Friday Night at Home

The traditional Shabbat evening rituals are best shared with family and friends.

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Most rituals described here as being performed traditionally by "the father" or "the mother" may be done by either parent, and those assigned to "the husband," or "the wife" by anyone over the age of bar or bat mitzvah. The author's observation that Shabbat is best experienced in community points up the value of learning from the practices of other households and of inviting others into your own home on Shabbat for meals, study, and other shared observances. From The Jewish Catalog, reprinted with permission from the Jewish Publication Society.

With the mood of Friday evening being gently feminine and infused with the aura of a wedding, it is a particularly sensual time, replete with good food, dim candlelight, songs, quiet talk, and enjoyment of both the physical and spiritual love of the family. It is a time for the spiritual growth of the family and the community.

The communal aspect of Friday evening, indeed, of all of Shabbat, should be emphasized. Shabbat is best celebrated and most fully experienced from within a community. Particularly if you are just beginning to come to Shabbat, search out a community or communities with whom to explore it.

friday night at homeLighting Shabbat candles

This marks the formal initiation of Shabbat.

Kabbalat Shabbat

This is a mystical prayer service made up of six introductory psalms (which represent the six weekdays as well as the kingship motif), "Lekha Dodi" (representing the coming of Shabbat and the queenship motif), and the psalm for the Sabbath day.

Ma'ariv--the evening service--follows. In the Amidah [the core prayer of Jewish worship services] is the central reference to creation (Genesis 2:1-3). At the conclusion, it is customary to wish everyone else a Gut Shabbos or a Shabbat Shalom, a good and peaceful Shabbat.

Blessing of the Children

After Kabbalat Shabbat, on arrival home, it is customary for the father to bless his children. The traditional blessing is, "May God make you like Ephraim and Menasheh" (for the males) and "May God make you like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah" (for the females). The father places his lips on the child's forehead and holds the child while blessing him/her.

Shalom Aleichem

The family or community, at the table, sing "Shalom Aleichem"--"Peace Be unto You" (found in the siddur, the prayerbook). This is a welcoming and an offer of hospitality to the angels who accompany us and the Bride [as the Shabbat Queen, the symbolic presence of Shabbat, is sometimes known] during Shabbat. "Angels of peace, may your coming be in peace; bless me with peace, and bless my prepared table. May your departure be in peace, from now and forever. Amen."

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Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Michael Strassfeld is the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan, co-author of The First Jewish Catalog, The Second Jewish Catalog, A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah, and author of The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary.

Sharon M. Strassfeld is co-author of the Jewish Catalog series.

Richard Siegel

Richard Siegel is the Interim Director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR. He worked for 28 years at the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the last 16 as Executive Director.