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As a mom of small kids, who also keeps Shabbat, I find myself struggling every year around this time. They’ve spent the winter being engaged in our Shabbat practice. We light candles, say the blessing over the wine and challah. It’s a big ritual and one that we repeat on Saturday night for Havdallah. But with Daylight Savings Time, I find myself struggling to engage the kids in Shabbat and Havdallah since they go to bed early. This year, for the first time, my son (3.5) is finally communicating to me that “the sun is out mama! It’s not bedtime” and that goes for Shabbat as well.
To begin we should give a little detail on why the sun and stars are so important for Shabbat. In Judaism, our days begin at night (it’s a funny thing to say) and night is defined as when three stars are visible in the sky. Fortunately in the age of the internet, there’s no confusion. You just Google a Jewish website that gives you candle lighting times like this one (make sure you change the location to your house… it does make a difference). Additionally, we “bring in” Shabbat before technical sunset. Some choose 18 minutes, others have other traditions but it comes from a concept called Tosefet Shabbat – literally “adding time on to Shabbat.” It’s one way of making a “fence” around the holiday and ensuring you don’t accidentally work on the sabbath. It’s also considered a mitzvah to add time to such a holy day.
So, the beginning of Shabbat is prescribed. But so is bedtime. How do we engage small kids in the sabbath without sacrificing their routine? Here are a few ideas I have come up with to keep my kids engaged in Shabbat even when they are in bed before I light candles.
Oh, one more note before I begin – it’s all a choice. Some families choose to light candles very early to engage with their kids and that is great. My choices to not light too early come from how my family observes Shabbat. We limit our work and weekday influences. That means, no TV or music, we limit electronic use (we don’t stop using phones but they are only used to read online newspapers or books… and we are working on phasing that out as our kids get older), and we try to not do major cooking – meaning my Shabbat dinner is mostly cooked in advance. While we are not the most strict about our Shabbat observance, it’s import to note this to show why we don’t light candles too early in our house.
These are my ideas, I hope you will share yours below!