Good Morning, Israel: Friday is Not a Day Off

Friday is not a work day in Israel, unless you keep Shabbat, in which case you have plenty to do

By Michael Selutin |
Shabbat might be a day of rest, but it's also busy
Photo: Flash90

Good morning dear reader!

Today it’s my turn to start your morning off with a look at our personal lives here in Israel. We are an Orthodox Jewish family with four children (ages 12, 6, 4 and 3) living in the Jerusalem-area city of Beit Shemesh. It feels as if there are more synagogues than residents in our religious neighborhood.

I’m writing to you on Friday morning as we begin preparations for the soon-coming Sabbath. It’s always an exciting time, especially in the winter, when the sun sets earlier, and Shabbat begins shortly after 4 pm. Before then, all the food for the entire weekend must be prepared, the apartment needs to be fully cleaned, the children bathed and nicely dressed, and finally, with the last of my strength, I must drag myself to synagogue to welcome in the Shabbat.

What makes things a little easier is that the children still have school on Friday mornings, meaning my wife and I can prepare lunch in relative peace. When the kids get home, that’s when the real work begins. 

Here’s to hoping that everything’s done by sunset, never an easy task with three little ones!

A typical Friday in our home goes something like this:

“Sarah took the doll away from me!” Racheli (4) cries.

“Give the doll back to Racheli!” my wife shouts, as she pushes the chicken into the oven for the next day.

“But that’s my doll!” Sarah (6) shouts again, and slaps Racheli, who gives another heartbreaking scream.

“Michael, check what they are doing!” my wife shouts (as you can see, there is a lot of exclaiming and shouting).

I put the vacuum cleaner aside and go to the children’s room, where Racheli sits tear-stained on her bed, and Sarah calmly plays with the doll. The whole of the children’s room is full of dolls and toys, but of course these two have to fight over a certain doll.

“Racheli, take another doll to play with,” I say annoyed.

“No!” she yells back, and buries herself under the covers.

Naomi (3) comes waddling up and holds out her arms for me to pick her up. I’ll never get the vacuuming done now. With Naomi in my arms, I stand a little disoriented in the nursery. Racheli is quiet under her covers now. Maybe she fell asleep. That would be helpful. Sarah plays with the doll, and all I have to do is get rid of Naomi so that I can finish the cleaning. I put her on the floor, but she clings to me.

“Naomi, I have to vacuum now, please play with Sarah,” I say, but she l

looks at me suspiciously.

“Sarah, please play with Naomi, too,” I implore.

“Sure,” she replies and gives her the doll she had previously fought over with Racheli.

Naomi and Sarah are now playing peacefully with each other, Racheli is silent under the covers, and I sneak out of the room to start vacuuming again. After, it’s time to bathe all the girls, then mop the floor, finish the cooking, prepare enough hot water for the duration of Shabbat, set the Shabbat candles, clean up new messes that have appeared in the meantime, and a lot more. At 4:30 pm, I finally sit in the quiet synagogue and look forward to tomorrow’s day of rest.

Shabbat Shalom from Beit Shemesh!


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