A couple of months ago, a friend invited us to Friday dinner for their little one’s birthday. I could tell in her invitation that, since it was his birthday, she was looking forward to hosting. I paused for a minute – it takes real effort to make Shabbat dinner happen, but it is a tradition I try not to skip as much as possible. So what’s a girl to do when a non-Shabbat observing friend invites you over on Shabbat?
We are not just a part of a multi-faith family – we live in a multi-faith world. And we have assembled a web of friendships that are wonderfully different in terms of religious upbringing, practices, and beliefs. Finding the time to maintain those friendships can be a challenge, especially on top of working full-time, keeping our girls engaged in school and activities, and trying to carve out some good old-fashioned family time.
I’ve written a fair amount about Shabbat and how much and why I like it. It is a heartbeat in our comings and goings, a moment to pull out of the crazy hecticness of the week and breathe before the onslaught of weekend activities. When we are in the right headspace, it offers somewhere between a moment to a whole evening to spiritually connect to ourselves, to one another, to the world, or to God. On top of that, the candles add a classiness to the table, and breaking bread and sharing a drink is a lovely way to start a meal.
When my friend invited me, I paused for a moment, thinking about whether I should give up Shabbat that week, or decline and recommend another time so that we could be around our own table on Friday night. Seeing the puzzled look on my face, she expanded her invitation:
“How about you come over, but bring candles and challah, and we can do Shabbat at my house?”
And so we did. And it was just lovely. The night before, I put our candlesticks in a bag by the door, and Ruthie put her Gateways blessing sheets in the bag. We picked up a challah on the way over, and Ruthie and Chaya relished in showing the rituals off to her friends. We had a fun, yummy dinner, celebrating Shabbat, blowing out birthday candles, and connecting with our friends in their home. It reminded me of Jane Larkin’s piece about celebrating Shabbat on vacation, and I thought about how lucky I was to be able to take Shabbat on the road, but just down the street, without the hassle of packing up the car or getting on a plane.
A few weeks later, another friend who isn’t Jewish invited us over on Friday night.
“We’d love to,” I said, “Do you mind if I bring Shabbat?”
“Great,” she said. And our Shabbat tour continued, to a similar but also wonderfully different effect.