Shabbat (also known as Shabbos), the sacred seventh day of the week, during which we desist from creative work and focus on G‑d, family, and the simple pleasures of life, is the mainstay of Jewish life. According to the Talmud, Shabbat is equal to all the other commandments. In fact, Shabbat is so central to Jewish life that the term shomer Shabbat (Shabbat observer) is synonymous with “religious Jew” in common parlance.

Yet, like everything in life, there are some myths and misconceptions that have developed around this holy day. Ready to take a good look at them and set the record straight? Let’s go!

1. Myth: ‘Muktza’ = Activities Forbidden on Shabbat

The word muktza is often used as the catch-all term to describe anything forbidden on Shabbat, particularly activities like writing, lighting fires, or the other creative activities we don’t do for the duration of the Day of Rest.

Fact: Muktza Refers to Items You Don’t Plan to Use on Shabbat

Miketza means “set aside,” and refers to items that a person does not expect to handle during the course of Shabbat. The sages decreed that one should not handle these items in order to enhance the Shabbat rest.

Different items carry different degrees of stringency. Some may be handled when they are needed (for example, a screwdriver to open a jar), while others may not (such as an expensive pen, which is used exclusively for writing).

Explore the Reasons and Parameters of Muktza

2. Myth: A ‘Shabbos Goy” Can Do Anything for You

Many people (wistfully) believe that whenever they wish to do something forbidden on Shabbat, they can just just ask (or intimate without clearly asking) a non-Jew to perform the act for them. Commonly known as a “Shabbos goy,” the friendly gentile is seen as the panacea to all Shabbat needs.

Fact: We May Not Ask a Non-Jew to Desecrate Shabbat

Asking a gentile to desecrate Shabbat falls under the category of shevut, something forbidden by rabbinic decree to enhance the restful atmosphere of the day.

There are, however, limited exceptions. For example, one may ask a non-Jew to perform an act that is itself a shevut if it will facilitate the observance of a mitzvah, benefit a sick person or a child or for other specific situations. Similarly, there are instances where a Jew may benefit if the non-Jew performed the forbidden act for his or her own benefit, without being asked.

Read More: The Myth of the ‘Shabbos Goy’

3. Myth: Shabbat Is Breakable

In English (but not in Hebrew or Yiddish), transgressing a Shabbat law is commonly referred to as “breaking Shabbat,” which leads to an all-or-nothing attitude. “Once I’ve broken Shabbat by turning off the light,” the rationale may go, “I may as well darn those socks that have been piling up.”

Fact: Every Moment of Shabbat Is Valuable

Even if you made a mistake, your Shabbat is in no way invalidated. Life is a ladder, and what matters most is the direction in which you are climbing. Even if you are not yet ready to keep every element of Shabbat, start with lighting candles on Friday afternoon and taking on a few observances. Add to them incrementally until you are keeping all of it. And if you mess up? Don’t let it hold you back. Keep on celebrating.

Read: Help! I Broke Shabbat!

4. Myth: If You Just Text, It’s ‘Half Shabbos’

Sometime around 2010 a new term burst onto the internet scene: Half Shabbos was apparently A Thing, referring to someone who keeps all of Shabbat except that they cannot hold back from using social media.

Fact: Half Shabbat Makes as Much Sense as Half Pregnant

Every part of Shabbat is important, and texting is no less problematic than many of the acts that the “half-Shabbos” keepers would never dream of doing. That said, the fact that this term has emerged is a major challenge. It tells us that we must help our young people find Shabbat so engaging, inspiring, and enjoyable that they won’t even want to pick up their phones in the first place.

Read: 13 Ways to Make Shabbat Fun for Kids

5. Myth: Only Women Light Candles

One of the most enduring images seared into the Jewish mind is that of the matriarch of the home (surrounded by her daughters) lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday afternoon. This has led to the belief that only women may light, and that no candles are to be lit in a male-only home.

Fact: If No Women Are Present, Men Light

While the mitzvah of lighting candles is generally performed by the woman—the mainstay of the Jewish home—it is an obligation for every Jew. If no woman over the age of bat mitzvah is present to light for the members of the household, the man of the house lights the candles instead.

Read: 15 Shabbat Candle Facts Every Jewish Woman (and Man) Should Know

6. Myth: You Can Light Candles Any Time on Friday Night

With our schedules regulated by clocks, many of us find it tempting to light the candles on Friday evening after work, no matter how long ago the sun has gone down. “It’s still Friday, night, isn’t it?” we tell ourselves.

Fact: The Candles Must Be Lit Before the Sun Goes Down

As soon as the sun dips below the horizon Shabbat has begun and no fires may be kindled. In fact, the whole reason we light the candles on Friday afternoon is in order to have light that night, when no flames may be lit. The candles are lit 18 minutes before sunset, a bit earlier than necessary, providing a buffer zone to ensure that they are not lit on the holy day. Once the sun has set, to light candles is a desecration of Shabbat, not an act of honor. Fun fact: Did you know that in Jerusalem, candle-lighting is 40 minutes before sunset, and that in Chicago (of all places) the custom is to light 20 minutes before sunset?

Read: Why Are Shabbat Candles Lit 18 Minutes Before Sunset?

7. Myth: Shabbat Ends at Sundown

Since the onset of Shabbat is tied to sunset, many think that the day ends when the sun sets on Saturday afternoon.

Fact: Shabbat Ends When Three Stars Appear in the Sky

The exact time when night begins and one day transitions into the next is somewhat ambiguous. To play it safe, we treat the time between sunset and the appearance of three stars in the night sky as an in-between time, which is considered both days and neither day, at the same time. As such, we do not consider Shabbat to have departed until three average stars have appeared in the night sky, indicating that the next day has begun. Delaying the departure of Shabbat also allows us to do the mitzvah of extending the holiness of the day into the coming week.

Read: Why Is Shabbat 25 Hours Long?

8. Myth: The Wine Must Be Sweet and the Bread Must Be Twisted

We begin the Shabbat meals by reciting Kiddush over a cup of wine, and then enjoy slices cut from two loaves of bread known as challah.

Among Jews of Eastern European descent, the wine is traditionally sweet, and the bread rich with eggs and braided into bumpy loaves.

Fact: Fine Wine Is Better, and the Bread Can Take Any Shape

For generations, impoverished Jews struggled to purchase wine for Shabbat, and cheap wine, laden with sugar, was the best they could afford. It’s best, however, to honor the Shabbat with the best wine you can afford, provided that it is kosher, of course. Dry wine, sweet wine, it’s all up to the taste of the drinker.

Same goes for the challah bread. In fact, some Yemenite communities traditionally eat no less than four kinds of bread every Shabbat, each prepared in a different kind of oven.

Read: Why Is Challah Braided?

9. Myth: An Eruv Allows Shabbat to Be Suspended

Often made of wire and poles, an eruv is a barrier that converts an area into a “private domain” for Shabbat purposes. Some believe that the many Shabbat laws are relaxed or modified within the eruv enclosure.

Fact: It Only Facilitates Carrying

On Shabbat one may not transport items from one domain to another or for more than 4 cubits within the public domain. Under certain circumstances, an eruv creates one large “private domain” in which carrying things needed for Shabbat is permitted.

It has no bearing on other Shabbat laws.

Read: Why Do Jews Carry in an Eruv on Shabbat?

10. Myth: A Jew Should Die Rather Than Desecrate Shabbat

Since Shabbat is among the 10 Commandments and seen as the bedrock of Jewish life, some may think that it overrides human life itself.

Fact: Save a Life and Many More Shabbats Can Be Observed

There are three mitzvahs for which a Jew is enjoined to give his life: not serving idols, not murdering, and not engaging in forbidden sexual unions. Shabbat is not on the list. So if someone is ill, hop in the car and take them to the hospital; and if you fear for your life, pick up the phone and call 911. Don’t hesitate. Act fast and decisively.

Read: Saving Lives on Shabbat

11. Myth: What Could Be Wrong With Flipping a Switch or Driving?

The Torah forbids us to work on Shabbat. To many, work is defined as either backbreaking labor or earning money.

Fact: There Are 39 Specific Creative Acts That We Avoid on Shabbat

As outlined in the Talmudic tractate of Shabbat, the work we avoid on Shabbat is defined somewhat more broadly. The sages of the Talmud enumerate 39 forbidden creative acts, each of which is a “parent” with many “offspring” which are also forbidden due to their intrinsic similarity to the parent act. For example, the melachah of kindling/cooking contains driving (which is powered by combustion), turning on and off lights, and operating electrical appliances.

Read: Why Is Pressing a Button Considered Work?