Shabbat is my favorite day. When else do we get a chance to disengage from the world of work, and take a break from all the screen time that permeates our modern lives? For one day each week, my family and I eschew e-mail, television, video games, instant messaging, iPods, iPads, iPhones, and everything else that clutters up our days and makes us feel hectic during the week. Instead, like countless Jews before us, we experience Shabbat as a day of holiness, relaxation and togetherness.

Shabbat offers us a time to connect with our friends, with our spouses, with our children, in a direct, visceral way. Without electronic stimulation or distraction. Face to face. Games and other fun activities can help us to relate to one another in fun, new ways. Here is a list of some entertaining Shabbat activities to get you started.


Select a short poem, story or Torah passage. (To give this game a Shabbat feel, try to keep your selections within a Jewish theme.) Who can memorize the most in five minutes? Prepare, then have a contest to see who can repeat verbatim the most text with the fewest mistakes.

Invent a Story

Did you know that Mary Shelley wrote her famous novel Frankenstein as the result of a bet? The year was 1816, and Mary was on vacation in Switzerland with her good friends, the poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. (Mary Shelley was Mary Godwin at the time; she married Percy Shelley later that year.) These three amazing writers decided to have a contest to see who could write the best horror story during their trip. (Frankenstein won.) Writing things down is of course prohibited on Shabbat, but telling long stories is a fun way to enjoy spending time with others. Take turns. Try giving each person ten minutes to make up a story. To give this game a Shabbat feel, have a rule that there must be a Jewish element in your story (for instance, it could take place in a Jewish home on Shabbat, or could be about people at a Passover Seder, etc.). Have a vote at the end to determine which was the funniest, the most uplifting, the saddest, the happiest, etc.

Song Title Challenge

Take turns challenging each other to think of a song about a particular topic. (You can make a challenge only if you yourself can think of one.) For instance, one person might challenge the other players to think of a song about sunshine (“You Are My Sunshine”) or King David (“David Melech Yisrael”). Try to get obscure to stump the other players. (Do keep in mind, though, as you play this, that Shabbat is a day to elevate ourselves. Try to choose songs that are uplifting and wholesome, rather than the opposite!)

Jewish Shopping List

This is a well-known children’s game, but with a Jewish twist. One player starts, saying, “I went to the store, and I bought . . .” They then choose something Jewish that starts with A. It could be a Jewish food, a Jewish ritual item, etc. For some turns you’ll really have to stretch, and that’s okay. For instance, “I went to the store and I bought an Afikomen (the matzah we eat at the end of the Passover Seder).” The next player then adds something starting with B. For instance: “I went to the store and I bought an Afikomen, and a Jewish book.” The next player adds something starting with C, for instance “carrot tzimmes.” Keep going around and around, and adding one new item each time. This game quickly gets challenging as each player struggles to remember the growing list.


Sit in a circle. One person starts by saying a word. The person on their left then says the first word that pops into their mind (for instance, “swimming” after hearing the word “sea”). The person on their left then says the first word they think of, and so on. In order to give this game a Jewish feel, try starting with Jewish topics. (Some initial words you might like to try include “miracle,” “Jewish,” “G‑d,” “Israel” or “Holy.”)

Jewish Talk Show

This is a nice activity to do with family, particularly if there is more than one generation present. So often, we don’t think to ask our parents and grandparents about their childhoods, or don’t think to convey our formative experiences to our children and grandchildren, even though talking about our families in this way can bring us closer. To play, choose somebody to act as host, and one or two people to act as guests on the show. Everyone else is the audience. The host introduces a Jewish topic (say, Hebrew school, or their family’s religious life, or their thoughts about being Jewish), and questions his or her guests about it. Ideally, you can get an interesting discussion going about each “guest’s” life, their experiences, and their thoughts. After ten minutes or so, switch so there are new guests and a new host.

Marathon Shabbat Chat

This game can be silly, but it can also be fun. Get a cup of ice cubes ready. Then choose a topic. To give this game a Jewish flavor, keep your topics Jewish. (Some ideas might include favorite Jewish subjects to study, favorite Jewish activities, or what you think are the most rewarding aspects of your family’s religious life.) Choose somebody to go first, and hand them an ice cube. See if they can talk, staying on-topic, without repeating themselves, until the ice cube melts. Then choose a second person to go, hand them an ice cube, and continue around the room.

Who am I?

This is best played with a lot of people. One person is selected to leave the room for a few minutes. While they are absent, the remaining players agree on a famous person. To put a Jewish spin on this game, try keeping your selections to well-known figures in Jewish history or Jewish life. When the player who left the room returns, they have five minutes to guess the identity of the famous person, asking only yes or no questions. If they can successfully identify the famous person in that time limit, they win.