Shabbat Shalom! On a seemingly unsuspecting Friday afternoon this fall, I picked up my son, Quinn, from the Siegel JCC’s Early Childhood Center, to discover that he was the first proud recipient of his classroom’s “Shabbat bag.” The bag was chock full of supplies to create our own Shabbat experience at home, along with educational materials and a journal to document our experience. Now I must be honest, my first thoughts were somewhat less-than-eager. In fact, I believe I experienced a brief sense of dread as I said to my husband, “Fantastic-we have homework. Just what we need after a long work week, more work!”
My mood quickly softened though, as I noted how excited Quinn was about this project. He seemed genuinely excited and proud to be the first friend in his classroom to have the honor of carrying home the Shabbat bag. We were barely one foot in the door of our home before Quinn began imploring us to begin Shabbat.
“Hold on, Quinn! Mommy has to read the papers and see what this is all about…”
“It’s OK, mommy! I know what it is! I can show you!”
And show us, he did! Quinn showed us all of the items in the bag, happily naming the Kiddush cup and donning the kippot, and he walked us through the process of preparing for Shabbat. I was amazed to discover that Quinn knew about the supplied items and their purposes. Even more amazing, Quinn quickly demonstrated that he knew the Hebrew blessings to go along with all the Shabbat components. As we read the book, I began to let go of my anxieties about ensuring that we completed this activity the “right” way and I found myself embracing the moment and the purpose of the ritual.
It’s hard to find words to aptly describe the emotions and thoughts I experienced as we engaged in this ritual with my little three-year-old. I went from feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of having more work to complete over the weekend, to feeling a mixture of relief, pleasure and joy. I relished watching my son take pride in teaching his parents, demonstrating what he has learned at his “big boy school.” As the candles burned and Quinn requested that we read for the 3rd time in a row, my angst about having to do “work” melted away, leaving room for an appreciation I hadn’t anticipated.
While it may have simply been a coincidence, our weekend with the Shabbat bag was a truly enjoyable one--calm, quiet, and cozy. We enjoyed our time together as a family, without the typical sense of chaos and rushing around. Instead of asking to watch Paw Patrol or play with the tablet, Quinn’s most frequent request that weekend was to “do Shabbat again!” I’m pretty sure we repeated the ritual at least a dozen times over the weekend, probably more. Though I certainly didn’t expect to find such enjoyment in a homework assignment, I can now honestly say I look forward to the next time the Shabbat Bag comes home.