Serenity. Jewish pride. Most palatable food imaginable. Family. Who wouldn’t want to have
such transcendental experience? Those who embrace and observe the Shabbat, or Shabbos, get to
have it every single week.
“And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it; because
in it he rested from all his work which God had created…” (Genesis 1:31-2:3). Observant Jews
believe that God gave them the Torah- the five books of Moses- to abide and live by. Every
week, after six days of tiring labor, the Jews rest on the seventh day in order to bask in
Shabbat’s holiness. And no Shabbat is complete without a majestic Shabbat table!
Shabbat meals are very festive, typically accompanied by songs and can easily last for
hours. Therefore, the Shabbat table is a central place at the Shabbat-observing home. The
first step toward preparing the table for Shabbat is spreading an immaculate, usually white,
table cloth on the table. On the table the challah bread is placed under spotless challah-
covers, in commemoration of the manna, the food that God showered down from the sky while the
Israelites were in the desert; it was coated in dew, which is why we use challah covers..
These covers come in a variety of colors and shapes and make for extremely popular Jewish
Also placed on the table is the Kiddush cup, which would later be
abounding with sweet wine or grape juice. Both the nighttime as well as daytime meals are
kicked off by the Kiddush; before eating, you recite a blessing over the wine. The Kiddush
cup, or sometimes Kiddush goblet, is passed around the table and everyone takes a sip of the
wine. Once everyone has tasted the wine, the challah bread is taken from under the challah
covers and is also blessed on and eaten.
The Shabbat candles, often set in beautifully-designed sterling silver candlesticks, are placed near or on the Shabbat table. The commandment of lighting the Shabbat candles is mandated upon the woman of the household;
however, if need be the man may light the candles. By lighting candles the woman welcomes
Shabbat and takes upon herself to enjoy it and refrain from work. Due to the candles’ pivotal
role, people go to great lengths, often monetary lengths, to procure the finest, fanciest
candles and candlesticks. Many get decorated candle lighters.
The close of Shabbat is also deep with symbolism and marked with a ritual called Havdalah--Hebrew for "separation." For the act of "separating" the holiness of Shabbat from the remainder of the week, a special set of ritual objects is used. These include a special multi-wicked (and often braided) Havdallah candle, a box containing fragrant spices, and again, a Kiddush cup. Many times, these objects comprise a specially-designed Havdalah Set, beautifully coordinated and decorated.
Lots of people who observe Shabbat attest to the unique atmosphere that shrouds this special day. In a world obsessed with science, yet continuously on a spiritual search for the “truth,” many consider Shabbat an elixir.