Friday night, or as we call it, Shabbat Eve, is always a special evening, an evening on which we welcome the Sabbath with excitement and anticipation. In preparation for this special day, which actually begins at nightfall, our children are all bathed and dressed in their favorite attire, an objective not easily attained.
In honor of the Sabbath, we clean the house until it sparkles. And as soon as the sun begins its descent over the horizon, my wife lights the Shabbat candles as the soothing aroma of fresh homemade challah — special Shabbat bread — fills the air as though announcing, “Shabbat is here!”
After years of experiencing Shabbat in the same home, and with the same family, friends, and synagogue, I can honestly say how no two Sabbaths are alike; each one different is than its predecessor. Every Shabbat has its own particular feeling or flavor. Every Shabbat has its own unique blessing, and though many of the rituals we perform are the same, each Shabbat feels fresh and new, as if we had never experienced Shabbat like this before.
This past Shabbat we had the honor of sharing a Friday night Sabbath meal with a Christian family who have been supporting Israel through The Fellowship. It’s not every week that we have the privilege of hosting a family’s first Shabbat in our home, and our children were happy to show off all their knowledge about Judaism, the Sabbath, and the Torah portion we read in synagogue.
As we sat around the Shabbat table sharing stories of faith, it felt so natural and so blessed to share this meal with our Christian friends. We recalled that not too long ago, Jews and Christians did not have good relations, and that sharing a Sabbath meal would have been very unusual.
Spending this sacred time with Christians made me realize just how special these times are in which we live. After centuries of persecution and mistrust, the close bond between Jews and Christians is only growing stronger.
We cannot take this for granted. The friendship between our faiths must constantly be strengthened by spending time getting to know one another, by spending time in worship and fellowship. And just like Shabbat, which arrives each week to strengthen our love for God, so too, as a Jew who is privileged to meet many Christians who love and support Israel, I must cherish each and every encounter and never take these friendships for granted.