Shabbat - A Moment Out of Time

by Zehorit Heilicher, Tastemaker in Residence

Every Friday as the week winds down, my internal clock is busy counting down to the arrival of Shabbat, or as it’s referred to in Judaism: The Queen. Shabbat is perceived as a gift from God, a celestial bride, a taste of the world to come: peaceful, labor free and restful. In the book of Exodus we are commanded to follow God’s example and rest on the seventh day, following six days of creation and labor (Exodus, 20: 8-11). This divine commandment to abstain from work on the Sabbath meant that for observant Jews, like my parents, all labor ceased once the sun went down and Shabbat entered. Once Friday afternoon arrived, our humble home sparkled: the kitchen had been scrubbed clean, its counters laid with festive foods for the meals to come and the oven hosted a chicken or roast on low, its fragrance mouth watering. 

That rhythm has been instilled in me and I instilled it in our family’s routine. Through long days and a hectic week, Shabbat beckons as a moment out of time, separate from everyday life in the most welcoming way. The Shabbat rituals delineate time: holy and mundane are separated by the lighting of the Shabbat candles, which are left to burn out on their own. Dinner starts with a blessing over wine: the fruit of the vine, followed by blessing the children with the priestly blessing and then by breaking bread, the challah. The rituals can be solemn, a moment to hold our dear ones in a circle of love and awareness. The rituals can also be humorous: for example, as our kids grew up, our daughters took to trying their hardest to make their father break in laughter while he recites the blessing. The moment is ours to fashion for our family and I hold it dear.

There is a rabbinical saying that claims: “More than the people of Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept the people of Israel”. Through centuries of exile and wanderings, observing Shabbat kept the Jewish people connected to their heritage and past. It is a weekly occurrence that requires us to take time to remember our roots, prepare a meal, gather with family and take a day off for worship, prayer, appreciation and connection. Now that almost all of our children are out of the house, the Shabbat dinners we do share together are ever more special.

I am grateful for the opportunity Shabbat observance provided us to take a break from baseball, ballet lessons, homework, jobs and more, to simply enjoy each other’s presence, appreciate the gifts in our lives and share our blessings with others.