3 Ways to Bring Shabbat Home

Shabbat is the Jewish holiday that comes each week. Its roots lie in the biblical story of creation when, in order to complete the work of creating the world, God rested on the seventh day.

There are almost as many ways to observe Shabbat as there are Jewish people, but they each usually feature pleasure (oneg), community (kehillah), and rest (menucha). Each week, celebrating Shabbat is an opportunity for your family to reconnect, slow down after a busy week, and enjoy each other's company – and if one week doesn't work out as you’d hoped, another opportunity is only a few days away. 

Oneg: It’s Not Just the Cookies 

If you’ve ever attended worship at a Reform synagogue on Friday night, you may be familiar with the informal gathering of schmoozing (conversation) and baked goods that happens afterward, referred to as the oneg – but the word refers to more than just the treats we eat after services.

Oneg means “pleasure,” and indeed, oneg Shabbat is something we do to make Shabbat pleasurable – and who doesn’t like treats?

Bring oneg home: Gather the members of your family and ask each of them to tell you what would make a day feel special and pleasurable to them. You get a say, too. That’s your family’s personalized oneg list. Think about ways to incorporate one or more of these ideas each week to make Shabbat special. 

Kehillah: It’s Not Just for Worship 

There’s an old joke that says, “Different people go to synagogue for different reasons. Goldberg likes to go to talk to God. I like to go to talk to Goldberg.” If your people are at synagogue – or if you’d like to find your people at synagogue – that’s great. We can help you with that. A community – a kehillah – does more than lend its voices to yours when you need to say Kaddish (the Jewish memorial prayer). A community supports you when you are mourning, notices when you are sick, and celebrates the ordinary and the extraordinary with you. 

Create your kehillah: Where do you like to gather with others? Invite another family over for a Saturday playdate. Meet someone at the pool or the park or the ice cream parlor. Having dinner together Friday night? Turn on some Shabbat music and have a dance party. Find other local Jewish families through social media, at Tot Shabbat, or through PJ Library and make a new acquaintance.

Menucha: It’s Not Just for Napping 

You know what they tell new parents: Nap when the baby naps. Easier said than done, though! One thing Shabbat is really good for is reminding us to slow down, to take time off from work, and to recharge our batteries. 

What is restful? If you were to make two lists with your family – what feels like work, what feels like rest – what would be on the second list? How do you like to spend your free time? Take turns choosing activities that different members of your family enjoy. Turn off the screens, or decide that today will be the day to watch something together as a family. Go low tech, promising to set down your phone and be present. Walk to the park. Swing in a hammock. Read. Have a snuggle. And maybe, with practice, you’ll train your family to get in the mode of Shabbat menucha


Stephanie Fink is the associate director of Engaging Families with Young Children, part of the Union for Reform Judaism's Strengthening Congregations initiative.