My family has a regular Shabbat observance. We either celebrate at home or attend our synagogueâ€™s family service and dinner. But while we religiously mark the Sabbath in Dallas, we are not very good about practicing this tradition when weâ€™re on vacation. In fact, when weâ€™re away we donâ€™t celebrate Shabbat at all.
My son Sammy keenly pointed out this fact during spring break. As we rode the chair lift to the top of a mountain in Colorado, he said, â€śMommy, its Friday.â€ť
â€śI know, one more day of skiing,â€ť I responded.
â€śNo, itâ€™s Friday,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s Shabbat!â€ť
â€śOh yeah,â€ť I said a little embarrassed that I had forgotten the significance of the day.
â€śHow are we going to celebrate?â€ť Sammy asked.
â€śWell, we donâ€™t have candles or matches and even if we did, I donâ€™t think itâ€™s safe to leave them burning in the hotel room while weâ€™re out or asleep,â€ť I answered. â€śWeâ€™ll celebrate next week when weâ€™re at home.â€ť
â€śWe can still say Shabbat Shalom,â€ť Sammy replied.
â€śYouâ€™re right, we can do that,â€ť I said.
â€śShabbat Shalom,â€ť we said together and gave each other a kiss.
It wasnâ€™t the most meaningful observance, but at least it was something.
After we got home and back into our regular Friday night routine I began to think about how we might maintain our ritual on vacation. I was motivated to find a way to do this before the start of our summer travels.
I knew packing candles and matches was out of the question since we would be flying, and buying Shabbat supplies at our destination would require too much effort. I wanted an easy and convenient solution. I wanted an app.
Now, I recognize that a Shabbat app is veryâ€¦un-Shabbat. Itâ€™s not exactly kosher to use an electronic device to mark a holiday on which you are meant to disconnect, but I decided to check my phoneâ€™s app store anyway. To my surprise, I found several options including iShabbat.
I chose iShabbat because it was simple. It allowed me to â€ślightâ€ť the candles by dragging a â€śflameâ€ť to the wicks and provided the words for the blessing in Hebrew, English and transliteration. A selection of traditional melodies such as Adon Olom and Sholom Aleichem could be played in the background while the candles â€śburnedâ€ť over a two-hour period.
With app in hand we embarked on the first leg of our month-long vacation in mid-July. On a Friday night in Seattle we test-drove iShabbat in a park near Pike Place Market as we watched the sun set over Elliott Bay.
We opened the app, and Sammy lit the candles as we recited the blessing together. Then we played Sholom Aleichem and wished each other Shabbat Shalom as we took in the beautiful view. It was a meaningful way to mark our family tradition and ensure that we carry Shabbat with us on vacation.