Jewish Sabbath / Shabbat (Explained)

Shabbat (also known as Sabbath) is a very Holy Day for Jews.

G-d created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day, He Rested.

Let's tell you everything you need to know about The Jewish Shabbat:

What is Shabbat?

Shabbat is the 7th Day when G-d created the World.

It is said that:

"On the 7th Day, G-d Rested"

In Israel, the week starts on Sunday.

So the 7th Day is Saturday.

Shabbat comes in when the sun sets on Friday night and comes out when the sun sets on Saturday night.

As a result of this, there are times of the year when Shabbat can come in really early on Friday and other times, really late.

To discuss all the laws for keeping Shabbat would be a whole article in itself.

So, we will provide the broad outline of things to follow.

And, it is worth mentioning that most Jews from all over the world follow certain traditions on Shabbat.

For example, most Jews have a Friday Night Dinner with family and friends.

Some Jews do not drive and use electronics on Shabbat.

It is mainly Orthodox and Hasidic Jews that strictly keep all the Laws of Shabbat.

There are so many Shabbat Laws that some Jews do not even realise that they are breaking Shabbat!

Allow us to give you a brief overview of some of the most known rules...

Shabbat Rules

The main concept behind Shabbat that is important to understand is:

It is a day of rest.

Therefore, whatever you think of as work:

And many other things that constitue as working, are not permitted.

As far as a broad overview of things that are not allowed to do during Shabbat, please see a list below:

While it may seem intense, Shabbat is actually a very Special day to be spent with family anf friends of the community.

It allows for Jews to focus on what really matters and indeed have a day of rest.

There are some workarounds for different restrictions. For example, Jews will attach their keys to an elasticed keyring so they can get into their homes after Shul.

39 Labours/Melakhot Forbidden on Shabbat

If you look in The Torah, you only find 4 Prohibitions on Shabbat.

So where did Jewish Sages come with another 35 Prohibitions?

One explanation is that anything Jews did to Build The Mishkan, Jews are not allowed to do on Shabbat.

A reason that precedes this which is: When Adam and Chava sinned, Adam got cursed 10 times, Chava got 10 curses, the snake got 10 curses and The Land got 9 curses. Which brings it to a total of 39 curses.

Nevertheless, the 39 Labours/Melakhot that are forbidden on Shabbat originate from The Mishkan.

Shabbat Timeline

Friday Afternoon

Friday Afternoon will be spent preparing for Shabbat Friday Night Dinner.

Typically, the mom of the household will bake Challah with her daughters. It is a very special bonding experience.

What is Challah?

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Challah is a special type of bread that Jews bake on Shabbat.

Jews will bake two Challahs. One for Friday and One for Saturday as they cannot cook on Shabbat.

In The Torah, we are told that when G-d took the Jews out of Egypt, He gave them Manna.

And on Friday, G-d gave the Jews two portions of Manna so they can eat on Friday and Saturday.

In Israel, Jews don't work on Friday and Saturday. This allows for more time to prepare for Shabbat.

Friday Night Dinner

The Start of Friday Night Dinner

On Friday Night, Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish Men will go to Shul while the Mother prepares the Friday Night Dinner table.

Once the men have returned, Friday Night Dinner will begin.

Bringing in Shabbat with Shalom Aleichem

The Friday Night begins with Shalom Aleichem being sung by everyone at the dinner table.

Shalom Aleichem is done by most Jewish families all over the world.

The song is beautiful and means: "Peace be upon you"


After Shalom Aleichem is recited, everyone will go and wash their hands and not speak until after the man of the household has finished reciting Kiddush.

Kiddush is the official start to Shabbat and the reason Jews say Kiddush is because:

G-d declared Shabbat as Holy so Kiddush is said to sanctify Shabbat.

After Kiddush is said, everyone will drink wine (or grape juice for kids) and then Challah will be sliced and pass around to everyone at the table.

Chicken Soup

After Kiddush, the Friday Night Dinner host will have likely made a delicious chicken soup recipe.

Some Jewish Mothers Chicken Soup recipes are outstanding.

What Sephardic Jews do is:

Boil the chicken in the soup for so long until the bones melt.

The challah is eaten with the chicken soup as you can dip the Challah in the soup or enjoy the Challah with a spread of choice.

Main Course

The main course is always amazing at a Jewish Friday Night Dinner.

It's safe to say, if it is an Ashkenazi Jew, there is a high possibility you are getting roast chicken with honey glazed potatos.

On the other hand, if it is a Sephardic Jew, there is a high chance that it will be slow roasted, beef cholent.

Both are top class and that is not to say you will not experience other main courses at a Friday Night Dinner table.

But as a Jew, if I had to hazard a guess, it would probably be between these two options.


Orthodox and Hasidic Jews do not mix meat and milk.

Therefore, it is common for them to provide a parve dessert option.

There are many parve desserts such as:

In some cases, dessert may be a parve ice cream combined with some parve chocolates.

Birkat Hamazon

After the delicious, three course meal.

Orthodox and Hasidic Jews will bench together.

Benching is called Birkat Hamazon where we thank G-d for our meal.

The End of Friday Night Dinner

After Benching, the dinner table will continue to chat and likely start to call it a night.

A standard Friday Night Dinner is usually around 3 hours long.

When it starts will depend on when Shabbat comes in.

For secular Jews, it will typically be from around 7pm up until 10pm.

Saturday Morning

On Saturday morning, the Jewish family will get changed into smart outfits and walk to Shul.

The Shul service will go on from morning until early afternoon.

There will be a Kiddush after the morning Shul Service at the Shul with lots of delicious Kosher Food.

As Jews cannot cook on Shabbat, the food will be served cold.

Also, as Jews do not mix meat and milk, it is common for cold cuts of meat to be served with no dairy options.

Saturday Afternoon

After the Shul Service, Jewish families will likely go to one families house and play board games together.

Others might have a nap.

And it is common for groups to get together and study Torah during Shabbat.

End of Shabbat (Havdalah)

The ceremony for the end of Shabbat is called Havdalah.

Havdalah is Hebrew for "Seperation"

During Havdalah, Jews will burn a Havdalah candle, bless a cup of wine and smell sweet spices.

The wine is poured onto a plate to put out the Havdalah candle on.

The sweet spices are passed around the family and is smelt to have a sweet new week.

There you have it!

The Jewish Shabbat. The Jewish Sabbath.

It truly is a very special experience to be at a Friday Night Dinner.

Many non-Jewish friends we know all say that they really enjoyed experiencing a Friday Night Dinner.

And to be able to detach from electronics and all other material things for an entire day is so great for the brain to allow us to focus on what really matters...

Till next time!


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