Nervous About Hosting Your First Shabbat?

Family is shown Hosting First Shabbat

PJ Library wants to encourage all families to build their own Shabbat traditions. If you’re thinking about doing Shabbat at home, for the very first time, the “Accidental Jewish Educator,” is here to offer some reassurances.

Shalom, it’s me, the Accidental Jewish Educator! I’m here to tell you that you can start celebrating Shabbat at home, even if you think you have no idea what you are doing. What I’m saying is, when you decide you want to introduce Shabbat into your home, you don’t need to “do Shabbat right” if you are sincere in your efforts. 

But what about all of the blessings, you ask? The Hebrew, the tunes you don’t think you can carry, the silver candlesticks from classic photographs that you don’t own, the challah that isn’t sold nearby or that you don’t have time to bake? Isn’t that doing Shabbat?

What if you make mistakes? What will happen? I’m here to tell you … nothing bad will happen. In fact, it will be quite the opposite. Once you’ve started “doing Shabbat” (experiencing its beauty and magic, the weekly ritual of pressing pause on our busy lives to be together in gratitude) you’ll be hooked.

Even the ancient Israelites, following their enslavement in the land of Egypt, after wandering in the desert and receiving the 10 Commandments; when it came to Shabbat? They had to improvise. Relatable, right? 

You may have ideas about what the perfect Shabbat experience is supposed to look like. And you want to be able to lead it on your own, in your home. But look, we can be like the ancient Israelites and learn by doing. So, go ahead! Turn some plastic cups into candlesticks. Download the blessings in English, Hebrew, transliteration, song—whatever! Play a recording, stumble your way through. Grab a piece of bread or a bagel to stand in for challah; appreciate the meaning behind the action, which is to express gratitude. Learn by doing, and the wisdom will come. Shabbat shalom!

About the Author

Jessica Slavin Connelly is a psychotherapist and longtime Jewish educator for area synagogues, camps and unaffiliated families.