Shabbath is the Jewish day of rest. It is the most important celebration of Judaism.
In the story of the creation in Genesis, we can read that in six days, God created the heavens and the earth and that He rested the seventh day.
Shabbath is then the day of God, a gift of God to His people Israel as it is written:
For six days you may perform all your works, but the seventh day is a complete Sabbath, holy to the L-RD ... it is an eternal sign that in six days, the L-RD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested. -Exodus 31:15-17
By observing Shabbath, the Jewish people first recognizes that God created every things and secondly obeys to God's commandment of remembering and guarding the Shabbath, as it is prescribed in the Torah in these terms:
Exodus 20:8: "Remember the Shabbath day to keep it holy" (Zakhor eth Yom haShabbath leQadsho). and Deteronomy 5:12: "Observe the Shabbath day to keep it holy" (Shamor eth Yom haShabbath leQadsho).
In Jewish families, the preparation of Shabbath begins friday afternoon: the home is cleaned, the meals prepared, etc. and everyone dress up to welcome Shabbath.
For welcoming Shabbath, the woman of the home will begin by lighting candles of Shabbath, infusing the home physical and spiritual light.
Learn more about Shabbath by following the links below.
Lighting the candles in general and the candles of Shabbat in particular is one of the special mitzvot assigned to women (although men are also obligated to light).
Candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset
It is forbidden to light candles after sunset but it is permit to light them before the lighting time.
Our local custom in Beth yeshurun for instance, is to light at a fixed time (5:45 pm). Depending on periods of year, that time can be up to one hour before the sunset.
There may be at least two candles lit symbolizing (according to one level of meaning) Zakhor veShammor-remember and guard (the Shabbath).
If there are more girls in the house, parents use to add one additional candle for each of them.
Nevertheless, some people follow the custom of lighting one candle while they are single, and two once they are married. But the most common custom is to light at least two candles, single or married and this is our custom at Beth Yeshourun.
If for some reason, the woman of the home cannot light candles at time, then her husband, or one child, would light.
Once lit, the candles should no more be moved until after Shabbat.
It is customary to deposit few coins in a tzedakah (charity) box just before candles lighting time.
Candles must burn at least more than two hours.
Shabbath celebration is marked by special services at the synagogue (three meals) and special meals at home(three obligatory meals that may be as festive as possible), lot of joy and, of course, rest.
1. Services of Shabbath
Qabbalat Shabbath is the Friday night service. This service is performed with special melodies, joy and dances. It is followed by Shacharit shel Shabbath, the Saturday morning service made of prayers, Torah reading and comment, and the last service is Mincha shel Shabbath
2. The three meals of Shabbath
The Talmud prescribes three meals for Shabbath.
After services, at home the master of family says kiddush over a full cup of wine, drinks and distribute and then, washes his hand and say the blessing over bread (always over two breads. Each participant then eats a bit of it.
The bread for Shabbath and holidays is called challa- plural is challot) and then take a festive meal with refreshments while discussing Torah.
The first meal is peroformed after Kabbalat Shabbath. Once gathered at home (around the Sabbath table), we sing "Shalom Aleichem", the song that greets the angels that escort a person from synagogue to home and bless his home when it has been well arranged for Shabbath. It is also customary to sing Eishet Chayil, a beautiful song that praises the Jewish woman who cares for her family, is kind to the poor and needy, and is God-fearing. Then, the father blesses each of their children to walk in health and strength on the path of our holy ancestors. And then follow the Kiddush and the first meal of Shabbath.
The second meal is performed after the Shabbath morning service.
The third meal also called Seouda shelishit is performed on Saturday afternoon, before Mincha service.
After each meal, we tell birkat ha-mazon (Grace after meal). Before saying Birkat Hamazone, we make Mayim Acharonim, which consists of rinsing our fingertips with water over a dish.
3. Joy of Shabbath(Oneg Shabbath) and rest.
It is a special Mitzvah to be joyous on Shabbath as we can read: If you value My holy day and honour it by not travelling, working or talking idly on that day,...you will find the joy that comes from serving Me (Isaiah 58, 13-14).
The immediate notion associated to Shabbath is rest. That means, as Jews, we refrain from doing any work during the Shabbat day. There are specific forbidden works listed by the sages. For the complete list, open the link below.
The 39 forbidden works
4. Binding sheaves
12. Shearing wool
13. Washing wool
14. Beating wool
15. Dyeing wool
18. Making two loops
19. Weaving two threads
20. Separating two threads
23. Sewing two stitches
28. Salting meat
29. Curing hide
30. Scraping hide
31. Cutting hide up
32. Writing two letters
33. Erasing two letters
35. Tearing a building down
36. Extinguishing a fire
37. Kindling a fire
38. Hitting with a hammer
39. Taking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain.
(Mishnah Shabbat, 7:2)
Havadala-closure of Shabbath
The Havdalah service marks the end of Shabbat.
It should be performed on Saturday after nightfall when three stars are already visible in the sky.
For the precise time which variates according to places and seasons, it is correct to consult the calendar.
The ritual of Havdalah is performed with wine, spices, and a candle with at least two wicks.
We light the candle of Havdala using an existing fire and then,
1. We tell the blessing over a full cup of wine:
Barukh Attah Hashem, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam borei peri hagafen (Amen).
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who creates the fruit of the vine (Amen)
We do not drink immediately.
If we do not have wine, we can also use grape juice or beer, then the previous blessing becomes:
Barukh Attah Hashem, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam shehakol nih'yeh bid'varo (Amen)
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who made all things exist through His word (Amen)
2. We tell the blessing over spices:
Barukh Attah Hashem, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam, borei minei v'samim (Amen)
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe, W ho creates varieties of spices (Amen)
3. We tell the blessing over fire:
Barukh Attah Hashem, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam borei m'orei ha'eish (Amen)
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who creates the light of the fire (Amen)
After the blessing is recited, hold your hands up to the flame with curved fingers, so you can see the shadow of your fingers on your palms. This is done because it would be improper to recite a blessing for something and then not use the thing.
The havdalah (separation) blessing itself comes at the end and is also recited over the wine.
Barukh Attah Hashem, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam hamav'dil bein kodesh l'chol bein or l'choshekh bein Yis'ra'eil la'amim bein yom hash-vi-i l'sheishet yemei hama'aseh Barukh Attah Hashem, hamav'dil bein kodesh le-khol (Amen).
Blessed are You, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe Who separates between sacred and secular between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations between the seventh day and the six days of labor Blessed are You, Lord, who separates between sacred and secular. (Amen)
We drink the wine after this blessing.
Havdala marks the separation between Shabbath and the new week, between sacred and secular.
We can then extinguish the flame of the havdala candle using few drops of wine .
Shabbath has gone, we say shavua Tov (good week) to one another.
Links on Shabbath