Erev Shabbat

As I write this, it is Erev Shabbat, the eve of the Jewish Sabbath.

Shabbat Candles

My maternal grandparents were observant, my parents kept kosher, and when I got married, M and I decided to keep kosher even though his parents did not. I never kept kosher when I ate outside the home. After 35 years, M and I decided to give it up at home.

Starting when I was seven years old, I went to after-school Hebrew school. Actually, my father required that I go, and this engendered a huge battle for years between him and me. But that’s a story for another day. Though I hated going to class, there were a few things related to the Downtown Talmud Torah that I loved – none of which involved my studies. Being in the choir and in the theater group, and acting as one of the rotating chazanas during the Shabbat morning services at the school. (Attendance was required. It was an orthodox school, so male and female services were held separately. Thus, the female services were led by female students.)

I long ago stopped going to temple, and I never have been Shabbat observant, though in the early days of my marriage, I did light Shabbat candles. Now, very rarely. But I still hold fast to certain traditions: making latkes for Chanukah, “breaking the Yom Kippur fast” with family even though I haven’t fasted in years, and celebrating Passover with a seder, a version we’ve created and call “Seder Express.”

Kiddush
Kiddush for Friday Evening in my Siddur*

When I was growing up, on Friday evenings, my mother would cover her head, light the Shabbat candles, and say the brucha. Then, my Dad would chant the Kiddush. The meal was always the same: chicken soup with noodles or rice, followed by the boiled chicken that had been used to make the soup. How I hated that boiled, bland chicken! Blech! When I’d go over to my maternal grandmother’s house for lunch and she was serving leftover chicken from Friday night, she would gussy it up for me by frying it in a pan and flavoring it with paprika and garlic. As for chicken soup, I don’t detest it, but I rarely choose to eat it.

For no particular reason, I was feeling nostalgic this evening, cherishing the memories of my family gathered at the table on those Friday nights so many years ago. And I can still hear my father chanting the Kiddush, which I came to know by heart.

*This Siddur is the one I used during Hebrew school services. It’s still covered with the plain brown wrapping paper we used back then to protect our books.

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