Resources for Hosting a Shabbat Dinner
Below is the memo that we send to hosts of our My Jewish Neighborhood project at the United Synagogue of Hoboken. It includes links to the text of the blessings for Friday night dinners (in pdf format) and sound files (in mp3 format) to help people to learn the ritual elements of Friday night dinners. Photocopies are at http://www.scheinberg.net/rabbi/shabbat_dinner_ritual_sheets_for_my_jewish_neighborhood.pdf .
Necessary items: Please make sure you have:
a. Wine and/or grape juice: I strongly recommend that grape juice be available as an option even if your meal is an adult-only gathering, because there are a number of people who, for one reason or another, don’t drink wine.
b. Wine cups for all who are present, with a preference for a festive cup (if you have one) especially for the leader. It doesn’t have to be a specially designated ‘kiddush cup.’
c. Challah bread. Most traditional to have two loaves. Traditional to have it on a plate (though it doesn’t need to be a specially designated ‘Challah plate) and to have it covered (nice to use a specially designated “challah cover,” but a napkin is also ok). It is also traditional to have salt on the table (in a salt shaker is fine) as some have the tradition of sprinkling salt on the challah before it is served.
d. Ritual Photocopies, available at http://www.scheinberg.net/rabbi/shabbat_dinner_ritual_sheets_for_my_jewish_neighborhood.pdf . There should be one for each person. Put one out at each place setting. You can feel free to use benchers/birkonim instead, if you have some that you feel are age-appropriate for the people who will be attending.
The flow of the evening:
a. At each place setting, have the attached 4-page packet available with Shabbat prayers/songs
b. Welcome people as they arrive
c. The host gives a general introduction and welcome.
d. Do some kind of ice-breaker activity to help people to meet each other. (we will send out an e-mail with some suggestions.) This could be done by the host or one of the facilitators.
e. The rituals begin.
i. Shalom Aleichem – sing together (clip available at http://www.scheinberg.net/rabbi/Friday_night_songs/Track5.mp3)
ii. Parental blessings (if there are children present)
iii. Kiddush: Some people pour wine/grape juice for everyone and then leader recites (recommended); some people have leader recite it while holding a full cup and then passes it around and people drink from the cup or pour into their own cups. Sound clip available at http://www.scheinberg.net/rabbi/Friday_night_songs/friday_night_kiddush.mp3
iv. Ritual hand-washing (if desired): If you want to do this, you can find instructions at http://www.myjewishlearning.com/daily_life/Prayer/blessings_index/Handwashing.htm. The Scheinberg-Kalish household finds it useful to have a poster with the blessing for hand-washing (in Hebrew and English) on the refrigerator; Go to www.scheinberg.net/rabbi/netilat%20yadayim%20poster.pdf to download one.
v. Hamotzi: recite or sing; then distribute challah to everyone.
f. The meal itself
g. (For My Jewish Neighborhood dinners: ) The educational / storytelling component of the evening
i. Birkat Ha-Mazon – blessing after the meal: Sound file of the abbreviated version in the packet, at http://www.scheinberg.net/rabbi/Friday_night_songs/shir_hamaalot.mp3, followed by http://www.scheinberg.net/rabbi/Friday_night_songs/birkat_hamazon_abbreviated.mp3.