Different religions and cultures have varying customs, holidays, and celebrations. For the Jewish, one of their most celebrated days is Shabbat. This occurs at sunset every Friday and continues until the sunset of the next day. Shabbat is celebrated to commemorate the 7th biblical day of creation.
Non-Jewish guests who are invited to celebrate Shabbat dinner at a Jewish friend’s home or a Jewish restaurant should be honored. However, since the celebration is based on tradition, there are etiquette rules to remember to avoid offending the host and their family. These are a few simple rules to remember:
#1: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
If you’re curious about the Jewish faith, their practices, and traditions, don’t be afraid to ask the host. Just remember to be polite and don’t pressure anyone to answer your questions if they are busy with preparations or feel uncomfortable.
#2: Never Bring Home-Cooked Food
While it might seem like a good idea to bring home-cooked food to a dinner party, Jewish homes are Kosher. If the food you bring isn’t Kosher, it can be seen as offensive. Ask the host about their favorite Jewish restaurant and if you can order food from there to bring to Shabbat if you really want to bring food.
#3: A House Gift Is Welcome
While non-Kosher food might not be the best idea, giving the host beautiful hand towels or some hand soap as a thank you is always appreciated. However, avoid giving flowers unless they are already inside a vase because as part of their custom, putting flowers in water is prohibited during Shabbat.
#4: Expect A Pre-Dinner Ritual
Depending on how religious the family is, you can expect everything from the lighting of blessed candles to signing to set a festive mood that can last 5 to 15 minutes. Before dinner can start, the host and their family will wash their hands. After, the blessing and eating of challah (bread) will start.
Non-Jewish guests may be invited to participate, but you are in no way obligated to do so if you do not feel comfortable.
#5: Observe Silence During Hand-Washing
It is best to wait until the challah is blessed and then passed around the table before speaking. Or better yet, do not speak unless someone else does to avoid an awkward moment. Follow the lead of the host and their family as a sign of respect.
#6: Don’t Use Your Phone
Using your phone during any dinner party is disrespectful, more so during Shabbat. In fact, mobile phones and any form of technology are prohibited during Shabbat so it is best to leave your phone at home or shut it off until you are on your way home.
#7: Sing And Enjoy!
After all the rituals and blessings, a Shabbat dinner will become loud, festive, and fun, just like most dinner parties. As a guest, you should enjoy everything your host offers and join in the celebration. After all, not many non-Jewish people get a chance to see, participate, and celebrate Shabbat.
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