Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it;
six days shall you work and accomplish all
your work; but the seventh day is Sabbath
to HaShem, your G-d; you shall not do any
work-you, your son, your daughter, your slave,
your maidservant, your animal, and your convert
within your gates-for in six days HaShem made
the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that
is in them, and He rested on the seventh day.
Therefor, HaShem blessed the Sabbath day
and sanctified it.
-Remember the Sabbath... this day is to serve as a
constant reminder that G-d, HaShem, created
everything. G-d is the creator.
-six days shall you work... the Rabbis interpreted this
to be a positive command: by labor man can emulate
G-d's creative process in both work and rest
-but the seventh day is Sabbath... this day HaShem
rested, reflected on all he had done
-you shall not do any work... Jewish tradition has
defined this in detail, developing thirty-nine main
types of prohibited labor, and from these categories
halachic rules were developed
-you, your son, your daughter, your slave... all people
without exception are given this mitzvot without
exception. HaShem made all
-for in six days HaShem made the heavens and the earth...
"More than Israel has guarded Shabbat, the Shabbat
had guarded Israel"- this saying well describes the
unique position the Sabbath assumed in Jewish history.
It's observance stretched from dusk on Friday to sundown
on Saturday and is marked by family observance, synagogue
attendance, and total rest. Its mood is both serene and
joyous (mourning practices cease on this day, as does
fasting, except on Yom Kippur); it is time for recollecting
G-d's goodness; acknowledging His sovereignity; it
provides for social balm, intellectual expansion, and a
shutting out of the days cares. It is spiritually and
physically restorative, the crown of the week's labors.
While rules for its observances were marked out in Mishnah
and Talmud, its purpose was not, as was charged on
occasion, to make it a day of painful restrictions.
Several mitzvot, such as the duties of circumcision
or of saving life, were considered to have precedence
over ordinary Shabbat laws.
The following are a number of exceprts from
Maimonides' Mishnah Torah regarding Sabbath:
"In order to honor the Sabbath one should, as a matter
of religious duty, take a hot bath on Friday, get dressed
in festive clothes, and sit in a dignified manner waiting
to receive the Sabbath, just as if one were going to meet
the king... One should set aside his table properly on Friday
night, even if he feels the elast need for food, and likewise
at the end of the Sabbath, so as to honour the Sabbath
at both its commencement and its termination... There were
some sages of old who split firewood for the cooking, lit
lamps, or went to market to buy food and drink for the
Sabbath. Indeed, the more a man does in this respect
the more praise he deserves,,, The more one spends for
the Sabbath, the better. however the sages of old declared
:"Make your Sabbath as a weekday, and do not depend
upon the charity of others." One should be particularly
careful to have no less than three meals on the Sabbath:
one in the evening, one in the morning, and one in the
afternoon... The custom of of the righteous men of old
was as follows: On Sabbath morning they would go to
the synagogue, then return to eat the second meal, then
go to the schoolhouse to read Bible and Mishnah until the
afternoon service; finally, they would return home and sit
down to the third Sabbath meal, eating and drinking until
the end of the Sabbath"
YAD, SHABBATH 30:2-10
The following are a collection of Midrashim on Shabbat:
Remember it before it comes, and observe it after it is
The two words were, in a miraculous way, pronounced
together by G-d.
(Exod 20 says "Remember the Sabbath",
Deut: 5 says "Observe the Sabbath:)
Sabbath outweighs all the mitzvot.
Shabbat complained at Creation that everyone had been
created with a mate, except Shabbat. G-d said:"I will give
you Israel as your mate."
Three testify for each other: Israel, Shabbat, and the Holy
One, blessed be He. They testify to each other's uniqueness:
G-d's in the world; Israel's among the nations; Shabbat's in
G-d said to Israel:" If you observe one Shabbat I will
account it to you as if you had observed all the mitzvot in
the torah; and if you desecrate one Shabbat I will reckon
it to you as if you had desecrated all the mitzvot."
If Israel would keep but one Shabbat properly the
Moshiach would come.
G-d said:" If you observe My commandments I will give
you My most precious gift. Israel asked:" What will that
be?" G-d said:"The future world." Said Israel:" But will
there be no reward in this world?" G-d said:"Shabbat
will be a foretaste, for it is one-sixtieth of the world-to-come."
You shall work... This is a positive commandment. Great
is labor, for G-d's presence does not rest upon Israel until
they perform labor, as it says:" Let them make Me a sanctuary
that I may dwell among them."
It would appear that we are charged to keep Shabbat
in it's purest form as delivered to us by HaShem. It was
He, not man, that sanctified the seventh day. By that
fact alone we are bound to observe it as such. There
can be no room for argument or debate.
If we look at the ten commandments and assume they
were given to us in order of importance, (which is an
obvious assumption) we can see that the most important
laws are the first three regarding how we "view" and "treat"
G-d. The very next commandment tells us about Shabbat.
Before any other law for man can be considered, we must
consider Shabbat observance, and conclude its importance
in our lives.
It is obvious that one cannot "overly observe" the Shabbat.
In closing I would just like to offer my observation...
the Sabbath is not a detrimental, negative mitzvah. It doesn't
shorten your life, inhibit your physical, mental, or emotional
faculties. It only serves to strengthen them. Shabbat
allows for peaceful, meaningful reflection. The old proverb
that says:" If it was good enough for my father, then it is
good enough for me". Well... what about what was good
enough for G-d? He rested too you know...
Praparing for the Sabbath
The Sabbath Eve
The Sabbath Table
The Evening Services
The Home Ritual and Kiddush
Leisure Activities for the Sabbath
Sabbath Day Morning Services
Three Sabbath Meals
Ending the Day
Preparing for the Sabbath
To properly honor the Sabbath and to capture its beauty
and spritual delight, it is necessary to prepare for its
The preparations in a household should be no less elegant
than the preparations the same family might make to receive
a distinguished and beloved guest.
What might a family do if a very honoured guest was coming
*A man would plan on getting home from work in plenty of
time to shave, bathe, and get dressed.
*A mother would see to it that she and her children were
washed and dressed in clean, fresh clothes.
*The dining table would be set in advance as on a special
festive occasion; one's best dishes and tableware would be
*Dinner would not only be prepared in advance, but the menu
be a little more elaborate than that served at a daily meal.
In a poor home, meat and fish would be reserved for the Sabbath
meals. But even where meat or fish is on a family's daily menu,
there are still many distinctions that a hostess makes when
serving a special festive meal, both in types of dishes as well
as in the number of courses.
*A house would be thoroughly cleaned, or at least straightened
*Every memeber of the family would take care of the most
pressing chores before the guest arrives.
*One can also imagine that members of a household might warn
friends, neighbors, and business associates not to interrupt by
telephone calls while their guest is visiting them. It would
not only be rude to the visitor but disturbing to all if there
were constant interruptions.
All this is done before the honored guest arrives. This is
also what must be done to prepare properly for the Sabbath.
It is unlikely that the Sabbath spirit can be captured or made
meaningful where a festive meal is served, if the children are
permitted to come to a table in their play clothes or jeans;
if adults sit down in their weekday workclothes, or if the
necessary personal and household preparations are omitted.
The Sabbath Eve
Lighting of the Sabbath candles formally ushers in the
Sabbath for the members of the household.
It is the obligation of the wife to fulfill this religious
duty. Unless a woman had been living alone, she starts to
observe it on the first Sabbath after her marriage.
The Sabbath candles are lighted approximately twenty minutes
before sundown. In the absence of a jewish calendar listing
candlelighting time for a particular geographic area, the time
of sundown can be found in the local newspaper and the
candlelighting time determined accordingly. Once the time of
sundown passes, the candles may no longer be lit.
It is permissable for the candles to be lit somewhat earlier.
This is often done in the summer months when the day is
particularly long and the Sabbath might be ushered in an hour
or so sooner.
The minimum number of candles lighted is two. They
symbolically represent the two forms of the fourth commandment:
Zachor-- Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8,
and Shamor--Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Deuteronomy
5:12). Although proper ritual procedure requires that the
recitation of a blessing always precedes the performance of the
mitzvah, in this instance the candles are lighted first and the
benediction is recited afterward. The reason is obvious. Recital
of the blessing formally ushers in the Sabbath after which it is
forbidden to light a flame. The procedure is to close one's eyes
or cover them with the hands while the benediction is recited.
When eyes are opened after the blessing, the sight of the
Sabbath lights brings forth the delight that is actually regarded
as the culmination of the mitzvah.
The blessing recited for the Sabbath candles is:
"Blessed art Thou Lord our G-d King of the universe, who has
sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle
the Sabbath lights."
After the candles are lit, it is proper to greet the others in
the household with the words 'Shabbat Shalom'. Everyone responds
The Sabbath candles should be lighted on the table where the
Sabbath meal is eaten. If this is impractical, it should at
least be done in the same room.
The Sabbath Table
The table set for the Sabbath should contain, in addition to
the candles, the following items set at the head of the table:
*Two unsliced loaves of bread known as challah. they are covered
by a napkin or cloth. (Specially decorated challah covers are
available and are recommended for use because they help beautify
*A Kiddush cup
The Evening Services
The Friday evening service is known as Welcoming the Sabbath,
or 'Kabbalat Shabbat'. It is generally scheduled to begin in
synagogues shortly after the Sabbath candle are lighted in the
Although women are not obligated to attend these services,
(and after arduous preparations for the Sabbath they may be
tired and deserving of the "breathing spell" between the
candlelighting and dinner time) the Sabbath spirit is enhanced
if the women too welcome the Sabbath with the appropriate
prayers at home, many attend the services if they can.
The male members of the household as well as the children
should make every effort to attend the synagogue for these Friday
evening services, which begin prior to sundown. These services
usualy last between forty and fifty minutes and possess a
spiritual quality that is unique. In many synagogues, these
services are conducted with much congregational singing and
provide an inspiring atmosphere in which to usher in the Sabbath.
Illness, extremely foul weather, or great distance from the
synagogue are legitimate reasons for not attending the services.
In such instances, the Sabbath prayers must be said at home.
The custom of "Late Friday Evening Services" has become
widespread in the United States. These are generally scheduled
for about 8:30 in the evening-- after dinner, from late fall to
early spring. There is no objection to these "services" if they
are intended to serve as an 'Oneg Shabbat' gathering where some
traditional Sabbath songs are sung; where an address of a
religious or educational nature or any appropriate message is
heard from a guest speaker or the rabbi; where refreshments are
served during a social hour. Depending upon the community and
the locality, there is a place and sometimes a need for such a
program, especially in the winter months when the evenings are
These "services" must not,however, serve as a substitute for
the authentic sundown service which ushers in the Sabbath in
the year, nor for the regular Sabbath morning services.
But if the Sabbath is ushered in on time with due regard to the
Sabbath laws and the Sabbath day is also properly observed, the
late Friday evening hours may be made as spiritually rewarding by
the pursuit of activities other than a "late service".
The Home Ritual and Kiddush
Upon returning home from the synagogue following the Friday
evening Kabbalat Shabbat and maariv service (or upon concluding
these prayers at home), it is customary for the family to
gather about the Sabbath table to sing the traditional Shalom
It is then customary for the father to bless his children.
The mother may also perform this rite. The ritual is a simple one.
The father places both his hands on the bowed head of a child
(or where two children are simultaneously being blessed-- one
hand on the head of each child) and says:
To a son(s): "May G-d make you as Ephraim and Manaseh"
To a daughter(s):"May G-d make you as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel,
"May the L-rd bless and protect you. May the L-rd shine His
countenance upon you and be gracious to you. May the L-rd
favor you and grant you peace."
The Sabbath Kiddush (Sancification) is then recited by the male
head of the household while holding a full cup of wine in his
hands. It should be his intention to say the Kiddush on behalf
of all those present. Different customs prevail on whether
everyone stands or sits during the Kiddush. Either way is correct.
It is a Torah requirement to sanctify the Sabbath with a verbal
declaration, for it is written "Remember the Sabbath day to
sanctify it" (Exod 20:8). Our sages taught that this "remembering"
requires the recitation of a declaration of Sanctification
(Kiddush) at the beginning of the Sababth, and a declaration of
Separation or Division (Havdalah) at the conclusion of the Sabbath.
The Sages ruled that this "remembrance" (recitation of kiddush
and Havdalah) preferably be over a cup of wine, the traditional
symbol of joy and of a festive occasion.
"It was evening and it was morning.
On the sixth day the heavens and the earth and all their hosts
were completed. For by the seventh day G-d had completed His
work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all
His work which He had made. Then G-d blessed the seventh day and
hallowed it, because on it He rested from all His work which G-d
had created to function thenceforth."
"Blessed art Thou L-rd our G-d King of the universe, who creates
the fruit fromthe vine."
"Blessed art Thou L-rd our G-d King of the universe, who hast
sanctified us with thy commandments and hast been pleased with
us; in love and favour hast given us thy holy Sabbath as a
heritage, a memorial of the creation-- that day being also the
first among the holy festivals, in remembrance of the exodus
from Egypt. Thou hast chosen us and hallowed us above all nations,
and in love and favour hast gievn us thy holy Sabbath as a
heritage. Blessed art Thou, who hallowest the Sabbath."
After the recitation of the Kiddush, those present respond with
'Amen.' The one who recited it should drink from the wine and
then give some of it to all those present. The others need not
recite the blessing.
Following the Kiddush, everyone ritually washes for the meal.
This is done by filling a glass, cup, or other vessel with water
and pouring the water over the right hand, then over the left
hand. Before the hands are wiped dry with a towel, the following
benediction is said:
"Blessed art Thou our G-d King of the universe, who has
sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning
the washing of the hands."
Without further talk or interruption, the ritual washing is
immediately followed by sitting down to the table. The head
of the household uncovers the two challot, lifting them
momentarily while reciting the blessing over the bread:
"Blessed art Thou L-rd our G-d King of the universe, who brings
forth bread from the earth."
The challah is then cut and slices are distributed to all at
the table. The others need not repeat the blessing over the bread
if they responded 'Amen' when they heard it and if the head of
the household had them in mind.
It is customary to brighten the Sabbath dinner by the singing
of zmirot between the courses of the meal. The zmirot are poems,
most of them written during the Middle Ages, that rhapsodise the
Sabbath glory. Numerous meoldies for each of these songs are
extant and they lend an added dimension of cheer to the Sabbath
meal. One need not limit himself to these "official" zmirot, but
may choose from among many songs and melodies which have some
religious or spiritual theme.
It is obligatory to give thanks to G-d after having eaten, in
fulfillmen of the Torah erquirement that "You shall eat and be
satisfied and bless the L-rd." (Deut 8:20) The grace after meals
(birkat hamazon) for which popuar cants have developed should
climax the meal. Umlike the rest of the week when the birkat
hamazon is likely to be said in haste and without song, on the
Sabbath it should be chanted and said without haste. Even the
preschool child will soon enough learn the words of the prayer
and heartily join in.
It is religiously praiseworthy to do those things on the Sabbath
which delight the soul and which provide a measure of pleasure and
joy, as long as they do not constitute a violation of the Sabbath.
Violations of the Sababth, in spirit or in deed, can never be
justified on the grounds that "they are a delight to me"; "they
give me pleasure"; or "I enjoy them." Such rationalizations invite
the dissipation of the unique spiritual qualities connected with
the Sabbath. Since different people enjoy different things and
favor a wide range of recreational pursuits, such rationalizations
are tantamount to the total secularization of this "day of rest,"
and in effect destroy the Sabbath.
Activities that "give pleasure" on the Sabbath must take place
within the framework of the spiritual purposes of the Sabbath,
and in consideration of the special and distinct 'holiness' of
he day. Such activities must not trespass into the tasks of the
forbidden on the Sabbath by the Torah or rabbinic legislation.
It is inevitable that in disregarding the halachic discipline
of the Torah, the special "Sabbath joy" and the unique "Sabbath
spirit" will invariably dissipate.
Leisure Activities for the Sabbath
Depending on the time of the year and one's area of residence,
one or more of the following activities may also occupy the time
of different members of a family during those few leisure
Sabbath hours that are left after attending the synagogues and
enjoying the Sabbath meal:
*reading and/or studying
*Discussing or reviewing with children the things they have been
studying and doing all week
*Socializing with neighbors or nearby friends or family
*Attending lectures, forums, or study group organized by a
synagogue or other organization
*Getting extra hours of sleep and rest by getting to bed earlier
than usual or by enjoying a Sabbath afternon siesta
*Home games such as chesss or checkers and similar activities are
permitted. Children who study all week should be permitted to
devote some time to such games
*In many communities, activities in the Sabbath spirit are
organized for the children or young people. Group singing, Isreali
or other folk dancing, discussion groups, refreshemnts and
socializing are typical programs enjoyed. These are usually
sponsored by youth organizations.
These same activities are also suitable for the Sabbath afternoon
hours following the services and the Sabbath meals.
Rather than feeling bored, as though one's activities are
restricted, a Sabbath observer should find that the day thus spent
is a tranquil delight, and the the hours at his disposal even given
the limited choice, are too few.
The Sabbath day
The Sabbath morning services at the synagogue are the most elaborate
as well as the lenghtiest of the week, and participating in them is
important to the day's observance.
The length of the Sabbath service is due to several factors:
*The reading of the weekly portion of the Torha is a central feature
of the Sabbath service
*The delivery of a message or sermon by the rabbi is a commonplace
and widely folowed practice in most synagogues
*It is a widespread and laudable prctice for the congregation to sing
many of the prayers
*Though it enhances the enjoyment of the main service of the week,
where a cantor and choir officiate, their liturgical renditions also
tend to lengthen the service
*Special ceremonies and honors sometimes accompany the observance
of a Bar-mitvah in the synagogue
In the United States most traditional congregations begin their
Sabbath services sometime between 8:30 am and 9:00 am. They usually
last about three to three and a half hours, till about noon. In Israel,
most synagogues begin their Sabbath morning services at about 8:00 am
and they usually last about two to two and a half hours.
In some communities in the United States and Israel, some people
prefer to attend an early Sabbath service at 6:30 am which usually
lasts until about 8:30 am.
The Three Sabbath Meals
It is a special mitzvah to eat three meals (shalosh seudot) on the
Sabbath. Since one meal is on Friday evening, the other two are taken
during the day. In communities where the Sabbath services last most
of the morning, the second main Sabbath meal is eaten about noon or
shortly thereafter. The third meal, known as seudah shlishit, is then
eaten very late in the afternoon, before sundown. This meal is
usually a simple meal, but should include bread or challah.
The same procedure for washing, baking bread, zmirot, reciting grace,
etc., that were followed at the Friday evening meal are also followed
for the other two Sabbath meals.
Ending the Day
The Sababth day ends, not at sundown when the sun sets, but at
nightfall when the stars come out. Nightfall begins when at least
three stars are visible in the heavens. Calculations have, however,
long replaced the visual method of determining the onset of nightfall.
The time between sundown and nightfall is traditionally neither day
or right. In hebrew it is called "between the suns". Since its status
is doubtful, it is automatically attached to the Sabbath, so that
there shall be no question of Sabbath violation.
Just as the recitation of Kiddush is required for Friday evening so
the recitation of Havdalah is required to mark the conclusion of the
Havdalah, which means Division or Separation, may be said at any
time after nightfall. In the synagogue, it follows the brief evening
(maariv) service. It should also be said at home for the benefit if
those members of the household who did not hear it.
The Havdalah is said over a cup of wine, with additional blessings
recited for fragrant spices (b'samim) and light (ner). Then symbolic
significance of the fragrant spices is that the sweet smell-- regarded
in rabbinic sources as a delight for the soul, rather than for the
body-- refreshes in some small way, making up for the loss of the
"additional soul" which takes leave at the end of the Sabbath and for
the loss of spiritual strength this entails.
As for the light, since it is not permitted to be kindled on the
Sabbath, it was considered proper that its very first use after the
Sabbath be for a religious purpose. It also symbolises- as the first
act of the week- the first act of creation, which marked the first
day of the week when G-d said,
"Let there be light."
If wine is unavailable for Havdalah, other beverages such as beer
or liquers may be substituted.
Special fragrant spice mixtures for use at Havdalah are available
at Jewish religious supplies stores. The spices are generally kept
in decorative and artistically designed containers of silver, brass,
chromium, or wood. These containers are referred to as b'samim boxes.
The Havdalah candle is a special candle that is made of two or
more braided wicks, since the flame of a torch is required and not
a regular candle. They come in various sizes and colors. If a
Special Havdalah candle is not available, two ordinary candles may
be used if they are held in an upside down v shape, like this /\
so that the two candles come together, providing a torchlike effect.
The candle is given to one member of the household to hold (usually
a child) while the Havdalah is recited.
After filling the cup with wine to the brim and lighting the
Havdalah candle, the head of the household raises the cup of wine
in his right hand and says:
"Blessed art Thou Lord our G-d King of the universe, who creates
the fruit of the vine."
The b'samim box is then picked up and the following recited:
"Blessed art Thou Lord our G-d King of the universe, who creates
As this blessing is concluded, the fragrant spices are smelled.
Turning back to look at the flame of the Havdalah candle, the
following blessing is then recited:
"Blessed ar Thou Lord our G-d King of the universe, who creates
the light of the fire"
As this blessing is concluded, it is customary to momentarily
examine one's hands or at least the right hand by the light of the
flame so as to derive some form of use from the light, that the
blessing not be said in vain.
The cup of wine is then picked up again and the essence of the
Havdalah prayer is said:
"Blessed art Thou Lord our G-d King of the universe, who makes
a division between the sacred and the secular, between light and
darkness, between Israel and other nations, between the seventh
day and the six working days. Blessed art Thou, Lord, who makes
a distinction between the sacred and the secular."
The Siddur contains an introductory paragraph composed of
seleceted Biblical verses that is custimarily recited prior to
the blessing over the wine. If one is proficient in Hebrew, this
paragraph beginning with the words "Hinei ayl yeshuati" should be
included in the Havdalah.