Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Jewish home

A question from a reader:
"What does the average day look like in an Orthodox Jewish home?"

I think the average day in an Orthodox Jewish home looks more or less, well, normal. *smile* - I mean that apart from prayers and blessings that are recited in the morning and before eating, there is little to tell you that you are in an Orthodox Jewish home. We do have a mezuzah in every room, but that's something more of an outward appearance than something with an influence on my daily routine.

I suppose the thing that influences my daily work most strongly is having a kosher kitchen. We have two sinks and two separate sets of pots, pans, dishes, cutlery etc, for meat and dairy dishes that we use throughout the year - and we'll need to get two more sets for next Pesach. Also, after my husband eats meat, he waits 6 hours before eating dairy (I'm vegetarian so this is irrelevant to me).

The day when you can truly notice that we are Orthodox Jews is Shabbat, which lasts from sunset on Friday until about an hour after that time on Saturday. During that time, no cooking or cleaning or, indeed, any job that isn't connected with serving food or setting the table, is done. And of course, no driving, or lighting fire, or turning lights on or off, or even writing or brushing my hair! We can take advantage of electric appliances that were turned on before Shabbat (for example, lights or air conditioner), but cannot for example change the temperature program during Shabbat.

This means that all our laundry and cleaning must be done, and all food prepared before Shabbat. The shopping is usually done on Thursday night. I normally try to split the work in two and do part of it on Thursday (for example cleaning, baking, ironing fresh shirts for my husband, laundry) and part of it on Friday morning (cooking, more cleaning). Our food is kept warm on a hot plate throughout Shabbat.

Right before Shabbat I light two candles (one for me, one for my husband - I used to light just one as a single woman), and we go to synagogue and later have a nice dinner together. Meals on Shabbat are fancier than normal, and since everything is so still and quiet, we have all the time in the world to just sit and enjoy our time together. Definitely my favorite day of the week, so refreshing and relaxing. I realize that someone who isn't an Orthodox Jew doesn't often spend an entire day without car, cell phone, or computer. Some think it's "boring", but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!

(Sometimes people ask us, "so what do you actually do during Shabbat?" - answer: we read; we pray; we walk; we eat in a slow, leisurely way; it's something that looks extraordinary in the pace of modern world, but I'm so thankful it's an integral part of Jewish life!)

I hope this satisfies your curiosity a bit. :-) If you have any more questions, or want me to elaborate on something, you are welcome to ask!

... It's around 10 AM here, and my husband just went off to work not long ago (a bit late today), so I have the time to have a leisurely cup of coffee myself. Normally my morning routine begins earlier, but I don't mind being a little late today since I know my husband will return later as well, which means I can easily accomplish everything necessary, even with quite a bit of rest.

I don't think I will have the chance to post tomorrow, so I wish everyone a wonderful weekend and a blessed and peaceful Shabbat.

Mrs. T

PS: I can't access the comment form, but to the lady who asked whether it's possible to care for small children during Shabbat: of course! As you maybe know Orthodox Jews tend to have big families and it's not like we take a day off from caring about small children. :-) It's entirely permitted to feed or clothe a baby, change a diaper etc, during Shabbat. The idea is not doing any creative work - as a sign of recognition that our Creator rested on the day of Shabbat.


compactmanifold said...

One of my friends gave me a comic about an Orthodox girl recently - it's on the web here: Hereville

I loved the description of Shabbat. I think you might enjoy it!

zetor said...

Thankyou for sharing your Shabbat with us. It was all so interesting. Hope you have a wonderful weekend too.

Sammybunny said...

Have a good Shabbat!

Tamsin said...

Thank you Anna - that was fascinating. Though may I ask; what's a mezuzah?


Thia said...

Having a quiet sabbath is something that is really missing from the lives of many, sadly, including myself. We were designed to rest and without it, I believe we suffer.
Praying your rest is blessed.

Kristy said...

I find it interesting that most (if not all) of the Jewish laws outlined in the books of Moses were actually for health reasons. Such as not eating dairy right after eating meat: I've read that meat and dairy products don't digest well together, so it only makes sense not to eat them together.

Another example I recently encountered (after giving birth to a son) is that baby boys who are circumcised after 8 days old do not require a vitamin K shot, as their blood clots on its own after that age. Amazing how God's ways always make sense, isn't it?!!

God truly went the extra mile to protect the health of His people... the rest of us would do well to follow some of your Jewish "rules"!

~Kristy Howard @ Homemaker's Cottage

Courtney said...

when you go to synagogue, is it like being muslim and the women are separated from the men or do you sit together and listen to a sermon? Also, why cant you brush your hair on Shabbat? It is good to know though that there are others who set aside a holy day too.

elena rulli said...

Have a good Shabbat, Mrs. and Mr. T.!

Kate said...

What is your new (religious) community like? Do you have friends and neighbors with whom to share Shabbat? How far are you from your shul? Is there an eruv? From the pictures that you've posted of the area where you're living, I suspect the community might be fairly small but close-knit.

Anonymous said...

Shabbat sounds lovely =)I'm Christian so our day of rest is Sunday (for most of us anyway; Seventh Day Adventists rest on Saturday)but it's occurred to me that for those of us who must work a regular Monday to Friday job how nice it would be after a hard week to have your day of rest begin right after the work week ends. It's a good way to shift from your work life to your real life of home, family and friends.

When I was in Israel our guide taught us a Shabbat song on our first Friday there and we had a lot of fun singing it. =)

Shabbat Shalom!

The Quiet Life said...

I am Messianic, and we take a Sabbath rest. I absolutely love it. I would never go back to the way we used to do things. We will turn on and off lights, but no lighting candles during the Sabbath. Shabbat Shalom.

Kacie said...

Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your life! So interesting.

I have a Shabbat-related question, but I'm guessing I already know the answer. If you have babies or small children, are you able to care for them as needed?

Kelly said...

Thank you for sharing that. I really did not understand the day of Shabbat and what was allowed or not allowed. Very interesting, I think many Christians and any of us in a very western culture could do well do observe something similiar. Even as a Christian, at least most denominations, do not prohibit working on the Sabbath.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely description of your Sabbath, Anna! I hope you're settling into your new place of worship well.

If I may, because I am not sure dear Anna will have time to get to answering questions before Shabbat...

Tamsin: A mezuzah contains Scripture from Deuteronomy (6:4-9 and 11:13-21). This is hung next to the doors of a home (definitely outside, but frequently inside too) immediately upon moving in to fulfill the commandment to write the words of God on one's doorposts and gates (Deut. 6:9). It reminds Jews that the Lord is omnipresent and His Word stands forever. I think it's a beautiful way to remind you of the most important parts of the faith (the Lord is one Lord, love the Lord with everything you've got, and so on) and to make Scripture central to one's life.

Kristy: Many Jews prefer not to think of the mitzvot as commandments given for health reasons, but instead as commandments given by a sovereign God, period, regardless of the health consequences. These mitzvot may be good from a health standpoint or not, but they are objectively good anyway because God has told us they are good. For instance, where is the health benefit in lighting candles and saying a blessing right before each Shabbat? Where is the health benefit of wearing tassels on the corner's of one's clothing, and what's the harm in wearing a wool-linen blend (Deut. 22:11)? No, we mustn't try to justify the reasoning God might have had to give the mitzvot, because His thoughts are not our thoughts. Rather, one must take the mitzvot at face value and do them, regardless of what health benefit one may or may not derive from them. (Although you're right, the mitzvot do often result in positive health outcomes, which is not unexpected since they were given by the Creator.) :)

Courtney: In an Orthodox shul, a partition separates the men and the women from one another. I think this is true at weddings as well (I'm not Orthodox).

Jennifer said...

Thank you for sharing what you do in your home. But I was curious as to why? I know that you don't cook meat with dairy (or eat them together either), but I've always wondered where you get that commandment from. The only one I know of is in Exodus 23:19. What about the other things that you do (or don't do)? I realize that there is the commandment not to do work on the Shabbat, but how is turning on or off the light work?

I seriously don't mean to cause problems. I'm just curious.


AnneK said...

That was very interesting to read. I have a question. How do you turn off the lights when you got to bed? (I understand you are not allowed to do that) Do you have automatic turn off? Or do you have someone like a shabbes goy do it for you?

Also you said when you were single you lighted one candle, now you light two. What about your mom and grandma? When you were living with them, did you light three? It might sound confusing, what I am trying ask is do the candles represent something in particular?

I would love to read more about these stuff. Different cultures fascinate me.

Laura said...

That is all interesting. I've worked at a Jewish nursing home for the last 18 months but admit I don't know much about the religion.

Anonymous said...


I am very curious about the delicate issue of feminine hygiene. I know that there are specific rules about the monthly cycle etc. If it isn't too personal-could you share some information on this topic?

Kittee said...

We had a neighbor once put the mezuzah outside their door and my husband and I were always curious what it was about. Thank you for sharing!

mrssmif said...

Shabbat Shalom! I pray that yours was as blessed as ours was!

Stephanie@AHighandNobleCalling said...

I love hearing about your Shabbat!I find it intersting that you cannot turn off a light but you can go for a walk.

We have been part of a Messianic House Church for a couple of years, and have been blessed with learning more about the Shabbat. While we are not as strict as Orthodox Jewish people are, we enjoy the traditions and feel blessed by them! Thank you for sharing!