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What is Shabbat?

What is Shabbat?


Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated every week from sundown on Friday to nightfall of Saturday. In Hebrew, Shabbat means "resting." As is recounted in the beginning of the Book of Genesis, G‑d created the world in six days and on the seventh He refrained from creating. Adam and Eve celebrated the first Shabbat in the Garden of Eden.

The observance of Shabbat by the Jewish nation is mandated in the fourth of the Ten Commandments. We sanctify the Shabbat and "rest" on this special day—defined by abstention from 39 forms of creative activity.

Practically, how is Shabbat observed and celebrated?


As cooking and baking is not allowed on Shabbat, much of the food preparation is done in advance.

Shabbat is ushered in on Friday afternoon with the lighting of candles by women and girls. Following the special Friday night Shabbat evening prayers (preferably in the synagogue) we partake of a festive meal which is opened by the Kiddush blessing over a cup of wine or grape juice, and the Hamotzie blessing over two whole loaves of bread called Challah. The sumptuous meal is an integral part of oneg Shabbat, "delighting in the Shabbat." So we eat fish and salads, chicken or meat and other delicacies. (Click here for traditional recipes.)

On Shabbat morning it's prayer time again—this service also features the weekly public Torah reading. After the prayers we again enjoy a delicious festive meal, complete with Kiddush and Hamotzie. Some time in the afternoon we enjoy a somewhat smaller meal, called Seudah Shlishit. Shabbat ends after nightfall and is marked with the brief Havdalah, (separation) service which marks the departure of the holy day of rest.

On Shabbat we take a break from our mundane weekly activities. It is a time to regroup and pray, to eat and rejoice, to spend time with family and friends, to study and share—to indulge and pamper our spiritual side.

There is so much more to be said about Shabbat... Please check out our Shabbat Section which is complete with all the information you'll need. Or, for bite-sized info, see our Shabbat Minutes.

Best wishes,

Chani Benjaminson,

Chani Benjaminson is co-director of Chabad of the South Coast, coordinator of Chabad’s Ask the Rabbi and Feedback departments, and is a member of the editorial staff of
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Discussion (6)
September 9, 2014
did shabbat ceremony begin with the seventh day or with the ten commandments?
August 9, 2014
Friday as a resting day
We muslims are obligated by Allah to stop working, close businesses and go for a prayer on Friday usually called as Jummah Prayer. I just learnt about the concept of Sabbath and its quite surprising that its kind of more or less a similar concept. good to find some more or less common concept on top of the projected differences.
July 2, 2011
going to zoo on Sabbath
We have a membership to the zoo. I think it is a pleasant activity on Sabbath. My husband disagrees. He thinks because other people are working we should not go. What do you think?
Rio Rancho, NM
February 15, 2011
attn tom
shabbos starts when the sun sets where you are
rabbi rapoport
brooklyn, ny
February 13, 2011
Shabbat times
Shabbat and Holiday times, in fact all halachic (Jewish law) times, are observed according to the city in which one finds oneslf on any given day. Most communities offer a printed calendar with all of the yearly times, plus we have calendars available here on, you can find times for any location in the world, see: and
Chani Benjaminson,
February 10, 2011
when is sabbath here
Let's say I live on the other side of the world from Jerusalem. Do I then celebrate Sabbath 12 hours before it is celebrated in Jerusalem, or 12 hours afterward?

Say I live up in Anwar, exploring for oil. There, inside the Artic Circle, it will go for 6 weeks during the summer without the sun setting, just constant daylight. Is this all one period without a Sabbath, and occasionally, it is all Sabbath.

There is a simple solution I have found that is extremely consistent with keeping Shabbat properly. Wherever I am in the world, Shabbat is when the sun sets IN JERUSALEM.
Tom Ellison