Shabbat or Shabbos (Hebrew: שַׁבָּת, "shabbāt", "shabbes", "rest/inactivity"), is the weekly Sabbath or day of rest in Judaism, symbolizing the seventh day in Genesis, after the six days of creation. Though it is commonly said to be the Saturday of each week, it is observed from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact time therefore differs from week to week and from place to place, depending on the time of the sunset.

Shabbat is observed both by positive observances, such as three festive meals, and restrictions. Activities forbidden on the Shabbat derive from thirty-nine basic actions ("melachot", loosely translated as "work") that are derived by the Talmud from Biblical sources.


The Hebrew word "Shabbat" comes from the Hebrew verb "shavat", which literally means "to cease." Although "Shabbat" (or its anglicized version, "Sabbath") is almost universally translated as "rest" or a "period of rest," a more literal translation would be "ceasing", with the implication of "ceasing from work." Thus, "Shabbat" is the day of ceasing from work; while resting is implied, it is not a necessary denotation of the word itself. For example, the Hebrew word for "strike" (as in work stoppage) is "shevita", which comes from the same Hebrew root as "Shabbat", and has the same implication, namely that striking workers actively abstain from work, rather than passively.

Some people ask why God needed to "rest" on the seventh day of Creation according to Genesis. If the meaning of the word is understood as "ceasing from labor" rather than "rested," this is more consistent with the biblical view of an omnipotent God.

"Shabbat" is the source for the English term , and for the word denoting this day of the week in many languages. The word "sabbatical" - referring to the sabbatical year in the Bible, or a year that one takes off from work, mainly in the academic world, also comes from this root.

Biblical source

The special status of Shabbat as a holy day is contained in ):

: Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work... For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

The first appearance of the commandment is in fact earlier, in , and .

tatus as a holy day

The Tanakh and siddur (Jewish prayer book) describe Shabbat as having three purposes:
# A commemoration of the Israelites' redemption from slavery in ancient Egypt;
# A commemoration of God's creations of the universe; on the seventh day God rested from (or ceased) his work;
# A taste of the world in Messianic times.

Judaism accords Shabbat the status of a joyous holy day. In many ways, Jewish law gives Shabbat the status of being the most important holy day in the Jewish calendar:
* It is the first holy day mentioned in the Bible, and God was the first to observe it with the cessation of Creation (Genesis 2:1-3).
* Jewish liturgy treats the Sabbath as a "bride" and "queen."
* The Sefer Torah is read during the Torah reading which is part of the Saturday morning services, with a longer reading than during the week. The Torah is read over a yearly cycle of 54 "parshiot", one for each Shabbat (sometimes they are doubled). On Shabbat the reading is divided into seven sections, more than on any other holy day, including Yom Kippur. Then, the Haftarah reading from the Hebrew prophets is read.
* A tradition states that the Jewish Messiah will come if every Jew properly observes two consecutive Sabbaths. [Talmud, tractate Shabbat 118]
* The punishment in ancient times for desecrating Shabbat (stoning) is the most severe punishment in Jewish law. [See e.g. Numbers 15:32-36.]

habbat rituals

Shabbat is a day of celebration as well as one of prayer. It is customary to eat three festive meals on Shabbat. These include dinner on Friday night, lunch on Saturday and another meal before the conclusion of Shabbat later in the afternoon.

Many Jews attend synagogue services on Shabbat even if they do not do so during the week. Services are held on Friday night and Saturday morning.

With the exception of Yom Kippur, which is referred to in the Torah as the "Sabbath of the Sabbaths," days of public fasting are postponed or advanced if they coincide with Shabbat. Mourners sitting "shivah" (week of mourning subsequent to the death of a spouse or first-degree relative) outwardly conduct themselves normally for the duration of the day and are forbidden to express public signs of mourning.

According to Rabbinic literature, God via the Torah commands Jews to "observe" (refrain from forbidden activity) and "remember" (with words, thoughts, and actions) the Shabbat, and these two actions are symbolized by Shabbat candles late Friday afternoon (in most communities, eighteen minutes before sunset is customary) by Jewish women, usually the mother/wife, though men who live alone are required to do so themselves. It is customary to light two candles, although some families light more, sometimes in accordance with the number of children. [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim chapter 261.]

Although most Shabbat laws are restrictive (see below), the fourth of the Ten Commandments in Exodus is taken by the Talmud to allude to the "positive" commandments of the Shabbat. These include:
* Recitation of "kiddush", or "sanctification," over a cup of wine at the beginning of Shabbat before the first meal and after the conclusion of morning prayers (see list of Jewish prayers and blessings)
* Eating three festive meals ("shalosh seudot"). Meals begin with a blessing over two loaves of bread ("lechem mishneh"), usually a braided challah, which is symbolic of the double portion of manna God gave the Jewish people on Fridays during their time in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. It is customary to serve meat or fish, and sometimes both, for Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch. The third meal, eaten late Saturday afternoon, is called "Seudah Shlishit" (literally, "third meal"). This is generally a light meal and may be parve or dairy.
* Recitation of "Havdalah", or "separation," at the conclusion on Saturday night (over a cup of wine, and with the use of fragrant spices and a candle)
* Enjoying Shabbat ("Oneg Shabbat"). Engaging in pleasurable activities such as eating, singing, spending time with the family and marital relations.
* Honouring Shabbat ("Kavod Shabbat") Preparing for the upcoming Shabbat by bathing, having a haircut, and cleaning and beautifying the home (with flowers, for example), or on Shabbat itself, wearing festive clothing and refraining from unpleasant conversation.

It is customary to avoid talk about money or business matters on Shabbat. [Derived from Isaiah 48:13]

Prohibited activities

The 39 categories

Jewish law (halakha) prohibits doing any form of "melachah" (מְלָאכָה, plural "melachot") on Shabbat, with some exceptions. Though "melachah" is commonly translated as "work" in English, a better definition is "deliberate activity" or "skill and craftmanship". There are 39 categories of prohibited activities ("melachot") listed in Mishnah Tractate Shabbat Chapter 7, Mishna 2).

Different streams of Judaism view the prohibition on work in different ways. Observant Orthodox and Conservative Jews refrain from performing the prohibited activities. These prohibited activities are exegetically derived - based on juxtaposition of corresponding Biblical passages - from the kinds of work that were necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle. They are not directly listed in the Torah; elsewhere, the Mishnah observes that "the laws of the Sabbath [...] are like mountains hanging by a hair, for they are little Scripture but many laws" (Hagigah 1:8). Many religious scholars have pointed out that these labors have in common activity that is "creative," or that exercises control or dominion over one's environment.

The 39 categories of "melachah" are ploughing earth, sowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, selecting, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing wool, beating wool, dyeing wool, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying, untying, sewing stitches, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, flaying, tanning, scraping hide, marking hides, cutting hide to shape, writing two or more letters, erasing two or more letters, building, demolishing, extinguishing a fire, kindling a fire, putting the finishing touch on an object and transporting an object between the private domain and the public domain, or for a distance of 4 cubits within the public domain.

Each "melachah" has derived prohibitions of various kinds. There are, therefore, many more forbidden activities on the Shabbat; all are traced back to one of the 39 above principal "melachot".

Given the above, the 39 "melachot" are not so much activities as "categories of activity." For example, while "winnowing" usually refers exclusively to the separation of chaff from grain, and "selecting" refers exclusively to the separation of debris from grain, they refer in the Talmudic sense to any separation of intermixed materials which renders edible that which was inedible. Thus, filtering undrinkable water to make it drinkable falls under this category, as does picking small bones from fish. ("Gefilte fish" is one solution to this problem.)

Use of electricity

Orthodox and some Conservative authorities rule that it is prohibited to turn electric devices on or off as falling under one of the "39 categories of work ("melachot")". However, the authorities are not in agreement about exactly which category (or categories) this would fall under. One view is that tiny sparks are created in a switch when the circuit is closed, and this would constitute "lighting a fire" (category 37). If the appliance is one whose purpose is for light or heat (such as an incandescent lightbulb or electric oven) then the lighting or heating elements may be considered as a type of fire; if so, then turning them on constitutes both "lighting a fire" (category 37) and "cooking" (a form of baking, category 11), and turning them off would be "extinguishing a fire" (category 36).

Another view is that a device which is plugged into an electrical outlet of a wall becomes part of the building, but is nonfunctional while the switch is off; turning it on would then constitute "building" and turning it off would be "demolishing" (categories 35 and 34). Some schools of thought consider the use of electricity to be forbidden only by rabbinic injunction, rather than because it violates of one of the original categories.

A common solution to the problem of electricity involves pre-set timers (Shabbat clocks) for electric appliances, to turn them on and off automatically, with no human intervention on Shabbat itself. Some Conservative authorities [Neulander, Arthur. "The Use of Electricity on the Sabbath." "Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly" 14 (1950) 165-171] [Adler, Morris; Agus, Jacob; and Friedman, Theodore. "Responsum on the Sabbath." "Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly" 14 (1950), 112-137] [Klein, Isaac. "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice." The Jewish Theological Seminary of America: New York, 1979.] reject altogether the arguments for prohibiting the use of electricity.


Orthodox and many Conservative authorities completely prohibit the use of automobiles on Shabbat as a violation of multiple categories include "igniting a fire" (category 37), "extinguishing a fire" (category 36) and "transferring between domains" (category 39). However, the Conservative movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards permits driving to a synagogue on Shabbat, as an emergency measure, on grounds that if Jews lost contact with synagogue life they would become lost to the Jewish people.

A halachically-authorized Shabbat module added to an Amigo power operated vehicle may be used on the observance of Shabbat for those with walking limitations. Manufactured by Zomet Institute in Israel, each Shabbat module application is individually inspected and certified by a Zomet representative. Intended only for individuals whose limited mobility is dependent on a POV/scooter or automobile consistently throughout the week.

homer Shabbat

The term "shomer shabbat" is used for a person (or organization) who adheres to Shabbat laws consistently. The "shomer shabbat" is an archetype mentioned in Jewish songs (e.g., "Baruch El Elyon") and the intended audience for various treatises on Jewish law and practice for the Sabbath day (e.g., "Shmirat Shabbat ke-Hilkhata").

Extenuating circumstances

In the event that a human life is in danger ("pikuach nefesh"), a Jew is not only allowed, but required, to violate any Shabbat law that stands in the way of saving that person. (In fact, any law in Judaism, excluding murder, idolatry, and forbidden sexual acts, must be broken if doing so will help save the life of one who is in grave danger.) The concept of life being in danger is interpreted broadly: for example, it is mandated that one violate Shabbat to bring a woman in active labor to a hospital. Lesser, rabbinic restrictions are often violated under much less urgent circumstances (a patient who is ill but not critically so).

Various other legal principles closely delineate which activities constitute desecration of the Shabbat. Examples of these include the principle of "shinui" ("change" or "deviation") - a severe violation becomes a non-severe one if the prohibited act was performed in a way that would be considered abnormal on a weekday. Examples include writing with one's non-dominant hand (according to many rabbinic authorities). This legal principle operates "bedi'avad" ("ex post facto") and does not cause a forbidden activity to be permitted barring extenuating circumstances.

Technology in the service of Shabbat

When there is an urgent human or medical need which is not life-threatening, it is possible to perform seemingly "forbidden" acts by modifying the relevant technology to such an extent that no law is actually violated. An example is the "Sabbath elevator". In this mode, an elevator will stop automatically at every floor, allowing people to step on and off without anyone having to press any buttons, which would normally be needed to work. (Regenerative braking is also disabled if it is normally used, shunting energy collected from downward travel, and thus the gravitational potential energy of passengers, into a resistor network.) This prevents "violation" of the Sabbath prohibition against doing "useful work." Many rabbinical authorities consider the use of such elevators by those who are otherwise capable as a "violation" of the Sabbath, with such workarounds being for the benefit of the frail and handicapped and not being in the spirit of the day.

Many observant Jews avoid the prohibition of "carrying" in the absence of an eruv by making their keys into a tie bar, or part of a belt buckle or brooch. The key thereby becomes a legitimate article of clothing or jewelry, which may be worn, rather than carried.

In recent years, the Shabbat lamp has been developed to allow a light in a room to be turned on/off at will while the electricity remains on. A special mechanism blocks out the light when the off position is desired without violating Shabbat.

Reform and Reconstructionist views

Adherents of Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism, generally speaking, believe that it is up to the individual Jew to determine whether to follow those prohibitions on Shabbat or not. For example, some Jews might find writing or other activities (such as cooking) for leisure and enjoyment purposes to be an enjoyable activity that enhances Shabbat and its holiness, and therefore encourage such practices. Many Reform Jews believe that what constitutes "work" is different for each person; thus only what the person considers "work" is forbidden. []

On the more rabbinically traditional side of Reform and Reconstructionism, it is believed that these halakhot in general may be valid, but it is up to each individual to decide how and when to apply said laws. Thus one can find a small fraction of Jews in the Progressive Jewish community who accept these laws in much the same way that Orthodox Jews do.

Permitted activities

The following activities are encouraged on Shabbat among all Jewish denominations:
*Spending Shabbat together with others;
*Synagogue attendance for prayers;
*Visiting family and friends (within walking distance);
*Hosting guests ("hachnasat orchim", "hospitality");
*Singing "zemirot", special songs for the Shabbat meal (commonly sung during or after a meal).
*Reading, studying and discussing Torah and commentary, Mishnah and Talmud, learning some Halakha and Midrash.
*Sexual relations between husband and wife, particularly on Friday night. (The Shulkhan Arukh describes this as a "double mitzvah," as it combines procreation with enjoyment of Shabbat, both of which are considered to be mandated by the Torah.)

pecial Sabbaths

The Special Sabbaths are associated with important Jewish holidays that they precede: For example, Shabbat Hagadol, which is the Shabbat before Passover, Shabbat Zachor is the Shabbat before Purim, and Shabbat Teshuva is the Shabbat before Yom Kippur.

Adaptation by other religions

The principle of a weekly day of prayer and rest, derived from Shabbat, was eventually adopted and instituted by other religions as well. The majority of Christianity does not celebrate the Sabbath by what they perceive as a command of God through the Apostle Paul (Colossians 2:14-17) but does observe a weekly day of worship on Sunday, sometimes called "the Lord's Day", to commemorate the resurrection of Christ from the dead on the first day of the week. Many first century Jewish Christians observed the Sabbath in the Synagogue and the Lord's Day with their local church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church and the True Jesus Church observe the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset as mentioned in Bible, as do "Seventh-Day" factions of other Christian denominations, such as Seventh Day Baptists and Churches of God. None of these religions currently keep Shabbat in the Jewish way.Fact|date=February 2007 .

ee also

*Jewish holidays
*Jewish services for the Sabbath
*Sabbath breaking
*Sabbath in Christianity
*Sabbath mode
*Shabbos goy


Further reading

*"The Modern Jewish Mom's Guide to Shabbat" Meredith Jacobs,HarperCollins Publishers
*"The Sabbath" Abraham Joshua Heschel
*"The Sabbath: A Guide to Its Understandings and Observance" Dayan Isadore Grunfeld, Philipp Feldheim Inc.
*"A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice" Isaac Klein, Ktav, 1992
*"The Artscroll Siddur" Ed. Nosson Scherman, Mesorah Publications
*"The Encyclopaedia Judaica," entry on "Shabbat", Keter Publishing House Ltd
*"Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals" Ed. Leonard S. Cahan, The Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
*"Siddur Sim Shalom" Ed. Jules Harlow, The Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
*"Sabbath - Day of Eternity" by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan - [ online version] .
*"The Laws of Shabbat (A 37-part self study course)" Rabbi Daniel Schloss - [ here]

External links

* [ Video: Lighting Shabbat Candles How-To]
* [ Online Shabbat Guide]
* [ FAQ about Shabbat]
* [ FAQ about Shabbat]
* [ Candle Lighting Times for Shabbat World Wide]
* [ Molad] - Freeware Jewish Calendar with Shabbat candle lighting times for Mobiles.
* [ Information on Shabbat from the Union of Orthodox Congregations]
* [ a more detailed summary of the laws of Shabbat] from, based on the Shulchan Aruch
* [ The Laws of Shabbat (A 37-part self study course) by Rabbi Daniel Schloss]
* [ Honoring Shabbat]
* [ Shabbat Candle Lighting Instructions]
* [ Shabbat Candle Lighting Times]

Jewish holidays

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