Shabbat and Holiday Items
Some of the most beautiful and memorable times in a Jewish home and marriage are the Jewish Sabbath and the Jewish holidays, of which there are several throughout the year. Each Jewish holiday celebrates a different moment in Jewish history and embodies a different idea and spiritual pathway. Thus the tools, symbols, and ritual objects for each one will differ.
Shabbat Items for Your Registry
When the sun sets on Friday evening, the Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat, begins. This auspicious moment is usually marked with the lighting of two candles. If you don't already have your own heirloom or personal Shabbat candlesticks, you should register for some. Though simple or crafty Shabbat candlesticks are popular, Shabbat candlesticks are often made in sterling and can be quite expensive. If the price is high, several of your relatives or friends can opt to buy them for you together. Each week you will remember them as they share in your mitzvah, your holy act of ushering in the Shabbat though the lighting of the candles.
Here's a list of Sabbath and holiday items for which to consider registering:
Challah board and knife
Havdalah (end of Shabbat ritual) set
Rosh Hashanah honey bowl
Decorative Omer counter
Passover Seder plate
Each Friday night the Sabbath is honored when families gather for the recitation of kiddush, a blessing that is said as part of the festive Shabbat meal over a cup of wine or grape juice. Typically a kiddush cup is made out of silver, so many couples register for a kiddush cup or are given one as a wedding gift to use on Friday nights and Sabbath days.
Each Saturday night the end of the Sabbath is marked in a similar way to the kiddush. This ritual is called havdalah, which means separation. It marks the separation of the Shabbat from the weekday that is about to begin. The havdalah ceremony utilizes several ritual objects that can be placed on your Jewish registry: the cup for havdalah (which is similar to the kiddush cup), the spice box that will hold sweet spices to be smelled as part of the havdalah ceremony, and a havdalah candle and candle holder. Together these items comprise the havdalah set. They can be made out of anything but are often crafted of metal, glass, or clay.
Holiday Items for Your Registry
The first holiday of the Jewish year is Rosh Hashanah, the New Year celebration. Besides hearing the blowing of the shofar, the ram's horn, one of the customs on Rosh Hashanah is to eat an apple dipped in honey as a symbol of hope for a sweet year. Many Judaica stores carry special decorative honey bowls, often made of ceramic by specific artists for the holiday.
The next festival in the yearly cycle is sukkot, the seven-day celebration commemorating God's protection of the Jewish people as they traveled from Egypt through the desert for forty years to the land of Israel. During this week the Torah says the Jewish people should dwell in sukkot, eating meals and even sometimes sleeping in the sukkah.
The sukkah is a hut with strong walls and a natural roof, usually made of branches, bamboo, or unfinished wood. Many Judacica stores sell prefabricated sukkah walls that go up quickly and can be assembled by one or two people for the holiday celebration. Though a prefabricated sukkah is a bit more expensive, you may want to consider this as part of your Jewish registry.
You can make the walls of a sukkah out of almost anything. If you wish to save some money, use wood or canvas from a home supply store for walls. As long as they are strong enough to withstand the wind and don't flap, you are okay. Use bamboo or tree branches and leaves for the schach (the natural roof).
Hanukah is next. Hanukah is an eight-day celebration that begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. It usually falls sometime in December. Special eight-branched candelabras called menorahs are lit each night of the holiday, and the number of candles increases each night from one on the first night until all eight are lit on the last night. The lighting of the menorah commemorates the Jewish people's victory against the Greeks, who had tried to coerce the Jews to convert to their pagan ways and had violated the Jewish people's Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
The Jewish people, led by the Maccabees, triumphed over the Greeks. After the war was over, the Jews entered their Temple to rededicate it (the word Hanukah means dedication). They could only find one jar of oil — enough to light the seven-branched candelabra that began the service in the temple each day. They lit this, and the oil miraculously lasted for eight days until they were able to procure new olive oil for the lighting. In commemoration of this miracle, the Jewish people light a Hanukah menorah each night of Hanukah.
Though this fifty-day Count of the Omer is a happy and anticipatory one, the first thirty-three days are days of mourning during which no weddings are held. During one Omer in the second century, 24,000 students of the great Rabbi Akiva were killed by a plague. The plague lifted on the thirty-third day, Lag Ba'Omer.
A Hanukah menorah can be one that holds candles or one that holds olive oil. An olive oil menorah, since it is the original type, is considered a better quality menorah than one that holds candles, though a candle menorah is certainly fine. Menorahs can be made out of any nonflammable material. You can register for one for the whole family or one for him and one for her. They are most often made of silver, glass, or clay.
The next big festival is Passover, on which most Jews have a Seder meal, reenacting and remembering the exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish nation 3,500 years ago. Seder plates are great for a registry item and can be made out of silver, glass, or ceramic.
All Seder plates have room for at least five symbols of the Passover seder — an egg, bitter herbs, a green vegetable, a shank bone, and often either salt water or romaine lettuce. Some Seder plates are made with a built-in matzah holder for the three pieces of unleavened bread that will be used at the Seder. You may also wish to register for a decorative matzah cover that is placed over the matzah at various points in the Seder meal.
On the second day of Passover, the Counting of the Omer begins. The Omer is the fifty-day span between Passover and the next holiday on the Jewish calendar, the holiday of Shavuot. Each night one counts both the days and the weeks that have passed in anticipation for the coming holiday of Shavuot, the day that has no symbols but marks the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai fifty days after their departure from Egypt.
Many Judaica shops sell special Omer counters, often made of wood with a scroll of paper inside on which is written the correct count for each of the fifty days. Each day after counting the Omer, the day number is changed in preparation for the next day. A counter such as this is very helpful as a reminder each evening for the family to count the day. Having an Omer counter provides a focal point around which to gather with each other and declare this sacred count together.