Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
About three and a half years ago, shortly before our second child was born, we began a tradition in our home that has become one of those things that has been life-changing for us. What was it you ask? Well, we instituted a weekly Sabbath Dinner on Saturday nights at our home. I'm sure you're thinking, what is a Sabbath Dinner and do you really do it every single Saturday night? Well, I'm going to spend a couple of blog posts talking about our Sabbath Dinner so that you all know what I'm talking about and to answer the second question...yes, we do it every Saturday. Sometimes there are exceptions like being out of town or a family birthday party, but other than that, you can find us with the candles lit, a Challah bread and us all enjoying our Sabbath meal, every single Saturday. We see it as a "get to" tradition rather than a "must do" tradition. Both my husband and I believe that the institution of this meal has been one of the most important and beneficial things we've done for our family life. Maybe after reading about it, you'll be encouraged to go and start your own, with your own family's flair.
This is how it all started. I've always been interested in Jewish culture especially since Christianity literally came out of Judaism. I think it is fascinating to look at their festivals and how much of what God instituted for them thousands of years ago points to Jesus, the Messiah. Someday I will eventually get around to starting a Passover meal (with Christ at the center) in our home right before Easter, but I haven't been able to pull off such a feat just yet! Also, when I was in high school, I had a few roles in plays/musicals, where I played a Jewish girl. As a sophomore, I was Chavah in Fiddler on the Roof (the third daughter who married the Christian...yikes!) and when I was a senior, I played Raja, whose true story of survival in a Nazi concentration camp was beautifully recounted in I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Both roles affected me tremendously and I longed to know more about Jewish culture and its connections with my own faith.
A couple of years ago I read an article in Above Rubies about the Sabbath meal and how the author had instituted a weekly Sabbath meal into their family's routine. I was intrigued. So, I brought it to my husband and he said we should go for it. Here were some of our reasons for starting this meal. We were at the very beginning of our parenting adventure and were really laying the foundation for many years to come. It was the right time to start something new. We wanted to set a precedent that we get ready to worship the Lord starting on Saturday and we wanted that to be around our table, together as a family. We wanted our children to look forward to it and be excited about it thus helping to lead them into being excited about Sunday morning. We wanted to foster good memories as well as teach the children good manners. So off we went.
We started very simply. I pulled out some old candlesticks I had gotten at Ross very early on in our marriage and I bought some white candles. My mom had wanted to get me a gift for the new baby on the way and I asked for a tablecloth and napkins. I then looked up a Challah bread recipe and just simply tried it. It's now a family favorite. I didn't totally know what I was doing but I love to make bread so I figured it would turn out at least decently. Now, I could probably make the stuff in my sleep I've made it so many times.
Our little liturgy (order of events) goes something like this:
1. I light the candles and say, "Jesus says 'I am the Light of the world.' He calls us to be salt and light." Now our oldest two recite these lines with me as I light. Each child also gets a piece of chocolate, to remind them of God's sweetness and goodness (as well as it is just plain fun), and they eat it as we begin to read.
2. Steve reads Proverbs 31 and then tells me something that he loves about me.
3. Steve reads Proverbs 3 and then talks about each child at the table telling them something he loves about each of them.
4. I read Psalm 127-128 and then talk about Steve.
5. We all dip our hands in a bowl of water to symbolize cleansing and then ask forgiveness of anyone we need to ask forgiveness for. This gets us ready to take the bread and wine.
6. Steve prays for the bread. Then we all pass the Challah and enjoy the bread with lots of butter!!
7. Steve prays for the wine. Then we toast each other and say "Cheers! God has been good to us!" We sometimes let our kids have a bit of wine but, we mostly let them drink a special Martinelli's drink or something of that sort.
8. We sing the doxology with hands in the air and then we eat. Most of the time, I try and make this the best meal of the week. However, we've been known to have Mac n Cheese many times when I just can't pull off a fancy meal (this usually happens toward the end of pregnancy). Again, this is a "get to" tradition...not a "must do" so if I'm tapped out...we go simple. The point is to be together.
Here are the benefits we've noticed. First off, we have a weekly, built-in time to praise one another. This has been huge for our marriage and our children. There have been times when Steve and I have been annoyed with each other and have been forced to say something nice about the other. This leads to us asking forgiveness before we take the bread and the wine. And other times, it's just nice to hear nice things from your spouse that probably wouldn't have been spoken if there wasn't a time for it. The same goes for the children. Secondly, we're forced to stay home on Saturdays which helps us to be much more rested for Sundays. Thirdly, we learn to feast together as a family and relish in God's blessings to us. Fourthly, our children are hopefully seeing how important it is to worship God and gain good memories from our times around the table. And there's many, many more.
So how to get started? I'll explain that one next time. As for now, just let it be something you think about. It's a huge commitment to make but, the payoff is tremendous and lasts for years to come.
And one more thing...this is something that has been a blessing to our family and so that's why I share it. However, it's not something that every family must do or anything like that. Your family might do other things that foster the same ideas and memories and that is great. We know lots of families who have this traditional dinner but do it totally different than we do which is so great!! The point I'm trying to make is do something that fits with your family's culture and style to get yourselves around the table in whatever way you can. It starts there. We've got to get ourselves there. This is just one way that we've really enjoyed being around one another and so I wanted to pass it on.