Shabbat is the main focus of Jewish life and is the most significant ritual observance of Judaism shown through the aspects of Jewish adherents lives and is instituted in the Ten Commandments. It is a significant and regular reminder for Jewish adherents of who they are and what matters in the world that is emphasised through the importance of God, the Covenant and the Law and is outlined through the sacred texts of Judaism – the Tenach and the Talmud.
Shabbat is the most important day of the Jewish week, commencing on Friday sunset and ends on Saturday evening, where Jewish adherents commemorate it as a Jewish holy day and a weekly observance that continues to carry out its customs and laws through their adherence. It is mainly considered a special day of rest and reflection as God rested on the seventh day of creating the universe. Symbolic components of Shabbat include the lighting of the Shabbat candles and three traditional meals prepared in the family home, some meals consist of soup, challah bread and wine followed by a blessing over the wine known as Kiddush. The lighting of the two candles signifies shamor, meaning observance and zachor for remembrance stated in the dual commandments. The candles represent the presence and ushering of Shabbat in the family’s homes along with the special bread blessed (challah) and eaten together with wine that signifies sanctify time.
Shabbat in the Jewish tradition is significant as it reminds adherents in their belief of one God. Therefore, as the first principal belief, it symbolically emphasises in God’s own creation (Genesis 31:12-17) and the core Jewish belief of one single God creator who is transcendent and immanent who is the creator of the universe. This reinforces that Judaism continues on the ritual of a monotheistic worldview. By resting on the seventh day of the week and consecrating it, adherents honour and acknowledge that the one eternal God is the creator of heaven, the land and all living things. For those adherents who observe the holy day, Shabbat is seen as a valuable gift from God and is a ‘regular reminder for Jewish adherents, of who they are and what matters in the world.’ Both the Talmud and the Tenach have used anthropomorphic terms to refer to God. The incorporeal nature of God continues to stay central in Jewish belief. ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one’ (Deuteronomy 6:4).
The second principal belief, the concept of a divinely inspired moral law is significant to the lives of Jewish adherents. Thus, the Law emphasises briefly on the importance of observing Shabbat and how it reflects on the principal belief. Two primary mitzvots that are linked to Shabbat include, “Remember the Sabbath day to make it holy” (Exodus 20:8) and “Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Deuteronomy 5:12). These mitzvots represent that the holy day Shabbat, is a regular reminder of Jewish adherents to rest and to spend time with family and to partake in traditions that are enriched with a spiritual and physical meaning of refreshment such as praying, lighting candles and feasting to strengthen and bind their relationship with God. Some biblical laws that are forbidden on Shabbat are going to work and lighting a fire. Essentially, the lighting of the Shabbat candles is a rabbinical mandated law and is ritually lit by the woman of the household, marking the beginning of Shabbat and also symbolising the re-enactment of God’s creation of light.
As God’s chosen people, Shabbat is significant as the covenant is a reminder and observance that affirms the unique relationship Jewish adherents have with God. In exchange for the good deeds that God has done for his chosen people and continues to do, it is crucial that Jewish adherents follow Gods laws and bring holiness to all aspects of their lives and ‘establish a rhythm of life’. The covenant between God and Jewish adherents was demonstrated when God saved the Israelites out of slavery and with that, adherents must observe God’s obligations otherwise known as Halachah. (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). To confirm the relationship that God and the Israelites had, dietary laws and ethical standards were also established.
For Jewish adherents, Shabbat is a significant observance because it offers and establishes a rhythm of life through the chosen sacred text, the Tenach. Hence, Shabbat serves as a remembrance of Gods act and the significance of Shabbat both as a commemoration of creation and the freedom of slavery in Egypt stated in the Tenach. (Genesis 2:1-3). Isaiah 56:2 tells us not to disrespect or profane Shabbat and that we must protect it from things that would depreciate it. With this, Jewish adherents should protect Shabbat and obey the rules that are outlined in the Tenach in order to keep it holy and secured. The Talmud is significant to the lives of Jewish adherents as it emphasises that Shabbat is equal to each of the commandments if observed and is a precious gift from God for his chosen people. The Talmud outlines rabbinical orders from rabbis that support the idea of rest on Shabbat and to strengthen its holiness. Jewish adherents who do not keep Shabbat are perceived as ‘idol worshippers’ and do not worship God exclusively as declared in the Talmud.
To be concluded, Shabbat’s significance is intimated through the quote, the three principal beliefs and sacred texts. As outlined, Jewish adherents are regularly reminded on Shabbat of who they are and what matters in the world and establishes a rhythm of life that constantly emphasises the importance of God, the Covenant and the Law.