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 wedding gifts.
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.
Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest that takes place on the seventh day of the week. Shabbat is rooted in the book of Genesis, where it is written that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Shabbat is observed from before sunset on Friday night until the presence of three stars in the sky Saturday night. This period of time is meant to be spent resting, refraining from work, and partaking in festive meals with family and friends.
There are many traditions and blessings involved in Shabbat. Some Judaica items that are necessary for the observance of Shabbat include candlesticks, washing cups, Challah boards, Kiddush cups, and Blech covers.
Shabbat Judaica Items
Jews are commanded to remember and observe the Sabbath day. Part of fulfilling this commandment is by lighting candles on Friday night approximately eighteen to forty minutes before Shabbat arrives. Traditionally, at least two candles are lit to represent the concepts of remembering and observing. Women usually light the candles and recite a prayer while their covering the eyes.
The lighting of the Shabbat candles is a treasured ritual. The candlesticks and the candle holders which contain them should reflect the beauty of Shabbat. They can range from exquisite designs in pewter and nickel to classic stone and colored glass materials.
Washing cups are important for the ritual hand washing that is performed before festive meals on Shabbat. The hands are washed before the meals and a blessing is recited before one can partake in the meal.
Most washing cups come with two handles to prevent the unwashed hand from coming into contact with the other. Washing cups are often displayed in the kitchen for guests to use on Shabbat, so these types of cups tend to be fancier and more sophisticated. These cups are made of silver, stainless steel, and ceramic materials and have fancy designs.
Shabbat Judaica Tableware
The Shabbat table is set for the festive Friday night meal as well as the Saturday lunch and the Seudah Shlishit (third meal). For all of these meals, it is customary to invite family and friends to eat together. The table should look beautiful in order to celebrate the joyous holiday of Shabbat. Many people use their finest tablecloths and china to decorate the table for these meals. It is also important to display a beautiful Kiddush cup in order to say the Kiddush blessing over the wine for each meal and be nicely displayed on the table.
An important blessing on Shabbat is over the Challah bread, which is two braided loaves of braid that must be covered until the blessing is said. The Challah is then cut into pieces on a board and served to guests. It is important for the board to be of a strong material such as wood and for the knife to be sharp. The board and knife are prominently displayed on the table for all three meals.
The prohibition against work means that Jews cannot cook over an open flame on Shabbat. However, in order to have warm food it is permitted to keep previously cooked food on a hot plate called a Blech. The plate may sit over a burner on a low flame or be plugged in electronically. Either way, the Blech remains hot for the duration of Shabbat and requires a cover so the food doesn't get burnt or injure anyone that touches it. Covers are usually made of insulated cotton and contain the words of Hebrew blessings or images of Jerusalem.
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