Every Friday our school is transformed as we welcome Shabbat.
Perhaps the word we traditionally associate with Shabbat, “observance,” is out of place in this context. Shabbat, and our community, is served better by engagement, celebration, and exploration.
Freshly baked challah is nibbled on by children and adults alike on their way into school. The smell is instantly recognizable as it permeates the floor. Our day moves with a more deliberate pace, as families pause in our Common Space for a Shabbat sing-along. This magical moment starts Shabbat for our community – singing and clapping along to Shabbat songs and Hebrew and American folk classics. Slowly, families leave the singing to bring their child to class. Many of them will come back later, as invited guests to a classroom celebration. As students and teachers review together their daily schedule in class, excitement builds as we inch closer to the classroom celebration. Shouts are often heard, “Who is coming today? Who is celebrating Shabbat with us?” Dramatic play areas are overtaken by wooden candlesticks, challah covers, and the setting of tables. Our students work out their incongruous understanding through this play:
“Here are all the birthday candles. We are lighting them for Shabbat shalom.”
“The birthday cake goes here. But today it’s a challah for Shabbat.”
“Those were the Chanukkah candles. Now they are the Shabbat candles.”
“Wave your hand three times like this. That’s what my mommy does to make the candles special.”
“Here’s the treat. Don’t eat it yet! It’s too hot. It will hurt your mouth.”
After cleaning up from worktime, our individual tables are pushed together so all members of the classroom community can celebrate together. The lights are turned down low as a student’s family is welcomed into the classroom. At this point, the rituals of Shabbat engage all of our senses as they guide us into a values-laden moment in time. Our eyes soak in the two flickering flames as we wave the light towards us and are reminded to pause and reflect. We sip grape juice and taste the sweetness that Shabbat brings. Our hands tear at the challah, feeling the softness of Shabbat. As our snack comes out, we smell the freshness of a special treat. All the while, we are singing and listening to the magical tones of ancient Hebrew blessings and are reminded of the uniqueness and mystery behind the moment. Parents are asked to bring in a tradition special to their family, and classrooms often develop their own traditions throughout the year – reading a special book, cuddling up with pillows, or sharing weekend plans.
So, from my perspective, our community does not observe Shabbat, watching passively as the holiday passes us by. Our students engage with Shabbat through their five senses. They explore Shabbat through their play. They celebrate Shabbat with each other and our families.
Come join us for a hands-on Shabbat.