USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Shabbat’
Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Shabbat Khayal

The informant is an Israeli American who grew up practicing traditions from both her Israeli and Persian culture. She describes a custom surrounding the sending off and return of teenagers who are drafted as soldiers. The informant recalls one of these parties that she attended when she was young.

  • Shabbat Khayal is an Israeli tradition having to do with young soldiers. There is a kind of sending off that people do, when they first are um drafted. And so people have you know: goodbye parties, they’ll have um celebrations and then everybody holds their breath until soldiers get through their training which is like an intensive three months that they don’t really see family and its you know really crazy and they don’t really see their families and then there is a homecoming and thats a really big deal. The moms will buy all their favorite food and snacks and cook all their favorite meals and get their rooms ready and its like a whole you know and theres an excitement and build up when the family comes over and everybody wants to hear stories and see how that teenager has changed… so um theres that kind of anticipation and you know people know who’s son is coming home and this home’s daughter is coming home and there is a lot of support in the community around it. And once they’re placed within the army, and they kind of know what they are going to be doing for the next two or three years, then they get weekends off here and there, and those weekends are a really big deal. You know, same thing happens- you know family gets together, everybody comes for shabbat, the soldiers are like center of attention. Again everything with the food, they do their laundry, they make sure that they’re resting, that they’re seeing their friends, its like a whole big thing when a soldier is home. And i think thats in the fabric of pretty much every Israeli family.
  • Sometimes people will take them to see a rabbi or someone for a blessing before they send them back out- depending on their background and culture you know if they’re Persian, Ashkenazi Jews, but some people will take them to someone and ask them to kind of say you know thank God, you made it through this far and then before we turn around and send him back you know give a blessing to make sure that he/she is safe and that God watches over them and that they come back to the family. So a lot of people will set something up like that or take them to Jerusalem or something kind of sentimental like that. 
  • I was apart of one of these rituals when I was a little younger for my cousin- it was such a build up, I mean you don’t really hear from them or have contact with them. I mean I can’t even think about what to compare it to here in America, I mean there is not really much- you’re sending a teenager away, and its a high schooler and they’ve just graduated and all of a sudden they are thrown into this entirely different setting, so I just remember my aunt getting everything ready and going to every different market and getting all his favorites and getting them all together and making sure it was all there. And then him coming home and looking so grown up and different and everybody wanting to hear all his stories and how is was, and what does he think he wants to do in the army, and how did he test, and he becomes that kind of center of attention and it will last all weekend, and people will spend the night, and want to be with them and yeah its very special. 

ANALYSIS:

I think that a traditions such at Shabbat Khayal are really important for families who have loved ones at war or in training. I think the whole celebration an already special occasion that much more intimate and important for both the family and the teenager. Most importantly, I believe that people continue to have these celebrations not only because it is tradition, but because it gives the family and the teenager something to think about and look forward too, instead of the family anxiously waiting around for the teenager to return they have the opportunity to run around preparing and gathering friends and family, focusing on what is most important in life.

 

 

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Shabbat Dinner

The informant describes themselves, “I’m a queer cis-gendered female, I’m part Mexican-American, part Persian-Israeli. I’m a student at USC. I’m Jewish. I’m about to hopefully be an EMT, if all works out.” Also – “I’m a really big cat lady.”

 

 

Tell me about Shabbat dinner. How do you Shabbat?

So – growing up, I like kind of experienced Shabbat a handful of times when my dad was aroud. But it was never really – it never took off as a big thing after he left. Then when I got to USC, and I got involved with the Jewish community here – Shabbat became more of a tradition in my life. And even though I’m not the most religious person, I consider myself a lot more spiritually Jewish than practicing and ‘following the rules’-type Jewish – so I don’t exactly partake in the ritualistic hand washing or..

Did your family do that? What was your typical family Shabbat like vs your USC Shabbat? And was it just with your family, or did you do ever do Shabbat with a community?

Ok, the two times I did it with my mom and dad, um, there was – it was like a small – it was just the three of us. A small dinner. We did our blessings, and the handwashing, and the hamotzi, and the wine. Um. And when I got here, I learned a bit more about – it was my first community Shabbat – and I felt – it felt good to learn a little bit more in depth about what Shabbat meant. And that hey, I wasn’t alone in not partaking in certain things, like people my age also kind of just want to eat a little bit before meal, or not do the hand washing, or talk in between washing your hands and doing the other blessings.

What does Shabbat mean to you?

I feel really Jewish right now. “What it means to me!” Seriously, Shabbat means to me- taking a break from your responsibilities and really looking at yourself, and going “Hey, slow down. Life is more than crazy assignments and exams, take some time for yourself. Nourish yourself, eat some food. Relax.’ It kinda brings you back down to earth for a little bit.

What do you find most meaningful from the Shabbat dinner?

The people – being around people. It would mean nothing to me without having friends to talk to, and – I don’t know, talking to people about their crazy week and relating back to things and knowing that you’re not alone.

So what does a typical USC Shabbat dinner look like?

Pretty fun at Hillel. There’s lots of food, and good company, and lots of wine. And it’s a good experience. It’s actually probably something I’m really gonna miss – being around other people and taking time to wind down and eat good food. I really underestimated how much Shabbat actually meant these last four years. It’s actually like “Shit, I’m gonna miss it.” I’ll make an effort to continue doing it, but it’s just –the people here at Hillel. Pretty great.

When did you start wanting to participate in Shabbat dinners? Because you said it was never really a thing you had enjoyed much before, although you knew about it and had done it – so when it happened at USC, it wasn’t like “Oh my! This is a whole new experience! I wanna – yay!”

Yeah – I think that a lot of it comes from me wanting to explore – ok. Here’s how everything came to be. My dad was the Jewish one, my mom met him and converted- but apparently that wasn’t enough, because his mom was one of those stereotypical Iranian crazy Jewish moms who was like “She isn’t one of us, she isn’t really Jewish, it’s either her or me,” and he chose his mom so he left. And so my mom remained spiritually Jewish- she tried the hardest she could to keep us both involved in Jewish life. We actually joined a temple in my hometown for a while when I was in the 4th grade. And that lasted one or two years – but also from the temple we kinda got the same thing, like “Oh, you’re just some Mexican lady, you’re not actually Jewish. And so we left there too. And then from there on out it was kinda like “Alright, we can have our own beliefs, and we’ll keep our Judaism in our home. And yeah, we might not have Shabbat dinner every week, but we still have our faith.” It was kind of just like – we’re not practicing but we’re silently faithful. And then I got here, and I don’t know, even in the very beginning of the year when they had the involvement fair, and all these – or before I got accepted when they had all of the “Explore USC! And look at all of our cool things we have!” There was like oh, Jewish life on campus, and it was kind of like “Oh, I can explore this part of my identity and not be judged for it. And look at maybe possibly” – at the time it was kind of a ‘who knows’ kind of thing, where can this lead? And it led to some good places. So I guess me getting involved in Shabbat dinners was the positive part of me finding my identity as a self-identified Jew.

 

 

Did not go over basic Shabbat practice and the meaning of the individual referenced components (the hamotzi, the wine, etc.), but got to speak of Shabbat as a whole and comparative variant practices.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Kabbalat shabbat rituals

INFO:
After the Sabbath starts, is that part of any eating ritual is that before you eat, you wash your hands in a ritual way just with water and say a prayer. Between saying the prayer and eating a piece of bread, you can’t talk. When you have a family or guests over, it takes a moment for everybody to go through the ritual before blessing the bread and partaking in it together.

In the few minutes that it takes for people to come back and sit back down at the table, no one can talk, but everyone will hum songs. These tunes are just known from growing up together, and sometimes it’s just the head of the house humming it and sometimes other people will join in, but it makes the space very happy. There’s no reason for it other than just to make the space beautiful.

BACKGROUND:
Literally means “the welcome of shabbat (Sabbath).” Practically, all the blessings and songs and rituals that you do to welcome the Sabbath in on Friday night, though there are rituals, such as the one listed above, that you can do on the Sabbath itself.

The idea behind it: making things beautiful to welcome in the Sabbath — you’re not just celebrating, but you’re doing it even though you don’t need to. Generally, it means being unnecessarily fancy for the Sabbath, e.g. cleaning the house, wearing fancy clothes, getting out nice dishes.

The informant has a memory of her grandfather always humming when her family would come over on Friday nights, or when he came over on Friday nights. He’s a huge part of her life, and one of her greatest inspirations.

CONTEXT:
I spoke to my informant during an on-campus event.

ANALYSIS:
During my undergrad years at USC, I sometimes went over to my Jewish friend’s house to partake in their shabbat dinners. I never knew there were religious rituals attached to it, but this one really captivates me because of its inherent quietness. When many people think of rituals or festivals, they think of noise and excitement, but this is one ritual that’s incredibly low-key in practice, but still shows a strong devotion to and respect of the religious rite.

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