What is Shabbat?
Shabbat is Judaism’s resting day. It’s the seventh day of the Jewish week. God created the world in six days, on the seventh day he rested. To keep Shabbat is about not working, having time to develop your spiritual life, and to spend time with your family.
This tradition is a big part of the Jewish culture, and Shabbat is being held in so many different ways, both in religious and none religious homes. The Shabbat starts on Friday evening at sunset and ends at sunset Saturday evening, or when three stars are visible in the sky, as the Orthodox Jews have it.
The religious Shabbat
Shabbat for Orthodox and religious Jews is the most important day of the week, and they have a very specific way to keep the Shabbat. The Bible tells us that God made the seventh day holy, and that you should rest on this day. You can read about this in Genesis 2, 1-3. The Orthodox Jews therefore avoid anything that dont fit in the category of “resting”. They do not use electricity, they do not drive cars or cook food. They also have several different rituals and prayers that have to be completed every Shabbat.
As the sunset approaches on Friday afternoon, candles are being lit to welcome the Shabbat and this blessing is recited:
Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe,
who sanctified us with the commandment of lighting Shabbat candles.
Before you start eating, you bless the wine and the bread:
Blessed are You,
God, Ruler of the universe,
who creates the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Lord our God,
King of the universe,
who has brought forth bread from the earth.
The evening continues with food, singing, and prayers.
On Saturday morning many go to the synagogue to pray and learn from the Torah. Thereafter many are outside and spending time with their families in the nature. It’s also common to see the religious Jews with instruments, singing songs and dancing together.
Saturday evening, you have the Havdala ritual. The ritual includes lighting a special Havdala candle, blessing a cup of wine, and smelling sweet spices. The ritual symbolizes to connect to the week ahead and bringing an uplifted spirit into a new week.
We always look forward to Shabbat, being together and disconnecting from the chores and work we have through the week. You know it’s´s shabbat when it’s quiet in the village. In Amirim for example, many people don’t use their cars on Saturdays, and it’s wonderfully peaceful. Kids are playing freely in the streets. Mothers gathering in the park. Fathers playing football. Neighbors drinking coffee together. Families gathered for a stroll in the village. It’s like nothing else matters, then living in this moment, focusing on being together with the people you love. It’s an amazing atmosphere, that really connects you to the Jewish culture.
We always spend our Shabbat together with our closest friends. We all help to set the table and prepare the food. When dinner is ready, the vibe around the table is lively and stories are being told from the week that’s gone. Stories from the military, from school and from work. We share good things and challenging things, and we strengthen each other in our faith.
Before we eat, the father of the house pray for the food. He also blesses the wine and the bread.
After a good meal, we make tea and eat dessert, and we either sit together and talk or we play games.
When Saturday morning arrives, we sleep in. Eventually, we get up and make a nice breakfast. Later on, we might go for a hike, have a picnic in the park, go to the swimming pool, invite some friends over or simply stay at home and enjoy the rest of the weekend.
Why do we celebrate the Shabbat?
Ariel and his family enjoyed to celebrate Shabbat when they lived in Israel, so it was very natural for us to continue this tradition when we moved here.
We don’t keep the Shabbat as the Orthodox do, but we prioritize to be together and do things we don’t get to do during the week. It’s also a golden opportunity to stop and think about how you live your life, how the week has gone and what you want to change in the new week that will come.