We’ve been celebrating Shabbat as a family each Friday for seven years now. We love it, and couldn’t imagine our week without it. our two children, age 2 and 3 join in with the songs, the actions and some of the Bible verses we say. We’ve shared it with lots of different people, and we’ve adapted it as we’ve gone along to keep it accessible and relevant to everyone present. I’ve even made a version of our service sheet which you can use, including the prayers and readings we use. Feel free to adapt it and use it in a way which works for your family.
Whenever I mention that we do Shabbat on a Friday, everyone always asks “Why do you celebrate Shabbat? Are your family Jewish?” The answer to that is long enough for a whole post in itself, but the short answer is:
Yes, my Grandad is Jewish, although not a practising Jew, and not someone who passed the tradition down to us.
I first experienced Shabbat at the home of my ‘adoptive’ parents when I was a student in Birmingham.
We first started celebrating Shabbat as a way of starting a day of rest as a family together, something which is very strong in the Bible (it’s even one of the ten commandments), and we rediscovered in the first year of our marriage.
That’s our reasons for starting, but after seven fabulous years of celebrating, here’s ten great things about celebrating Shabbat:
1. It’s a multi-sensory, intergenerational way of sharing faith together. It includes washing, lighting, reading, drinking, breaking, sharing, listening, singing, poetry, prayer, Bible verses and eating! These elements make it accessible to people of all ages, all learning styles, in all stages in their faith journey.
2. It’s a good way to have a moment in time together as a family with God – a great ritual for developing faith at home.
3. It provides a weekly time to say sorry to each other and to God. And be forgiven.
4. It affirms, encourages and blesses the women, emphasising that the most important thing they can do is respect God.
5. It reminds us that children are a blessing and a gift from God.
6. It calls us to actively live in the rest and freedom which God gives us.
7. It gives an opportunity to consciously welcome the goodness of Jesus into our lives and the lives of those around us.
8. It allows us to remember Jesus and what His death means to us in the context of our home and our family.
9. It offers a range of metaphors, symbols and rituals which touch us, stay with us and help bring us close to God in a way other things may not do.
10. It is a way to celebrate God alongside our Jewish family, who have kept Shabbat for centuries.