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Shabbat A-Z

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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Sample Shabbat Observance Checklist, A to Z

a) Leave work early Friday afternoon so you have time to prepare for Shabbat at home.

b) Clean the home in honor of Shabbat.

c) Cook the Shabbat meals well in advance of Shabbat.1

d) Set the Shabbat dinner table with: Candles and candlesticks, two whole loaves of Challah placed on a tray and covered with a cloth, a cup or goblet and wine for Kiddush; and the fanciest tableware you own.

e) Bathe or shower and dress in formal attire

f) Light Shabbat candles 18 minutes before sunset. (Click here for exact candle lighting times anywhere in the world)

g) From this point until Shabbat's end (step v) refrain from all "work" as defined by the laws of Shabbat.

h) Pray the special Shabbat evening service (preferably in a synagogue) including the L'cha Dodi song -- "Come, my beloved, to greet the bride, let us receive the presence of the Shabbat..."

i) Gather around the dinner table and sing "Shalom Aleichem" (welcome to the Shabbat angels). Then sing "A Woman of Valor" (Proverbs 31) composed by King Solomon as a tribute to the Jewish woman.

j) Pour a cup of Kosher wine or grape juice into a special goblet and recite the Kiddush that proclaims the sanctity of the Shabbat (found in your prayer book).

k) Go to the kitchen sink and do the washing-the-hands ritual done before eating bread: fill a large washcup with water and pour water onto your right hand three times, onto your left hand three times, and recite the appropriate blessing.

l) Return to the table, recite the Motzi blessing over the challah, slice it up, dip it in salt, eat some and pass around challah slices to everyone.

m) Serve the Shabbat meal. The traditional Friday night menu includes gefilte fish (or some other kind of fish) chicken soup with Matzah balls or noodles, a chicken or meat entree with side dishes (traditional choices are kugel and tzimmes), and dessert.

n) Between courses, sing the traditional shabbat songs (zemirot) and discuss Parshah (Torah reading) of the week and its relevance. Printing the Chabad.org PDF before Shabbat will give you much fodder for conversation. At the meal's end, recite the Grace after Meals.

o) If its not too late, now's the perfect time for some quality time with family and/or friends, to do some Torah learning or read a Jewish book.

p) Go to sleep and enjoy the unique pleasure of Shabbat rest.

q) In the morning, walk to synangogue (don’t bike/blade/drive) for the morning services and the Torah reading. (If you're lucky, there'll be a kiddush buffet after services!)

r) Return home and sit down to a Shabbat meal. The daytime meal begins with kiddush (the daytime version), followed by ritual washing, blessing on two challah loaves, and delicious food (traditionally two courses). A traditional food for the daytime meal includes the legendary Shabbat Cholent -- a slow-cooking stew that sits on a small covered flame from before Shabbat. Don't forget the singing, stimulating discussion and Grace After Meals.

s) Shabbat afternoon naps are delicious; reserve some time also to do some learning and reading, or to attend a Torah class (if there's one within walking distance).

t) Later in the afternoon, recite the Minchah afternoon prayers; in the summer, this is followed with the study of a chapter from Ethics of the Fathers.

u) Eat the Third Meal, a light repast served between minchah and Maariv.

v) Approximately an hour after sundown, after it gets dark, Shabbat is over. Recite the evening prayers.

w) Now it's time for Havdallah, the separation ritual performed with an overflowing cup of wine, spice box and braided candle.

x) There's one more meal: Melaveh Malkah ("Farewell to the Queen"), a light meal accompanied with songs about Elijah the Prophet and stories about the righteous.

y) Re-enter the work-week revitalized with the spiritual energy and vision gained from Shabbat.

z) Repeat next week.

Footnotes

  • 1. It is forbidden to cook on Shabbat. To keep food warm one may put cooked food on a blech (metal plate that covers the stovetop) or approved electric warmers before Shabbat.

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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.
Matzah
(pl. Matzot). Unleavened bread which is eaten on Passover, especially at the Passover Seder (feast), commemorating the Matzah which the Jews ate upon leaving Egypt. It consists of only flour and water and resembles a wheat cracker.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Grace After Meals
Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.
Kiddush
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
Maariv
Evening prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
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.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Elijah
A legendary prophet who lived in the 8th century BCE, and saved the Jewish religion from being corrupted by the pagan worship of Baal. He never died, he was taken to heaven alive. According to Jewish tradition, he visits every circumcision and every Passover Seder table.
Proverbs
One of the 24 books of the Bible. A collection of moral writings authored by King Solomon.
Minchah
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Cholent
A stewed (usually meat) dish served hot on Shabbat afternoon. Since it is forbidden to cook or warm up food on Shabbat, the cholent sits on the stove-top from before sundown Friday evening.