Family, marriage, womanhood, a simple life at home
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
A bit about observing Shabbat
I get many questions via email about Shabbat observance in our home, so I thought I would write a bit about it here.
The matters of Shabbat are so multiple and there is no way I will be able to discuss them all right now, so I'll just start by saying that the purpose of Shabbat is, of course, rest, though non-Jews are not expected or supposed to observe Shabbat in the same way Jews do.
For us, the types of work forbidden on the day of Shabbat are explicitly described so there is no problem defining what isn't supposed to be done. A general rule is not doing creative work (which would include painting as well as cooking) and not preparing for the upcoming week, which means that we don't sit around on Shabbat talking about what we are going to do tomorrow. This allows us to recharge mentally.
Naturally, there is still "work" to be done, such as serving meals and clearing up the table later, not to mention there's a baby to take care of, diapers to change, and dishes to wash.
Speaking of dishes, I wash mine. I simply don't have enough plates, cutlery, glasses and serving dishes to last me through the three Shabbat meals without washing up. So I wash what I need for Shabbat itself - I try to wash up the pots before Shabbat, but if I'm stuck with dirty pots, they wait until the Shabbat ends, because I wouldn't need them during Shabbat. I know families who simply let it all (dishes, glasses, etc) sit in the sink until the end of Shabbat. I don't do any wash up between the third meal and the end of Shabbat, because that's a period of time when we don't eat.
We heat our meals by using a Shabbat hot plate. A Shabbat hot plate is a simple device to keep food hot, but not hot enough to cook the food (as opposed to leaving the food on the stove). It turns on according to a pre-set clock so we have time to heat the food before meals. While I was single I didn't have a hot plate so I just ate cold food on Shabbat.
Other details of Shabbat: bathing the baby
Theoretically, I would be allowed to bathe the baby, but there's a problem with heating water on Shabbat, so I bathe her on Friday afternoon, and then her next bath is Saturday night.
Brushing our hair:
Brushing one's hair is forbidden on the day of Shabbat because hairs might get pulled out, but we can smooth out hair using one's hand. By the way we never had to brush Shira's hair yet, because it's so sleek.
Training children in Shabbat observance:
We always have Shira at the table with us during kiddush and meal times, and if she happens to touch something that we don't touch on Shabbat (like an electric appliance, a pencil, etc) we tell her "no. It's Shabbat!" - she will understand eventually.
Tending to animals:
Generally, there is no problem tending to the animals - your animals, just like your family members, need to eat, after all! And if you have a dog it must be taken out for a walk, Shabbat or no Shabbat.
I think it's very important that other family members pitch in with Shabbat chores (serving meals, clearing up) as well. I've been saddened to see families where people sit leisurely around the table, while the mother spends the entire meal dashing every minute to get this or that for one of the children, her husband, or the several guests that were invited. There is also the mad race from Friday morning till afternoon (you Jewish wives surely understand what I'm talking about!). Shabbat is supposed to be entered peacefully, not in a state of collapse from exhaustion.