Celebrating Shabbat

We’ve been studying Ancient Israel and reading through the Old Testament. This week we read about (and worked to memorize!) the Ten Commandments. As we began to learn about the importance of honoring the Sabbath (Shabbat) we wanted to have a Shabbat Feast celebration in our own home.

Our six year old son Colin was a bit skeptical. “Mom,” he asked, “We won’t go all the way with our Shabbat and pretend that we don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah, will we?”

On the contrary! As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the Lord of the Sabbath. We wanted the elements of our Shabbat to be done in worship of Him. The elements of wine, bread and light would remind us of Jesus. As Christians, our Sabbath day of rest is on Sunday, so our 24 hour Shabbat would last from Saturday at sundown until Sunday at sundown, unlike the Jewish Shabbat which begins on Friday night.

We do try to honor the Sabbath every week, and set it aside for worship, fellowship and rest. We do not believe that Christians need to celebrate all the Jewish holidays, or that there is anything inherently holy in celebrating according to the Jewish ways.

Our purpose in celebrating Shabbat was twofold: to help our children understand more about the culture we are currently studying and to give them a frame of reference for some of the things we are reading in the Bible. At the same time, we were aware that this feast would be very different from our Egyptian feast. The Shabbat celebration cannot be separated from its inherent purpose, as a time of family worship and celebration.

Challah is an important centerpiece of the Shabbat meal. Each of the boys was allowed to make his own small challah, plus I made a large one for the family to share. The boys also made personalized challah covers out of paper napkins. Fold up a colored napkin and cut shapes out of it along the seam, just as you would for making snowflakes. Unfold it and lay it over a napkin of another color. I used a few dabs of glue to hold the two napkins together. For more recipes from our feast, see my post Shabbat Recipes.

Shabbat begins with a thorough house cleaning. To be honest, this was the most daunting part. I wrote out a list and everyone had chores to do as we tackled cleaning all the public areas (we didn’t stress out about bedrooms, laundry room, etc.) I assumed that the primary purpose of this cleaning-fest would be to give me a sense of Sabbath rest when it was done. How often I feel pulled to do household tasks instead of resting on the Sabbath!

There was another pleasant by-product, though. The day of chores on Saturday really added to the children’s relief and enjoyment when Shabbat finally began at sundown on Saturday night. I had found a toy Shofar for Cal for $2 at a museum shop.

As Cal blew his toy shofar triumphantly, Colin shouted out, “No more work! Stop working everybody! It’s Sabbath now!” We all felt a common sense of joy and freedom from our labors: 24 hours with no work allowed!

I tried to make this time of Sabbath as restful for myself as possible. I wouldn’t say I achieved total rest, as I still felt it necessary to load and unload the dishwasher and to do the most basic meal preparation. I did whatever I could in advance, however, which gave me more free time than I often have.

At sundown, Cal blew his shofar and we all gathered in the dining room, where a lovely table was already set.

Everyone was looking forward to the meal, as sundown was about 8:00 p.m. and we were hungry! We read several verses and talked about the meaning of Shabbat and its common elements (light, bread, wine). Then we enjoyed a lovely meal together, which I had prepared in advance.

We all shared about things we would find emotionally, spiritually and physically refreshing on the Sabbath. Some of the kids’ ideas were so far beyond the realm of possibility that it prompted my husband to quip, “I’d like world peace!” Nevertheless, it was nice to talk about how we recharge and what things are meaningful to us. I promised to help Knox with a book-writing project that he has often wanted to work on. As we read in Molly Cone’s book The Story of Shabbat, “A person doesn’t say the words ‘I’m too busy’ on Shabbat.” As a very busy homeschooling mother, I tried to take that particular phrase to heart.

We all shared the job of dinner cleanup, spent relaxing time together and went to bed. On Sunday morning, we had a simple breakfast of store-bought donuts, juice and fruit smoothies which had been prepared on Saturday. I put a beef roast in the crockpot, as well. After church, our simple meal was easily served and cleared away and we had the remainder of the day to rest.

The first three stars in the evening sky signal the close of Shabbat. We ate our dinner before sundown, and had a bonfire and roasted s’mores outside so we would be able to look for the first three stars. After the bonfire we closed the evening in prayer and song. I’ve detailed the brief ceremony that takes place at the end of Shabbat in the post Our Shabbat Script, as well as a post on Shabbat Recipes.


  1. Wonderful, Molly! I second your comment on feeling pulled to do housework on the Sabbath.

    I’m so glad that you didn’t “go all the way”! The stuff that comes out of the mouths of your young’uns is soooo funny!

    God bless.

    Susan in MO–TOG

  2. Thanks, thanks, thanks for posting this! You sure have been busy!

    I’m going to reference this so that I can come back when we’re ready to do this!

    Trujillo, Peru


  1. […] celebration as a family. To get the broader picture of what we did to observe Shabbat, see my post Celebrating Shabbat. There is also a post on Shabbat […]

  2. […] suggests that we hold various family feasts as we learn about Israel. We’ve already done a Sabbath meal (Shabbat), and soon it will be time for our family Passover […]