We, the “United Children At the Shabbos Table” (U-CAST), in order to form a more perfect Shabbos table, establish our rights, ensure (what we consider to be) domestic tranquility, provide for our common defense from parental demands, promote our general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our siblings, do ordain and hereby establish this Constitution of the Shabbos Table:

 

1.  The custom is not to come to the Shabbos table when your father calls. You can explain that the Gemara relates that two angels accompany a person home from shul on Friday night – one good angel and one bad. You don’t want to join at the table until the bad angel leaves.

2. There is a mitzvah to make Kiddush on whine. We fulfill that by whining and arguing about which seat we were assigned at the Shabbos table. If your parents aren’t listening to your complaints, you can cry out, “Give me liberty or give me no dessert!” (You probably won’t be getting dessert.)

3. It is an obligation to complain about the amount of grape juice you received from Kiddush. As on Seder night, each child aims to have four cups.

4. The challah is covered at the table to prevent it from being shamed. Therefore, we don’t need to worry about shaming or taunting siblings during the remainder of the Shabbos meal. 

5. It is praiseworthy when one spreads mitzvos around. To fulfill that, when washing for challah the custom is to flick some of the water left on your hands at another sibling. If the other sibling doesn’t scream or retaliate, it’s questionable whether the flicker has fulfilled this custom.

6. “They can lead you to the water cooler or refrigerator, but they can’t force you to serve.” If they do, you can assert your constitutional right to say, “It’s not my job.”

7. If your parents insist that you sing one of the Shabbos z’miros before leaving the table, sing “Let it Go” at the top of your lungs and tell your parents it’s a reference to letting go of the yeitzer ha’ra.

8. Shabbos is a day of outpouring of blessings, so one should take too many croutons/noodles to put in the soup, so that he/she has soup with the croutons, and not the other way around.

9. The custom is to take more soda than you can finish. If your parent ever tries to guilt you into finishing your food or drinks because there are children starving in Africa, offer to pack it up so your parent can send it to them.

10. All desserts must be equal. Federal law prohibits discrimination of any persons by having any pieces of dessert even slightly bigger than others. Although measuring on Shabbos is generally prohibited, this falls under the rubric of pikuach nefesh and therefore is permitted. It should also be noted that if one feels his/her piece is smaller than another’s, he/she can demand a recount.

11. It is customary to sneak away from the Shabbos s’udah to read The Circle/Mishpacha Junior/Zman/Ami’s Aim!/Kid Speak (or Sports Illustrated) or whatever other book is available. It is proper to fight with your siblings about who had it first, and whether leaving it on the couch is considered “still having it.”

12. When asked to share a d’var Torah, there are two approaches: Some children look at their parents as if they are from Mars, so that the parents wonder why they are paying so much in tuition. Others proceed to repeat every d’var Torah they ever heard from all their teachers until their parents fall asleep at the table. Either approach is appropriate.

13. After the s’udah is over, it is customary to forget about clearing the table. Some conveniently go to the bathroom just prior to bentching with a stomachache and have a miraculous recovery as soon as the table is cleared. Others have the custom to bentch with tremendous kavanah, saying every word with intense concentration, until the table has been cleared. As soon as that happens, they skip the remainder of bentching. Others go to a friend’s house before the meal is over, so they don’t have to clear.

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident and affirm to maintain these articles of law as can be witnessed in homes throughout the world each Friday night!


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a rebbe and guidance counselor at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, NJ, Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Looking for periodic powerful inspiration? Join Rabbi Staum’s new Whatsapp group “Striving Higher.” Email for more info. 

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