The Shabbos Project is simply about accessing the experience of keeping Shabbat once, together, as Jews around the world.
The inspiring gift that Shabbat is – both for ourselves and our families – emerges only when we live out Shabbat practically, in a real and experiential way.
For those unfamiliar with them, the laws of Shabbat can seem complicated, overwhelming and daunting.
The purpose of this guide is to ensure keeping Shabbat is as easy as possible. We have set out to clarify, simplify and demystify everything you need to know in a very practical and user-friendly way.
The Shabbos Project takes place on 24/25 October 2014.
The guide is aimed primarily at first-time Shabbat-keepers, but can also be a useful resource for others who wish to brush up on their knowledge, double-check certain practices, or prepare better.
We recommend you start looking at this guide a few weeks before the big Shabbat on 24/25 October. This will prepare you step-by-step for a powerful, incredible family experience when the day arrives.
If you only pick up this booklet a bit late, don’t worry – keeping Shabbat for the first time is still doable with just a few days to prepare!
Learning how to keep Shabbat may feel like you’re facing a mountain; in actual fact it’s quite a lot easier than it seems.
You will find in these pages the best and simplest way possible to keep Shabbat. Absorb the basic Shabbat facts, follow the straightforward guidelines, read our tips, and you will be empowered to keep Shabbat on the big day!
Of course, this guide isn’t exhaustive; there are many intricate details for observing Shabbat that are beyond the scope of this booklet. Here, we are concerned only with the main things you need to know to keep Shabbat. Also, in addition to this guide, we have created The Shabbos Project Toolkit – a resource to accompany you through the Shabbat itself.
The Toolkit includes prayers, practical information and inspiring stories, and explains how and why we do things. In short, it will guide you through the rhythms of the day, enriching your understanding of the various Shabbat practices, and adding layers of meaning to your experience. You can access the Shabbat Project Toolkit online: theshabbosproject.org#toolkit
What does not “working” on Shabbat mean?
In the Ten Commandments and elsewhere in the Torah, G-d asks us “to remember and guard the Shabbat”, “to keep it holy’”, and “to rest and to refrain from all work (on the seventh day)”.
The Oral Torah, a tradition passed down through the generations from Sinai, explains that this “work” (Melachah in Hebrew) comprises the 39 creative actions dedicated to the building of the Mishkan – the Sanctuary which housed the Altar, Menorah and Holy Ark. There are numerous mystical and philosophical writings, ancient and contemporary, exploring some of the deeper elements of this rather mysterious connection between the building of the Mishkan and Shabbat observance, and those with an interest in this subject are encouraged to look more deeply into it.
For the purposes of this guide, however, it is enough to know that the many laws pertaining to Shabbat emerge from this definition of “work”, and from the 39 root categories. What these 39 activities have in common is that they are all physically creative and constructive, and exercise control or dominion over one’s environment; generally speaking, therefore, it is these sorts of activities we abstain from during Shabbat.
In every generation, these 39 eternal principles are applied to the particular local conditions, circumstances and technology of the time. Today, on a very practical level, we refrain from activating electrical appliances and electronic devices. It means that Shabbat is a day without driving or using computers, phones, Kindles, iPads, TVs and DVDs. Shabbat is a gadget-free day. It’s a distraction-free day. Shabbat is a holiday from our demanding world. Shabbat is about accepting that we cannot do it all, have it all, be it all.
There are numerous restrictions – no emails, no Facebook, no cooking, no driving, no smoking, no hot water from the geyser, no makeup or creams, no gardening, no laundry, no writing, no shopping, no business activities, and more. But it is important to remember this – that it is the things we cannot do on Shabbat which free us up to do the things we can.
Indeed, through the gift of Shabbat, the Torah has given us a framework for our week. We are to use our creative energies for six days and then dedicate one day for developing our spiritual and emotional energies by refraining from work.
On Shabbat we try to engage and connect – with our friends, family and community, and with ourselves and our Creator. Shabbat gives us the gift of time: time to forget our stresses, time to suspend our worries for 25 hours.
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The Torah regards saving a life as one of the highest values of all. The laws of Shabbat are completely suspended to save someone whose life is in danger. This is known in the halacha as a situation of Pikuach Nefesh.
It is a mitzvah not to hesitate even if you are uncertain whether someone’s life is actually in danger or not; you must take whatever action is necessary to save them, regardless of the fact that it is Shabbat.
Anyone who hesitates when there is a situation of Pikuach Nefesh has committed the serious transgression of endangering life.
Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
“The Torah requires that on Shabbat, Jews refrain from all creative work. Notice that the prohibition is defined not by how difficult the labour is, but by how creative the activity is. Therefore, it would be permitted to carry a piano on your back around the house all day, but it is forbidden to pick up a pencil and write the letter “O”. The essence of Shabbat is letting go of one’s own need to change reality. Instead, on Shabbat, we step back and experience reality as it is, complete as G-d created it.”
Rabbi Abraham Twerski
“Some Shabbat observers focus on all the preparations they need to do for Shabbat and feel tense about this. Mentally go beyond the work involved. Remember that on Shabbat you will celebrate all that you have, all that exists on our planet, and all that exists in the entire cosmos. This is mind-boggling. Let the joy and serenity of Shabbat permeate your being during your entire stay in this world.”
Nice to have
There are various appliances and equipment which can make Shabbat more convenient. Remember that you do not have to buy all these things in order to keep Shabbat (after all, we seemed to survive pretty well for thousands of years without them) but if you feel that they will make the experience more comfortable for you, now is the time to get them.
A slow cooker
For a hearty stew (otherwise known as cholent) for Shabbat lunch, you may wish to invest in a slow cooker. Make sure to have your stew in and cooking well before Shabbat begins. If you do not wish to purchase a slow cooker, you can make cholent on the stove using a blech, a barrier between the fire and the cooking food. A blech need not be expensive; one can use an upturned roaster or a metal sheet – anything substantial that prevents the food receptacle from being directly on the heat.
As actual cooking is prohibited on Shabbat, any food going on the hot tray, slow-cooker or blech on Shabbat has to be already cooked (in an edible state) before Shabbat comes in.
See Warming food on Shabbat for further information about heating up food on Shabbat.
A hot tray/warming plate
If you don’t have one, you may want a hot tray/warming plate for keeping your Shabbat dinner hot until you sit down to eat, and for heating up your Shabbat lunch.
You may also want to use it with a time-switch at the plug, so that it is not on all night. You will not be able to turn it on or off yourself, nor can you change any settings during the course of Shabbat.
A time-switch or two
Pre-set lamps, hot trays, and other plug-in appliances to go on and off when you want.
You can also install a digital time-switch that controls your house lights from your electricity board. Programme all your non-essential lights to go off at bedtime and on again late Shabbat afternoon. You will need an electrician to install one of these.
Of course, it’s easier to avoid this extra hassle simply by planning well – leaving lights on in the bathroom, passage, kitchen, dining room, etc.
For hot drinks and baby bottles, the urn must be full and boiling before Shabbat, and keep water hot for the full duration of Shabbat, without you needing to adjust the settings in any way. For this Shabbat, a hot water flask prepared before Shabbat may also do the trick.
A Shabbat lamp
Halachically compliant bedside lamps can be left on for the duration of Shabbat and covered when necessary. While very useful and convenient, they are not essential for Shabbat observance. Your regular bedside lamp will do nicely – as long as it is set to turn on and off automatically with a time-switch, or else you aren’t bothered by it once you go to sleep.
Make it yum
It’s a special mitzvah to eat good food on Shabbat. Special food brings an added dimension of honour and joy to our Shabbat experience. Shabbat meals give you precious, uninterrupted time with your family and friends to connect with one another, and to teach, learn and grow together. It is a good idea to start thinking about your Shabbat meals, and what you are going to serve, in advance. If you don’t want to cook, an easier option may be to order in all your Shabbat meals. It’s great to spend Shabbat with family and friends – and newfound friends! Welcoming guests into our homes is a wonderful thing to do on Shabbat. Maybe spend some time thinking about who you are going to invite.
Make it fun
It is great to have good reading material ready and prepared for Shabbat. Remember, no TV, Tablets, Playstations, smart phones for 25 hours! Find time to put together what you like: books, magazines, games – anything to add to the enjoyment of this precious, quiet downtime. Prepare for Shabbat afternoon. Invite your children’s friends over. Unpack those games you have not used for years!
Find out whether your local synagogue or Jewish community centre is running special activities for the youth.
Plan your walking route to shul. Whether you live close by or far from a shul, start planning your Shabbat walk now. Drive it a couple of times or use Google Maps to find the quickest and most pleasant Shabbat walk. If you will be visiting friends, find the best walking route to their house.
An eruv is a demarcated area within which we may carry or transport any objects on Shabbat. If you live in an area which does not have an eruv, you will not be able to carry or transport any items on Shabbat, including pushing a pram.
Even if you live within an eruv, there is no need to take your handbag or pocketbook to the synagogue. Money, mobile phones and makeup are muktze, and may not be used or handled on Shabbat.
If doing it yourself seems a little daunting, why not sign up for a Shabbat Host? We’ll connect you with a like-minded host family. theshabbosprojectorg#findahost
Things to think about
You will need a box of tissues for each toilet in the home, because you may not tear toilet paper on Shabbat.
Polish your candlesticks and silverware early in week. Avoid the Friday rush! Set them out in preparation for Shabbat.
Chat with your kids this week about The Shabbos Project and your commitment to keep it together. Explore what they know about Shabbat. Talk through your expectations of the day. Remember, this is a day without mobile phones, computers, TVs and all the other tech gadgets. Your family should be aware of this in advance. Build excitement about this new family experience. Discuss the significance and magnitude of keeping Shabbat together around the world.
Spend a little time on the internet this week to find something new and interesting that excites you and that you would love to share around the Shabbat table. Or think of an inspiring story, lesson, or meaningful Torah article you recently heard.
It is an excellent idea to buy a siddur and a chumash – two staples of a Jewish household – if you don’t already own them. You will also be able to access both a siddur and chumash at your local synagogue. On Shabbat, we don’t use thick substances that are smeared on, so you’ll not be able to use regular sunscreen and lipstick (because of their thick and creamy consistency). If important to you or your family, buy liquid-spray sunscreen and clear liquid roll-on gloss for Shabbat use. Soap and toothpaste must also be of the liquid variety in order to be used on Shabbat.
Things you may not have thought about
If you stay in an apartment block and use the elevator, on Shabbat you will have to take the stairs.
Many hotels make use of electronic keys. Make sure that if you stay in a hotel over this Shabbat, you have a room with a conventional, non-electronic, access system.
Disable or avoid any automatic doors, lights (including fridge lights), or sensors of any variety.
(This applies only to those you are aware of. Do not worry if you inadvertently set off a light, door, etc. Melacha requires intentionality.)
Got a question? Email us and we will be sure to get you an answer. email@example.com
It’s erev Shabbat, the Thursday night and Friday before the big Shabbat! This is always a special time of the week, a precious time. The magical excitement and anticipation for Shabbat is beginning to be felt. Preparing for Shabbat takes time, so if you are working on Friday, try to come home as early as possible.
Complete all baking and cooking for Shabbat dinner, lunch and seudah shlishit. Ensure that all food is fully cooked, that is, in an edible state – before Shabbat starts. (Remember to switch on your cholent early enough on Friday!) Put all your dinner food onto the stove or hot tray before Shabbat comes in.
THE GIFT OF REST
Senator Joe Lieberman
“Whether I’m in Stamford or Washington, I try to get home earlier on Friday than any other day of the week so I can participate in preparing for the Sabbath. In accordance with Jewish tradition, I always bring flowers home for Hadassah and our Shabbat table on Fridays. A Capitol Hills newspaper once surveyed members of the Congress, asking, among other things, “Do you ever buy your wife flowers?” “Yes” I said “How often?” “Every week,” I answered “Oh my goodness,” said the reporter, “you are so romantic!” The resulting article nominated me as one of the most romantic members of Congress.”
Warming food during Shabbat
Food may not be placed in an oven or on a stove during Shabbat. Warming (not cooking appliances) may be used as follows: the food that needs to be heated for lunch or Seudah Shlishit must have no liquid and be completely cooked before Shabbat. Also the warming hot tray must be off at the time you place the food on it, with a time-switch activating it to come on later. If it has a dial with various heat settings, the dial must be covered with tin foil to remind one not to adjust it on Shabbat. (If it is simply an on/ off switch, then it does not need to be covered.)
Early Friday morning is the best time to buy your challahs, if you aren’t making your own. You will need two whole challahs for each meal: Friday night, Shabbat day, and Seudah Shlishit (the third meal). That may sound like a lot of bread! Instead of a challah loaf, you can use challah rolls.
It’s a nice custom to bring home flowers or chocolates, or any other small gift for your spouse. And don’t forget some treats for the kids!
Tea and Coffee
Only instant coffee may be used on Shabbat. When making coffee, pour hot water from the urn into your cup first and then add the coffee. Tea is a little more complicated because the boiling water cooks the raw contents of a teabag. Since cooking may not be done on Shabbat, it‘s best to prepare tea essence before Shabbat, then add it to your cup of hot water. Tea essence is made by preparing very strong tea in a pot before Shabbat. On Shabbat day, you can then add small amounts of the tea essence to the hot water in your cup.
When making cereal with milk, porridge, tuna mayo, egg mayo or jelly on Shabbat, there are many complicated halachic principles involved. It is best to make these foods before Shabbat.
> Get your lounge and dining room clean and ready for Shabbat.
> Set the table.
> Put away all gadgets that can’t be used on Shabbat, including computers, tablets, pens and pencils, TV remotes and cell phones. In halacha, these items are called muktze, and we may not move them or handle them on Shabbat because their use is forbidden.
> Wash, iron and prepare all the clothes you will need for Shabbat. None of these activities can be done on Shabbat itself.
> Ensure that all bedroom lights have been turned off, and whatever lights you will need are left on for the entire Shabbat. If you have a time-switch on your DB board, then activate it on Friday afternoon. If you have an urn, fill it and switch it on.
> Tape down the light switch in your fridge with a piece of sticky tape so that the light remains off, even when the fridge is opened. Otherwise, opening and closing your fridge door will cause you to switch that light on and off.
> Make sure to pre-tear any tin foil or food-wrap sheets that you may need, because we may not to do so on Shabbat itself.
> You may wish to record a cell phone voice message to say that you will only be able to retrieve messages on Saturday night.
THE MITZVAH OF ENJOYMENT
We have a mitzvah to honour and enjoy Shabbat. We pave the way for this by preparing our best food, setting aside our best clothes, entering Shabbat clean and well-groomed, and ensuring our homes are tidy, well-lit and pleasant places to be on Shabbat.
We fulfil the mitzvah itself by enjoying and relishing the simple pleasures of the day, such as eating, chatting, singing, sleeping and learning.
R’ Abahu would sit on a stool of ivory and fan the fire (used to cook for the Sabbath).
Rav Anan would put on a black smock (on Fridays to demonstrate that this was not a day for keeping clean and neat but rather for cooking food for the Sabbath).
Rav Safra would singe the head (of the animal being prepared for the Sabbath meal).
Rava would salt the shibbuta (fish for the Sabbath meal).
Rav Huna would light lamps (for the Sabbath).
Rav Pappa would twine the wicks (for the lamps).
Rav Chisda would mince the beets.
Rabbah and Rav Yosef would split wood.
R’ Zeira would kindle (the fire).
At sunset Shabbat begins for everybody. At this special moment in time, across the world, Jewish people are bringing in Shabbat together. The time of sunset in your city is listed in green in the table below. Before this time, the woman of the household lights two candles. Some women have a custom to light a candle for each of their children, in addition to her two candles. If there is no woman in a household, the candles must be lit by the male head of the household. If not him, any member of the house who is over bar or bat mitzvah should light the candles. It’s a beautiful custom for a mother to light the candles with her daughters.
The 18 minutes
If you are a little late to light candles, you may still light them, but only if it is safely within 18 minutes after candle-lighting time. That is your absolute deadline. Thereafter, if you’ve forgotten, or are running late, you may not light candles. There is a special mitzvah to bring in Shabbat well before the 18-minute deadline expires in order to add some time onto Shabbat.
How to light
First, light the two candles, then circle your arms three times to ‘bring/wave in the light’. Cover your eyes with both hands and say the bracha:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֶלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אַשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת.
Uncover your eyes. From this moment on, until the stars are out on Saturday night, Shabbat is in.
1/60TH OF THE WORLD TO COME
Rabbi Akiva Tatz
Shabbat is described as me’eyn olam ha’ba – a small degree of the experience of the next world. There is an idea that all spiritual realities have at least one tangible counterpart in the world so that we can experience them: it would be too difficult to relate to the abstract if we could never have any direct experience of it. Sleep is a sixtieth of the death experience; a dream is a sixtieth of prophecy. Shabbat is a sixtieth of the experience of the next world.
Shabbat enables one to enter the dimension of being rather than doing, and to accept and celebrate the world as it is. Many people never get off the rollercoaster, even for a single day. They are so involved in their own need to redefine and recreate reality that they never experience reality as it is. Of course, human beings were put into this world in order to work – to fix the world and to fix themselves. That is the purpose of the first six days of every week. But one-seventh of life is supposed to be spent stepping back, entering the dimension of being rather than doing, accepting and celebrating the world as it is.
If you need to light candles early and then still do preparation for Shabbat or perhaps drive to your synagogue, you may do this if, while you light, you have in mind that you will not be bringing in Shabbat with your lighting. In such a situation, say the bracha before lighting your candles.
Baruch Ata Hashem EloHeinu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidishanu beMitzvosav veTzivanu leHadlik Ner Shel Shabbat.
Blessed are You Hashem, our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who has sanctified us through his commandments and commanded us to kindle the candles of Shabbat.
With the famous and beautiful words of Kiddush, we declare the special holiness of Shabbat and give testimony to the fact that G-d created the world. Many have the custom to bless their children, young and old, upon returning home from shul on Friday evening. The parent places his or her hands on the child’s head, and recites the appropriate blessing for a son or daughter, individually for each child.
Food is part of Shabbat joyfulness and celebration. Meals are a highlight of the whole Shabbat experience. They are especially enjoyable being free from interruption and distraction. Shabbat meals are pure quality time: singing, talking, eating and sharing words of Torah.
We have three special meals on Shabbat. At each meal the bracha must be recited over two challahs. The three meals are Friday night dinner, lunch on Shabbat day, and a third meal called seudah shlishit or shalosh seudos (often pronounced “shallahshoodiss” ☺. If you’ve always wondered what that means, now you know!). The latter is eaten late afternoon, before Shabbat ends. Each meal is structured differently. Please use The Shabbos Project Toolkit for detailed guidelines for each meal.
You may want to have a ‘Shabbat afternoon party’ for your kids. Let them play with their friends, enjoy Shabbat treats, and have fun all afternoon!
ISN’T SHABBOS BORING?
Shabbat is all about menuchah (rest). Menuchah does not mean the type of rest you get when you sit in front of the TV watching your favorite show; it means tranquility, serenity, true restfulness. It’s more like the contemplative relaxation you feel when sitting and watching the ocean tides on a quiet day. It’s a chance to reflect on life, on your spiritual goals, on your inner being. You can’t do that with noise and distractions blasting at you from all sides. Society today is in more need of Shabbat, I believe, than any other generation that has preceded us. Take the gift of Shabbat and enjoy it!
Shabbat is the ideal day to learn Torah because we are free from the daily pressures of life. In fact, the free time to learn is one of the purposes of Shabbat. Most shuls have many shiurim running on Shabbat, and of course, the sermon during the service is also part of making it a day of learning. The weekly parsha creates a rhythm that unites Jewish communities around the world and throughout history. Wherever you go in the world, we are all reading the same parsha. Shabbat is the perfect opportunity to learn the Torah as we go through it parsha by parsha.
When is it over?
Shabbat ends when three medium-sized stars are easily visible in one glance (i.e. are relatively close to each other). This time in your city is listed in red in the table above. Before doing anything on Saturday night that was prohibited on Shabbat, we say:
Baruch HaMavdil Bein Kodesh LeChol
“Blessed is The One Who distinguishes between the holy and the regular.”
We are declaring that Shabbat has ended.
In the same way that we welcome in Shabbat with Kiddush, so too we usher out Shabbat with Havdalah. Both of these prayers declare the special holiness and spiritual energy of Shabbat, in contrast to the weekday. Havdallah is recited over a full cup of wine.
You will need the following: A glass of wine or grape juice; something with a strong and pleasant aroma (cinnamon or coffee granules will do); and a special Havdallah candle which has at least two wicks that
join the flames together to make a fire. If you don’t have a special candle, hold two regular candles with their wicks together so that the flames join to make
The pleasant aroma is there to lift our spirits after the loss of Shabbat. Smell is regarded as the most spiritual of our senses, and the aromatic spices are meant to replenish us after losing the extra spirituality imparted by Shabbat. The flame is there to signify and symbolise that all weekday work can now resume.
Shabbat is over.
Congratulations – you’ve done it! You have kept Shabbat together with Jews from all over the world, and from all walks of life. ☺