Night Without Ritual Has Shabbat Feel

No candles were lit. No kiddush was chanted. No challah was on a table. And yet last Friday night still felt a lot like Shabbat.

My family met a friend and her 4-year-old daughter for a picnic in downtown Lexington and heard a free children’s music concert by Ben Rudnick & Friends.
Maybe Shabbat can be about more than ritual.

The original plan had been to gather at another family’s house for Shabbat dinner, but a child’s fever nixed that idea. My husband and I have been regularly trying to mark Shabbat at our house or at temple with our 2-year-old, but something about the alternative plan felt right.
We scattered ourselves on a beach mat in a park across from the Lexington Green. We shared hummus, carrot salad, cheese, crackers, and homemade bread. “Shabbat bread,” our son Simon called it.

Simon somehow knew that it was Friday night – and that on this night we eat special bread. The bread, made by my husband in our bread machine, was unbraided, but it did not matter. We were breaking bread with friends, spending time together unfettered by work and technology.

Simon (in yellow) and I dance during Friday night concert

We danced with our toddlers in front of the band as it played an eclectic mix, including Skip to My Lou. Then, Simon proclaimed, “I need ice cream,” or as he likes to say, “ike-cream.” No money exchanged hands: A radio station distributes free ice cream at the concerts. Simon and our friend’s daughter sat in kid canvas chairs, methodically spooning ice cream into their mouths and dripping.

Not a care in the world: Simon and ice cream

Then, the band started playing Havah Nagila. The adults grinned at each other. We at least could feel Jewish together on Shabbat. On this night, we simply found our own unique way of marking Shabbat.

Our son danced with abandon and pulled us around in circles with him. He stood in awe a few feet away from the band and stared at the instruments and the people playing them. And he ate several pieces of Shabbat bread made partly by his father’s own hands. On many Friday nights in the future, we will light candles, eat challah, say the usual blessings, and sing. But this last Friday night may be the Shabbat we remember for years to come. We saw other members of our Reform temple there. We were among community.

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