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Step 5: Shabbat lunch

OCR4176 Website Illustrations Step5 Proof 01
OCR4176 Website Illustrations Step5 table set

The table is beautifully set again. Gather in the kitchen to make a salad and check on the food. Relax and talk to each other, with no time pressure or agenda. Catch up with old friends and connect with new ones. We know we’ll eat too much and somehow still have space for a third meal (more on that later).

Before you eat, say Kiddush (if you and your guests haven’t heard it at synagogue already), wash and eat bread. Just like on Friday night, we say Hamotzi, and then cut or break the loaves, dip it in salt and pass it around for everyone to have a piece.

It is customary to have two loaves (large ones or challah rolls) at the table for each meal. This is referred to in Hebrew as lechem mishne, to remind us of the double portion of manna (heavenly bread) we received in the desert on a Friday, which would sustain us throughout Shabbat.

Kiddush for Shabbat day: Origins

The Jewish people received the Torah on Shabbat morning, when G-d proclaimed from Mount Sinai: “Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it.” From that moment on, we’ve sanctified Shabbat with Kiddush. The morning Kiddush is known as The Great Kiddush or Kiddush Raba, as it honors that very first Kiddush, when we received the Torah.

Print the blessing texts and instructions for hand-washing, challah and Kiddush for Shabbat morning, included in our easy-to-follow Shabbat companion.

Along with the chatting and connecting, you can share words of Torah once again to enrich the Shabbat meal. Our sages teach that “three who ate at the same table and shared words of Torah” is as if “they ate from G-d’s table”. The meal becomes about more than just food. It becomes a way to taste the sweet lessons of Torah.

Some sing Shabbat songs to praise G-d for the gift of Shabbat.

“The Baal Hatanya describes melody as the pen of the soul, ascribing and expressing the soul’s desire for closeness to G-d in a way that words cannot. Music unites people. A Jewish melody with Jewish words stays etched in our minds and hearts eternally. Many of us can remember songs we learnt as children, or songs we heard parents, teachers or friends sing. Music creates a means of connection and expression that is immutable.”
– אלכס קלייר

After the meal, we say the Birkat Hamazon, or Grace After Meals. The children will probably be off playing, so if they want to join the singalong, now’s the time to call them back to the table.

What’s the big fuss about bread?

OCR4176 Website Illustrations Step 5 challah

We are so used to seeing bread packed in neat rows on supermarket shelves. White, brown, whole wheat, low-GI. We can even buy it ready-sliced. But what does it take to get that single slice of bread from farm to plate?

We plant the seeds in just the right spot in the soil, at the best time of year. We water them carefully with just the right amount of water. Beautiful wheat stalks rise from the ground, bursting with ripe grain. We harvest the wheat and crush it to a fine dust to create flour. We mix the flour with water to form a paste or dough. We also need yeast – it adds gas to the dough and puffs it up. Then it goes into the oven for roughly 30 minutes. Only then do we get bread as we know it.

It’s a brilliant process. But who first thought of doing this? It’s almost the opposite process of the manna that fell from heaven. Hundreds, if not thousands, of men and women have worked to produce this piece of bread – from seed to slice.

Birkat Hamazon comes to remind us that even though we worked really hard to make the bread, we must recognise that everything comes from G-d. He gave us the seeds, the knowledge, the strength and the opportunity to go through the whole process to make, eat and be sustained by it.

If you don't have a copy of the Birkat Hamazon text at home, advance print our English/Hebrew transliterated version, as included in our Shabbat companion.