Keeping up with the Kawalskys

If you haven’t realised by now, my family is pretty damn crazy. Most people ask me how I live in my own house, I simply don’t know how to reply. I think that I have just been conditioned to extremely loud noise and a lot of drama.

I don’t quite think you understand what a typical Friday night would not only look like but sound like when the broader Kawalsky community all come together for a celebratory dinner, not too sure what we celebrate but it is known as Shabbat

According to Shabbat is defined as:

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I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s “the divinely-ordained day of rest” in my family’s case. Friday night dinners in celebration of “the day of rest”/ Shabbat is celebrated in my grandmother’s house. The entire family (I use the word entire quite loosely because there aren’t very many of us left in Cape Town) come together for what is supposed be a relaxing and delicious Shabbat meal. However, in the case of The Kawalskys, the noise level is at all time high, but so is the food. It’s not an average dinner, it’s a very special one. There is an abundance of food and the beautiful grandmother that is my granny Bess almost force feeds me after the rather large six course meal I am still struggling to digest. We talking chicken soup, three to four salads, of course some chopped liver in the mix. Chicken, meat, fish, you name it, and it’s probably available for consumption. Except pork, you’re not going to find any of that in vicinity of Sea Point.

Besides for high cholesterol and over-dosing on Rennie –  what is the real meaning of Shabbat? What does it actually symbolise and why do we celebrate it every single Friday night? It is definitely not the religious aspect, we definitely don’t follow the rules given to us by the Alrighty. So I ask myself, why do we this?

Naturally, I took the internet. According to, for a person who does not fully comply with the rules of Shabbat “think of it as a day filled with stifling restrictions” but for those who do comply with the rules and regulations set out by the Almighty “it is a precious gift from G-d, a day of great joy eagerly awaited throughout the week, a time when we can set aside all of our weekday concerns and devote ourselves to higher pursuits.”

Essentially, for a more observant Jew, Shabbat functions as a day of total rest. The rules for this rest day are excessively outdated and draconian. The rule is that one cannot do any work. This includes but is not limited to turning on a light switch, carrying anything, driving, using a cellphone and electricity in general. These are of course the very basic ideas behind the holiday.  But for the average Jew and the majority of Cape Tonians, Shabbat is not a ridiculous weekly shut down from reality, but rather a spiritual and cultural one. A feeling of togetherness, family, some good food and great company. Why complicate that?

A classic Friday night dinner ca. 1999



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