Shabbat Invitation

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 Ohr Somayach Special:
 What is Shabbat?

   Excerpt from Rabbi Mordechai Becher's and Rabbi Moshe Newman's book After the Return (Feldheim Publishing) about the Sabbath. Printed with permission.

  "Remember the Shabbat day to sanctify it. Six days you shall work and do all your work. And on the seventh day is a Shabbat to the L-rd your G-d, you shall not do any melachah; you, your son and daughter, your slave and maidservant, your animals and the convert who is in your gates. For in six days G-d created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day; therefore, G-d blessed the Shabbat day and sanctified it."
(Exodus 20:8-11)

"You shall keep My Shabbatot, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, so that you will know that I am the L-rd who sanctifies you."
(Exodus 31:13)

"Guard the Shabbat day to sanctify it, as the L-rd your G-d commanded you. Six days you shall work and complete all your melachot, and the seventh day is Shabbat unto the L-rd your G-d, do not do any melachah...And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the L-rd your G-d took you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the L-rd your G-d commanded you to keep the Shabbat day."
(Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

The observance of the Shabbat involves positive mitzvot and Torah prohibitions, as well as a host of Rabbinic laws, customs and special prayers. The Torah teaches us that the observance of the Shabbat is a testimony to G-d's creation of the world, to G-d's special relationship to the Jewish people and to the Exodus from Egypt. It is the touchstone of faith, and one of the most central components of a Torah way of life. The halachah considers the observance of the Shabbat to be a "litmus test" of allegiance to the Torah; in the words of the Talmud (Chullin 5a), "One who (deliberately) transgresses the Shabbat in public is like a pagan." The Talmud in Tractate Shabbat (145a), expressing a similar idea, states that "even he who has worshipped idols like the generation of Enosh, gains atonement by observing Shabbat". Shabbat is one of the most conspicuous features of an observant way of life and involves a tremendous change in daily habits for a secular Jew. On the Shabbat one may not engage in business, answer the phone, watch television, or drive a car. In order to observe the Shabbat correctly, food must be prepared in advance of Shabbat, the table must be set in a particular way, candles must be lit and, in general, the home environment must be attuned to the requirements of halachah. Aside from the strict halachic requirements, it is also necessary to have an atmosphere conducive to the observance and enjoyment of Shabbat. All of this calls for the cooperation of all the members of the household. Following is an overview of some of the activities forbidden on the Shabbat and the symbolism of these prohibitions.

The 39 Melachot Prohibited on Shabbat

   In prohibiting work on the Shabbat the Torah does not use the term "avodah" (labor) as it does regarding the work of the Jews during their enslavement in Egypt. The use of the term "avodah" would imply that physical exertion is prohibited, and would be similar to the scientific definition of work (Work = Force X Displacement). The term used in the context of Shabbat is "melacha", which implies a more subtle definition of work, similar to its use in regards to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), where "melacha" actually means "skillful, constructive activities".
The Torah juxtaposes the mitzvot of the Mishkan with the prohibition of work on Shabbat, four times. (Shmot 31:13 and 35 Rashi ad loc.; Vayikra 19:30 and 26:2) This juxtaposition implies that the "melachot" of Shabbat are the same activities involved in the construction of the Mishkan. The Oral Law lists 39 major categories of melacha that are forbidden on Shabbat, and points out that this number is alluded to by the fact that the word "melacha" occurs (in its meaning of "work") 39 times in the Bible. (Shabbat 49b) Based on his analysis of the 39 melachot, Rabbi S.R.Hirsch describes a melacha as "an act resulting in a significant increase in the utility of some object" and as "an act that shows human mastery over the world by a constructive exercise of intelligence". Rabbi Hirsch explains that the Torah is teaching us that we are not absolute masters over the world, by restricting our interference with the natural world for one day a week, Shabbat. The melachot all result in a significant increase in the utility of some object (e.g. cooking), thus showing our mastery over the world by a constructive exercise of our intelligence.
(Commentary on Shmot 20:10 and Horeb, also The Sabbath, by Dayan I. Grunfield)

  The following are the major categories of activities that are forbidden on Shabbat by the Torah (avot melachot). Each of the following categories includes other forbidden activities as subcategories (toldot). (The av melacha is boldfaced, and the description of the toldot follows.) For instance the prohibition of "sowing", not only prohibits actually planting a seed or a sapling, but also includes irrigation, pruning, moving a plant into the sunlight, and anything that causes the plant to grow.
1. Sowing: anything that encourages growth of plants
2. Ploughing: improving soil for agricultural purposes
3. Harvesting: removing produce from its source of sustenance or place of growth
4. Making sheaves: gathering agricultural produce from its place of growth
5. Threshing: extracting of "food" from its "husk"
6. Winnowing: separating of "food" from its "husks" using wind
7. Selecting: removing "waste" from "food"
8. Grinding: making large particles into small particles by grinding or chopping
9. Sifting: separating fine and coarse particles using a sieve
10. Kneading: combining solid particles into one mass using a liquid
11. Baking: using heat to effect a change of state
12. Shearing: removal of fur or hair from a live animal
13. Washing: laundering or cleaning of absorbent materials
14. Combing: separating tangled fibers
15. Dyeing: permanently coloring materials
16. Spinning: twisting individual fibers into one thread
17. Setting up the loom
18. Threading the loom
19. Weaving: weaving of fibers, or basket-weaving, knitting etc.
20. Unravelling woven threads
21. Tying: tying a permanent or an artisan's knot
22. Untying: untying any of the aforementioned knots
23. Sewing: permanent bonding of two materials
24. Tearing: tearing permanently bonded materials for a constructive purpose
25. Hunting: capturing or trapping animals
26. Slaughtering: killing or wounding a living creature
27. Flaying: stripping the skin from a carcass
28. Salting: preserving or hardening of a substance using salt or chemicals
29. Tanning: softening and preparing leather
30. Scraping: smoothing a surface by scraping
31. Cutting: cutting materials to a specific size or shape
32. Writing: writing, drawing or marking
33. Erasing in order to write
34. Building: constructing dwellings or making implements
35. Demolishing in order to build
36. Extinguishing: putting out or diminishing a fire
37. Burning: igniting or increasing a fire
38. Finishing touches: completing or touching-up an object
39. Carrying: carrying from a private to a public domain and vice versa, or carrying in the public domain (Mishnah, Tractate Shabbat 7:2)

    Appendix 1: The Laws of Shabbat A summary follows of some of the legal and pragmatic requirements for the observance of the Shabbat in a halachically "uncontrolled" environment, together with some solutions to common problems encountered by the baal teshuvah.

1. Benefit From a Transgression of Shabbat Well meaning and sincere family members will try to create a Shabbat atmosphere for the baal teshuvah. Unfortunately, they may be ignorant of the laws governing the cooking and heating of food on Shabbat as well as other laws of Shabbat. During Greg's first Shabbat at home after a year in Yeshivah, his mother brought out a surprise for him after kiddush; a cholent which his mother had cooked that morning. It is essential to know the basic halachot governing the benefit from transgression of Shabbat. Obviously, the baal teshuvah should also bear in mind the halachot regarding honor for parents and should be sensitive to the feelings of others, who although ignorant, have good intentions.

a. If a Jew transgressed any one of the melachot, neither he or anyone else may derive any benefit from his actions on Shabbat. (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 318:1)
b. Even if the transgressor was unintentional the product is forbidden. (Ibid.)
c. It is forbidden to benefit from the transgression even if it was not intended for anyone in particular. (Ibid.)
d. If a Rabbinic prohibition was transgressed unintentionally, then it is permitted to benefit from the melachah. (Mishnah Berurah, ad loc., 3)
e. If a Rabbinic prohibition was transgressed, but the object was not altered, (e.g. carrying does not cause a change in the object, cooking does cause a change) it is permitted to benefit from the object. (Biur Halachah, ad loc.)

2. Candle Lighting

a) Both men and women are obligated to ensure that they have Shabbat candles lit in their house. The mitzvah has a special association with women and therefore a woman has preference in lighting the candles. (O.C. 263:2-3)
b) It is customary to light two candles, one symbolizing "Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy", the other symbolizing "Guard the Shabbat day". The custom of many families is to light an extra candle for every child born. (O.C. 263:1 Ramah, Responsa Mishneh Halachot 7:35)
c) The candles should be lit close to where the Shabbat meal is being eaten, but they do not have to be on the table. (O.C. 263, Mishnah Berurah 2 and 45)
d) The times of candlelighting are generally published in local Jewish newspapers and in Hebrew calendars, and vary according to custom. If the local custom is not known, or if a person does not have access to the candle lighting times, he should light candles a half-hour before sunset. (O.C. 261:2, Mishnah Berurah 23).
e) A person who will not be in his home for the evening meal, and will therefore, not be able to benefit from the Shabbat candles, should nevertheless light candles where he lives, and not say a blessing. If he makes a blessing on the candles he must ensure that he has some benefit from them after nightfall. (O.C. 263:9 Mishnah Berurah 41)
f) A guest may fulfill his obligation to light the Shabbat candles through the candle lighting of the hosts.
g) A blessing is recited at the time of lighting the Shabbat candles. (The blessing is found in most Siddurim) Men recite the blessing before lighting the candles. Women first light the candles, then cover their eyes, and then recite the blessing. After the blessing is said, she uncovers her eyes and enjoys the light of the candles. (Men generally say the evening prayers and hence accept Shabbat at the time of prayers; women, who generally do not recite the evening service, accept Shabbat when they light the candles. This distinction is the reason for the differences in the procedure of candle lighting for men and women. O.C. 263:5 Ramah)

3. Laws and Customs of the Meals

a) Both men and women are obligated to sanctify the Shabbat with words. This obligation is fulfilled by saying the kiddush. (O.C. 271:2)
b) The kiddush (printed in siddurim) must be recited while holding a full cup (of at least 86cc. Some are stringent to use 137cc. and some use 150cc.) of wine or grape juice. After the kiddush, one should drink at least a "cheekful" of wine immediately. (O.C. 271:10,13) The cup should not be a disposable utensil, unless nothing else is available. (Igrot Moshe, O.C. 3:39) Any unbroken, clean cup may be used for kiddush, however it is correct to obtain a beautiful cup, especially for the mitzvah of kiddush. (O.C. 271:9, Mishnah Berurah 44; O.C. 673, Mishnah Berurah 78)
c) The cup should be held in the right hand while reciting the kiddush. Some have the custom to remain seated for the entire kiddush, some stand for the first paragraph (on Friday night) and sit for the rest, and some have the custom to stand for the entire kiddush. (O.C. 271:10) Any of these customs is halachically acceptable.
d) The kiddush should be recited at the same place that the meal will be eaten, and must be immediately followed by the meal. (O.C. 173:1,3)
e) Most kosher wines are either cooked or pasteurised and consequently there is no problem of "stam yeinam". If the wine is neither pasteurised, nor is "yayin mevushal" printed on the label it is possible to boil the wine before Shabbat. For a more detailed discussion of this issue refer to the chapter entitled Kashrus, in the section called Kosher Food and Hechsherim.
f) A blessing should be made over two whole loaves of bread following kiddush and the washing of the hands. The loaves should be kept covered until they are cut, and should be placed on a covering or board. The two loaves symbolize the double portion of Mannah that fell on Friday, which was covered above and below by a layer of dew. (O.C. 274:1)
g) If wine is not available, the kiddush at night may be recited over the bread. Wash and say the appropriate blessing, say kiddush while holding the loaves and substitute the blessing for wine with the blessing for bread. For kiddush during the day, bread may not be used, however, kiddush may be recited over any alcoholic beverage, reciting the appropriate blessing in place of the blessing for wine. (O.C. 272:9)
h) One is obligated to eat a third meal on Shabbos in the afternoon. No kiddush is made at this meal, however one should use two, whole loaves for the blessing over the bread. If one still feels quite full he may fulfill the third meal by having cake or fruits. One should start the third meal before sundown. (Orach Chaim 291:1-5)

4. Prayers and Torah Reading

It is correct to pray together with a community (minyan) and to hear the reading of the Torah on Shabbos (Orach Chayim 90:9, 282:1). If the ba`al teshuvah`s family does not live near an Orthodox synagogue he should not refrain from staying home for Shabbos since the obligation to pray with a minyan is not an actual requirement, but is rather an appropriate thing to do because one's prayers are more acceptable together with those of the community (Iggros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:31). The obligation to read the Torah on Shabbos according to some Poskim is actually a communal obligation and therefore as an individual he is not obligated to make extraordinary efforts to hear the Torah reading.

5. Havdalah

a) It is obligatory to sanctify the Shabbat at its conclusion by reciting the havdalah (printed in siddurim). (O.C. 296:1) b) Havdalah is recited over wine (as above, regarding kiddush), or if wine is not available, over beer, or any important beverage. (296:2)

c) One should attempt to obtain spices for havdalah, such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg or any natural fragrant spice. The blessing of "boreih minei besamim" should be recited regardless of the type of spice used. (O.C. 297:1, Mishnah Berurah 1)

d) One should attempt to obtain a candle with more than one wick, or two candles held together, for the blessing on fire. (O.C. 298:1,2)

e) If neither spices or candles are available, havdalah may nevertheless be recited without them. (O.C. 297:1, 298:1)

Suggested further reading:
Sabbath: Day of Eternity - Aryeh Kaplan
The Sabbath - Dayan I. Grunfield


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