The shabbat or chabbat, from the Hebrew verb "shavat" which means "cessation" corresponds to the weekly day of rest. During this holy day, each Jewish person ceases his outside activities to devote himself to the home, to the family, as well as to prayer. A time of rejuvenation for some, and rejoicing for others, Shabbat has been one of the main holidays that punctuates the week, the year and the life of the Jews. How to celebrate Shabbat? What are the rituals? Prohibitions ? We tell you everything.
Why do we do Shabbat?
In the book of Genesis, Gd created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. On that day, he set up the menucha,ritual day of rest. By observing the cessation of all activity, we commemorate Gd's creation of the universe.
In the book of Exodus (20:8-11) it says:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
You shall labor six days, and do all your work. But the seventh day is the sabbath day of the L-rd your G‑d: you shall do no work, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and sanctified him. »
But Shabbat is also one of the 10 Commandments that G‑d gave to Moses at Mount Sinai several weeks after the Exodus. When our ancestors walked for 40 years in the desert, they received Manna every day which allowed them to survive during their journey. This did not fall on Saturday, but a double quantity was sent every Friday to meet their needs for two days. Thus on Shabbat, we also commemorate Gd's intervention in men to help the children of Israel in their quest.
The commemoration of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt is mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy (5,12-15):
“You shall remember that in the land of Egypt you were a slave, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to practice on the Sabbath day.”
Symbolically, the Shabbat has a very great importance in Judaism, it is even a central element in the life of a Jew. Incidentally, the term "Chomer Shabbat" (Shabbat Guardian) is often used in common parlance to refer to a Jew who observes the rules and laws of Shabbat.
At what time does Shabbat begin?
Shabbat begins on the Friday before nightfall and ends on Saturday evening.
The beginning of Shabbat (Movaé shabbat) is every Friday evening, 18 minutes before sunset.
The end of Shabbat (Motsae shabbat) takes place on Saturday evening, as soon as three stars appear in the sky (usually 40 minutes after sunset.
Times vary by location and date throughout the year. This is why there are calendars to precisely determine the start and end times according to the region of the world where you live.
Shabbat Dates - April 2022
Here are the next Shabbat dates and times, in Paris in April 2022:
From Friday April 1 at 8:03 PM to Saturday April 2 at 9:13 PM
From Friday April 8 at 8:13 PM to Saturday April 9 at 9:23 PM
Saturday April 16 at 9:34 PM to Sunday April 17 at 9:35 PM
From Friday April 22 at 8:34 PM to Saturday April 23 at 9:44 PM
From Friday April 29 at 8:44 PM to Saturday April 30 at 9:54 PM
According to the Jewish calendar, Shabbat is an official holiday in Israel. As a result, public transport does not operate in Tel Aviv or West Jerusalem. In the diaspora, it is also obligatory to take leave on this holy day. Thus, each Jewish person can devote themselves to performing the various rituals.
Before even celebrating Shabbat, it is advisable to indulge in meticulous preparations. Indeed, we welcome Chabat as a guest, and for that the house must be clean, the linen washed and the meals already prepared. The laws of Shabbat rest prohibit many household chores, so doing them ahead of time best observes customs and laws on D-Day.
Shabbat Observance in the Synagogue
Shabbat services are held in the synagogue on Friday evening before sunset, Saturday morning and Saturday evening during the ceremony of havdalah.
Welcoming the spirit of Shabbat - or the Shabbat Queen - is done with the service of Kabbalat Shabbat ("the Shabbat Greeting"). The service begins with six psalms (which represent the six days of the week) followed by a chant, the "Lekhah Dodi" to mark the sanctity of the holiday and joyfully welcome Queen Shabbat .
Celebrating Shabbat at the synagogue is a way to bond with your community. Moreover, most services at the synagogue are followed by tastings of cookies and cakes to share the spirit of celebration. But if you can't come to the synagogue, you can also recite the prayers at home.
Ignition of the candles
Shabbat begins with the lighting of the candles. This task is carried out by the women or girls of the house, who must recite a blessing and place the candles where the meals will be shared. This makes it possible to bring a soft and warm atmosphere, conducive to the celebration of the party.
On Shabbat, we are obligated to enjoy three sumptuous meals. These are moments of conviviality where we meet up with family and/or friends to sing, read the Torah and share the delight of Shabbat.
"Call the Shabbat a delight" - Isaiah 58, 13.
We take care to set the Shabbat table with beautiful tablecloths, special cutlery and the previously lit candles. The two challahs (traditional braided breads) are covered.
To mark the beginning of the first two meals, the householder recites kiddush over a cup of wine, then take a sip. He passes the Kiddush cup to the oldest, and so on for the whole table Then each guest eats a piece of challah soaked in salt.
The traditional Shabbat meal differs between Jewish communities. This one is hearty and generally includes a hot simmered meat dish. This is cholent among the Ashkenazim or dafina among the Sephardim. It is accompanied by starters, salads, soups, and side dishes. For dessert, we enjoy fruits and oriental pastries.
In addition, drinking good wine and eating tender meat on Shabbat is a mitzvah in its own right
The third meal, the Seoudah shlishit, is generally lighter than the previous ones, in contrast to the previous ones.
On Saturday evening, it is time to take time off during the ceremony of havdalah which means "separation". This ceremony consists of reciting blessings over aromatic herbs (usually cloves), by candlelight, and drinking a glass of wine. This ritual is meant to soothe the soul and as Shabbat goes away.
What are the prohibitions on Shabbat?
Jewish law prohibits any form of creation aimed at producing a surplus of wealth. We are talking about Melakha (melakhot in the plural).
To quote Genesis: "And He abstained on the seventh day from all his 'melacha' which He had made" "for in that day He refrained from all the 'melacha' which Elohim had created for do it"
At the source, in the Torah, it is prescribed to abstain from all forms of work. The only examples given are these three works: working the fields, kindling the fire and carrying objects from one place to another.
However, in Exodus the term "work" is used to designate all the tasks that our ancestors accomplished during the construction of the Tabernacle. These books are 39 in number and are listed in the Shabbat tractate (the Mishnah Shabbat).
Here is an example of the books we should refrain from on Shabbat:
write, erase and tear,
make purchases or transact business,
get around by car and public transport,
use the phone,
turn on or off anything that uses electricity (switches, radio, television, computer, alarm clocks, etc.),
cook or light a fire,
gardening, picking plants,
cleaning or laundry.
Even if the law has many prohibitions, that does not mean that one must spend a Shabbat under duress and obey the rules. On the contrary, carrying out the various tasks in advance (such as cooking, cleaning or switching on the lights) makes it possible to celebrate Shabbat in joy and abundance, the spirit freed from constraints usual.
What activities are allowed on Shabbat?
While all forms of work are prohibited, a large number of activities are not only authorized but also encouraged.
Here is a list of permitted activities:
Having consensual marital sex with one's partner (indeed this even constitutes a double mitzvah since it involves the act of procreation in addition to Shabbat rejoicing)
Read, Study and Speak Torah
Singing the zemirot (Shabbat songs)
Invite guests to your table
Visiting family or friends
Participate in services in synagogues
Furthermore, some rabbis in contemporary Judaism authorize the use of electricity or the use of public transport to get to the synagogue. Shabbat laws are set aside when it comes to saving a life. You can take a person who is in danger to the hospital.
Shabbat in traditionalist Judaism
Of course, not all Jews are observant to the point of observing Shabbat in its entirety. However, it is fascinating to observe that a large majority of Jews apply themselves to celebrating more soberly the beginning of Shabbat, each in its own way and according to the traditions passed down from generation to generation.
It's often an easier way to keep and maintain your roots with Judaism, as well as to spend a convivial moment with your family.
If you want to do Shabbat simply, here are the practices observed in our family:
Fridays are dedicated to the preparation of Shabbat meals: shakchouka, hallot, eggplant caviar, the famous vegetable couscous dumplings, and meat...
In the evening we light the Shabbat candles as it gets dark and then prepare the Shabbat table
Once at the table, we recite the Motseh and Kiddush prayers.
There follows a large delicious meal, in three parts.
As far as prohibitions are concerned, everyone tries to do their best, in their own way, keeping in mind the spirit of the Shabbat and their desire to rest.
Last words on Shabbat
Shabbat is more than just a day off, it's an opportunity to slow down your outdoor activities to refocus on the home. Remember that the rules of Shabbat are not there to restrict you but to guide you towards a rest physical and spiritual rest. By developing the observance of different laws and traditions, we create a space dedicated to meditation, conviviality and sharing with our families and those around us.
Find out more:
The Passover celebration
The Purim celebration