Out come the jelly beans. Two tiny glass bowls filled to the rim with colorful sugary candies. This is how I know the meal is coming to an end.
Every Friday night since I can remember, my family gathers around the Shabbat table. In my family, going out with friends on Friday night was just not an option. Instead, my entire house would be filled with my family, friends, and guests, all excited to bring in Shabbat.
Early in the night, I light Shabbat candles with my mother and sisters. We eventually sit down for dinner when schmoozing comes to a perfect breaking point (in a Jewish house, this will take forever). I would first receive a special blessing from my father, in which he compares his three daughters to the matriarchs of our religion.
We then proceed to make Kiddush, the blessing over the wine, which differentiates Shabbat from any other day of the week and sanctifies the holiness of the day. Afterwards, we wash our hands with a ritual cup, before reciting the hamotzi, the blessing over the challah. Challah is the sweet delicious bread that makes almost every Shabbat meal special.
To any person unfamiliar with the traditions, these practices appear solely as ritualistic practices. But for me, these performances signify the uniqueness of Shabbat, the differentiation of Friday from any other day of the week.
In high school and college, when every day feels like an exhausting whirlwind of new experiences, there was something extremely satisfying and grounding in knowing that every Friday night I'm guaranteed to sit down and enjoy a delicious meal. I look forward to the drinking, the exorbitant amount of food, and the delicious desserts. I prepare to eat my fair share of challah for the week, munch on delicious vegetables, salads, soups, and meats, and soak in the songs and prayers of the week. At the end of every long week, it always feels like Shabbat comes at the perfect time.
Someone once asked me what makes my Shabbat dinners at home special. There are some basics at every Shabbat dinner. But in every family, there is something that makes their Shabbat different. Some friends have told me that their challahs are homemade and filled with rainbow sprinkles. Others perform a ritual where they take the challah and instead of cutting it, rip it and throw it around the table.
For me, it was those sugary jelly beans that always came to the table at the conclusion of every meal. While it seems inconsequential, it was a dish at my shabbat table that added so much color and sweetness. l have never seen it done anywhere else, so it felt unique and special to my family. As I get older, and begin to bring in Shabbat in my own ways on campus—with challah, grape juice, and delicious food—I am continuously asking myself: what will make my meal just a little bit special?