Erev Shabbat & Shabbat
Welcoming the Sabbath
Honoring Shabbat (kavod Shabbat) on Preparation Day (Friday) includes cleaning and beautifying the home (with flowers, for example).
According to Jewish law, Shabbat starts a few minutes before sunset. Candles are lit at this time. It is customary in many communities to light the candles 18 minutes before sundown (tosefet Shabbat, though sometimes 36 minutes), and most printed Jewish calendars adhere to this custom.
Before Friday night dinner, it is customary to sing two songs, one "greeting" two Shabbat angels into the house, and the other praising the woman of the house for all the work she has done over the past week.*
*See reference on this page to Proverbs 31
After blessings over the wine and challah, a festive meal is served. Singing is traditional at Sabbath meals. According to rabbinic literature, God via the Torah commands Jews to observe (refrain from forbidden activity) and remember (with words, thoughts, and actions) Shabbat, and these two actions are symbolized by the customary two Shabbat candles. Candles are lit usually by the woman of the house (or else by a man who lives alone). Some families light more candles, sometimes in accordance with the number of children.
Challah (/xɒlɑː/; Hebrew: חלה [χa'la]), plural: challot /xɒloʊt/ or challos /xɒləs/, is a special Jewish braided bread eaten on Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
The name challah comes from the biblical requirement, hafrashat challah—separating challah. The etymology of the Hebrew root halal is uncertain. It may originally have indicated roundness ("circle") and then also came to denote hollowness ("space") or vice versa. The bread was originally called hallah in Hebrew, since it was baked in the form of a round loaf. It is also now known as cholla bread.
Preparing braided challah
Most traditional Ashkenazi challah recipes use numerous eggs, fine white flour, water, sugar, yeast, and salt, but "water challah" made without eggs also exists. Modern recipes may replace white flour with whole wheat, oat, or spelt flour or sugar with honey or molasses.
Among Sephardic Jews, water challah is preferred for ritual purposes because Sephardic minhag does not require the Mitzvah of Challah if the dough contains eggs or sugar. While breads very similar to Ashkenazi egg challah are found in Sephardic cuisine, they are typically not referred to as challah but considered variants of regional breads like çörek, that are eaten by Jews and non-Jews alike.
Egg challahs sometimes also contain raisins and/or saffron. After the first rising, the dough is rolled into rope-shaped pieces which are braided, though local (hands in Lithuania, fish or hands in Tunisia) and seasonal (round, sometimes with a bird's head in the center) varieties also exist. Poppy or sesame (Ashkenazi) and anise or sesame (Sephardic) seeds may be added to the dough or sprinkled on top. Both egg and water challah are usually brushed with an egg wash before baking to add a golden sheen.
Challah is usually parve (containing neither dairy nor meat—important in the laws of Kashrut), unlike brioche and other enriched European breads, which contain butter or milk.
It is customary for guests to remain silent between the recitation of the blessing over the challah and the consumption of the bread.
Kindling the Shabbat Candles ~
Traditionally the wife or mother of the home covers her head with a veil or cloth & lights the candles.
Both hands are passed over the flames three times, gathering the warmth towards her;
she then covers her eyes with her hands & recites the blessing:
"Blessed are You, Oh L-rd, our G-d,
King of the Universe
Who sets us apart by Your commandments,
And instructs us to kindle the Sabbath Lights."
It is also traditional for the husband / father to read this scripture,
honoring his wife:
10 A wife of noble character, who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gates.
Salting the challah
According to Jewish law and practice, salting challah is a critical component of HaMotzi, the blessing over bread. Salt has always played an indispensable role in Jewish life and ritual dating back to the biblical period of ancient Israel. With high quantities located in the Dead Sea region of the historical land of the Jewish people, salt was considered the most essential and common of all elements. In the Torah, salt symbolizes the eternal covenant with God. As a preservative, the mineral never spoils or decays, signifying the immortality of this bond. Moreover, adding taste to food, salt represents a covenant with God that has meaning and flavor.
Please note: This information is courtesy of Wikipedia and is simply meant to give you an overview of some of the history and traditions of Shabbat.
We encourage you and your family to take part in these lovely rituals; practices and traditions will vary from household to household as the L-rd leads!