Jewish Holidays and Festivals
Sabbath for a Devout Jew
The Sabbath is the most important ritual observance in Judaism, also
one of the best known and least understood of all Jewish observances.
Like all Jewish days, it begins at sunset (See Genesis 1) every Friday
night and lasts 24 hours until three starts appear on Saturday evening.
It is in fact the only ritual observance mandated in the Ten Commandments.
There is an expression: "Keep the Sabbath and it will keep you."
Supplemental articles: Click here for a Jew FAQ page that has a nice perspective.
Additionally, here is a recent (March 2017) ldsmag article by LDS author Brother Bradley J. Kramer titled "Jewish Insight to Improve a Mormon's Sabbath".
Also an LDS Apostle's perpective: Elder Russell M. Nelson, 1015: The Sabbath Is a Delight.
Finally, a family-worship perspective: "Sabbath Meals Are Wedding Banquets".
Jews believe the Sabbath is a precious gift from God, a day of great
joy eagerly awaited throughout the week, when we set aside all of our
weekday concerns and devote ourselves to higher pursuits. In Jewish
literature, poetry and music, Shabat is described as a bride or queen,
as in the popular Shabat hymn L'cha Dodi Likrat Kallah (Come, my
beloved, to meet the [Sabbath] Bride). It is said "more than Israel has
kept Shabat; Shabat has kept Israel."
Shabat is the only ritual observance instituted in the Ten
Commandments. It is also the most important special day. Shabat is
primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The word "Shabat"
means to cease or to rest. Shabat is not specifically a day of prayer,
though Jews do spend a substantial amount of time in synagogue praying.
On Shabat, Jews eat more elaborately and in a more leisurely fashion.
What happens on the Sabbath? The classical Jew keeps the
Sabbath both as a memorial of creation and as a remembrance of the
redemption from Egypt. The primary liturgy of the Sabbath is the
reading of the Scripture lesson from the Torah in the synagogue
service. So the three chief themes-creation, revelation, and
redemption-are combined in the weekly observance of the seventh day,
from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
The Sabbath is protected by negative rules. One must not
work; one must not pursue mundane concerns. According to Torah, no one
should do physical labor, buy or sell or expend effort on Shabat. But
the Sabbath is also adorned with less concrete but affirmative laws:
One must rejoice; one must rest.
How do pious Jews keep the Sabbath?
All week long they look forward to it, and the anticipation enhances
the ordinary days. By Friday afternoon they have bathed, put on their
Sabbath garments, and set asides the affairs of the week. At home, the
family-husband, wife, children-will have cleaned, cooked, and arranged
their finest table. It is common to invite guests for the Sabbath
In the lives of observant Jews, two Shabat candles are lit and a
blessing is recited no later than eighteen minutes before sunset. This
ritual, performed by the woman of the house, officially marks the
beginning of Shabat. The candles represent the two commandments: zachor
(remember) and shamor (observe). The family then attends a brief
evening service followed by dinner. Before dinner, a Bar-Mitzvahed
Jewish male of the house recites Kiddush, a prayer over wine
sanctifying Shabat. The usual prayer for eating bread is recited over
two loaves of challah, a sweet, eggy bread shaped in a braid. After
dinner, the birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited.
The next morning Shabat services begin around 9 AM and continue
until about noon. After services, the family says kiddush again and has
another leisurely, festive meal. Shabat ends at nightfall, when three
stars are visible, approximately 40 minutes after sunset. At the
conclusion of Shabat the family performs a concluding ritual called
Havdalah (separation, division). Blessings are recited over wine,
spices and candles. Then a blessing is recited regarding the division
between the sacred and the secular, between Shabat and the working
To the Sabbath-observing Jew, the Sabbath is the chief sign of God's grace.
Sabbath morning liturgy includes this phrase: "For the seventh day
did you choose and sanctify as the most pleasant of days and you called
it a memorial to the works of creation."
The Sabbath is a sign of the covenant. It is a gift of grace that
neither idolaters nor evil people may enjoy… It is the most pleasant of
days. Keeping the Sabbath is living in God's kingdom.
That the way in which they accomplish such a routine change of pace
may be made the very heart and soul of their spiritual existence is the
single absolutely unique element in Judaic tradition. Certainly those
who compare the Sabbath of Judaism to the somber, supposedly joyless
Sunday of the Calvinists know nothing of what the Sabbath has meant and
continues to mean to Jews.
Rabbi Abraham Hershel includes in a statement of the laws of the
Sabbath the following: "not to do anything that might lead to
unhappiness." Only a family whose life focuses upon the Sabbath week by
week, year by year, from birth to death, can know the sanctity of which
the theologian speaks the sacred rest to which the prayers refer. The
heart and soul of this tradition cannot be described, only experienced.
By resting on the seventh day and sanctifying it, Jews remember and
acknowledge that God is the creator of heaven and earth and all living
things. They also emulate the divine example by refraining from work on
the seventh day.
Freedom. What does the Exodus have to do with resting on the
seventh day? It's all about freedom. By resting on Shabat, people are
reminded that they are free. Shabat frees from our weekday concerns,
much as the Hebrews were freed from slavery in Egypt. Jews recite
kiddush (the prayer over wine) sanctifying Shabat on Friday nights at
sundown as a memorial of the work in the beginning and a remembrance of