One of my earliest Shabbat memories is the Saturday afternoon “Shabbos party.” We kids gathered back at shul to listen to stories, sing songs, and eat treats. During the week my home was strictly healthy – no sugar, whole-wheat flour, brown rice. Then Shabbat would come and I delighted in Pringles, licorice and – gasp – soda!
As a mother I did much the same. Weekdays we ate nutritious food, but on Shabbat afternoon, after returning from our outing to the playground, I set out plenty of kiddie-nosh. I took down the five-volume set of “Our Sages Showed the Way,” and each child found a story (pictures) that seemed interesting. They ate and I read. While nibbling their treats they also consumed tales from the Talmud and Medrash.
The prophet Isaiah (58:13) called out, “Proclaim the Sabbath a delight!” From which we have the concept of “Oneg Shabbat,” enjoying the pleasure of Shabbat. The table serves a feast for the eyes, with candles, flowers, and good dishes. During the week we serve plain water, but on Shabbat we also provide iced-tea and seltzer (nope, still no soda!).
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former chief rabbi of Israel, recalls the Sabbaths of his youth, in Piotrków. After the meal all the adults would retire for a nap, while the kids met their friends in the courtyards and squares to play. The luxury of a mid-day nap is part of that “ taste of the World to Come,” and is still very much part of our Oneg Shabbat.
Post-nap, a leisurely stroll is traditional. This might take in a park or gardens, end in a visit to a friend or relatives, or simply meander around back home. Its unhurried quality reflects the spirit of the day.
Last week we hosted one of our kids’ teachers who was curious to see a Shabbat dinner in action. As she left she said, “It’s like a holiday every week! You sit around, eat good food, share your week and what you learned. No one’s talking about their to-do list for tomorrow…I could get into this.”