Gut Shabbes

“Hooh!” Marie took a loud, deep breath. She was glad her work was almost done. Friday was a very busy day as usual. After school, Marie had hurried back home to finish her work before Sabbath began at sundown. Her special jobs were to scrub the floor and to polish the brass candlesticks.

On hands and knees, Marie continued to scrub the unpainted floorboards with a scrub brush and soap till it was spotless. Then, she took Mama's treasured brass chandelier from the shelf and put it on the dining room table. Once more the antique brass gave a bright glow after she rubbed it with a paste of cleansing powder. Sparkling like gold, its white pointed candles stood unevenly like her five little fingers in a row.

“Marie, my dear, you're such a relief! I can't imagine how this house would be like without you,” Mama declared.

Marie's face brightened with her mother's words. She was just as glad for being at home and finishing her tasks. Then she thought about her friends. They were having a big picnic on Saturday. It could be real fun. She wished she could join them. But surely not on the Sabbath. Her friends were sorry for her. Some even teased her for being different. To them, the idea of not working or playing or having some fun on such a lovely weekend sounded weird. But Marie believed it was important to keep God's laws. She always loved to keep the Sabbath. It was a special and happy day for her family.

In a moment, Marie's five-year-old brother, James, scurried to the table. “When is Sabbath?” he asked. He seemed to pose the question almost every day of the week.

“It won't take very long,” Marie answered.

James followed her as she took his hand to bathe. Then they changed their clothes for the evening.

In the kitchen Mama was busy cooking the Shabbat meal - a special meal traditionally for Friday supper. The delicious aroma of gefilte fish and the bean curd soup filled the house. At sundown, she rang the tiny bell and everyone gathered around the dinner table. Little James scampered around gleefully and sat on his favorite place, looking neat and fresh. Marie quietly sat next to him. Then James switched off the electric lantern that lit the room. He always remembered to do it as soon as the candles were lighted and to turn it on after he blew off the candles when prayer and dinner were over. Soon, their faces were illumined by the Sabbath candle lights which seemed to cast a spell of peace as they glowed in the dark.

They soon bowed down their heads. Then Mama prayed. Her Hebrew words were solemn. She moved her hands over the candles, then covering her eyes, she exclaimed “Amen, Gut Shabbes!” Gut Shabbes is a jewish greeting which means “Good Sabbath.”

“Gut Shabbes!” Marie and James repeated.

After the Shabbat meal, it was time to relax. Mama would tell them Bible stories and answer their questions. The best part of it were the back rubs that Mama gave them while telling about how great Noah's ark was or how God talked to Moses at Mount Sinai.

“That feels soooo good!” Marie said while Mama, acting out the story on Marie's back, “hammered” and “sawed” to build the ark and “pounded” the rain.

“Tell us more,” James begged. This time Mama “rolled” the thunder and “zigzagged” the lightning on his back as she told about Moses. He chuckled when it almost tickled. But soon, James's bright, playful eyes were getting heavy. His limp body curled while his head rested on Mama's lap. He was obviously tired from scampering around the house and playing a lot during the week.

“I'm so glad it's Sabbath,” Marie said.

“Me, too.” James's drowsy eyes sparkled for a while.

Marie still felt Mama's soothing touch on her back. Once again, she was glad to have a break from school and from all her chores. As a child, she was taught how to keep Sabbath in the Jewish traditional way. But it was God who designed the Sabbath for some very special fun and purpose, a moment for Him, a day for Marie's family and the rest of His Creation to remember.

Arts | Fiction | Short Stories

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