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What is Shabbat?

We celebrate Shabbat because G-d created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. This has become a day of rest for Jews until today, called Shabbat. In essence, on this day, G-d created the concept of resting. The day starts on Friday evening after sundown and commences until Saturday evening, 25 hours in total. Shabbat is a very central part of Judaism and is synonymous with being a religious Jew.

The commandment of Shabbat appears twice in the Torah: After G-d took the Jews out of Egypt and brought them to Sinai in Exodus (Sefer Shemos) and later when Moses repeated the ten commandments to the Jews before his death in Deuteronomy (Sefer Devorim). In Exodus, we are urged to remember that He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh and to observe Shabbat as a testimony. In Deuteronomy, we are commanded to keep the Shabbat because G-d saved us from Egypt. The difference is that from Exodus, we learn that we should remember the Shabbat (Zochor) and perform different actions as a reminder. In Deuteronomy, we learn to refrain from doing things that are forbidden on this day (Shomor).

What is the general atmosphere of Shabbat?

Shabbat is a much anticipated and celebrated day in the Jewish calendar. It is a meaningful day of reflective peace and bonding with family. Traditionally, our Sages saved the best meat, fish, and wines of the whole week for the special day. The preparations for the day are also very extensive. It is customary to shower on Friday and don beautiful clothing reserved especially for Shabbat. All the foods that will be served and eaten throughout the day must be prepared in advance since there is no cooking or baking on the day itself.

Crucial Shabbat Safety Tips

How do we celebrate Shabbat?

We celebrate Shabbat with different rituals to remind us of the holy day and its purpose (Zochor– to remember), and we also refrain from many weekday activities throughout the day (Shomor– to guard).

The main rituals of Shabbat include

  • Lighting Shabbat candles- Traditionally, the woman of the house lights at least two candles to mark the beginning of the Shabbat at least 18 minutes before sunset. In the absence of a woman, a man can light the candles. The candles bring light into the home, ensuring a peaceful day, especially since fire used to be the sole method of lighting up and warming homes, and one may not kindle a fire on Shabbat.

PLEASE NOTE: Once the candles are lit, one may not put them out on Shabbat. The candles must be left alight until they die out on their own, which can pose a safety threat. You can download our FREE e-book for more awareness and Shabbat safety tips here.

  • Making Kiddush- As part of the commandment of Zochor– remembering the day of Shabbat- we recite the Kiddush passage over a cup of wine. This ceremony takes place on Friday night and then again on Shabbat day, although the exact text for the Kiddush is different each time.
  • Eating a festive meal- After the kiddush, there is a festive meal, starting with two loaves of Challah to commemorate the double portion of manna that fell when the Jews were in the desert. Altogether there are three meals on Shabbat- Friday night, Shabbat day, and another one on Shabbat evening. Many traditional foods are commonly served at the meals, and songs and Torah thoughts are shared.
  • Shabbat prayers- There are special prayers that are recited on the day of Shabbat, starting with Kabbalat Shabbat- the inauguration of Shabbat with special passages and songs on Friday night. On Shabbat day, the Musaf prayer is recited, and the weekly portion of the Torah is read aloud in the synagogue. 
  • The Havdalah ceremony- The Havdalah passage is recited over a cup of wine as we bid farewell to the Shabbat until next week. As part of the ceremony, we smell fragrant spices as a comfort to our souls and hold up a candle because Adam and Eve first used fire after Shabbat.


You can click here to find more information about Shabbat and the rituals of the day.

Shabbat safety tips for the whole family

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Crucial Shabbat Safety Tips

Learn everything you and your family need to know to stay safe on Shabbat.