Notes for Religious Studies 369:
Introduction to Judaism
Woman preparing for the Sabbath,
from book of Jewish customs, Amsterdam 1695
Shabbat, the Sabbath
Observed as day of rest from weekday labour, on Saturday:
Begins Friday at sunset and concludes Saturday night
Biblical rationales for Sabbath:
Two reasons given in different versions of the Decalogue:
- Exodus 20:10: "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
- Deuteronomy 5:15: "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.."
The Torah repeats in many places that no "work" or "labour" should be performed on the Sabbath -- but does not define precisely what actions are included under the prohibition.
The Mishnah provides a list of 39 basic categories of prohibited actitivity. Additional restrictions were added by the rabbis.
Description of Sabbath
Preparations on Friday:
Friday Night Laws and Customs:
- Ritual candle-lighting at home (usually done by woman).
- Custom of parents blessing children at dinner table.
- Custom of reading "woman of valour" chapter from Proverbs 31.
- Recitation of Kiddush, blessing of sanctification, recited over cup of wine.
- Table hymns.
- Religious study, especially of weekly Biblical reading.
- Weekday Afternoon service.
- Kabbalat Shabbat--special introductory Psalms and hymns introduced by Kabbalists of sixteenth-century Safed.
Lekhah Dodi hymn welcomes the Sabbath as a queen.
- Evening Service, sung to special melodies.
Abbreviated version of "Eighteen blessings" with central section devoted to the topic of the Sabbath.
Sabbath day (Saturday):
Main synagogue service of week: Most widely attended.
In addition to the normal structure of the daily Morning Service, adapted to the Sabbath theme, special features include:
- Longer preliminary section (extra Psalms).
- Full reading of section from Torah.
- Haftarah: Concluding reading from "Prophets" section of Bible.
- Musaf ["Additional"] service, a special Amidah prayer on Sabbath theme.
- Afternoon service also includes short reading from following week's section of the Torah.
Havdalah ceremony, Venice. 1601
Conclusion of Sabbath
- Havadalah [Separation] blessing, recited in Eighteen Blessings of Evening Service, and then again at home as a separate cermony.
- Includes blessings over wine, spices and fire.