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How is Shabbat celebrated?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht And Rabbi Zalman Abrahams

  

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1. The big question

The best way to begin is to observe. Get yourself invited to Shabbat services at your local Chabad center, followed by Shabbat dinner or lunch at the good rabbi’s house (his kids will befriend you in no time). Once there, you will be full of questions, which your unflappable hosts will be happy to answer.

2. Entering Shabbat

Shabbat begins Friday at sunset. In preparation we clean our homes, bathe and dress in our finest. Women and girls usher in the Shabbat with the lighting of Shabbat Candles (18 minutes) before sunset. (Click here for exact candle lighting times anywhere in the world). This is followed by Kabalat Shabbat (Welcome the Shabbat) Service, which can be said at home but should preferably be said in the synagogue.

3. Friday Night 

There are two aspects to Shabbat: the dos and the don'ts.
After services we (come home and) sit down to a festive Shabbat dinner. The dinner begins with special Shabbat hymns and Kiddush, followed by the ritual washing of the hands for Motzi and Challah. A traditional Shabbat dinner includes multiple courses, usually containing fish and meat/poultry dishes respectively. During the meal words of Torah are shared and Jewish songs sung. The meal concludes with the Blessing After Meals.

4. Shabbat Day

Special prayers are recited and the weekly Torah portion is read in the synagogue. Following services we enjoy another festive Shabbat meal akin to the meal on Friday night. During the day we read (Jewish books), study, nap, take walks and enjoy the company of family and friends. In the (late) afternoon there is another service and Torah reading.

5. What to do, what not to do

There are two aspects to Shabbat: the dos and the don’ts. In addition to the above mentioned dos - formal attire, services and meals etc - there’s no work throughout: no driving, no phone calls, no carrying anything in public (empty those pockets), no operating anything electric or electronic, no flipping light switches, no cooking or baking, no bill paying, no money handling… the list goes on. For a complete understanding of what the Torah defines as work, see What are the 39 melachot?

6. Departure of Shabbat

After the conclusion of Shabbat, Havdalah is recited over a cup of wine, and life resumes to its daily routines. It's time to look forward to next Shabbat.

See also Shabbat A-Z.


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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Challah
A loaf of bread. Usually refers to: 1) The section of dough separated and given to the priest (today that section is burnt). 2) The sweetened, soft bread customarily consumed at the Sabbath meals.