A very well known part of the prayer in our Kabbalat Shabbat, discusses the law around which candles can be used for shabbar - Ba'me Madlikin? The long essay mentions various types of fuels and wicks which can and cannot be used for shabbat.
Several Chachamim are quoted as explaining why this type of candle can be used while another type is invalid.
Lucky for us, these days, all manufactured candles can be used, since their flame is clean and stable.
Surprisingly, even if the candle is made of ingredients which aren't kosher as food, they are allowed to be used in shabbat candles!
Here at Shalom House, we have a soft spot for that lovely sight of shabbat candles lighting in their decorative holders, so we invite you to take a few minutes of relaxation in deep intent each week, along with your family, next to your set of shabbat candles.
This sweet, delicious, well shaped bread, is a symbol for us. We look at it and are remembered of Shabbat.
The original purpose of the challah is the blessing - we kick off our shabbat meals with two main blessings - we say the Kiddush for the wine, and we say Hamotzi for the bread. These two blessings help us elevate the shabbat meals and thus the shabbat itself from another regular day, another fancy meal, to its holy and untouched level of appreciation and uniqueness.
We usually braid our challahs, each of 2 strands, in total, 6 strands make our important challah into what it is. The 6 strands signify the days of the week which lead up to shabbat. Shabbat is the day that brings together the entire week, like the strands of the challah create a harmonious and comforting bread, full of familiar memories.
There are many stories we tell to answer this puzzling question. From tails of customs as old as the dessert our ancestors walked in for 40 years, to mimicking foreign traditions of exclusive serving covers with a metal tray.
Here at Shalom House, we grew up wondering the same thing, and were explained, as early as pre-school, that we cover the challah since we don't want to shame it.
Shame the challah? Is that so? How can that be and why can the challah possibly be ashamed of? Well, it turns out our special challah is a sensitive piece of delicious bread and it might not appreciate the fact that it is second in line of blessings - the fact that we first say the Kiddush over the wine, might make the challah feel like it's less important. That's why we respect the challah with magnificently decorated covers which turn it into the life of the party.
The word Challah actually is ancient Hebrew for a loaf of bread.
The word was first used in the Torah, when God instructed Moses to leave a piece of each loaf made, to give the Cohanim - the jewish priests which relied on the jewish people for food.
The word Havdalah, comes from the Hebrew word Hevdel - difference. This short but highly spiritual ceremony is the fine line between shabbat and the rest of the week, between what is holy and what isn't, and also, like we say during the Kiddush, between the chosen people and the rest of the world.
This ritual is known to be very spiritual. It contains many mystical aspects mentioned in the Kabbalah. Each Eda - origin uses a slightly different phrasing for it but we all have the basic blessings on wine, perfume and fire. It is common to respect this ancient tradition with eye pleasing pieces of judaica which help us lend more significance and depth to the important ritual.
We all know the Tallit - the fringed garment used as a cover for holy events like our time in the synagogue.
This prayer shawl, comes in many colors and sizes. It's light in weight and heavy in significance. Imagine the sight of a tallit covered person and experience those chills. It's like looking at a soldier in Hashem's army, ready to protect its people.
Wrapping ourselves in the tallit helps us get into that certain prayer mood thanks to our world of holy associations, and because it can provide an actual block from the outside world. Some privacy and quiet in this fast paced world. Wrap yourself in a beautiful tallit today so your personal conversation with God will be a true heart-to-heart.
Many families have their tradition with the kiddush cup. Some like to use silver, others like glass or crystal cups while others have specific cups for each kiddush - one for the evening, another for the morning, and the Havdalah's cup in an entirely different story. Try to use the morning's cup in the evening and you'll end up getting Cholent for supper. Many families wonder, when shopping for judaica gifts, which cups can be used for kiddush and the answer is quite simple - any cup can be used, as long as it contains more than the minimum amount of liquid required for the kiddush which is 3.8 fl. Oz.
It is customary to add more light to the shabbat with a decorated cup, often passed from one generation to the other.
Our beautiful braided bread, one of the symbols of the holy shabbat is, when we come get down to it - food. We're supposed to eat it. Just looking at it won't get us anywhere, especially not with that rich dowey smell it casts all over the place.
But how do we do it? How do we put a blemish in this perfect carb? Well, many traditions use a knife to actually carve the bread, while others only scratch the top layer with the knife before breaking the bread by hand. Each tradition has its vast sea of explanations to support it, but the bottom line is that if you say your Hamotzi and have that traditional challah knife on your table, your shabbat will be delicious and full of light, whether the knife is just there as a part of the scenery or is actually used.