I enjoyed teaching at many orientation days this season. And, whenever I showed a piece of child’s artwork about experiencing Shabbat at home, a teacher would ask, “But, what if your students don’t ‘do’ Shabbat at home?” I have come to expect this question. It makes me wonder about what ‘doing’ Shabbat means, since Shabbat is a day of ‘not doing.’ Perhaps we should begin to teach about embracing Shabbat, instead of ‘doing’ Shabbat because today’s families are so busy that they cannot hear about one more thing to ‘do,’ even if we are talking about Shabbat. To begin to change this dynamic, to invite Shabbat into our families’ homes, we must make our Shabbat learning magical.
Making hallah covers is a staple of the Shabbat learning experience. Like everything else we create in the Jewish classroom, this artwork must not be disposable. Rather, the experience of creating a personal hallah cover should be as sacred as making motzi over the bread. No matter what age my students, we make our hallah covers from silk. You can buy square, hemmed, affordable, pieces of silk from www.dharmatrading.com. They are available in the scarves category. In awe of the beauty and feel of the silk, my students (even the older ones) draw their designs, using stencils if they wish, on white paper first. We work quietly with lovely music in the background. The room itself becomes kodesh. After I approve the design, the student artist tapes the silk over the paper and traces the design onto the silk with Crayola fabric markers. These markers can be layered for greater color effects and even spread a bit by adding water. When the artwork is done, you can ‘set’ the color by ironing or tossing in a hot dryer for 30 minutes. Your classroom can become a pseudo-Shabbat environment, whetting students’ appetites for the real thing, by covering their hallah snacks each with the new, unique hallah covers. Sending photos home encourages parents to continue the tradition.
It is easy for students to make candlesticks that they, and their parents, will treasure. You can buy full size wood candlesticks or wood candle cups (just the right size), wood cubes and spools in assorted sizes from www.enasco.com. With these in hand, and some tacky or carpenters glue, the student artists can build their own set of candlesticks. It is important, especially with very young students, that teachers not impose their own aesthetic on their students. Some students will want to make each candlestick different for an even more unique pair. They can then paint their candlesticks with acrylic paints. (Our favorites are the Molten Metals from Nasco) Since these, too, are kodesh, we want to paint with excellence. My rule is that student artists paint the entire candlestick one single color first and, when that dries, they can add the details with paint or decoupage pictures with Mod Podge. (Do send these candlesticks home with tin foil liners in the candle cups and a caution about the wood.) A family who has not before welcomed Shabbat will likely do so with their new candlesticks.
Miniature Shabbat Table Sets
My students delight in creating miniature Shabbat table sets. To begin these, you can buy small wood trays from www.orientaltrading.com. Students can paint or decoupage these. Then students add miniature candlesticks (you can purchase 1” candlesticks or students can fashion their own from tiny blocks). Model Magic is a fine medium for making tiny hallot and kiddush cups. Create a sacred atmosphere for the weeks it takes to complete these. Chat about Shabbat with each student and tantalize parents by sending home notes and photos. Enjoy sharing the gift of Shabbat with each of your students’ families.