There are so many beautiful and meaningful ways people set their Shabbat table! I would love to here how you do yours in future posts or in the comments below.
For those of you who are new the "Sabbath Meal", let me introduce you to it. When the sun goes down on Friday night it marks the start of the new day in Hebrew understanding. This goes back to the story of Creation, where things started in darkness, than YHVH brought forth light and the Creation story says "and there was evening and morning and the 'number' day" for each day of Creation. There are all kinds of very interesting patterns in YHVH's Word with things starting in darkness and Him bringing them into light...but that is another topic! :-) Back to Sabbath Dinner. So Shabbat (Hebrew word for Sabbath) starts as the sun goes down on Friday night (the 6th day) and ends at sundown on the 7th day. The Shabbat meal is how we like to enter into our Shabbat each week. It is a precious way to mark this time and sets it apart in a very special way. Things slow down and it is the most relaxed meal of the whole week as we prepare our hearts and minds to enter into His Sabbath rest. It is a beautiful thing!
Our Shabbat table is reflection of our walk with YHVH and the season He has us in - in so many ways. In seasons past we have done table cloths, china, ceremonial elements, cloth napkins, flowers, with tall candle sticks, etc. We strove to prepare a real banquet. This season of our life is very different in our application, but our hearts are still fixed on Him.
The last year and a half has been full of change in our family. Our adopted girls (finally) came home from Haiti, I was pregnant and had a baby. We put our house up for sale and moved over a thousand miles away to a farm and built second floor on that house. (There were many many more 'events' in that time too which I will not go into.) But we were very clearly entering a different season. Our Shabbat table went from this elaborate expression to a very simple one. However, it seem to me that YHVH accepts our worship both ways! Now that we have moved, and I have relocated all my dishes (but got rid of so much, and Grandma's china is in storage) I find we are still keeping a very simple Shabbat table. We no longer have a dishwasher to put dishes into, so a few months ago, we declared a season we called "paper Shabbat"! We actually set our Shabbat Table with paper plates and cups for the most part (we still use our regular utensils and serving items). We have chosen to let our dishes sit unwashed until after Shabbat when we are at home (without company) and this helps us do that! We don't do a table cloth in this season either. Our plates and decor may have changed for now, but there are elements that we always like to keep at our table to set it apart for Shabbat.
1. We have candles. This was not commanded in Scripture, like Judaism declares in its "candling lighting prayer", however we think it is a great way to set the table apart. Unlike the typical tradition where everyone gathers and momma lights the candles for everyone to see and prays an opening prayer for everyone to hear, as a way to "start Shabbat", I light the candles before everyone comes to the table and I use that as a quiet time to reflect and pray for all the other momma's I know that are preparing their Sabbath tables. I also find myself praying for those who don't, but whom YHVH puts on my heart. It is a sweet intercessory moment that aligns my heart and shifts me from "preparation mode" into "relax mode".
2. The children like to make a little center piece of some sort, and sometimes they make place cards and things like that.
3. We all gather and sing our "Shabbat Prayer Song" to enter into Shabbat. Sometimes we will add more songs..sometimes we won't.
4. We also do "the Kiddish". This is a traditional blessing over the bread and wine which speak of YHVH's provision and sovereignty. It was the first Hebrew Prayer we ever learned. We love to sing our prayers. Everyone shares from the cup and the bread (and sometimes even colds get spread!). :-)
5. I like to have a sweet treat/dessert. This is not something we do on other days..but I like to do it for our Shabbat meal.
6. We try to be conscious of our conversation. We abstain from "world events" and work type topics, and try to focus on YHVH and encouraging one another, restful conversation or blessing others. So that the words of our mouth and the editations of our heart be set on Him and His ways. (Sometimes these other things may creep in..but we try to gently curb that back to Shabbat's purpose, when we notice.)
(We love to EAT the Challah, but we don't usually bake it through the summer! We will usually use crackers or flat bread in substitution. I do try to have it the rest of the year though. I make a whole grain challah that my family absolutely loves...the white stuff takes like cardboard to us.)
Another thing which I know is totaly weird for our family is this: We don't usually drink with our meals. (It is better for digestion.) But on Shabbat Momma and Pappa have wine with dinner and we put little cups of water out for the kids with their meal too. Its just another thing that is "differnt" about our shabbat meal than the rest of the week. (I know... we are weird!)
We are getting to the point again, where we an do more things at our table again. Our adopted daughters have grasped the language. Our baby sits at the table (but is still limited as to "how long" he will sit!). The first things I would like to re-establish at our table is the "blessing one another". DH and I have agreed we will be deliberate to get back to that starting this week. We have done this in different ways in the past, but the general idea is that Momma and Pappa bless each other and then they bless the children. There is something very very special about going around the table and laying hands on each other and speaking blessings over one another that just makes a family gel like nothing else. It is a beautiful expression of love and thankfulness toward one another. (Then maybe,just maybe I'll get back to real dishes and table cloth..we'll see.) :-)
So...I write all this to encourage you. So often when we "start Shabbat" we make it a lot harder than it needs to be. It is fun to do different things and establish your own family traditions for this special time. Like Yahshua said, "Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" So this is to bless you not make you crazy or become a burden. Other may say it must be done this way or that, or you may just get that crazy notion all by yourself. :-) So I want to encourage you to remember - If the things you try to DO to observe Shabbat become "forced" - be willing to let them go, even if only for a season. Be prayerful about it and seek the Father on how you can make it a truly worshipful time for your family in the season you are IN.
May Your Home Be Filled with His Precious Shalom this Shabbat!