Notes for Religious Studies 369:

Introduction to Judaism


Woman preparing for the Sabbath,
from book of Jewish customs, Amsterdam 1695
Woman preparing for the Sabbath, from book of Jewish customs, Amsterdam 1695

Shabbat, the Sabbath

General description

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:

  1. 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."
  2. 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.."

Work Prohibition:

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:

At Home

At Synagogue

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:
  • Havdalah ceremony, Venice. 1601
    Havdalah, Venice. 1601

    Conclusion of Sabbath

    <a href="Sounds/Krusty-Shabbat.mp3">[Play Music]</a>