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Shalom Shabbat

Shalom Shabbat

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New friends are puzzled, even dismayed, when they hear about the way I observe the Shabbat. They are surprised to learn that I do not write, flip an electric switch, use the telephone, cook or engage in a host of assorted everyday activities for twenty five hours each week, starting Friday night at sunset until Saturday at nightfall.

After that brief pocket of time, I am back on track, rushing along on that same fast-paced corporate treadmill. No one who sees me in the throes of my hectic life would ever believe I take such a prolonged hiatus, and on such a regular No one who sees me in the throes of my hectic life would ever believe I take such a prolonged hiatus, and on such a regular basis basis. "How can you afford to do that?" they ask. When they hear that my observance also precludes shopping, theater-going and a wide gamut of recreational activities, they'll raise an eyebrow and say, "Why would you want to do that?"

This reaction is not at all surprising. It comes from the natural assumption that to cease our everyday pursuits is not only difficult, but impossible. Think of the advertisements with the harried climber perched precariously on the mountaintop, logging in on a laptop to check for e-mail; or the sunbather on a remote island clinching a last-minute deal even as she professes to be on vacation.

"You shall work during the six days and do all your tasks. But Saturday is the Shabbat to G‑d your Lord. Do not do anything that constitutes work." (Exodus 20:8-10.)

Everyone seems to take this fourth of the Ten Commandments quite seriously. The part about working for six days, that is. But, of course, the whole commandment is relevant: Shabbat is rendered meaningful by the work days and the work days are elevated by Shabbat.

The Kabbalah teaches that G‑d spent six days creating a stage on which we are all the actors. He did this by contracting His energy and pulling back, thus creating an "empty place," an arena we call "the world." G‑d remains hidden to allow us our freedom and the ability to choose. He's hoping we will choose Tikkun Olam, perfecting the world. He's hoping we will validate His plan by spending six days each week elevating this world, unmasking the G‑dliness inherent in all matter and unleashing the Divine spark of energy that gives life to all things.

Shabbat is a potent reminder that takes us back to the beginning. It is a reunion with our inner selves

As we become submerged in our work, however, it becomes a struggle to remain above it. In the endless conflict between earth and spirit, sheer weight often wins out. It is easy to forget our source, our reason for being, our point of departure for this journey we call life. Shabbat is a potent reminder that takes us back to the beginning. It is a reunion with our inner selves; a return to the primal oneness our souls enjoyed with G‑d before being sent to our present existence. It is a return to the perfection that existed after the six days of creation, before sin.

That I don't cook, shop, or fax on Shabbat is a statement as much as it is a way of life. On Shabbat I will desist from harnessing this world's energies and forces. I will suspend my efforts to master and transform. In mirroring G‑d's original pattern — ceasing after six days of invention and innovation — I will lift the veil and come face to face with my self and my G‑d.

So think again, this time about the advertisements for glamorous vacation options to exotic, sun-drenched islands, and their promise of escape from the everyday din and commotion. Not only are you hundreds or thousands of miles from home, but the plug is pulled on the phone, fax and e-mail. What a relief! And that's what I experience each week when on Friday, just as the sun is about to set, I disconnect myself from my everyday summonses. I light the Shabbat candles and something changes as I clear my mind and take a deep breath, knowing I am in a place where I could never have arrived on my own.

Rivkah Slonim is the education director at the Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life at Binghamton University. An internationally known teacher, lecturer and activist, she travels widely, addressing the intersection of traditional Jewish observance and contemporary life, with a special focus on Jewish women in Jewish law and life. Slonim is the editor of Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology (Jason Aronson, 1996; Urim, 2006) and Bread and Fire: Jewish Women Find God in the Everyday (Urim, 2008). Slonim and her husband are the grateful and proud parents of nine children.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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wendy fa ber nh December 13, 2012

rituals since paternal grandparents and father colluded to omit jewish practice from our upbringing [in the 30's and 40's] family siblings are teaching ourselves.. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA October 2, 2011

Also, another important rule on Sabbath Is to love G-d with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor (could be wife who is not Jewish, etc) as yourself. In other words, you do what you can do according to the laws you choose to observe, ONLY as it does not offend others. You CAN obey laws without offending if your WORDS to them in explanation are IN LOVE. IMO, if you SHOW HATRED or bitterness to others that because they stand in you way, you NEGATE the spirit of Sabbath anyway, and all your following of laws will be moot. So it is imperative to blend the law with love. Reply

Graham-Michoel Wellington, NZ September 28, 2011

Shabbat I find this article deeply meaningful and supportive. Thank you for writing it. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA June 12, 2011

The meaning of Shalom... Literally, I believe it means HELLO, goodbye, and also peace. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA, USA June 11, 2011

Thank you Thank you for reminding me of Shabbat's meaning and the joy of my weekly embrace from Hashem. Reply

Anonymous dayton, oh June 7, 2011

shalom the meaning of the word shalom . i need to know Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA December 1, 2010

One trick, Julio, that some mixed marriages... Use where children are concerned, is to suggest to your wife you FIND OUT all the good, beautiful and wonderful parts of BOTH her and your religion, and just celebrate the ones with your child that you both agree show love, peace and joy and G-s miracles. The SABBATH with us was ONLY stressed as "THE DAY G-D LETS US REST FROM WORRIES", and a day we think about Him. With my sons, CHANUKAH was a BIG celebration, although at the time I was also doing the Christian holidays. Chanukah conflicts with NOTHING. Also, your child will get 8 DAYS of gifts. So, if you celebrate Christmas, that makes NINE days of gifts. Such a deal, huh? You can do this. Never let your daughter forget she has Jewish ancestors, and make sure, also, she gets a Jewish name if your wife allows...tell her it's just for fun. Maybe one day, she'll CHOOSE to be what Daddy is, and look into it on her own. Stress she always tell her children when she has babies that they have Jewish ancestors and be proud. Always proud. Reply

julio a barrios bloomington, mn/eeuu November 30, 2010

Shabbat ideas... Karen, thank you for all the advice that you gave me, will try a few and see how that works. We have an almost 4 year old and sometimes is not easy but...other people have done it...so will see. Thanks again. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 28, 2010

Dear Julio in mn/eeuu This would be a beginning. Little by little. What I, personally, believe is that the SPIRIT of the laws is important to REMEMBER and you do what you are able to the extent you are able. 1) Ask your wife to respect your need to have one day of rest. You don't even have to tell her about the religious significance since she's not Jewish. Say that men die before women of heart attacks and science has shown that if a man rests on a regular basis, he can live longer. 2) Explain that part of resting means only having PHILOSOPHICAL or values discussions rather than any talk about problems in the world or in the house or in politics, etc. 3) Explain that if you need to do work to save someone's life, this would also be part of resting because it would make you feel comforted in your emotions. 4) Tell her it would be so romantic if you could light some candles before dinner (which would be sunset, right?) and you do silent prayers. JMO (just my opinion). Later, a little more, etc. Reply

julio a barrios bloomington, mn/eeuu November 28, 2010

I miss the practice..... Long ago I used to practice Shabbos according to the law. Then life events come in and change things in your life. I married a woman who is not a Jew and has a hard time with my Judaism. Got to deal with that...What do I do in Shabbat? read as much as I can in the pc, books, articles etc. I found that way I am still connected with G-d, even though I break the law. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 27, 2010

Philosophically, I think very clearly That we don't keep the Sabbath as much as the Sabbath keeps US. It keeps us rested, balanced and healthy. In my opinion, (IMO). It doesn't matter how strictly we follow the prohibitions, what matters is that what we are ABLE to do gives us the feeling of rest and remembering of G-d. It's important to devote time to spirituality, at least once a week, because the other days are all practicality driven and stressful. Reply

Nancy Mckenzie KL, Malaysia November 27, 2010

Sabbath I really admire how u have practiced Sabbath.
I'm a Fijian Woman living in Malaysia, and a Sabbath keeper. After reading how keep the Sabbath holy, it has really challenged me. I want to practice this too. Please pray for me, cos my husband is not even a Sabbath keeper. Shalom. Reply

Mary-Louise Scott Kettering, Ohio USA October 25, 2010

not Jewish I am not Jewish but am very drawn to the beautiful practices. What I get out of this article is that If our priorities change from fitting Him in when we have the time - to doing G-d's Will first and fitting everything into that, then practice will not be so hard. What we do is only blessed by how we do it. ??????? Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 19, 2010

I am elderly and not able to prepare... My apartment is a total mess, and I live alone. I have disability issues and financial constraints in hiring a maid to help. All I can do is to light the candle (don't know how many because I used to think it was 2, but someone said it's how many are in your house) and say the prayer. Is that good enough? Nearly everyone going to Chabad here does drive to it because of distance. Only a few people live near enough to attend. How can I do the Sabbath by myself without anyone else with me? If I don't go to Chabad on Fri. night, I would NEVER see the Rabbi. I can drive to the Reform temple, though, without any feelings of guilt. Reply

Yisroel Cotlar Cary, NC April 18, 2010

Re: Let's turn this "detail question" into a big picture issue.

Generally speaking, here are two perspectives to Judaism.

1) This is my lifestyle. This is my reality. The question is only how I can fit G-d into my schedule? How can I fit Shabbos into my life without too much bother? How can I add a little spirituality and meaning into the lifestyle I already decided fits with me?

2) The Torah is the true reality. A Shabbos according to Jewish Law is G-d's model for the 7th day of the week. The question is how I can adapt my life to fit with this model? That might not happen overnight, but my goal is to sync what I call "life" into the life which G-d instructs us to live.

With perspective #1, it does seem pretty difficult to wash dishes by hand instead of the dish washer, to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and to walk instead of drive (no problem tying shoes pr putting on shirts or belts!) But with perspective #2, the change is easier to embrace...and with joy! Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 15, 2010

I don't get it. So, how do the lights get on&off? How do the doors get opened and shut? How do the dishes get washed? Can we take showers? Brush teeth? Tie our shoes? Button our blouses? Put on a belt? Hang up clothing? Take out stains if they happen to our clothes? I dont' get it. Reply

Herbert J.Michelson, Phd. Hadley, Ma September 7, 2005

Grandaughter's Bat Mitzvah I am a secular but very devoted Jewish man of advance years. My grandaughter's bat Mitzvah will take place in October of this year and since so many of our guests are Jews who understand less about Judaism than I and many non Jewish people I decided to prepare a booklet to inform them of the Bat Mitzvah as well as candle lighting for shabbat since I intent to present my grandaughter with my wife's Shabbat candles which I gave her years ago. Interestingly enough she then asked Yochevd Adelman, Rabbi Chaim Adelman's wife (Rabbi Adelmen operates Chabad House in AMherst and my son and I studied Tanya with him for a long while) to teach her the prayer. My wife Persis has since passed on but she and I had discussed giving the caldlesticks to our grandaughter.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the relevant texts that I "borrowed" from your website for use in this booklet. I found the material very useful and appropriately easy to understand for our guests.
Shalom, Reply

Welcome to our candle-lighting section, where you will find the details and practicalities of lighting Shabbat candles, along with the meaning, spirituality and power of doing so . . .
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