Savor the wine. Indulge in bread. Count your blessings. Share your meal. 

What do Jewish families eat on Shabbat?

You are supposed to enjoy yourself on Shabbat, and one way to do this is by eating good food and drinking fine wine. Traditional Eastern-European, Ashkenazi Shabbat dinners might include matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, roasted chicken, kugel and carrot tzimmes. However, customary Shabbat meal menus differ around the world. For example, traditional Yemenite Shabbat food is jachnun - flaky rolls of dough, baked for hours at a low temperature, with hard-boiled eggs and spicy skhug. An Italian Shabbat dinner may include Carciofi alla Giudia, “Jewish-style artichokes” - fried artichokes seasoned with garlic and herbs, which is a staple of Roman-Jewish cuisine.


Jews around the world eat different variations of “cholent,” a traditional Jewish stew, for Shabbat lunch. Cholent simmers slowly on the stovetop overnight, or is cooked in a crock pot. Many variations of cholent have developed over time in keeping with Jewish laws that prohibit cooking on Shabbat. The basic ingredients of Ashkenazi cholent include meat, potatoes, beans and barley, and Sephardi-style cholent uses chicken instead of beef, and rice instead of beans and barley.   


How do I get the kids involved in preparing the family meal?

Preparing Shabbat dinner can be a family affair. Kids can help cook - they can bake or braid challah, chop vegetables for salad, make matzo balls, or be in charge of a specific piece of the meal. Kids of all ages can help set the table and be sure to include Kiddush cups, a challah board and challah cover. They can design “Shabbat-o-Grams” - sweet notes for each member of the family, or place cards for the dinner table. Kids can also decorate the table with flowers - either fresh, or homemade from tissue paper.



Wine blessing

Track 12: Every Shabbat and Festival is sanctified through blessing and drinking wine or grape juice. We make the blessing – Borei P'ri Hagafen - thanking the Creator of Fruit of the Vine, for bringing joy to our lives and enabling us to savor the fruit of our labors. 


Different families have different traditions for Kiddush (the wine blessing). In some families, the person who is leading the blessing fills up one glass to the brim with grape juice or wine, recites the blessing, and passes the cup around for everyone to get a taste. In other families, everyone gets their own wine glass, and everyone says the blessing together. Choose what makes sense for your family!


בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָי אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam,

borei p'ri hagafen.


Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe,

Creator of the fruit of the vine.



Track 13: In the longer text of complete Friday night blessing over the wine we sanctify Shabbat both as a crowing achievement of the work of Creation, and as a reminder of our Exodus from Egypt, a symbol of our freedom. This melody, written by Lois Lewandowsky, one of the most famous and influential Cantor and composer of Jewish Music, is known and sung by diverse Jewish communities throughout the world every Friday night. 


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְרָֽצָה בָֽנוּ, וְשַׁבַּת קָדְשׁוֹ בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן הִנְחִילָֽנוּ זִכָּרוֹן לְמַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית, כִּי הוּא יוֹם תְּחִלָּה לְמִקְרָאֵי קֹֽדֶשׁ, זֵֽכֶר לִיצִיאַת מִצְרָֽיִם, כִּי בָֽנוּ בָחַֽרְתָּ וְאוֹתָֽנוּ קִדַּֽשְׁתָּ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים, וְשַׁבַּת קָדְשְׁךָ בְּאַהֲבָה וּבְרָצוֹן הִנְחַלְתָּֽנוּ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, מְקַדֵּשׁ הַשַּׁבָּת.


Baruch atah, Adonai 
Eloheinu, Melech haolam, 
asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'ratzah vanu, 
v'Shabbat kodsho 
b'ahavah uv'ratzon hinchilanu, 
zikaron l'maaseih v'reishit. 
Ki hu yom t'chilah l'mikra-ei kodesh, 
zecher litziat Mitzrayim. 
Ki vanu vacharta, v'otanu kidashta, 
mikol haamim. 
V'Shabbat kodsh'cha 
b'ahavah uv'ratzon hinchaltanu. 
Baruch atah, Adonai, m'kadeish HaShabbat. 

Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, 
Creator of the fruit of the vine. 
Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe 
who finding favor with us, sanctified us with mitzvot. 
In love and favor, You made the holy Shabat our heritage 
as a reminder of the work of Creation. 
As first among our sacred days, it recalls the Exodus from Egypt. 
You chose us and set us apart from the peoples. 
In love and favor You have given us Your holy Shabbat as an inheritance.


Hand Washing

After Kiddush and before the meal, each person in the household should wash hands by filling a cup with water and pouring it over the top and bottom of the right hand and then the left hand. Before wiping the hands dry on a towel, the following blessing should be recited:


Baruch atah A-donoy, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam, asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu al netilat yadayim.


Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to wash hands. 


Track 11 - Nign Nikolayev: According to the Jewish law, talking is not allowed between netilat yadayim (the blessing over washing hands) and hamotsi (blessing over bread). But that doesn’t mean silence, as singing without words is allowed. Many communities composed and were using their own traditional niggunim (plural of “niggun” or “nign”), wordless songs of spiritual devotion.  Nign Nikolayev is a traditional tune by the Hassidic community of Nikolayev in Ukraine, formerly Russian Empire. Later it was sung at farbrengenes (study gatherings) in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s house in Brooklyn, New York.


Challah blessing

Track 14: After reciting the Kiddush and washing our hands, we say the blessing over the Challah. The two loaves of challah represent the double portion of manna that God provided the Israelites on Shabbat during their wondering in the desert. 


Before the meal, place your Challah on a platter and cover it with a cloth.

When you are ready to say the blessing, remove the challah cover to reveal the braided bread.


Then recite the blessing altogether.


Some families then add a bit of salt to the top of the bread.

Then an adult may slice the bread and give everyone a piece, or pass the whole loaf around and everyone grabs a hunk of the challah to eat!


בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָי אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם  הָמ וֹציא  לֶחם מן  הַארץ

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam,

hamotsi lechem min haarets .


Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe,

who brings out bread from the earth.