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