Your Guide to the Sabbath Dinner

Principle 1: Have physical elements as symbols of spiritual realities

Lighting candles is one of four physical symbols we use, along with water, bread and wine. Physical symbols make rituals a multi-sensory, intergenerational way of sharing faith together. We find that giving meaning to physical symbols helps people at all stages of the journey of faith come close to God in a way other things may not do. Lighting the candles with these words and actions gives an opportunity to welcome the goodness of Jesus into our lives and the lives of those around us. As with each symbol, it would work to just take this first section as a stand-alone ritual: light a candle over dinner or breakfast or even before watching a film together and welcome God into your home.


The Bible says that only those with clean hands and pure hearts can stand in God’s holy place. We wash our hands with water and ask Jesus to make our hearts clean.

Take it in turns to wash your hands in a bowl of water, or pass it on. As we wash our hands, we can say our own sorry to God either out loud or silently, or we can use these words:

I wash my hands to the Messiah, the hope of glory, to serve Him only.

Principle 2: Invite everyone to join you, but make it optional

Our second symbol, water, provides a weekly time to say sorry to each other and to God and to be forgiven. We make sure it’s optional, and visitors are invited to pass it to the next person if they prefer. However, we’ve found most people have taken the opportunity to wash away negative things from their lives, and many have apologized to family members either at the table or later in the evening. I thought that the imagery of washing your heart clean might be too abstract for young children, but I’ve found that somehow it connects with them. This simple ritual of washing could also be done at bath time or whenever you have water handy.


These two loaves represent the double portion of manna the Israelites collected in the desert. It is a symbol of the work of the worker. As we break this bread, we remember Jesus and His body which was broken. We bless You, Lord our God, king of the universe who gives us bread from the earth.

Break one loaf and pass pieces around for everyone to eat.

Principle 3: Allow space and time to make connections

The bread is a symbol which intentionally makes connections between two big Bible stories. Although you could use two slices of cut bread, I love baking and so usually make fresh bread, which has the added bonus of filling the house with evocative smells as we prepare for Shabbat. We’ve had traditional honey flavored challah bread and focaccia, and currently share chocolate naan bread, a family favorite! One way you could do this is to choose your family favorite bread and pause once a week before you share it together to thank God for Jesus and all He means to you.


Pour the wine and juice and hold the cups and say:

Wine and juice are symbols of joy and celebration. We drink this wine and juice to celebrate all the good things we have in life and to remember Jesus. We bless You, Lord our God, king of the universe, who gives us the fruit of the vine.

Pass around the cup and invite everyone to sip the wine and juice.

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Victoria Beech runs GodVenture to help families do faith at home together. She has a series of sticker activity books and other fun resources including Bible GodVen­ture52, a pack of cards with 52 ideas on exploring the Bible together at home. Get two packs for £10 using the code ‘YCW’ at