I decided to take advantage of the central location of my kids’ schools in Portland. I began bringing them to a bakery on Fridays to purchase a challah and choose a Shabbat treat for dessert. Of course, as we left the bakery each week, they would immediately ask if we could eat the treats. I found that “we’ll eat them at Shabbat tonight” became my new phrase, and my kids began anticipating Shabbat during the day.
At pick-up time, the car smelled like challah and cookies. During the afternoon, the kids helped set up for Shabbat and gave some tzedakah money. Finally, in the evening, we did the Shabbat blessings and enjoyed the treats. The kids expected that no matter what we ate for dinner or whatever topics we discussed at the table, erev Shabbat would be special. Whatever the rest of Shabbat brought us, I felt like we had finally made it holy for our household.
Nowadays, on nearly every commute to school, the kids ask if it’s Shabbat yet. They associate the specialness of the treats, the family time, and the routines with Friday nights. I feel like I’m doing more than going through the motions. It was simple to do but completely changed the way we think about Shabbat.