Shabbat by Rabbi Stuart Paris
When most people think of holidays, they think of annual celebrations, but in Judaism there is one holiday that occurs every week - the Sabbath. Known in Hebrew as Shabbat and in Yiddish as Shabbos, this holiday is central to Jewish Life. As the great Jewish writer, Adad Ha-Am has observed: “Even more than the Jews have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jews.” The Sabbath has been a unifying force for Jews the world over.
Shabbat is observed on the seventh day of the week in fulfillment of the biblical commandment: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of Adonai your God.” (Exodus 20:9-10) In accordance with the Jewish calendar, the Sabbath begins on Friday evening at sunset and ends on Saturday night with the appearance of three stars. All Jewish days begin at sunset. This is based on the wording of the Creation story in Genesis 1. At the end of the description of each day, we find the phrase: “And there was evening, and there was morning…” Since evening is mentioned first, the ancient rabbis deduced that evening is first.
While Shabbat occurs on Friday evening and Saturday, it is more than simply another day of the week. It is a special day and we invest it with specialness. Friday and Saturday come automatically, but Shabbat takes place only when we make it happen. We prepare for Shabbat by the clothes we wear, by the meals we eat, by the lighting of Sabbath candles, and by chanting the Kiddush over wine to set apart this special time. Shabbat truly becomes what it was meant to be as we welcome and invite its peace into our lives.
Shabbat is Special!
Shabbat Is Greeted Like a Queen or Bride. On Friday night, as the sun sets, it is customary to sing a collection of Psalms followed by the mystical poem of Lecha Dodi, in which we serenade the descending sweetness of Shabbat, whom we address as both a beautiful bride and beloved queen.
Shabbat Lasts from Sundown on Friday to Nightfall on Saturday. Every week, for the 25 hours beginning just before sundown on Friday until after night has fallen on Saturday night, Jewish people celebrate Shabbat, a period of rest and spiritual rejuvenation.
Shabbat Is Super Important in Judaism. Shabbat is the fourth of the Ten Commandments and repeated over and over again in the Torah, making it one of the most important elements of Judaism.
Angels Accompany Us on Friday Night. Tradition tells us that two angels accompany us on our way to the Friday night meal. This gave birth to the classic Shabbat song Shalom Aleichem, in which we welcome the angels to our home, ask them to bless us, and then send them on their way. This is often followed by Eishet Chayil, Solomon’s famous ode to the Woman of Valor.
Shabbat Is Escorted Out With Chanting, Wine, Spices & Flames. Just like we welcome Shabbat with kiddush over wine, we say a similar text, known as havdalah, after Shabbat ends. This short but beautiful ceremony incorporates sniffing fragrant spices (to restore our spirits, which have been dampened by the departure of Shabbat) and benefitting from fire (to celebrate that fire may once again be used).
There is a miracle in Shabbat. Even if you have never felt it yourself, it is there. Shabbat is a reminder that takes us back to the beginning. It is a reunion with our inner selves; a return to the oneness our souls enjoyed with G‑d. During the week we perceive the world in a subjective manner. On Shabbat, we are allowed to enter G-d’s reality and to see the world as a reflection of G-d, a manifestation of G-d’s imaginative thoughts.
Enter and Enjoy! Shabbat Shalom!