Zipple - The Jewish Supersite

Business Directory
Events Calendar
Get a Job
Members' Area
Your Town

Joke of the Week
Recipe of the Week
Quote of the Week
Tip of the Week

w.w.w. Zipple  

Click Here to Visit!


Home > Holidays > Shabbat's Guide to Shabbat
Observing Shabbat

Shabbat: Overview

Imagine your boss forces you to take a vacation, no cell phone or Palm Pilots allowed. Then imagine doing that every Saturday, and you have Shabbat.

Shabbat, or Shabbos (Sabbath in English), recalls the story of creation, when God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Shabbat begins Friday night at sunset and continues until dark the next day. The commandment to observe Shabbat comes right from the Ten Commandments:

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you labor, and do your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God" (Exodus 20: 8-10). The directive appears again in Deuteronomy 5:12-16, with the word "remember" changed to "observe." Many Biblical commentators have explained the reasons for the difference in language; to explain it here would take a whole…well, Shabbat.

In Jewish literature Shabbat is often referred to as a bride, symbolizing the joy of the day, and as "the Sabbath Queen," implying the obligatory practices that accompany it. In Essential Judaism (Pocket Books, 2000), George Robinson writes that both images are critical: "A Sabbath without the Bride would be a cold, lifeless recitation of rules and prayers…A Sabbath without the Queen would be without substance and focus, short-lived good feelings with nothing to show for them."

Shabbat is such a joyful day that the rabbis prohibited formal acts of sadness; no mourning is observed, and fast days that fall out on Shabbat (other than Yom Kippur) are pushed off to Sunday.

The rituals of Shabbat reinforce family and communal bonds. Shabbat meals are family affairs, prescribing times for families to be together without the distraction of competing schedules or technologies. A third meal, Seudah Shlishit, takes place on Shabbat afternoon, and is also served in the synagogue, but that's less of a family gathering, since how many people like herring and stale crackers?

Work, in Shabbat terms, refers to more than putting in a day at the office or telecommuting; it also includes actions that indirectly violate Shabbat. Since lighting a fire is prohibited on Shabbat, turning on lights or watching television, both of which use electricity, are out, since electricity is generated from a fire somewhere in the local power plant. We think.

To enforce the obligation to rest, the rabbis deduced a list of activities that constitute work, based on the activities involved in building the mishkan, the ark that traveled with the Jews in the desert. Objects used for work purposes are considered muktzah (things that should be put aside).

The mishnah, a collection of rabbinic opinions and legal rulings that comprises a major part of the Talmud, lists what shouldn't be done on the Shabbat. The 39 prohibitions fall into these seven categories: growing and preparing food, making clothing, leatherwork and writing, providing shelter, creating fire, work completion, and transporting goods.

Shabbat is also special in its spiritual nature. The rabbis taught that Jews should refrain from activities or conversations that dominate the week in order to preserve Shabbat's unique character. So talking about business is out (unless you do it in synagogue, apparently). Weekday talk that would be excluded probably includes sports, arts and entertainment, and even Jewish websites, but there's a loophole: Oneg Shabbat, or enjoyment of the Sabbath.

Jews are encouraged to do activities that increase their enjoyment of Shabbat as long as those activities are within the spirit of the day. Eating special foods? Encouraged. Playing extra video games? Not encouraged. Spending extra time with family and friends? Definitely encouraged. Going online to submit questions to Not encouraged.

Part of what keeps Shabbat special is not only what is done, but also, what isn't. Because of the prohibitions, many Jews also prepare in advance of Shabbat in other ways-bathing, shaving, putting away money and other non-Shabbat items, setting timers for lights, etc. How people observe Shabbat is a personal choice.

Shabbat, Robinson writes, is a "taste from God of olam ha-bah/the World to Come, of paradise, a time in which it will always be Shabbat."


People & Cultures

Aish Hatorah Shabbat Weekly
Everything Jewish: Shabbat
Judaism 101: Shabbat
Nurit Reshef: Shabbat

OU: Shabbat
OU: Candle Lighting Times
The Ultimate Shabbat Site

Return to top

About Zipple | Legal Stuff | Link to Us | Add Your URL | Advertising | Feedback | Contact Us