What is Shabbat (the Sabbath) and how is it celebrated?
Shabbat. Sabbath, day of rest. Spend time with family, pray, read, rejuvenate. Light
candles to symbolically push away the darkness and welcome the Divine.
is a day of spiritual enhancement. It is commonly - and
mistakenly - seen as a day filled with restrictions and
prayer, when, in fact, it is a gift, a day when we put
aside weekly worries and relax. In Jewish literature,
music, and poetry, Shabbat is described as a bride or
queen. It emulates from the tale of Creation, where God
spent six days creating the universe, and rested on the
seventh. The Jewish workweek does not begin on Monday,
but rather on Sunday, which is why the Jewish Sabbath
is on Saturday, and, as all Jewish holidays do, begins
the night before at sundown.
There are two parts to fulfilling Shabbat: to remember
it and observe it. Remembering Shabbat includes a lot
more than not forgetting to observe it. One must remember
the significance of Shabbat, as a commemoration of creation.
Observance of Shabbat is the aspect of Shabbat that is
most misunderstood. The "work" that is forbidden is not
the physical labor or employment, as many people seem
to think it is. By that definition, a rabbi would not
be able to perform services on Friday night or Saturday
because that is his or her employment.
The kind of work that is forbidden on Shabbat is generally
referred to in the Hebrew as Melacha. Usually translated
to mean work, Melacha actually means creative work
that exercises control over one's environment, referring
to the kind of work that God did when creating the universe.
The most relevant of the 39 forbidden acts include baking,
washing, sewing, tying, writing, building, extinguishing
or building a fire, and transporting an object in the
public domain. An example of an act that serves the same
purpose as one of the forbidden acts is turning on a light,
which serves the same function as kindling a fire. How
strictly one follows these rules depends on how observant
one is. Traditions vary from family to family as well
to denomination. While not everyone may attend services,
a large Sabbath meal is customary, as is the lighting
of the two Sabbath candles. This ritual is traditionally
performed by the woman of the house, and commemorates
the two mitzvot of Shabbat: two remember and observe.
Then a kiddush, a blessing over the wine, is said, and
the Challah (right), a thick sweet bread shaped in a braid,
Shabbat lasts until a little after sundown on Saturday.
A ceremony called Havdallah separates Shabbat from
the rest of the week. Blessings are recited over wine,
spice, and candles, commemorating the separation between
Shabbat and the workweek, returning to the secular from
Also See: JOI's
Shabbat Holiday Page.