My two year old daughter loves Shabbat. As soon as I pull out our special tablecloth each Friday, she giggles, runs over to grab her kippah from the drawer and plops excitedly down on a seat at the table. Each week we need to go through the process of explaining that we’re not quite ready yet, that there’s still time before her beloved rituals take place. While I of course hate to see my daughter upset, the tears that inevitably fall during this time are strangely heartwarming.
Later, as we say the brachot, she meticulously covers her little eyes during the candle-lighting and precariously holds her cup aloft during Kiddush until it’s time to drink. “Cha!” she cries in delight as she stretches out her arms to receive her challah.
Shabbat is clearly a magical time in my daughter’s eyes and very few things make me happier than observing this joy. I often wonder what it is about Shabbat that she loves so much. Is it drinking the grape juice that we don’t allow her during the week? Is it shoving fistfuls of challah into her adorable face? Is it the fresh, pretty flowers that grace the table? It’s hard to tell what it is that appeals to my daughter and, as most of her speech is still unintelligible to us, it seems destined to remain a mystery for the time being.
I, too, love Shabbat. I love that we all sit together as a family for dinner, something we rarely manage to do during the busy week. I love that the Shabbat rule in our house is “Family First,” with phones put away and the focus being on spending time together. I love the feeling of peace and calm that fills my soul in the evening, and I love the “quiet time” that we all embrace as my daughter takes her afternoon Shabbat nap. I love knowing that the blessings we’re saying are also being said by Jews everywhere, and I often picture our candles being part of a flame of Jewish light that encircles the world. It brings me a great sense of community—something that feels more important than ever these days.
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that my two year old and I are connecting to the Sabbath in different ways. And I’m realising as I write this that the question for me isn’t really about why Shabbat brings joy to my daughter—it’s simply enough that it does. I suppose what I’m really wondering is what can I do to keep that joy alive when the juice and fresh bread no longer hold the same appeal? How do I help my children maintain a life-long love for, and connection to Shabbat? I really don’t know. I suppose it will take some exploring as a family.
But, in the meantime, I’ll make sure to keep the challah and grape juice coming!