Friday Night

Question

What are the proper Laws and Customs of a Shabbat meal on Friday evening?

, 13 years

Answers

  1. I am attaching a section of the book, Gateway to Judaism, by Rabbi Mordechai Becher (available at Gold’s Judaica [www.golds.com.au] and on Amazon.com) which has a chapter about this. Below is an excerpt which describes what goes on in a regular religious family on Friday night.

    Shabbat with The Cohen Family

    Preparations for the Shabbat begin on Thursday at the Cohen home with the laundering of clothes for Shabbat.53 One of the first items on the “to-do” list is determining how many people to will be in the Cohen house for Shabbat. The Cohens have five children, about average for a religious family, but they do not know how many guests there will be. Their oldest, Shlomo, is studying at a Yeshiva in a different city, but he is able to come home for Shabbat once a month. The other children, Tova, Miriam, Eli and Esther, often invite friends for a meal or just to play afterwards. It is common to have other families over for a Shabbat meal, to invite students who are in dormitories away from their homes, or guests who are visiting from out of town.54 As it happens, the synagogue’s hospitality committee has asked the Cohens to host a Jewish physician from Australia who is attending a medical conference near their community. Once the numbers are known, the shopping begins. Food has to be purchased for two festive meat meals and one dairy meal, as well as treats for the children.55

    Mrs. Cohen generally does most of the cooking on Thursday night, however she prepares dough for the special braided loaves of bread called challah in the afternoon, so that the younger children can participate. They enjoy punching and pounding the dough, eating the raisins and making their own mini-loaves. The preparations themselves are a fulfillment of the Biblical commandment to remember the Shabbat.56

    On Fridays, all the Cohen children have special classes at school about the weekly Torah reading, called the Parshat Hashavuah. In kindergarten, Esther hears stories about the Torah portion and learns a lesson relevant to her life that is derived from that week’s section. She often learns a short song that is related to the Parsha, which she sings at the Shabbos table. The older children study the Hebrew text with commentaries and also prepare, with help from the teacher, short oral explanations known as divrei Torah about a subject in the parshah that they will present during family discussion at the meals. Most schools also send home a review sheet, so that the parents can review with their children the Torah studies that they learned that week in school. Parents also study the weekly portion.57

    The Cohens prepare all food for the Shabbat meals before Shabbat begins, since cooking is one of the forbidden creative labors. They place the dishes on a warming tray that will keep the evening and lunch meals hot.58 An electric urn is filled with water for hot drinks on Shabbat, and the electric lights are set on a timer so that they will go on and off automatically at the desired times. (It should be remembered that the prohibition on using electricity on Shabbat is not meant to make life difficult or to deprive anyone of the benefits of electricity. It is perfectly acceptable, and totally within the spirit of Shabbat, to have the benefits of electricity through pre-set timers. The idea is that the specific prohibited malachah is not performed.)

    Tova, Miriam and Eli set the table with a special tablecloth, a tray and decorative cover for the challah, glasses for the Kiddush wine, and a silver goblet for Kiddush.59 All preparations must be finished by about twenty minutes before sunset, which is when Shabbat begins.60 Of course, this rule makes Friday the most rushed day of the week, enhancing the contrast with the calm and slow pace of Shabbat.

    Mrs. Cohen lights the Shabbat candles, covers her eyes and recites a bles

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team