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How Do We Add a Special Ambiance to Our Shabbat Meals?

How Do We Add a Special Ambiance to Our Shabbat Meals?



I’m newly married, and my husband and I eat dinner together every weeknight. I work full time, so I can’t cook anything very special for Shabbat—though I try—and I can’t seem to make the Shabbat dinner stand out from that of any other night. We also live in a very small community, making company almost impossible. Any ideas how to create some Shabbat ambiance with just the two of us?


I appreciate how difficult your situation can be. Here are some ideas to make Shabbat a really special experience:

  1. It is not for naught that the sages instituted that we light candles every Friday before Shabbat. Having your Shabbat candles on or near your dinner table lends your meal a special, glowing ambiance. You can extend that ambiance by making sure that you are dressed up for the occasion. Even though it is just the two of you, make sure you are wearing something special in honor of the Shabbat Queen.
  2. Food does make a huge difference. It doesn’t have to be anything time-consuming or complicated, but if you have some foods that you eat only on Shabbat, that in itself will make a difference to your table. It might also help to try making some things in advance, to avoid a Friday afternoon rush. Check out our Shabbat Recipes section; you’re sure to find there plenty of traditional quick and easy recipes. Also, even if you cannot cook, you can purchase some special foods for Shabbat as well. Fruit or cake for dessert does wonders.
  3. One of the things that characterizes a Shabbat meal is singing. These songs are known as Shabbat zemirot, literally “Shabbat songs.” The beautiful spiritual feeling they add to the Shabbat table is indescribable. In truth, all Jewish songs can do the trick. Invest in some good Jewish music, and choose your favorites to sing at the Shabbat table. Or go to our Jewish Music and Song section, where you will find a selection of Shabbat and other Jewish songs that you can learn in advance.
  4. Another aspect of your meal which can really enhance the uniqueness of the Shabbat experience is the subject of conversation. We’re taught that mundane discussions should not be held on Shabbat. I think you’ll find that customizing your conversations to fit the spirit of Shabbat will add a lot to your enjoyment of the day. I would suggest making it a point to prepare a thought beforehand to discuss, perhaps something on the weekly Torah portion (see our Parshah section for loads of ideas), or any relevant Torah issue which may have cropped up during the week. You can also print out a PDF version of our Parshah in Depth, which you can both read and discuss while you enjoy your meal.

Malkie Janowski for

Malkie Janowski is an accomplished educator who lives in Coral Springs, Florida. Mrs. Janowski is also a responder on's Ask the Rabbi team.
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Ruth Dwin January 3, 2017

When there is little time to prepare Shabbos dinner Dressing up can mean a fresh blouse. Most of us are in some form or other of your dilemma! Homemakers who are busy with full-time work do some of the preparations on Thursday night or even earlier. While you are making dinner for Thursday you can add some of the tasks to make Friday night's meal. If you use the food processor for vegetables you can also add the carrots or cucumbers, etc. for a salad on Friday night. Gefilte fish is available in a frozen loaf and is much tastier than the fish in jars. Jarred or canned gefilte fish can also be quite tasty. Some people simmer it in a broth with onion and carrot to accent the flavor. That could be done while you eat dinner on Thursday or while you clean up the kitchen after Thursday's meal. It doesn't take long. Think about doing some of the prep in advance and you will be able to make some special additions in very little time. I hope you enjoy your erev Shabbos dinners! As time passes these observances gain even greater value Reply

rachel eshaghzadeh Beverly hills ca March 7, 2013

how to mae a nice dinner for shabat hi buy a slow cooker it is perfect for working ladies. The size of the Shabat night and lunch for Shabat meat for 2 for night and the next lunch for tomorrow.

one small onion one large potato 2 1/2 cup water

about 2 1/2 cups of green beans one medium size eggplant

the night before bake the eggplant in the oil and turmeric and cover it with top also you can bake the green beans in the same sauce pan and cover it until it's cooked well. You can put meat or chicken in the sauce pan and about ten minutes in a little bit of oil, salt, turmeric, black pepper. Mix until it is a little golden, not more than five minutes each side the put meat or chicken in side slow cooker ad chopped onions about one small size of onion in the slow cooker and add about 2 cups of water and add potatoes about 1 large size add cover the top put six hours fast or 8 hour slow before you go to work. When you come back it will be ready since it will go on warm when you come back add the green beans and eggplant, also rice. Reply

Anonymous March 6, 2013

In addition to the ideas mentioned in the comments, another simple way to enhance the physical setting of your shabbos table would be to buy fresh flowers, specifically for Shabbos, and set aside a special shabbos tablecloth, and china dishes. Additionally, printing up a Torah thought before shabbos from a site such as to share over shabbos dinner. Add some zemiros, traditional Shabbos songs, to that, and your dinner will be transformed to a shabbos experience! Reply

sho770 Düsseldorf, Germany August 9, 2011

shabbos difference I try clearing the dining table and set up the special white shabbos tablecloth already a few hours before candle-lighting. I found out that if I do so, it´s suddenly easier to set the table afterwards. The candles are already set on the candlesticks, on their special plate, thursday night.
I try do bake challos and/or kugel (grate potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrot, add an egg or two, oil, a little flower, salt and pepper, bake for 40 min) on thursday too. It depends if you have the time.
I also try to do a fresh salad for seudat shlishit, and a potato/egg salad we really eat only on shabbos.
It does make a difference: it´s shabbos food if you prepare it only for that day.
We usually eat chicken only on shabbos too (except leftovers), so that´s already a nice smell in the home and something to look forward to. I cook chicken on a bed of carrot slices, with water, delicious.
If you can bake chocolate cake, count 2-3 cakes: one for shabbos, the rest to freeze. enjoy! Reply

Gary Edelstein Buffalo Grove, IL February 27, 2008

Adding ambiance to Shabbos dinner I fully understand your dilemna. If you live in a home with a kitchen & separate dining room, the odds are you eat dinner in the kitchen. For Shabbos (& holidays) use your dining room with a "special" table cloth. Different dishes & glasses reserved for Shabbos & holidays (other than Pesach) also make a difference. If you light candles, try to light them in an area where you can view them from your table. While these are physical & material ideas, they do help. Of course, as mentioned above, song & conversation help to elevate the Shabbos experience. Reply

Charlie February 27, 2008

Recipes. To Ms. Malkie Janowski. I found your advice very sound and very realistic. The one thing I am not happy about it is the recipe section you are referring to. Unfortunately it is pretty, how should I say it, ahh simple, for the lack of better word. Just like the kosher industry in general is trailing behind the one that is not so kosher, (something that I do not understand and probably never will), so is the recipe section here is trailing far behind any spiritual recipes you can find on this site. I believe it is time for kosher industry to buckle up and get in with the program. The are millions of foods and recipes that could be made kosher and affordable. Until this happens we will continue to lose people who are not looking for spiritual and do not see importance and necessity of kosher. When the kosher recipes section will catch up with the spiritual we will see people by ten fold switching to eat kosher. Reply