Shabbat is the centerpiece of Jewish life, and has been so since the infancy of Israel. According to the Talmud, Shabbat is equal to all the other commandments. Shabbat is so central to Jewish life, that the term shomer Shabbat (Shabbat observer) is synonymous with “religious Jew” in common parlance.
Shabbat is a day of rest and celebration that begins on Friday at sunset and ends on the following evening after nightfall.
Every Friday evening, we make a special point of dressing nicely, and arriving to dinner in time for the kiddush. It’s important to be punctual, since the candles are to be lit at least 18 minutes before sunset.
The Torah commands the Jewish people to “remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.” The sages understand this to mean the faithful Jew must verbally declare the Sabbath a holy day, so on Friday night a special prayer is said over wine in a ritual of sanctification.
After the candles are lit, prayers are said, scriptures such as a selection from the Psalms are read, the reader drinks from a cup of wine prepared especially for the Shabbat table.
Everyone stands for the Kiddush as it is sung
The sixth day. And the heavens and the earth and all their complements were finished.
And G‑d finished by the Seventh Day His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.
And G‑d blessed the seventh day and made it holy, for on it He rested from all His work, which G‑d had created to do.
Attention Gentlemen! Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the world, who creates the fruit of vine.
Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, king of the world, who made us holy with His commandments and favored us, and gave us His holy Shabbat, in love and favor, to be our heritage, as a reminder of the Creation. It is the first of the holy festivals, commemorating the exodus from Egypt.
For You have chosen us and sanctified us from among all the nations, and with love and goodwill given us Your holy Shabbat as a heritage.
Blessed are You, Lord, who sanctifies Shabbat.
Then we sit for the feast prepared for us, including special rolls which are served only on Shabbat, reminding us of the double portion of manna that fell every Friday during the Exodus. Challah, as it is called, is made of dough from which a small portion has been set aside as an offering, making it special for festival occasions.
Tonight, as we celebrated Shabbat together, I realized this remembrance of God’s provision, and His command to rest, have become very dear to me. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NRSV) Jesus is certainly our Sabbath. And, I know there are all kinds of robust discussions going on, between denominations, about what is the Sabbath, how do Christians keep the Sabbath, are we obligated to have a Sabbath, considering Jesus is our rest, and considering what the apostle Paul later wrote, “Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.“
Nevertheless, the deep truth of Shabbat, that God established this day as one of celebration and rest, that studies show keeping a regular Sabbath ends up physically and mentally benefitting us, (think “Blue Zone“), that worship is refreshing to the soul…I think I’d like to incorporate Kiddush, Challah, and Sabbath Feast into my life.