Teach Your Children the Mitzvot of Shabbat

There are four mitzvotmitzvahמִצְוָהLiterally, “commandment." A sacred obligation. Jewish tradition says the Torah contains 613 mitzvot Mitzvot refer to both religious and ethical obligations.  associated with Shabbat. These mitzvot are derived from these verses found in the Bible:

  • “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
  • “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Deuteronomy 5:12)
  • “…if you call the Sabbath ‘delight,’ God’s holy day ‘honored’; and if you honor it and go not your ways, nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains; then you can delight in God.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

To fulfill the commandments to (1) remember, (2) observe, (3) delight in, and (4) honor Shabbat, the rabbis specified certain actions–such as refraining from work, lighting the candles, eating delicious meals, and dressing in special clothing.

With your children, generate ideas and family activities that will fulfill these four mitzvot. Ask and answer, as a family:

  • "As a family we can remember Shabbat by..."
  • "As a family we can observe Shabbat by..."
  • "As a family we can honor and delight in Shabbat by..."

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • It is a tradition to give tzedakahtzedakahצְדָקָהFrom the Hebrew word for “justice,” or “righteousness;” refers to charity or charitable giving. May also be translated as “righteous giving.”   before Shabbat begins. Usually this means that family members place a few coins in a tzedakah boxtzedakah boxקֻפְסָת צְדָקָהContainer for collecting money for charitable purposes. It is customary to place money in a tzedakah box prior to candlelighting in the home. . Learn more about teaching children the value of tzedakah, then, with your family, generate a list of worthy causes.
  • Choose Jewish-themed books and/or music to share at Shabbat (either during the day or at bedtime) with your children.
  • Spend time out in nature on Shabbat by taking a family walk outside and/or having a Shabbat picnic.
  • Cook Shabbat foods together as a family. 
  • Watch Shabbat videos together to learn how to say Shabbat blessings, shape challah, make chicken soup, and much more.