A Sign of our Covenant
Date: Each week from sundown Friday until Saturday night when it gets dark.
Duration: One day.
Source: "G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for on it He abstained from all His work, which G-d had created to do." (Bereishit 2:3)
Names: Yom Ha-shevi'i (The Seventh Day); Yom Menucha (Day of Rest).
General Theme: The Sabbath, considered the holiest day of the week, celebrates the creation of the world. It is a day of prayer, study, rest, relaxation, spirituality, and enjoyment. The Sabbath is also our weekly reminder that G-d rested from work as well, our Creator. Of all of the holy days in the Torah, only the Sabbath is mentioned in the Ten Utterances (Shemot 20:8). We are commanded to observe and remember the Shabbat and to always keep it holy. The Shabbat gives us the opportunity to cease from daily work and proclaim G-d as Sovereign of the world and allows us to rejuvenate ourselves.
Traditional Foods: Challot, special braided loaves of bread, gefilte fish, wine and chicken.
Customs: Preparation for Shabbat include housecleaning, washing ourselves, wearing fresh clothing especially for Shabbat, putting coins into a tzedakah (charity) box before lighting the Shabbat candles.
Two candles are lit just before sunset, approx. 18 minutes before, and the appropriate blessings are recited.
The Friday evening Shabbat service takes place in the shul (synagogue). The traditional greeting on the Shabbat is "Shabbat Shalom" (Sabbath Peace). Following services is an Oneg Shabbat (Shabbat Delight), which is an opportunity to enjoy refreshments with others.
It is customary for parents to bless their children before sitting down to the meal. The blessing for boys invoke the shining examples of Yaakov's grandchildren, Efrayim and Menashshe, who, although raised in Egypt, did not lose their identity as Jews. The blessing for girls refers to the four matriarchs - Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah ... all of whom were known for their concern and compassion for others.
The Friday evening meal begins with the blessing over the wine. This is followed by the ritual washing of the hands and the benedictions over the two challot, which recall the double portion of manna G-d provided for the Bnei Yisrael.
The Shabbat meal should be served and enjoyed at a relaxed pace. Many families sing Zemirot (Shabbat Songs) between the courses.
The meal concludes with the reciting of the Birkat HaMazon (Blessings of Thanksgiving After The Meal).
During services on Shabbat morning the Parsha (section from the Torah), as well as the Haftarah (section from the Prophets) are read.
Shabbat afternoon is a time of a variety of experiences that change the pace of daily life. Taking a nap, reading, studying, and visiting local friends all provide a relaxing shift from weekday pressures.
On Shabbat afternoon there is a Minchah service, which introduces the Torah portion that will be read the following Shabbat morning. This is followed by a third Shabbat meal called Shalosh Seudot (Three meals). This meal is usually a simple dairy meal that also customarily includes the singing of Shabbat Songs.
The Saturday evening service concludes with the reciting of the Havdalah (Separation) ceremony. The ceremonial objects used in Havdalah are a Kiddush cup (wine sanctifies reentry into the secular world), a spice box (spices symbolically assure that the memory of the Shabbat just gone by will be fragrant and linger), and a braided multiwick candle (fire reminds us that light was what G-d created right after He completed heaven and earth.).