At Home Jewish Experiences for Every Age … from the Rabbi’s Study

Since the spread of COVID-19, we have seen an explosion of creativity in the Jewish world so that we can connect with each other, connect with Torah, and connect with the Jewish people. Much of this has focused on Zoom, Facebook and other computer-based technologies. This time, though, can also be an opportunity to focus on physical Jewish connection that can be home-based rather than synagogue-based. After all, a synagogue is called a “Beit Kenesset” – a “home of assembly,” a Jewish school is a “beit midrash” – a home of study. Now, we have the opportunity to turn our family homes into a beit kenesset (synagogue) and a beit midrash (house of study).

Below are a few suggestions of home-based rituals that can add new energy to your home-based Jewish life.

Elevate Shabbat Dinner and Introduce Shabbat Lunch

Shabbat dinner is known in every denomination, Hillels, Moishe Houses, Chabads and in people’s homes as perhaps the greatest “on-ramp” to Jewish living. During this time of extended time at home, Shabbat dinner can be enhanced with greater beauty, care and appeal. Also, before Shabbat morning kiddushbecame a big deal, families would go home and have a large meal after synagogue. The Saturday afternoon meal can be a new way to connect as a family.

To allow Shabbat to be sanctified time, try cooking everything before candles on Shabbat – needing only vegetable chopping and food warming to get ready for Shabbat lunch. Wanting to get adventurous? Try making the overnight cooked stew called “cholent” by Eastern European Jews or Chamin by Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Both Hazzan Ben-Yehuda and I have favorite recipes we’d be happy to share – or discover one as a family. This lunch can be heavy on salads in the summertime, and be a relaxing way to add more “Shabbat”-feel to your Saturday afternoon.

Go “Old School” for sick visitation, connecting with the elderly and comforting themourners.

With perhaps more time in the evenings, instead of a phone call or text to someone who is ill, isolated or in mourning: write a card. Or better still, make a card. Turn your crafting side into a mitzvah. There is a story about Rebbe Nachman saying to the man who made his famous chair, “I am in awe that you were thinking of me the whole time that you crafted this chair.” When someone receives a handwritten note, it truly is the thought that counts.

“When thou walkest by the way…”

I remember reading this older translation of the first paragraph of the Shema when I was a child. It is a reminder that Torah, both the actual first five books of the Hebrew Bible and the centuries of commentaries and wisdom that follow, is meant to be discussed as we go about our normal business. However, in a time when we are taking more and more family walks, individual walks, or walks as couples, a walk can be a great time for a Torah conversation. Find one of the thousands of teachings online. Then, instead of texting a family member a link, use a walk as a time to discuss it. Family walks can be the best time for the most important and joyful conversations of the day.

Our entire staff and so many members of our congregation have worked so hard over these last number of weeks to bring Beth Shalom into the home of our members. Thank you. The community we make comes from the connections to each other. We will continue to be here for you both during and after this time.



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