In today’s life, everything is fast-paced, every day of the week we engage in some sort of work or activity that keeps us busy all the time. The impact is so profound that we don’t even realize how important it is to take a day off from everyday life.
But this wasn’t always the case, in fact, a day of rest is an ancient concept observed in many cultures and religions. Jewish Shabbat is one such important age-old custom observed by Jews across the globe. In this blog, we will talk about Shabbat and its significance in Jewish culture and tradition.
What is Shabbat?
Shabbat also known as Sabbath or Shabbos is a weekly day of rest and a religious observance by the Jewish community around the world. It begins at sunset on Friday and ends at nightfall on Saturday. Other than its religious and historical significance, it is also a great occasion for Jews to spend time with their family and friends.
The Jewish day of rest dates back thousands of years and can be traced to the biblical account of creation. It is the time when god created the heaven and the earth and everything in it in six days and rested on the seventh day and declared it holy.
In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites after their liberation from slavery in Egypt were wandering in the desert and were running short of food.
In response to their plight, god provided them with manna and instructed them to gather enough manna for each day, with an exception for the day before the Shabbat when they gathered food for two days, this was because the Shabbat was to be a day of rest.
Customs & Traditions
The customs and traditions of Shabbat have evolved over time and people observe Shabbat in different ways that reflect the diversity and richness of Jewish practice. Here are
Shabbat Candle Lighting: This is one of the most well-known traditions of Shabbat. The practice of Shabbat candle lighting is done by women just before sunset. This officially marks the beginning of Shabbat. Traditionally two candles are lit to signify the two aspects of the day “zachor”, and “shamor” which means “remember” and “keep”. The first word is associated with the idea of commemorating and honoring the day of rest and the latter is associated with the idea of observing and safeguarding the sanctity of the day.
Sharing Meals: On Shabbat Jews gather with family and friends and share a Shabbat dinner that often features traditional foods like challan and wine. People also gather for lunch after attending synagogue services. As cooking is prohibited during the Shabbat times, most of the cooking happens before the Shabbat.
Other Custom and Tradition: Other Customs and traditions associated with Shabbat include singing traditional songs, of course, the use of musical instruments are prohibited, so most of these performances happen around the Shabbat table.
As Shabbat precludes work which also includes the use of electronic gadgets and handling money, many people spend time taking a long nap while others prefer to take a long and peaceful walk with friends and family to a nearby park or garden.
Playing board games is a time-honored tradition that has been enjoyed by Jewish families for generations as it promotes a perfect balance of mental stimulation and social interaction.
Shabbat is a special day of the week that provides an opportunity for every Jew to pause, reflect, and connect with loved ones. Whether through the lighting of candles sharing a meal, playing board games, or taking a leisurely walk with your friends and family, Shabbat offers a unique prospect to disconnect from the daily stress of life and focus on what truly matters.
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Q: Why are two candles lit on Shabbat?
A: Two Shabbat candles are lit to symbolize the dual commandments to “remember” and “observe” the Sabbath day. The first candle represents the commandment to remember, while the second represents the commandment to observe.
Q: Can one engage in leisure activities on Shabbat?
A: Yes, engaging in leisure activities is allowed on Shabbat, as long as they are not too strenuous or demanding. Playing board games, going for a walk, or spending time with family and friends are all examples of leisure activities that are permitted on Shabbat.
Q: What are the traditional customs and practices associated with Shabbat?
A: There are many customs and practices associated with Shabbat, including lighting candles, reciting blessings, sharing festive meals, attending synagogue services, and refraining from work and certain activities.
Q: Can one cook on Shabbat?
A: Jewish law prohibits cooking, baking, or kindling of fire on Shabbat, but it is permitted to reheat pre-cooked food using a warming tray or hot plate.