Shabbat for Kids

A family gets ready to begin Shabbat.

Each Friday evening, families around the world begin the celebration of Shabbat. For many, the evening includes favorite foods, company for dinner, special songs, and blessings. On Shabbat, families take a break and spend time together and with community. An erev Shabbat (Friday evening) ritual that is both simple and beautiful is to light candles to “usher in” the Sabbath and set it apart from the weekday world. Immediately after lighting candles, special blessings are said over the wine or grapejuice, the challah, and in many families, over the children as well.

Learn the blessings, sing songs, find un-plugged activities, story ideas, and more, in the sections below. 

BLESSING THE CHILDREN

On Friday night as Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) begins, many parents give blessings not just over something – like candles, wine, or challah – but to someone. They bless their children.

It’s a tradition all parents can find value in. Whether your Friday night dinner is roasted chicken or takeout pizza, you can take a moment to draw your children close and, in traditional or improvised words (or both), say what you appreciate about them and wish for them.

Blessing the Children is a ritual you can make your own – either on Shabbat evening (when it is typically practiced) or on Jewish holidays…or anytime.

GETTING STARTED

A grandfather blesses his grandson on Shabbat while the little boy plays with the PJ Library never ender

Blessing the Children is an intimate moment. Some parents place their hands on the head of the child they are blessing. Parents of very young ones hold them in their arms. The interaction is almost always sealed with a hug or kiss.

The more generations the merrier. Grandparents and other relatives can join in, too, whether in person or over Facetime or the phone.

Many parents take the opportunity to whisper a “secret blessing” to their child – something they’ve admired about their child in the past week or something private or funny they want to share.

TRADITIONAL BLESSING

The traditional Blessing of the Children consists of a warm-up and a three-part blessing.

Warm-Up:

May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah / May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe

 [In Hebrew] Yesimech Elohim ke’Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, ve’Leah / Yesimcha Elohim ke’Ephraim v’che’Menashe

The warm-up expresses the wish that our children will embody the best qualities of those who came before them. It is rooted in a biblical story –  when Jacob, at the end of his life, blessed his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe, saying: “By you shall all of Israel give blessings.” Ephraim and Menashe are among the first biblical brothers to have a harmonious relationship, and the four Jewish matriarchs are known for their faith and compassion, despite lives of challenge and hardship.

Three-Part Blessing:

May God bless you and keep you.
May God shine light on you and be gracious to you.
May God turn toward you and grant you peace.

[In Hebrew]

Yevarechecha Adonai veyishmerecha
Ya’er Adonai panav eilecha viyechuneka
Yisa Adonai panav eilecha veyasem lecha shalom

The three-part blessing is 3000 years old – the oldest blessing Jews have. It’s a timeless wish for well-being and peace, first used for blessing the people of Israel in desert wanderings and in the Temple in Jerusalem. The three lines of ancient Hebrew have a uniquely expanding and mesmerizing structure: three words [Yeverechecha…], then five words [Ya’er…], then seven words [Yisa…].

ALTERNATIVE BLESSING

Warm-Up:

May you be like…  (Choose a person whose qualities will inspire your child.)

Three-Part Blessing:

Always be safe—
Shine light in the world—
And feel truly at peace with yourself

(This alternative text reflects the meaning of the traditional Hebrew blessing, and also preserves its unique three-word / five-word / seven-word structure.)

 Or give your child your own personal blessing or wishes.
For example:

This week I was proud of you for...
Next week I hope you’ll…

USING THE PJ LIBRARY NEVER-ENDER

A young girl plays with the PJ Library Neverender while her mom gets ready to bless both children. A little boy looks on while sucking his thumb.

Because it’s often easier being the blesser than the blessee, PJ Library has created something for kids (especially restless ones!) to hold and use during the blessing. We call it a Never-Ender, a series of continuously unfolding panels (in the spirit of each generation blessing the next), a sort of “mindfulness tool” for Shabbat.

For kids of all ages, it’s tactile, visual, and physically repetitive.

Young children will simply enjoy how the Never-Ender keeps unfolding.

Slightly older children may notice the diversity of the parents and children depicted in the illustrations – skin, hair, gender, how each family is unique and how a common heritage still binds us. (They might enjoy mixing and matching the illustrated panels.)

And still older children, with a parent’s help, may notice how the blessing progresses from panel to panel – from home to community to the Jewish world (and throughout unfurling Jewish history), and finally, to the “first Shabbat,” with plates on the table representing the six days of Creation, as described in the Book of Genesis.

The age-old parenting wisdom that "the days are long, but the years are short" rings true for many of us. Taking a moment to pause each week and celebrate our children can be a meaningful collaborative ritual.


WATCH

What is Shabbat all about? How do you say the blessings? Watch these short videos to learn more:

SHABBAT BASICS:

How to Do Shabbat via InterfaithFamily.com
Do you want to start observing Shabbat but you're not sure how or where to start? Keep things simple with this sweet video.

 

Grover's First Shabbat via Shalom Sesame
Grover is enjoying his first trip to Israel. On Friday evening, he can't understand why the nice candlesticks or bread are laid out on the table. Luckily Shoshana is there to teach him everything he needs to know.

 

The Blessings

How to Bless the Candles via BimBam
Sing along with the video to learn how to wave in the light and sing the blessing.

 

How to Bless the Wine or Grape Juice, Make Kiddush via BimBam
Sing along with the video to learn how to bless the grape juice or wine on Shabbat.

 

How to Bless the Challah via BimBam
Follow along to learn the blessing, or bracha, over challah that Jewish families say on Shabbat

 

How to Say the Blessing Over Children via BimBam
On Friday nights before Shabbat, it’s customary for parents to bless their children. Many parents also say this blessing, or one of their own making, to mark milestones in their children's lives.


DO


EAT


READ

Reading a book on Shabbat

See the full list of PJ Library titles about Shabbat here.

Baxter: The Pig Who Wanted to Be Kosher by Laurel Snyder

Recommended for children 6 to 7 years old

Upon hearing of the joys and sweetness of Shabbat and, especially, of Shabbat dinner, Baxter the Pig sets out to understand what it means to be kosher.


Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff 

Recommended for children 6 to 7 years old

Everyone in Goldie Simcha’s apartment building knows it’s Friday night when they smell her delicious Shabbat cholent. But one Friday night, Goldie doesn’t feel well enough to cook. Her neighbors step up to make an unusual cholent for Shabbat -- andsoon Goldie will feel much better.


Fridays Are Special by Chris Barash

Recommended for children 2 to 3 years old

For this child’s family, Fridays aren’t like other days. On Fridays, the hustle and bustle is a little different. Everyone seems to be getting ready for something special -- something cozy and wonderful. What could it be? .


Lights Out Shabbat by Sarene Shulimson

Recommended for children 3 to 4 years old

A young boy visiting his grandparents for Shabbat has a wonderful time despite (or maybe, in part, because of) a rare Georgia snowstorm that causes the power to go out.


One, Two, Three, Shabbat! by Naomi Shulman

Recommended for children 6 months to 2 years old

Shabbat rituals are filled with rich sensory experiences. When babies and toddlers take part, it’s as easy and fun as 1, 2, 3!


Shabbat Shalom, Hey! by Ann Koffsky

Recommended for children 6 months to 2 years old

Sing along with the lion, monkey, and toucan as they get everything ready for Friday night dinner. Shabbat Shalom!


LISTEN

Scroll down to find the PJ Library Shabbat playlist as well as a special challah-themed playlist to listen to while making dinner or when you're feeling silly.

 

Challah Songs

Download the PJ Library Radio app for more music and playlists.


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