A secular blessing for children

One of the loveliest Shabbat rituals is the blessing of the children, at the beginning of the Friday night festive meal. In our house, we say both the Birkat ha’Banim, the traditional blessing found in the Siddur (Jewish prayer book), and a “humanistic re-envisioning” of it by Rabbi Binyamin Biber:

I (we) bless you and watch over you with love
and with the hope that your  learning and good deeds
bring you joy and long life.

May you help others and be an example to all,
just as others help you and show you the paths of goodness.

May the best within you shine forth with compassion,
and may you always lift up your face to meet others in peace.

This text came to us from the PJ Library, a wonderful program that sends quality, age appropriate Jewish books and CDs to our kids thanks to generous sponsors. You can learn more about the program and sign up here.


My simple shabbat prep list

My Shabbat prep list isn’t too long, although I do put work into it. The hardest part was committing to it, but once the weekly ritual became a habit, it did become a very special time for us, and now for the kids. We started very simply, with lighting the candles, buying challah and saying the blessings. Over time our practice has grown into what it is today, and we will keep adding to it as we grow, too.

Currently, I am at home with Julian, so I have a lot of flexibility when it comes to organizing my shabbat preparations. I can do a lot of it on Fridays for example. That is a luxury I will soon lose, when I go back to work in mid-April (I timed it so it would be after the Passover seders, at least!)

My current routine:

Thursday night

  • Take challah out of the freezer and set it out to rise (I buy them frozen at the College Square Loblaws, which has a well stocked kosher section)

Friday morning

  • Change linens (bed sheets, bath towels and hand towels in the kitchen)
  • 1 load of laundry

Friday during the kids’ nap

  • Prepare meal and put in the oven on “keep warm” setting, so it’s ready when we are.
  • Prepare one other easy dish in slow cooker, for lunch the next day.
  • Program coffee machine for the morning. (I wish someone invented a safe programmable toaster…)

Friday evening

  • Set table (including kiddush cups, siddurim and special blessings). I try to get Sam to help with that one, but it’s hit and miss.
  • Set out candles, tzedakah box, kippot
  • Tidy up kitchen, so that clean up time from dinner is minimal
  • Turn off computer and cell phone

I know I will have to change and adapt it soon to accommodate a full time work shedule… Working moms out there, how do do it?