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How A Trip To Israel Changed My Sabbath Practices

I wrote this post way back in 2015. Boy, a lot has changed since then! I wanted to give it an update to talk about how our family has changed since then but how Shabbat affected my family and my faith. The original post is in italics now and my update is below that.

As many of you know, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the great country of Israel in September. Thanks to the wonderful people at Vibe Israel, I spent a week learning more about family life in Israel and touring their beautiful land. On my first full day in Israel, we visited the holy city of Jerusalem. It also happened to be Friday, which meant that the Jewish Shabbat would begin at sundown.

Western Wall (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem
Western Wall (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem

If you’re not familiar with the term Shabbat, it’s essentially the Jewish day of rest. One of God’s commandments to the Jewish people was to honor the last day of each week by resting, just as he did when he created the world. It begins at sundown on Friday evenings and goes for 24 hours. Some Jews are more strict with their Shabbat rules than others, but basically, they cook a big meal (before sundown occurs) on Friday, then as the sun sets they enjoy a fabulous meal together followed by 24 hours of family and religious time. During that time they don’t do work of any kind — for some families, that means even turning on/off a light switch or using any other form of electricity. Some do not drive their vehicles during this time. Many spend a good portion of the day on Friday getting their home nice and clean. An Orthodox Jewish mother we talked to during the trip also mentioned that this is a special time for husbands and wives too, when they make sure to have some intimate time together.


While in Jerusalem we were able to observe the Jewish people preparing for Shabbat, as many were at the market getting food. They also spend time cleaning their homes before nightfall. Our tour guide told us more about Shabbat and then she mentioned something that really stuck with me. She said that she herself was agnostic and not a practicing Jew, however, she and her family still followed Shabbat. They used it as a special time set aside for their family in this busy world we live in. And that really got me thinking. Sure, as a Christian we consider Sunday our Sabbath and most Christians attend church, but I don’t feel like many treat it as a day of rest or a day to spend with family — I know I wasn’t.

After spending the day in Jerusalem, we finished out the day by enjoying a traditional Shabbat meal at a local family’s home. It was such an amazing day!

Shabbat Dinner
Shabbat Dinner

I thought about this whole Shabbat thing for the rest of the trip and by the time I arrived home, I was certain I wanted to give it a go. We are so busy, SO BUSY. I’m sure you can relate — as a mom I sometimes feel like I’m failing my kids and my husband because I don’t give them enough of my attention and I don’t cook them enough great meals and I don’t keep my house clean enough, etc.. Plus I feel like electronics have invaded all of our lives and pull us away from each other. So, when I got home, I mentioned my feelings to my husband. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to this crazy idea of mine but I was quite pleased when he said he LOVED the idea and couldn’t wait to implement it.

Now, because we aren’t Jewish we decided we weren’t necessarily going to follow all of the Jewish rules for the day. We developed our own household Shabbat rules, including:

  • Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.
  • Cell phone use during Shabbat is strictly limited to answering important phone calls and checking for important text messages just a few times, replying only if necessary.
  • No computers, television, or other electronic device usage unless it’s something we all decide to do together, like watch a family movie before bed.
  • We don’t leave the house unless it’s a family activity we all decide to do together. Exceptions however can be made for certain events which can’t be rescheduled (birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, etc.).
  • 3 hours prior to the start of Shabbat, we all work together to clean the house well.
  • A big Shabbat meal is not required for Friday night, but we do make sure to eat all of our meals together, including breakfast.
  • IF Orin and I would decide to watch a movie together after the children are in bed, we must conclude it by 10pm to be sure we set aside intimate time for our marriage, which is vital to a healthy relationship.

We officially started Shabbat the week after I returned home (the first Friday after I returned we were on vacation). We have been doing it now for over a month and truly just LOVE it. On Friday evenings we’ll enjoy a meal together then do something fun with the kids, maybe make a batch of cookies or cupcakes, read some stories, color pictures together, or play toys with them the way they are always begging us to do. Sharing our religion with our children is important to us, so we also make sure to have some extended Bible time together with the kids right before bed. Once the kids are in bed, Orin and I relax downstairs (in our freshly cleaned house!) and play board games (we hadn’t done that in years!), talk, give each other back-rubs, or snuggle up and enjoy a movie. It is so nice to connect without the interruption of our phones and/or electronics. Sometimes we might have some friends over as well. We’ve actually only watched a movie together one night so far, and that was out of pure exhaustion. We’ve had so much fun doing other things together!

On Saturday we tend to have a lazy morning, followed by choosing something fun to take the kids out to do, whether it’s a trip to the park, the frozen yogurt place they love, or a bigger activity, like going to the museum. Our goal is just to make that time quality time we’re spending together.

Well, when I wrote this post I couldn’t have imagined the messages I would get because of it. The response from Jewish readers varied from those who felt honored by it to those who hated me for cultural appropriation. I actually spoke with some of the people at Vibe Israel at one point to discuss it (since they were Jewish) and they told me it was flattering of the culture and not offensive.

However, for anyone reading this who felt offended, I’m sorry. That was certainly not my intent. My intent was to say, you’ve got it right! God commanded a day of rest and we SHOULD all be doing it.

It is better for ourselves and our families when we follow that commandment to honor the Sabbath. God knows what he’s doing. He commanded it for a reason. It often feels like Western Christianity has missed the mark. We are all so busy, we forget to observe a day of rest.

How have things changed for our family over the years? Well, we stuck to our 24 hours of rest and family time for quite a while. Then we moved and that messed everything up. We had to move in with family for about 3 months in between selling our old house and buying our new house and it was difficult to observe it there. We got out of the habit and then did not pick it back up when we moved into our new house.

Lately, though I have thought more and more about how blessed we were when we followed that day of rest. About 4 or 5 months ago I talked to my husband about getting back into it, but following the Christian Sabbath. Now we start at sundown on Saturday (or dinnertime) and end at dinnertime on Sunday. We followed much of the same rules we have before: no electronics, spend time together as a family, attend church on Sunday, spend time talking to our children about our faith, etc.

Some differences this time around though:

  • We aim for fellowship with our extended family or friends when possible. It’s a great time to have grandparents over or friends from church.
  • We DO cook a big, delicious meal for Saturday night. I try to make it a meal where we will have enough leftovers for Sunday or we order pizza on Sunday to keep it an easy, restful day
  • We also finally solved the desserts dilema with the kids. They were wanting sweets all week long. Now they are reserved for the Sabbath and everyone loves that! We try to make the desserts special too (like Cherry Delight) and change it up each week.

We have lots of yummy, delicious foods (like Challah bread) and spend the best fellowship time together.

It feels great to observe the Sabbath as a family and have this day of rest. I will always remember my trip to Israel fondly as such a great learning experience! I’m thankful I had a chance to experience Shabbat and realize the importance of keeping the commandment to honor the Sabbath.

monique s

Wednesday 22nd of September 2021

so intereesting. thanks for sharing

Hleziphi Mapury

Sunday 5th of September 2021

Wow I'm glad I took time to read this blog. You know in life we take things for granted. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints,and this is our way of life.To keep the Sabbath day holy.Before the pandemic we would go to church on Sunday come back home and spend family time together. Ours was never so structured as to when to start when to end.but these are the principles we would follow,no buying on Sunday,no work on sunday,avoid doing any activities that would take our focus from the Lord.this means will have to prepare everything on Saturday for Sunday. But because it was unstructured we find ourselves sleeping while the kids watch tv. One thing I always feel and find special about Sunday,is the peace it comes with.from the morning throughout the day. What I'm learning from your article is to have plans so that we don't spend the day lazying around. Thank you.Hlezi from South Africa.

Peggy Nunn

Sunday 29th of August 2021

I like the concept you have. I will be thinking of it.

gloria patterson

Saturday 28th of August 2021

Israel was a special place to visit it. It touched me in a lot of ways. I am glad that you and your family have made your own time together with family and friends

Jacqueline S Strand

Tuesday 18th of May 2021

G-d's commandments are for all His people - we are all His people - not just jews. Genesis 15 states that Abraham believed G-d and it was credited to him as righteousness. Circumsion didn't make him a jew - belief did. We should all keep all His commandments. It was a "mixed multitude" that came out of Egypt during the great Exodus. G-d delivered egyptians & Israelites together from Egypt (sin)....