What is Shabbat? Intro to the Jewish Sabbath

So maybe you're Jewish and wondering

how to get started doing the Shabbat thing

or maybe you're not Jewish and you want to better appreciate what your friend is up to

or why your co-worker leaves early on Fridays.

Let's look at two things.

Why people do Shabbat and how?

Okay so why?

it's the single most important building block of living a Jewish life,

according to pretty much everyone.

The Torah explains in chapter 1 that

G-d created the world in six days

and on the seventh day, ceased from creating.

So to mark that and appreciate creation,

Jews ceased creating things as well.

We live life in the realm of space: going places,

making things, buying and fixing stuff.

We have to focus on the physical world

on a day to day basis and sure we can do it mindfully

but Shabbat is a maneuver into the world of time.

Letting go of making and buying and fixing is entering

what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously called a palace in time.

It's hard to set aside the phone, the email, the cleaning, the errands.

But that's the whole point.

To set aside the time for something holy.

it not only connects you to G-d

but also to yourself and the whole of the Jewish people.

It creates a rhythm to life with a seventh note of rest time.

Now to the How?

People talk about Shabbat being a day of not working or a day of rest.

Jewish tradition actually defines 39 categories of creating-ish work

planting, building, hoisting stuff around, that you're supposed to refrain from on Shabbat

and traditionally observant Jews extrapolate from that to mean

no email, no errands, no driving, cooking or using technology.

It's more than what's not done.

Making Shabbat or as you might hear it said keeping Shabbos means making

sacred time.

People bring in Shabbat by lighting candles at sundown

and go from a dinner with challah and wine and singing,

to a morning may be spent at services hearing about the Torah portion,

to a big lunch with friends or a picnic in the park.

There are naps,

strolls around the the neighborhood,

books, text study, games, lots of low-key pastimes.

It ends at nightfall on Saturday with a candle putting out ritual called Havdalah.

There are tons of ways to celebrate Shabbat and if you want to know more specific

about challah, candles, or songs or how to say some of the blessings,

we have plenty of resources for you.

Heschel said that things do not lend significance to a moment;

it is the moment that lends significance to things.

Taking a day to live this way can bring a sense of wholeness or in Hebrew "shalom".

So, let's end with a wish for Shabbat Shalom.