How to Create a Meaningful Shabbat Experience at Home

Chaim Harrison

As the pandemic continues, we’re all used to life spent mostly at home, even on Shabbat

Why not take some time to plan a meaningful at-home Shabbat experience? Here are just a few ways you can make the most of Shabbat and feel like part of a larger Jewish community – even when you can't be with them in person.  

1. Make Shabbat your own. 

Many Reform Jews see Kabbalat ShabbatKabbalat Shabbatקַבָּלַת שַׁבָּת“Receiving Shabbat.” A special collection of prayers recited to welcome Shabbat on Friday evening.  services as an integral part of Jewish living, but when synagogue isn’t an option, there’s nothing quite like a cozy Shabbat at home.

Try to see this time as an opportunity for personal observance, whether alone or with your loved ones. Even if you’ve never lit Shabbat candles or recited blessings over your wine and bread, now is the perfect time to begin.

2. Watch services online.

If you can’t leave home but don’t want to miss the joy of Shabbat services, you’re in luck. Many congregations livestream services each week, and even amid safety-related cancellations, some congregations are offering online worship opportunities.

For those who are comfortable using technology on Shabbat, “attending” services online is a great alternative to being there in person (and you don’t even have to change out of your pajamas!) As your congregational leadership whether your synagogue is hosting any online opportunities, or search for a congregation online to identify synagogues near you that might be offering virtual services. 

3. Spend time talking Torah.

Observing Shabbat from the comfort of home provides an opportunity to have thought-provoking and enriching discussions with your family about TorahTorahתּוֹרָהLiterally “instruction” or “teaching.” The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy); the handwritten scroll that contains the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Also called the Pentateuch and The Five Books of Moses. “Torah” is also used to refer to the entire body of Jewish religious teachings and insight.  .

Brush up on this week’s Torah portion, then choose one of our many modern commentaries to read and discuss; this week’s episode of our podcast On the Other Hand is about the Torah portion, as well. Talking Torah with kids? Try Torah for TotsTorah for Tweens, and Torah for Teens.

You can facilitate a meaningful, productive Shabbat conversation with your family by fostering participation, encouraging questions, and engaging with Jewish text and learning in unique ways. For guidance in doing so, check out “Tips for Leading a Weekly Family Discussion.” 

4. Cook a special meal.

With nowhere to go, why not take the time to cook a memorable Shabbat meal? Browse our many Jewish recipes to find a dish that will make this evening special for you and your family, from Ashkenazi staples like kugel and brisket to entrees, sides, and desserts inspired by global Jewish cuisine.

To try your hand at baking challah, choose from our plethora of unique challah recipes – and don’t forget to say HaMotzi before you enjoy the delicious fruits of your labor!

5. Try a fun family activity. 

During Shabbat, a time when we set aside time for meaningful engagement, doing a Jewishly themed arts-and-crafts projects can inspire kids’ creativity while helping them engage more deeply with their Judaism. 

BimBam’s animated videos will guide you in making a paper hamsa, learning the art of Jewishly inspired papercutting, and even creating “Jewish slime.” Don’t forget to turn on our favorite Shabbat playlist for some family-friendly background music!

No matter how you decide to observe Shabbat, take a moment to say the Mi Shebeirach prayer, which wishes a r'fuah sh'leimahr'fuah sh'leimahרְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָהComplete healing.  to all those suffering from coronavirus. You may also wish to say a prayer for the wisdom and skills of medical scientists, researchers, and public health officials around the world as they fight the spread of virus.

May we soon see an end to these uncertain times.