Shabbat is a day of rest – a time of peace, of rejuvenation and reflection. It is the day we remove ourselves from the routine, the trivial and the ordinary to immerse ourselves in the spiritual, the more meaningful and the more penetrating aspects of life.
To me, Shabbat has yet an additional meaning. It is the anchor of continuity, the perpetuation of tradition, the embracing of family togetherness. It is the passing down of the blessing of one’s children during the lighting of the Friday night candles and during the praying by the Kohanim during the Amidah. It is the time for every generation to gather to review, to debrief and to update one another on the week’s happenings, to share one another’s experiences since the Shabbat before and to reflect on the meaning of those experiences.
Every Friday night my family comes together to celebrate Shabbat. There are discussions in advance of who the guests should be, what the menu should include, what favorites should not be forgotten. Extensive conversations ensue on how to balance the valuable aspects of the traditional with unique and distinguishable elements to make the evening memorable and special.
Each Friday night after we say the prayers, sing together and revel in each other’s company, our grandchildren, aged six and four, scurry off to our bed to sleep over with “nana” and “beepa.” Every Shabbat morning, we wake up to their warm bodies curled around ours, their welcoming the day with “someone turned the light on outside,” and their anticipation of warm challe left over from the night before.
Shabbat is a uniquely special day not to be taken for granted. It brings back family memories of dinners at my parents on Friday night with the warmth glowing and the caring flowing. It provides families of every generation an opportunity to regroup, to take stock of their relationship with one another, of their common joy in celebrating the weekly cycle.
Shabbat provides a rooting, a grounding, an anchoring of generational bonding. It provides four- and six-year-old children with an initial context of family values and continuity, a framework of rituals and traditions and a sense of comfort, caring and embrace that will linger throughout their lives as they form a sense of peoplehood and a commitment to extend the sanctity of Shabbat forward.
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