Category Archives: Shabbat

Manischewitz Tiki Torch: An Essay

the Tacky Torch

Tacky Tiki Torch

The Manischewitz Tiki Torch.  Unendorsed, unaffiliated, unnoticed by the Manischewitz company, but most emphatically created in homage to it.  I timed the debut for erev Sukkot, and I admit, I am tickled purple with myself. Continue reading

Havdalah Besamim Activities

Havdalah spices Smell Test prepared by 2nd graders

Havdalah spice Smell Test prepared by 2nd graders

This post focuses on the spicy part of Havdalah.  Besamim work is a rich, smelly, hands-on opportunity to create memorable links to Shabbat (and to being Jewish).  You choose: make a garden, a pot, a sachet, an herb buffet, an etrog pomander, a “Smell Test,” or besamim containers simple and fancy.   Continue reading

Making Rolled Beeswax Candles for Havdalah

rolled beeswax sheets, twisted or braided by students

rolled beeswax sheets, twisted or braided by students

My Making Havdalah Candles with Kids Intro has the general whats and whys.  I’ve also got posts about how to dip beeswax Havdalah candles and how to repurpose cruddy Hanukkah candles for Havdalah.

To roll Havdalah candles out of beeswax sheets is a zillion times easier than to dip tapers.  Especially if you’ve procured soft sheets of wax: sheets that are pliable, supple, biddable.  The good wax. Continue reading

Mini Havdalah candle (twisted Hanukkah candles)

quick, cheap DIY

quick, cheap DIY

What if you want kids to make Havdalah candles and you don’t have the time and materials (or inclination) for nice, beeswax versions?  I’m the first to admit that candles from scratch can be a big to-do—even just the simple, rolled sheets.
Rejoice: all you really need are leftover Hanukkah candles, a bowl and a teakettle.
Just twist two warmed Hanukkah candles to create one mini Havdalah candle.  It’s an easy, cheap DIY that can make any Havdalah lesson hands-on and memorable. Continue reading

Making Dipped Beeswax Tapers for Havdalah

First, please read my Intro post for making Havdalah candles with kids.  I’ve also got one coming for Rolled Beeswax Havdalah candles and one for the E-Z version using repurposed Hannukah candles.  This one is just about dipped beeswax… 

worth the work, I swear

worth the work, I swear (click pic to enlarge)

To make candles with kids could be a straightforward project.  But then again, to make candles with kids could also be my biggest teaching challenge heretofore, and in fact could be a Kafkaesque labyrinth in which I stagger from one surreal complication to the next.  Who knew that to melt a bit of beeswax and dip a string could be so dramatic? Continue reading

Making Havdalah Candles with kids

more than one wick = fire / eish = kosher

more than one wick = fire / eish = kosher

This will be my short Havdalah candle post.  I shall simply tell the whys and whats.  The hows, I’ll save for three additional posts: one for rolled beeswax sheets, one for dipped beeswax tapers, and one for a repurposed Hanukkah candle version.  Four posts just might be enough room to wax lyrical about the ups and downs and sideways of a seemingly simple process.  I feel compelled to record my experiences so that others may skip the labyrinthine bits and get right to the part where everything turns out well. Continue reading

Havdalah Garden in a tub

fresh, Fall planting

fresh, Fall planting

Havdalah is a lovely, quick, slightly spooky service that marks the distinction between the end of Shabbat and the beginning of the work week.  Each Saturday night morphs from Sacred Time to Ordinary Time whether we mark it or not.  But to mark it with Havdalah can be fun, memorable and oh-so-kid-friendly (especially in the winter when sundown happens earlier in relation to bedtimes).

The traditional ceremony requires just a few Continue reading

Etrog Besamim for Havdalah


10 year-old etrog pomander and a fresh one, awaiting puncture

Sukkot’s over.  Did you buy an etrog?  Or did your school or synagogue buy one?  If so, don’t pitch it on the compost pile.  You and your kid can repurpose it into a nifty spice pomander for Havdalah.  It’s a nice way to extend Sukkot (and the  harvest’s bounty) to a Jewish service/ceremony that happens every single week.  The spices of Havdalah—called besamim—are supposed to be natural materials that smell lovely enough to console us for the loss of Shabbat and to kickstart a good week ahead.  A clove-studded etrog can Continue reading

Book Review: The Shabbat Princess

The Shabbat Princess, written by Amy Meltzer, illustrated by Martha Avilés (Kar-Ben, $7.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8, ISBN 9780761351061). See links below.

I got a copy of The Shabbat Princess a few weeks ago and put it on my desk to review, but my 4 year-old son saw it, took it, and still keeps it in the “good” book pile by his bed.  This arrangement constitutes his version of a book review.  Continue reading

Edible Mishkan: Build (and Eat) Me a Tabernacle

Edible Mishkan - Tabernacle

copper altar . . .

Last week’s Parsha was Vayakel, the one where the Israelites build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle in the wilderness. So, for a Shabbat activity at synagogue, I created an Edible Mishkan. Each kid 2nd grade and up made a personal, edible Mishkan.

Many liberties have been taken with materials, but it was a sweet little project.

Everything is kosher. My store was out of Jelly Belly gummy bears, or they would be sitting on the ark as chubby cherubim. Continue reading

Jewish Mommy Meme

On May 23rd, blogger HomeShuling tagged me for her meme: a word I had to look up and still don’t know what it means.  Basically, HomeShuling sent six Shabbat-related questions out to several Jewish Mom Bloggers and the world at large, with a view to the construction of a virtual Shabbat.  To me, the method constitutes an online chain letter, which I normally shun (having been raised to think they are always suspect in some insidious way) but this time happily answered.  No secret agenda here, just community.  

My answers are below.  Feel free to add your own in a comment.  They really are good questions, and I’d love to know the answers from many a mom.

1. Challah – home baked or bought?

    “Challah is taken” here in Nashville, but the bakeries churn out loaves lacking that certain Jewish something. We actually have one certified kosher challah source, but I never remember to get over to the Ortho shul in time to nab one. So we bake. If I run out of frozen extras, I bake cornbread in an iron skillet (and pretend it qualifies for a motzi).….

2. Favorite shabbat meal:

        Fried chicken, mashed potatoes (not whipped), overcooked spinach, fresh Bradley tomato slices, iced tea.

3. Any creative shabbat rituals?

        We sing the kiddush super loud and bang on the table during the latter part. Having dinner together is the real ritual, as it doesn’t happen every day. We wear our special kippot and use the kid-generated challah covers (on a rotating schedule).

4. Shul? With or without the kids? (yes, I know some of you are rabbis)

    Never on Fridays unless there is a special kid service. On Saturdays we go if one of us is reading Torah or if we are feeling particularly guilty about the Toddler missing shul. He loves synagogue and would go all day every day. I am allergic to sermons.

5. Traditionally shomer shabbat? If not, what’s your definition/style?

        Our style is always changing, but our ideal is a proper Shabbes dinner, sticking with the family and keeping the computer OFF for 24 hrs.

6. Favorite shabbat story/book

        Friday nights get Shalom Aleichem (the song, not the pseudonym) and Jewish books….even holiday books half a year off schedule. I would LOVE to have a toddler-friendly Shabbat book. A real story. Like Mrs. Moskowitz (by Amy Schwartz), but for shorter attention spans. As it is, we make do with things like DK’s My First Shabbat Book, the old See Smell and Touch Shabbat (so old it no longer smells), and the aforementioned holiday books.

Tot Shabbat Survey

This entry is simply a question for YOU.
If you go to a synagogue with your kids, what programming do they offer on Shabbat morning? Please leave a comment here about the structure of the kid’s service, what you like about it, and what you don’t like about it, and any other info or advice.

Our synagogue is revamping its Saturday morning programming for little kids. We’re offering a Tot Shabbat every single Shabbat morning at 10:30. Right now, different leaders do totally different things each time.

I want a unified, structured program about 30 minutes long, and it has to contain these things: a format that loosely mimics the Shabbat liturgy in the main sanctuary (we’ll say the Shema, do the Torah procession, etc.); some songs, dancing, movement, play; and some kind of hands-on exploration of the week’s Torah portion, or Parsha. We are a Conservative shul, so we cannot use art materials or musical instruments, but we can do puppets, dress-up, stickers, and role-play.

I would love to hear about any service that WORKS: anything that keeps kids engaged.
Thanks very much!

Hallowe’en Hallah

I’ve got it down. I know precisely when to start mixing the challah dough so that the moment the kids get home from school they can “punch.” If you’ve never made bread by hand, and have thus been denied the unaccountable pleasure of punching down dough, I urge you to unplug the bread machine and give it a go. Punching down dough is, alas, a fleeting pleasure: it takes about a second and you only get to punch once. But feeling—and hearing—the whole mass deflate is quite satisfying. And when else do we get to punch anything?
As I mentioned in the last entry, making the challah will help to assuage the Hallowe’en/Shabbat guilt ever so slightly.
Multiple fun-size Snickers bars will help even more.
I’ll let you know.

p.s. I use the hallah-with-kids recipe in Joan Nathan’s “The Children’s Jewish Holiday Kitchen.”

Happy Shabbos or Gut Hallowe’en? A fall fix.

As soon as the single Simchat Torah flag and all the Sukkot decorations were put away, out came the Hallowe’en crap. I have three ginormous plastic bins in the attic full of witch hats, pumpkin lights, teeny mummies on strings, table runners, spooky candles, and wee skull candy-holders. For starters. The black plastic cauldrons and home-made bouncey bats (toilet paper rolls, cereal box cardboard, and google eyes: classic) couldn’t fit, so they spilled over into the shed. We looove Hallowe’en at my house. This year, though, there is a bit of a snag. It’s on Shabbat. Shabbos. The Sabbath.

Usually, the big Jewish-American calendrical conflict concerns the December Dilemma: Hanukkah vs. Christmas. Or, perhaps Continue reading