Shabbat is an island in time, a day of rest in the rush of activity that engulfs the other six days of the weekly cycle. For 25 hours — from sundown Friday evening to nightfall Saturday night — we cease all creative involvement with our surroundings, transcend the worries and struggles of our daily existence, and enjoy the divine tranquility of G‑d's day of rest.

We all know the story of how G‑d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. But creation was not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process: G‑d is continually creating our world in a cosmic cycle of work and rest. By resting on Shabbat, we bring our own lives in sync with the divine cycle of creation. We attest to G‑d's creation of the world, affirm our own role as G‑d's "partners in creation," and bring wholeness, holiness, and purpose into our lives.

What Is Work?

"Work" as it relates to Shabbat rest, is not physical exertion, but what the Torah calls melachah, "creative work." For example, writing or cooking is a melachah, while carrying a heavy piece of furniture across the room is not.

Our model for the types of activities that constitute "creative work" is the Mishkan ("Tabernacle") — the portable sanctuary built in the Sinai Desert by the people of Israel as a "dwelling" for the Divine Presence. Yet G‑d commanded that the work of building the Mishkan should cease on Shabbat.

Torah law identifies 39 types of work that were involved in the making of the Mishkan, and from which we desist on Shabbat. These include: all stages of agricultural work from plowing and sowing to reaping and winnowing; cooking and baking; weaving and sewing, writing, building, and lighting a fire.

Below are some practical examples of activities suspended in the spirit of Shabbat rest.

Read: Melacha - A Unique Definition of Work

Employment and Commerce

Do you have a job, or does your job own you? Well, not on Shabbat, it doesn't. Whether you earn a living by manual labor, toil at a desk job, or sell stuff from behind a counter, on Shabbat your job doesn't exist. As the Torah puts it, Shabbat is a day on which "all your work is done."

In the same vein, we do not conduct transactions on Shabbat, such as shopping, purchasing a meal in a restaurant, or business deals.

Read: The Shabbat Laws

Leisure and Creativity

Shabbat is not just a day away from your "official" job; it is a day when we enter a more spiritual mode of being by divesting ourselves of all physically creative activity.

Writing, drawing, sculpting, or playing a musical instrument are some examples of "leisure" activities that counteract that state of rest we achieve on Shabbat.


We do not operate a motor vehicle on Shabbat or have someone else do so on our behalf. So we don't drive or ride in cars, buses, trains, or planes.

Thus our Shabbat day existence centers on our home life, and on activities — going to synagogue, visiting friends, enjoying a walk in the park — which take place within walking distance of the home (or wherever you are for Shabbat).

Read: What Is Techum Shabbat?

In and Around the Home

The home itself is a different place on Shabbat. The radio and television are silent. The phone is not answered, the computer isn't used, even the alarm clock stays in the "off" position. Basically, no electrical devices and appliances are operated on Shabbat. Lights, heaters, and air conditioners are turned on before Shabbat, and are not manually turned on or off during Shabbat (timers can be used to turn them on or off at preset times).

Most household chores — such as heavy cleaning, gardening, doing the laundry, or making repairs — also fall under one of the categories of work from which we refrain on the day of rest.

Read: Electricity on Shabbat

In the Kitchen

We don't cook, bake, or warm up cold food on Shabbat. So all cooking and baking is done before Shabbat begins, and food for the Shabbat meals is kept warm on special food warming devices.

Food processors, microwaves, and dishwashers get the day off, too.

Read: Food Preparation on Shabbat

Carrying and Eiruv

One of the 39 categories of creative work is "transferring from domain to domain" (also called "carrying").

This means that we do not carry any object — anything from a piano to a house key — from a "private domain" (an enclosed area such as a house or a fenced yard) out into a "public domain" (e.g., a city street), or vice versa. We also do not carry an object in the "public domain" for a distance of more than four cubits (about 6 feet).

An eiruv is a mechanism that enables carrying on Shabbat between homes and apartments within a designated area. The eiruv has two basic components: a) a physical enclosure that makes the area inside it the equivalent of a "private domain"; and b) a "common meal" that symbolically knits all Jewish households in the area into a single household. An eiruv can encompass a group of houses, or even, under certain circumstances, an entire neighborhood or city. Because the laws of eiruv are very complex, consult your rabbi before making use of one.

Read more about eiruv here.


On Shabbat we avoid handling objects associated with weekday activities, or whose handling may result in a Shabbat violation. muktzah objects — as they are called — include money, matches, pens and tools.

Read more aboutmuktzahhere.

In Case of Emergency

Any of the laws of Shabbat are set aside in the case of a life-threatening emergency. Indeed, it is a mitzvah to violate the Shabbat to save a life, and is, in fact, not considered a violation of the Shabbat. This applies even if there is only the slightest doubt that a life is in jeopardy.

For example, if a person falls ill and there is even the slightest chance that his or her condition is life-threatening, we call a doctor, drive to the hospital, and so on. Another example is in the case of war or threat of attack, all necessary defense measures are taken. In the words of the Talmud, "it is better to violate one Shabbat on the person's account so that he should keep many more Shabbatot."

Read: Saving Lives on Shabbat

The Shabbat Spirit

The spirit of Shabbat rest is no less important than its technical observance. Avoid talking, or even thinking, about business, sports, the news, or other weekday matters. Also to be avoided are activities which may technically not violate any of the Shabbat laws, but are workday and mundane in nature.

Shabbat is a time for spiritual pursuits — Torah study, prayer, quality time with the family. A time to disengage from the material husks that encase our lives and touch base with our soul, with our G‑dly essence and purpose.