Teaching Teens about Shabbat

posted by on May 17, 2018

When our kids were young, celebrating Shabbat might have focused on wrestling them into nice clothes, cooking a nicer-than-normal meal, setting the table in the dining room, and going to synagogue. Because of their age, we focused on the ritual of it. Shabbat was candles, challah, prayers, and grape juice.

Frankly, for some of us, preparation for Shabbat may have felt like so much effort at the end screen-1-1of a secular work week, that singing the motzi felt like staggering across the finish line. In reality, of course, it’s just the beginning, and now that our toddlers have turned into teens, we can focus on the true meaning of the day.

Rest is Best

Teens may sleep like it’s their job, but resting, now that’s a whole other story. Sure naps are great, especially on Shabbat, but when we rest, we take time to stop doing certain things so that we can enjoy others. Slowing down our bodies and our brains—but not shutting them down entirely—helps us see and appreciate what’s already around us.

At Tel Yehudah, Shabbat is a time to focus on our one-on-one connections and interactions. When we rest from our work, our schedule, and the technology that engulfs it, we’re left with the raw goods of life—the people we care about, the beauty of the natural world, and the freedom to enjoy it.

Prayer is Personal

Throughout time and across cultures, Shabbat has been and still is observed in countless different ways. If we’re going to instill the importance of the holiday in our teenagers’ lives, then we need to let them celebrate Shabbat in the way that is meaningful to them. We might even have to suspend our personal belief that there is a right or wrong way to do it.

Depending on what their experience has been, it may be helpful for teens to try different ways of doing Shabbat. That’s why at Tel Yehudah we offer a range of prayer services every week, but we also create opportunities for teens to observe it through other activities like meditation or yoga.

Community is Central

Let us not forget that Shabbat is a celebration, and no matter how we like to party, the point is to do it together. At Tel Yehudah, Shabbat starts and ends in song because as we hear our voices rise in unison, music is a thread that ties us together, and one that carries us through the holiday, from traditional prayers to spirited sing-a-longs to the quiet and reserved Israeli songs we sing on Saturday night.

We also eat together, dance together, and play together on Shabbat. The rest of the week can pull us in myriad directions, but we take this one day to tighten the bonds of our community and feel its warmth.