Practical Judaism for College Students: DIY Shabbat Edition
Written, illustrated and photographed by Rachel Ledeboer
Disclaimer: This is not the only way to celebrate Shabbat! There is no one correct way! These are just some of the basics that I do!
Shabbat is a great mitzvah to partake in, which starts every Friday night at sundown, and lasts until after sundown on Saturday. It is a time of rest – something that busy college students can really use! It might be worth it to consider making Shabbat a day off where you don’t have to do work, or at least not as much work as usual. Even if you aren’t able to follow all the Shabbat laws, it can still be nice to welcome in Shabbat on Friday night and enjoy some of the rituals.
The main supplies you need for Friday night services are candles, bread, and wine or grape juice.
- For candles, you can get some nice candle holders and a box of Shabbat candles (which can be found online or in the kosher section of some supermarkets), or you could just use little tea light candles.
- For bread, Trader Joe’s challah is a great go-to, but any bread can work! If you’re feeling fancy, you could even bake your own bread! (for one possible recipe, see page 10 of this issue).
- For wine, Manischewitz or any sweet wine is usually a good option! My favorite is the blackberry Manischewitz. Grape juice is also great as a substitute.
All three of these Shabbat elements have corresponding prayers you can say, as well as an additional prayer for hand-washing. You can find these prayers at http://www.jewfaq.org/m/shabbatref.htm.
If you’re feeling extra pious, you can also look up the Torah portion for that week, called the Parsha, and read it along with any commentaries about it that interest you. A great resource for finding out what the Parsha of the week is, as well as helpful tools for studying it in more depth can be found on the chabad.org monthly Jewish calendar.
Another great resource is the free app by RustyBrick called ‘Shabbat Shalom’, which shows what time to light the Shabbat candles, as well as what time to do Havdalah.
Havdalah is a ceremony which signals the end of Shabbat. It can be valuable to help keep track of when Shabbat ends and to prepare yourself for the week ahead of you. Havdalah usually occurs about 45 minutes to an hour after sundown on Saturday.
The main supplies you need for a Saturday night Havdalah service are a Havdalah candle (braided candle), spices (typically cloves, cinnamon, or bay leaves), and wine/grape juice.
There are four blessings recited for Havdalah: the blessing over wine, the blessing over fragrant spices, the blessing over fire, and the blessing over the separation of different things (like for example, the separation of Shabbat from the rest of the week!)
The prayers for Havdalah, as well as more instructions about how to perform this ritual and the meaning behind the different blessings can be found at http://www.jewfaq.org/m/havdalahref.htm.
In addition to Friday night services and Havdalah, there are also a lot of Shabbat laws! These laws essentially prevent Jews from doing work on Shabbat. If you are interested in learning more about them, a list of these laws can be found at https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95907/jewish/The-Shabbat-Laws.htm.
If you have never tried to follow Shabbat laws before, it can be really hard to adjust. It might be a good idea to slowly try out new laws so you have time to adapt to them. Even if you aren’t interested in doing all of them, some might be beneficial to try out, as they can help make your Shabbat more meaningful or even just give you a break from the rest of the busy week. For example, not spending money on Shabbat can help you save money, or not using your phone on Shabbat as much (or at all) can give you more time to do other things and to step away from technology for a little while.
For me, Shabbat is something I look forward to all week long— I get to set aside some special time to let go of the rest of my week, and it allows me to connect with my religious and cultural identity. This article is by no means a comprehensive guide, but hopefully it will get you started and give you some ideas if you are interested in conducting your own services to celebrate this holiday. Shabbat shalom!
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