• Recurring Observances




“Sabbath (rest)”

What is Shabbat

Shabbat/Sabbath (שַׁבָּת‎‎ in Hebrew)

Shabbat is the seventh day of the Hebrew week, commemorating the seventh and final day of Creation when God “rested” from creating, as it says in the Hebrew Bible:

“On the seventh day Hashem finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And Hashem blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it Hashem ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.” (Genesis 2:1-2)

Shabbat is also a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt, and “a taste of the World to Come.” These three aspects bind the Creation of the world, the creation of the People of Israel, and the ultimate perfected state of the world into a weekly experience.

The word ‘Shabbat’ means ‘rest,’ and is known as ‘Saturday’ or ‘the Sabbath’ by the rest of the world.

This weekly holiday begins slightly before sunset on Friday night, and ends upon the emergence of three medium-sized stars in the sky on Saturday night.

Shabbat is celebrated with special community prayers, festive family meals, Torah study, and refraining from 39 categories of creative labor. Stepping away from the responsibilities of the world allows us to focus on our relationship with Hashem, our families, and community.

The unbreakable connection between the People of Israel and Shabbat through the millennia can be summed up by the famous saying, “More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people.”

When is Shabbat

Every Saturday

Alternate Names for Shabbat

  • Shabbos
  • The Sabbath

Commandments (Mitzvot) of Shabbat

  • Resting from work – Just as G-d rested from work on Shabbat, the Jewish people are commanded to rest from work on Shabbat as well. The Talmud outlines 39 creative acts that are forbidden on Shabbat which can be organized into four main categories: acts involved in the process of making bread, from plowing and sowing to kneading and baking; acts involved in the process of making clothes, from shearing to tearing; acts involved in scribal arts using parchment, from trapping animals to writing and erasing; and acts involved in building, destroying, burning, extinguishing, finishing a product, and carrying things in the public domain. Almost all, if not all, of these creative acts have modern applications to actions that we do each and every day, and those things are forbidden on Shabbat.
  • Lighting Shabbat candles – Special candles are lit at least 18 minutes before sundown in order to create an atmosphere of peace and festivity in a home that would be otherwise dark because of the prohibition to light a fire on Shabbat. Whoever lights the candles recites a blessing over them. It is usually the woman of the house, but if she is not present, someone else must light instead. These candles have become a symbol of Jewish women all over the world throughout the generations.
  • Eating three meals – three festive meals are eaten throughout Shabbat: one on Friday night, another one on Saturday morning, and a third (smaller) one on Saturday afternoon.
  • Reciting kiddush – both the Friday night and the Saturday morning meal are preceded by the recitation of kiddush, or sanctification of the day over a cup of wine (or grape juice).
  • Having two loaves of bread at each meal – to remind everyone of the double portion of manna that the Jews received on Fridays in the desert in order that they not have to go out and collect manna on Shabbat, two full loaves of bread are served at the start of each meal. A blessing is recited aloud over the two loaves, and then pieces are handed out to everyone present.

Customs of Shabbat

  • Spending time with family and friends – since Shabbat is a time to disconnect from electronics, as their use on Shabbat is forbidden, there is more time to spend with family and friends. 
  • Singing Shabbat songs – there are many special songs that have been written over the centuries about the special nature of Shabbat. It is customary to sing at least a few of these over the course of Shabbat, whether at meals, during prayer services, or in between.
  • Eating special foods – it is customary to eat special, and sometimes more expensive foods that are not generally eaten during the rest of the week in order to enhance the uniqueness of Shabbat and honor it in the best way possible.

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