Celebrating Shabbat

Art of Women and Shabbat candlesThe observance of Shabbat is commanded in Torah. There is to be no work, it is a day of rest. From these commandments a full day of celebrating Shabbat has evolved. Here are some of the more common rituals and traditions…

The observance of Shabbat is commanded in the Ten Commandments….

“Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy; six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day is a Sabbath of the Eternal your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, or cattle, or the stranger who is within your settlements – for in six days the Eternal made heaven and earth and seas (and all that is in them) and then rested on the seventh day; therefore the
Eternal blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Fourth Commandment – Exodus 20:8-11)

…. Plus, the importance of Shabbat is repeated throughout the Torah….

“Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor, in order that your ox and your ass may rest, and that your home-born slave and the stranger may be refreshed.” (Exodus 23:12)

“On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Eternal; who-ever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day.” (Exodus35:2-3)

“On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion. You shall do no work; it shall be a Sabbath of the Eternal throughout your settlements.” (Leviticus 23:10)

To sum up…. No work …. No Fire … Rest. The midrash defines work…. Torah also specifically forbids starting a fire, but in reality, if you ever tried starting a fire without matches…. It is work…. But the meaning of rest is never really defined.

Over the years, many laws and traditions have developed.…. The Sabbath is a time to enjoy the world provided by the Eternal. This can be done by for relaxing, sharing time with friends and family, enjoying the beauty of the world around us, eating a leisurely meal, reading, listening to music…. It is also a time to study and understand our relationship with God and world in which we live.

Shabbat starts at sundown Friday and ends with sundown on Saturday.

The rituals of Shabbat:

Preparation … The work to celebrate this special day is done before it begins. This includes preparation of meals, cleaning the home, adorning the dinner table for a festive meal, and personal grooming.

Lighting Shabbat Candles … Two candles are typically lit by the woman of the house to welcome this special day. If there is no woman is in a household, a man can light the candles. Light was the first action of the Eternal when the world was created. The lighting of the menorah was the first commandment to the priests who officiated in the Tabernacle built during the time of the Exodus. Now, the creation of light is the first act of this holy day.

Kiddush – Blessing over wine at the Shabbat dinner table…. This blessing, recited before the Friday evening Shabbat meal, proclaims the sanctity of Shabbat. After the blessing, all present should drink the wine.

Blessing the Children … It is a mitzvah for a parent or parents to bless the children at the table. The traditional blessing thanks the Eternal for the children who will carry forward the traditions of our people. In some homes the children respond with a blessing thanking God for the guidance of their parents.

Blessing over the Challah (bread) … Each person at the table recites the blessing thanking the Eternal for the bread and food they are about to enjoy. Traditionally this bread is not cut, but torn from the loaf by each person. The fact that it is not cut is reminiscent of the commandment that the Temple altar is to be made of stones that were not hewn.

The Shabbat Meal … Special foods and décor grace this table in honor of the special day. According to Talmud, conversation at the table should also be different than that of the rest of the week. Focus should not be about the work and affairs of the week, but, on matters of Jewish values and ways to better ourselves and our community.

Birkat Hamazon – Blessings after the Meal  … Grace after meals.

Shababat TorahCongregational Worship … Regular participation draws individuals together into a community. The strengthening of the community is a value that Jews have historically held at great importance. The Shabbat services are held on both Friday and Saturday. The reading of the weekly Torah portion is the highlight of these services.

Study of Torah … The reading of the weekly Torah portion is the highlight of the Shabbat services. This study is not considered work; but, personal improvement. Since very ancient time Shabbat has been a day devoted to worship and instruction. In addition to the Torah reading during services, time can be given to further study Torah, Jewish rituals. and traditions. This is time devoted to an effort that is traditionally not done during the week.

Remembering the Departed … Formal mourning and funerals are not allowed on Shabbat. However, the memory of those who died during the past month and those who departed at the current week are remembered with a recitation of their names and a special prayer of remembrance – Kaddish.

Havdalah Service … A series of prayers that separate the special Sabbath day from the rest of the ordinary days of the week.

Through the ages this is the traditional way of celebrating the holy day of Shabbat. If you know of any usual Shabbat customs or you are celebrating Shabbat in a unique manner, please let us know. Send us a comment or email us at info@JewishMeltingPot.com The JewishMeltingPot would like to share it with the rest of our readers.

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