The Importance and Celebration of Shabbat in Judaism

B&H Photo & Electronics Closes on Shabbat

B&H Photo & Electronics is one of the largest non-chain camera and video equipment stores in New York City. The store is owned by Herman Schreiber, an observant Satmar Hasid, and hundreds of Orthodox Jews work at the company. The store is closed for Shabbat and other Jewish holidays.

This article will discuss what Shabbat is, why it’s celebrated, and the traditions that are part of this holy day. Also included are teacher-made resources.

Why is Shabbat important?

There are 39 categories of things Jewish people can’t do on Shabbat, including burning candles and using electricity. This is a day to take a step back from the craziness of life and focus on family, prayer and food.

It is a time to enjoy a festive meal with friends or family, eat Challah bread (a special plaited loaf), and spend time with the children in the household. It is also a time to remember the story of Creation and celebrate God’s keeping his covenant with the Jewish people.

The Jewish people are told in the Torah that it is a mitzvah to keep the Sabbath. It is arguably the most important ritual practice in Judaism and is the only one mentioned in the Ten Commandments. It has been argued that Jews survived two millennia of persecution and humiliation largely because of the Sabbath. Without it, they would have vanished. And for many, keeping the Sabbath is more than just a religious duty; it’s a source of joy and delight.

How is Shabbat celebrated?

In Judaism, Shabbat is celebrated by not working, lighting candles and eating. It lasts from sunset Friday to sundown on Saturday.

Observant Jews prepare for Shabbat much like they would for guests arriving to their home: the house is cleaned, clothes are put on, dishes and tableware are set out, food is made (including challah, a special plaited bread that is eaten on Shabbat). During Shabbat, family members spend time together and enjoy pleasurable activities such as reading, playing games, eating good foods, having marital relations, and just relaxing.

Before Shabbat begins, two candles are lit and a blessing is recited, usually by the woman of the house, to welcome it. Then a cup of wine or grape juice is poured and a prayer is recited to sanctify the evening meal. Often, people will go to synagogue for Friday night services before going home to eat a festive dinner. This is a good way to meet new Jewish friends and learn more about their culture.

What are the traditions of Shabbat?

Shabbat is a weekly opportunity to set aside time for family and friends, to relax, and to put away the worries of the week. It is also a time to enjoy special foods and to engage in pleasurable activities.

The Jewish Sabbath is a 25-hour observance beginning at sundown on Friday through Saturday nightfall. It is a holy day, and the rabbis delineated 39 categories of work that are forbidden on Shabbat.

Many Jewish families celebrate Shabbat at home by setting elegant tables, singing traditional songs, engaging in inspiring conversations, and consuming distinctive Shabbat foods. The meal is often a multi-coursed affair, and it begins with the lighting of candles and the kiddush blessing recited over wine. Before the main course, challah bread is uncovered and the Hamotzi blessing is recited. Then, a few moments before the end of Shabbat, the Havdalah ceremony is performed to signal the symbolic end of the holiday. Some families may stay up until the stars are visible in the sky and then delay havdalah a few minutes.

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