Isaiah 58:13, “Call the Sabbath a DELIGHT.”
Years ago I read a book of the history of the Jews. In this book, a Jewish man stated that the whole of the week revolved around Shabbat. They would start anticipating it during the middle of the week leading up to it, and then ponder on the joy of it for the next few days until it was time to lead up to it again. When I first read that, I thought it was rather “over the top”! However, now that we celebrate the Shabbat meal ourselves, it has become my own experience.
I believe the Shabbat meal is the glue that has held Jewish families together for centuries. We would do well to emulate it. Why is it so significant? It is not only a meal where you bring out your best china and silver ware and prepare a special meal, but where blessings fall upon the family. Let me tell you what we do for our Shabbat meal. You can take what you feel would fit into your family. If it does not suit you to do it Friday evening, you could celebrate it on Saturday evening as you lead into your day of worship on Sunday.
I like to use white for Shabbat – white tablecloth, white plates and white candles. In Jewish literature, the Shabbat is described as a bride or queen. We are not only to make the table fit for a queen but to dress for the meal as though we were welcoming a future spouse. (Oops - often I am so busy preparing that I don’t get time to dress up by the time we sit down to the meal!)
LIGHTING THE CANDLES
When we sit down to the table, we all hold hands and my husband prays. I then light the Shabbat candles. It is traditional to have two candles on the table (although you can have more). Some say that one candle stands for “Remember” and the other “Observe” as we are commanded to do both these in the Word of God (Exodus 20:8 and 31:16). Others say that one represents “Creation” and the other “Redemption”. As I light the candles I thank God that He is the Creator of light, and that He also gave us Jesus, who is the Light of the world and who lights every one who comes into this world. I ask that God will fill us with His light and also the light of the revelation of His Word. This privilege of lighting the candles is given to the woman of the home as she is the one who is responsible to keep the light of God kindling in the heart of her home.
FATHER BLESSES HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN
My husband then reads Proverbs 31 and praises me. We love to invite others to join our Shabbat table and so we ask each husband present to share some lovely things about his wife. This is always such a precious time. Can you imagine being praised by your husband every week? Doesn’t it make you want to have a Shabbat meal right now? Sometimes I will read Psalm 112 (or Psalm 127 or 128) and praise my husband, and if friends are present, the other wives will praise their husbands.
The father of the home then blesses each of his children. This is another wonderful part of the Shabbat meal. It is such a powerful moment when the father blesses and speaks vision and good things into each one of his children every week. It is delightful to see the children with uplifted faces drinking in the blessing and encouragement. They can feed on it all week. Don’t forget the baby and little ones. Start speaking into their lives from an early age. We ask each father present at the table to bless his children. The weekly blessing of wife and children will bring a new dimension of joy and blessing into your home.
It is traditional to have Washing of Hands. I pass around a bowl of water with a towel and each one washes their hands. This is symbolic of having clean hands and a pure heart. It has far more to do with the purifying of the soul than cleanliness. We usually sing, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” as we do this. This is a good time for apologies and forgiveness if there has been tension or hasty words spoken.
BLESSING THE WINE AND BREAD
Now comes the blessing of the wine and bread. You can use grape juice instead of wine. It is traditional for the father to give the blessing, but we have now got into the habit of all saying the prayer together – “Blessed art Thou, O Lord God, King of the Universe, who bringeth forth the fruit of the vine.” Rocklyn and Monique love to celebrate Shabbat with us each week. Recently Monique called to tell me that she was watching three-year-old Joshua playing with his dinosaur. He had a crumb of bread in his hand and as he gave it to him, he said, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord God, King of the universe, who bringeth forth bread from the earth.” She was amazed at how he had remembered it, just by hearing it each week.
The father then prays over the hallah, the Shabbat bread, although we usually recite it together – “Blessed art Thou, O Lord God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Making the hallah is part of my Preparation day. The hallah consists of two separate braided loaves, representing the double portion of manna which God provided on Fridays so the Israelites could gather twice as much – enough for two days. It is plaited in three to represent the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I cover the hallah with a linen cloth, symbolic of the dew that came down each night and brought the manna. But we remember more than God’s provision of the manna. The Israelites ate this manna and died. We now eat from the Living Bread who came down from Heaven and gives life to the world.
We do not cut the hallah bread but break it as it symbolizes Christ’s body which was broken for us. Each one present breaks off a portion (as big a piece as they desire), and enjoys it with butter or other dips I have prepared while I bring all the food to the table.
ENJOY THE MEAL
Now it is time to eat. Everyone is hungry and ready to enjoy the food. You can cook whatever you like for the Shabbat meal, but make it a special meal. When Rocklyn and Monique are with us they demand I cook lamb chops! It is traditional to make a slow-cooked stew of meat, potatoes and beans. This saves lots of dishes.
Our Shabbat meal is relaxed and full of wonderful fellowship. We are often still lingering at the table at 10.00 or 11.00 p.m. We end the meal, as we end every meal, with the reading of the Word and each one praying around the table. If you have little children, you will most probably finish much earlier. You can then spend the rest of the evening sharing special family time – reading, playing games or singing. Make it special and always enjoyable – never boring or “religious”.
Love from NANCY CAMPELL
If you are new to the Devotional List, you may like to read last week’s devotion before reading this one. Go to The Day of Preparation.
LET ME KNOW
I would love to hear how your family is blessed as you try this weekly celebration meal. Tell me how you go. And how are you going with your Preparation day?
Although it is traditional to bring out your best china and silverware for this meal, you may (if you are a busy young mother) prefer to use paper plates. When your children are small, you can do things more simply. As they grow older, and you have more help, you can do it more elaborately.
HOW DO YOU MAKE THE HALLAH BREAD?
I always grind the wheat freshly for each new batch of bread I make. On Preparation day, I grind the wheat, make my usual bread recipe but add a couple of eggs to it. Hallah is meant to be a sweet eggy bread. After making three or four loaves of bread, I then take the rest of the dough to make the hallah.
I divide the dough into six equal parts, roll each part into a ball, and then each ball into six long rolls of even thickness. The children will love to help you with this. I then make two separate loaves, each plaited in three. To do this, pinch together the tops of all three pieces. Start to braid by taking the outer right strip and crossing it over the center strip, bringing it to the center. Then take the outer left strip and cross it over the middle strip, bringing it to the center. Repeat the procedure by alternately bringing the right strip to the center and the left to the center until all are braided. Pinch the ends together. Tuck the ends in carefully. Transfer the bread to a tray and bake as usual.
For a change you can make two loaves of two strands braided together. This represents the two sticks of Judah and Ephraim who will one day be joined together and become one in the hand of the Lord. Oh how I love this promise in Ezekiel 37:16-17.
If you don’t bake your own bread, and therefore do not have your own recipe, you could look up this website for some genuine hallah recipes – http://www.kosherdelight.com/Breads.htm