Shabbat definition judaism

Shabbat definition judaism,

In a single statement, God said: “Keep and remember Shabbat”. Loving God, having time for family, reconnecting with friends and self… All of these fulfill the commandment to “remember” Shabbat.

Shabbat, what, how, why and where do all these laws come from?

But these beautiful concepts must also be rooted in a firm foundation, a structure that provides the necessary soil in which these ideas can take hold, take root and flourish.

The foundation is the commandment to “keep” Shabbat as detailed in Halachah, Jewish law.

However, the literal translation of the word Halachah is not “law”, because it comes from the root halach, which means “to go, “to walk”. Halacha implies a “way”. It is not a matter of cold “do” and “don’t do” commands, but a movement.

When the laws are learned profoundly and applied within a Jewish lifestyle, Halachah becomes not a restriction but a direction. And when coupled with the beauty of “remembering,” this pairing opens up a limitless world, a world of infinite depth and opportunity.

The two commandments of keeping and remembering Shabbat were spoken by God in a single emission because one without the other would be empty.

If you are in a relationship and you hear the other person say, “I love you,” you feel good. But suppose that person never did anything, never showed you love in any way. Words without actions are just… words.

If you want to make real the idea that God is the creator, you must stop creating. Otherwise, it is a beautiful concept that remains only in theory.

On Shabbat the world is complete

I am complete. Shabbat is the weekly reminder of this completeness. We recognize it, but the only way we can make it so is if we imitate it.

When God said, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,” He wasn’t just talking about office duties. He was talking about us, about how we strive to work on ourselves.

Shabbat is there, calling us to where we want to be: personal development, nature, uniqueness and completeness. The ideas are within our reach; holding on to them means going in the right direction. The path is the halacha.

Where do all these Shabbat laws come from?

Do you remember the part of the movie The Ten Commandments when the Jewish people came out of Egypt and wandered in the desert?

At one point, God instructs them to build a Mishkan, the portable sanctuary where there would be, among other things, the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Jewish people would carry the Mishkan throughout their journey.


Tradition teaches us that by understanding the Mishkan we will understand Shabbat.

This was the central place where the Presence of God rested. The Mishkan would help bring God’s presence into this world. All activities used to build the Creator’s house would be considered creative acts.

On Shabbat, we also strive to bring God’s presence into this world. We avoid creating to reaffirm that we do not have dominion over our lives. There is another who is in charge.

To learn what is considered “creating” we study the principles found in the original creation of the Mishkan. Our tradition identifies 39 categories of labor.

Many books discuss these concepts and list the laws of Shabbat in detail. They cover virtually every case that can arise on Shabbat and how to act correctly (e.g. “A framed picture falls off the wall. Am I allowed to re-hang it on Shabbat?”).

Nevertheless, there are some very basic areas of the law that relate to action or avoidance of action, which occur regularly on Shabbat (assuming you are not isolated on a desert island or a ship in the middle of the sea).

Cooking on Shabbat

It is not permitted to apply heat to things to change them in any way.

For the Mishkan, loaves of bread were formed and baked and consequently, on Shabbat, we avoid cooking in any way.

How to fix it

It is a matter of pre-cooking and keeping the food warm, either by using a blej (a metal sheet that covers the gas) or a slow cooker.

The water is kept warm with an urn that is plugged in and turned on before Shabbat. To fulfill this important aspect of Shabbat correctly, it is necessary to study it carefully.

Driving on Shabbat

On Shabbat one may not light or extinguish the fire and driving (which ignites and burns fuel) comes under this category.

How to fix it

Walk! There is no better feeling than going for a walk.

Helps you stop and gives you time to think, look around and breathe. It’s amazing how much we miss by rushing through life in a car. Enjoy this break from having to go everywhere and just enjoy being present.

If your synagogue is too far away, you can choose to travel on Friday afternoon, before Shabbat begins and leave the car parked until Saturday night.

Then you will only have to make one walk home on Friday night. During the day, the walk to and from the synagogue is a pleasure.

Schedule to visit friends or neighbors who live nearby or arrange to meet in the middle of the road or the park on Shabbat afternoon.

Handling money on Shabbat

On Shabbat, we avoid weekday activities such as shopping and consequently, money is muktze, i.e. it is among the objects that have no purpose on Shabbat and therefore cannot be moved. Also, bills (which obviously cannot be paid) are muktze.

How to fix it

Put aside wallets, purses and coins before Shabbat begins.


There is a prohibition against using electrical appliances on Shabbat, such as telephones, radios and televisions. It is also an area that when observed provides one of the most pleasant aspects of Shabbat.

The island of peace you wish to achieve can only be achieved when you enjoy the beautiful silence that is not interrupted by the sound of telephones.

How to fix it

You can let your family and friends know that you will not be answering the phone during Shabbat. Usually, people are quick to understand and accept that they should wait until Saturday night to call you. If you want a Shabbat atmosphere, unplug the phones so you won’t be disturbed.

Lights on Shabbat

Interior lighting is also generated by electricity, which is prohibited on Shabbat.

How to fix it

Determine which lights should be left on and which lights should be left off before Shabbat begins. You can stick a piece of tape on light switches in places with heavy traffic, such as bathrooms, so that no one will inadvertently turn them off or on.

(When one goes half asleep to the bathroom in the middle of the night it often automatically turns the light on!)

You can use a timer to automatically turn lights on or off on Shabbat, as long as it is programmed before Shabbat begins.

Toilet paper

Items that are joined together (glued, sewn, or even pierced) cannot be disconnected for use on Shabbat.

This involves taking something that is in one form and carefully dividing it into another form to use it, which creates something new. Paper towels also fall into this category.

How to fix it

Cut the paper before Shabbat begins or use tissues. For paper towels, cut before Shabbat the ones you might get to use, or use paper napkins.

Watering plants/ picking flowers on Shabbat

If on Shabbat everything is complete and we avoid doing things that would indicate that we have dominion over the world, then of course one should avoid causing things to live (or in some cases causing them to die).

Therefore, once Shabbat begins we do not water our plants (or place cut flowers in water).

How to fix it

Make sure to place the flowers in water and water the plants before Shabbat begins. If someone brings you flowers once Shabbat has already begun, thank them and simply place them in a vase without water. They usually keep well, just add water when Shabbat is over.

Writing/erasing/breaking letters on Shabbat

Avoid writing, drawing, erasing and even breaking letters on a package. Pencils, erasers, etc., fall under the category of muktze.

How to fix it

Store pencils, markers, etc. so you don’t get to use them. All packages and bottle caps to be used on Shabbat should be opened beforehand (or opened very carefully during Shabbat), so as not to break any letters.


When it comes to human life, everything can be done to save it.

So, one can drive on Shabbat to take someone to the hospital who is in an emergency, one can use telephones, etc. To save a life, the laws of Shabbat are set aside.


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