Going to Shabbat Dinner

By Jill Suzanne Jacobs

The main meal of the week (and a festive one at that) in Jewish households in Israel and around the world is the Friday night dinner, Aruchat Shabbat (ah-roo-chaht shah-baht). The meal begins after sundown. Because Aruchat Shabbat is the focal point of the week, families often set the table with a Mapah Levanah (mah-pah leh-vah-nah; white tablecloth) and their prettiest dishes. Atop the table sits the Kos L’Kiddush (kos leh-kee-doosh; Kiddush cup), which is held when the blessing over the Sabbath day is said. Before the meal, Jewish people sing a song to welcome Sabbath angels and follow it with Brachot (brah-choht; blessings) over the Yayin (yah-yeen; wine) and Lechem (leh-chehm bread).

In some traditional households, people ritually wash their hands — this act is called Netilat Yadaim (neh-tee-laht yah-dye-eem) — before consuming bread. Traditionally Sabbath dinner foods include Of (ohf; chicken), Tzimis (tzi-mehs; a stew made with carrots), and sometimes Basar (bah-sahr; red meat). Eating Dag (dahg; fish) on Shabbat is also a traditional practice. One of the reasons for this custom is connected to the Gematria (geh-mah-tree-ah; numerology) of the fish. In Gematria, each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value. And the numerical values of the letters in the Hebrew word for fish total seven. And Shabbat is the seventh day of the week!

On a typical Shulchan Aruch L’Shabbat (shool-chahn ah-rooch leh-shah-baht; a table set for Shabbat), you may also find:

  • Kapit, Kapiot (kah-peet, kah-pee-oht; teaspoon, teaspoons)
  • Kos, Kosot (kohs, kohs-oht; cup, cups)
  • Kos L’Kiddush (kohs leh-kee-doosh; the Kiddush cup over which a special blessing for the Sabbath is recited)
  • Mapah Levanah (mah-pah leh-vah-nah; white tablecloth)
  • Mapit, Mapiot (mah-peet, mah-pee-oht; napkin, napkins)
  • Mazleg, Mazlegot (mahz-lehg, mahz-lay-goht; fork, forks)
  • Prachim (puh-rah-cheem; flowers)
  • Sakin, Sakinim (sah-keen, sah-kee-neem; knife, knives)
  • Tzalachat, Tzalachot (tzah-lah-chaht, tzah-lah-choht; dish, dishes)

People often say HaShulchan Haya Amus Be’Ochel (hah-shool-chahn hah-yah ah-moos beh-oh-chehl; The table was loaded with food!) on Friday nights because of the sheer amount of food present.