fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Tales From The Crib

Why we now say Shabbat

Etani, who&

s two years old, sees the matchbox in the bathroom and starts gesturing frantically in that direction.


I wan say Shabbat,&

he cries. &

I wan say Shabbat.&

Most Friday nights we &

say Shabbat.&

We loosely follow the Jewish tradition and set our table with challah bread (when I manage to bake it or we are lucky enough to find it at the store), two candles and red wine for the grown-ups and sparkly juice for the kids. We gather around our stained kitchen table with its mismatched chairs and sing the blessings in Hebrew over the light, bread and wine; then we sit down to eat together.

We did not observe Shabbat &

the Sabbath, the day of rest &

in my family. My parents are both scientists and skeptics.

Although my mother grew up in a Jewish family (her father, a self-centered civil rights lawyer wrote a book aptly titled &

Israel and Me&

and peppered his speech with Yiddish), she has never had any patience for God, ritual or spirituality.

My father was a Red Diaper baby, the son of Jews who emigrated from Russia and found communism in the New World. My grandparents&

communism was mostly about civil justice and fair treatment for workers of all races, and did not stop them from owning jewelry stores in Manhattan. An atheist, my father would not have considered letting spiritual practices of any sort into his home.

My youngest brother who, like me, is married to someone who is not Jewish, has such a negative knee-jerk reaction to all things Semitic that when my aunt told him our cousin was teaching Hebrew School he said sarcastically, &

Oh no! What, did my sister put her up to that? They&

re living in the Middle Ages.&

I had no curfew when I was a teenager, was told sex was beautiful and was allowed a glass of wine with dinner. So I did not stay out late, was the only one of my friends to graduate from high school a virgin and never drank excessively.

When I was in my 20s I asked my father if there was any way I could rebel against my upbringing. He answered: &

you could adopt a religion &

133; and really believe it.&

Now my father and brother refer to me as &

the Jew.&

But it was Santa Claus who brought us the new white Shabbat candles with pressed petals in them and a kiddish cup for the wine.

We celebrate Christmas and Easter because my husband (who describes himself as a &

recovering Catholic&

) has blissful memories of a living room floor covered in toys on Christmas and a generous Easter Bunny who brought a basketful of goodies and he wants to recreate that for our children, to replicate small moments of happiness in a lonely childhood.


m trying to create new rituals for our family, rituals that were absent from my upbringing devoid of family time and replete with hired help to watch the four of us.

Shabbat is the only night of the week that we have juice at dinner. On Shabbat we play &

Wooden Spoon.&

Whoever holds the spoons commands the full attention of the rest of us and shares the best thing about the week on the first pass, then the worst, then the silliest.

But our son is not circumcised, I don&

t like the image of a wrathful God, and I find Israel&

s policies towards their Arab brethren reprehensible.

I am a worse Jew than Woody Allen.

But I see the serenity on my children&

s faces as we light the candles that mark the end of the day, the end of an invariably long week, and, however imperfect, I feel a connection to my ancestors who have been performing this ritual for 5,766 years.


Say Shabbat!&

Etani cries as I set the challah under its embroidered cover, put the candles from Santa in their holders, and place the kiddish cup at the head of the table.

His face becomes quiet and serious as we light the candles, spreading warmth and color on a cold January evening. In my son&

s hazel eyes and set lower lip I see my grandfather, who immigrated from near Odessa, and all the generations of Jewish men who came before him.


s last name means &


in Hebrew. She constantly disappoints her Jewish friends by her lack of faith and shocks her atheist family by her Jewish practices.