Shabbat begins on Friday evening at sunset and ends on Saturday evening, likewise at sunset. Shabbat commemorates God’s day of rest after creating the world in six days and is greeted with a blessing over light. After the service in the synagogue, blessings follow at home over wine and bread. It is best not to spend the holiday alone, so guests are invited to come. What is allowed and forbidden on Shabbat varies greatly from person to person. The prohibition against making a fire and not turning on a light can easily be complied with by using a Shabbat timer. The smoking ban could be countered by consuming snuff. The day of rest is concluded with a distinct liturgy called the Havdalah (separation). Among other things, a box of fragrant spices that strengthens people for the coming week is passed around. Shavua tov!
Shabbat is greeted with the lighting of two Shabbat candles, a task that falls to women, who say the following blessing: “Please hear my prayer at this time through the merit of our matriarchs Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah, and cause light to shine from our candle so that it shall never be extinguished.” One drinks wine or grape juice from a special cup, the kiddish cup, and recites a blessing over it. Meanwhile, two braided loaves of bread, called challot, lie on a plate and are covered with a cloth. After the blessing of the wine, a piece of the challah is broken off, sprinkled with salt, and the blessing is recited over the bread. The two braids recall the double portion of manna that fell during the Exodus from Egypt, so that one does not have to prepare anything on Shabbat. Since they are made without milk or butter, the challot also go well with salty food. It is customary after the Shabbat evening service in the synagogue to invite friends and other guests to one’s home, because nobody should be alone on the holiday.
Each family decides what is allowed and forbidden on Shabbat according to their degree of observance. Orthodox Jewish women and men do not carry out 39 activities that relate to the work required to erect the tabernacle that Jewish women and men took along with them during their wandering in the desert. These are very basic commandments that one shouldn’t kindle a fire or carry anything from one place to another. The ban on working ultimately leaves time for family, friends and spiritual matters. The Havdalah, Hebrew for separation, is a ceremony marking the end of the holiday on Saturday evening, which again follows its own liturgy. Besamim, Hebrew for flavors or spices, offer a little “relief” when saying goodbye to the day of rest. Often one uses cloves, which are kept in special box. The pleasant smell reinforces the memory of the day of rest and provides strength for the new week.
In the permanent exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Palais Eskeles you can see many different objects used during Shabbat in the Atrium (ground floor) and in the Visual Storage (3rd floor). In the auditorium (2nd floor) you can enter “The Shabbat Room,” a permanent installation by the Israeli artist Maya Zack.
In the meantime, we wish you Shavua tov, a good week!