Explaining the Shabbath.
The Sabbath is commanded by God
Every week religious Jews observe the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day, and keep its laws and customs.
The Sabbath begins at nightfall on Friday and lasts until nightfall on Saturday. In practical terms the Sabbath starts a few minutes before sunset on Friday and runs until an hour after sunset on Saturday, so it lasts about 25 hours.
God commanded the Jewish People to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy as the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
The idea of a day of rest comes from the Bible story of the Creation: God rested from creating the universe on the seventh day of that first week, so Jews rest from work on the Sabbath.
Jews often call the day Shabbat, which is Hebrew for Sabbath, and which comes from the Hebrew word for rest.
A reminder of the Covenant
The Sabbath is part of the deal between God and the Jewish People, so celebrating it is a reminder of the Covenant and an occasion to rejoice in God’s kept promises.
A gift from God
Most Jewish people look forward to Shabbat all week. They see it as God’s gift to his chosen people of a day when they take time out from everyday things to feel special.
Shabbat is a time with no television, no rushing to the demands of the telephone or a busy work schedule.
People don’t think about work or other stressful things.
It’s an oasis of calm, a time of stillness in life.
The traditional Sabbath greetings are Shabbat Shalom (Hebrew), or Gut Shabbos (Yiddish).
A family time
Shabbat is very much a time when families come together in the presence of God in their own home.
Singles, or others with no family around may form a group to celebrate Shabbat together.
In order to avoid work and to ensure that the Sabbath is special, all chores like shopping, cleaning, and cooking for the Sabbath must be finished before sunset on Friday.
People dress up for Shabbat and go to considerable trouble to ensure that everything is organised to obey the commandment to make the Sabbath a delight.
Sabbath candles are lit at sunset on a Friday. The woman of the house usually performs this ritual. It is an integral part of Jewish custom and ceremony.
The candles are placed in candlesticks. They mark the beginning of each Sabbath and represent the two commandments Zachor (to remember the Sabbath) and Shamor (to observe the Sabbath).
After the candles are lit, Jewish families will drink wine. Sabbath wine is sweet and is usually drunk from a special goblet known as the Kiddush Cup. The drinking of wine on the Sabbath symbolises joy and celebration.
It is also traditional to eat challah, a soft rich eggy bread in the shape of a braid. Challah is a eaten on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays except for the Passover when leavened bread is not permitted.
Under Jewish law, every Jew must eat three meals on the Sabbath. One of the meals must include bread. Observant Jews will usually eat challah at the beginning of a Sabbath meal.
Before the challah is eaten, the following prayer is recited:
Other blessings, prayers, songs and readings may also be used.
It is traditional, too, for parents to bless their children on Shabbat.
Some of the family will have been to synagogue before the Sabbath meal, and it is likely that the whole family will go on Saturday.