What is Shabbos?

Themes

The Torah describes Shabbat as the “pinnacle of creation in the universe”, and states that the observance of Shabbat is a reminder of the purpose of the world and man’s own role in creation. Additionally, Shabbat serves as a commemoration of our Exodus from Egypt.

Framework

There is a definite framework to Shabbat. From the candle lighting that so serenely ushers it in, and the special Kiddush sanctifying the day, to the hearty companionship of the three meals, and the final, moving moments of havdalah, Shabbat involves a number of carefully choreographed practices that enable an immersion in its deep spiritual and emotional energies.

At home

Shabbat observance is centred on the home. The entire family helps in preparing for Shabbat. Shabbat meals are an incredible opportunity to celebrate with family and guests, and of course, to enjoy some good home cooking!

In the community

Shabbat observance in the public sphere centres on the synagogue. The entire community welcomes Shabbat with the lively Kabbalat Shabbatservice. The prayer services are enhanced with special melodies and the familiar prayers are supplemented with beautifully poetic passages of praise for the Divine gift of Shabbat. On Saturday morning, the weekly Torah portion is read, along with a segment from the Prophets. Finally, the community bids farewell to Shabbat in a soulful ceremony called havdalah.

Shabbat is a 25-hour weekly Jewish observance that lasts from just before sundown each Friday until nightfall on Saturday. It is one of Judaism’s most distinct practices, and also one of its most pervasive and enduring gifts. Shabbat is more than just a day off; it is a day of physical and spiritual delights, a day of relaxation and contemplation, a day of family closeness and interpersonal connection. It is a day of togetherness.

Shabbat contains within it the deepest mystical secrets of Judaism, and at the same time, bestows on those who observe it the most pragmatic and immediate gifts. It is “a day of joy, a sanctuary from travails, a foretaste of the perfect world that will someday be attained…”.