What is Shabbat Shalom?
Season 1 Episode 2 of The Chosen ends with a beautiful depiction of a Shabbat dinner. On the seventh day of the week, Jews will greet each other or bid farewell by saying, “Shabbat Shalom.” This traditional phrase is used in honor of the Jewish Sabbath day. Every seventh day, on Saturday, is a day of rest in Judaism, and this day is called Shabbat. Shabbat begins every Friday evening around sunset and ends Saturday evening around nightfall. For Jews, Shabbat is a holy day that’s set aside from the other six days as a day to honor God, family, and community. Jews perform many rituals and services during Shabbat to make the day holy, and they abstain from certain prohibited activities while focusing instead on prayer, study, and spending time with family and friends.
What Is the Meaning of Shabbat Shalom?
What does Shabbat Shalom mean? The phrase includes two parts: “Shabbat” and “Shalom.” Shalom (pronounced shah-LOHM) means “peaceful” in Hebrew. Shabbat (pronounced shuh-BAHT) means “rest” and has come to be the Jewish word for Sabbath. All together, this phrase, “Shabbat Shalom,” means “peaceful rest” or “peaceful Sabbath” and is used to greet people or bid farewell on the Jewish Sabbath or in the days leading up to Saturday. This greeting and farewell helps Jews remember that Shabbat is a day of rest and of peace from the rest of the week.
The concept of a Sabbath or day of rest comes from the Bible story of the creation that’s told in Genesis. When God created the earth, He rested on the seventh day. To commemorate God and how He rested on this day, Jews also take a day to rest from their weekly activities and responsibilities and to focus on prayer and family. Shabbat is also a special day to remember not just the creation but also the freeing of the Israelites from the Egyptians and to look forward to the future Messianic Age. Remembering the Exodus from Egypt helps Jews to remember God’s love and the covenant He made with them.
Origins of Shabbat
The origins of Shabbat and of the phrase Shabbat Shalom aren’t completely confirmed. However, it’s believed that the tradition comes from the early Jewish people and the Bible or Torah. In the Bible in Genesis 2:1–3, the Sabbath is designated as a holy day by God. God also commands special Shabbat observance in the book of Exodus after the Israelites left Egypt, after the cessation of manna in the wilderness, and as part of the Ten Commandments. Because of these commands, Shabbat is set aside as a holy day and commemorated with special practices that promote peace and rest.
During Shabbat, there are many practices that are encouraged, and there are some that are prohibited in order to keep the day sacred. There are also rituals performed during Shabbat to commemorate the day of rest and God.
The first ritual of Shabbat is welcoming Shabbat. Friday is Preparation Day, and Jews prepare for Shabbat by grooming themselves, cleaning the home, and beautifying the home, often with flowers. These preparations are a way to invite the spirit of Shabbat into the home. Shabbat then begins a few minutes before sunset. Customarily, many Jews light candles about 18 minutes before sunset to welcome Shabbat. Lighting the two Shabbat candles is a rabinacally mandated law, and the task is usually performed by the woman of the house. If there is no woman in the household, a man may light the candles. Some families light more than two candles, often based on how many children they have.
Once the candles are lit, Kabbalat Shabbat begins. Kabbalat Shabbat means “receiving the Sabbath” and is a prayer service that welcomes Shabbat. Typically, Kabbalat Shabbat takes place in a Jewish synagogue. After synagogue, Jews will go home for Friday night dinner, one of the festive meals of Shabbat. Before dinner on Friday night, Jews will sing two commemorative songs. The first song is “Shalom Aleichem” which is translated to mean “Peace Be Upon You.” This song welcomes the Shabbat angels into the home. The second song is “Eshet Ḥayil” or “Women Of Valour,” a song that comes from Proverbs that praises the work the women of the house did during the week. After the singing, a prayer is offered over wine and a special type of bread called challah. After the blessing, the Friday night festive meal is served.
On Saturday, there are two more synagogue services and festive meals. On Shabbat morning there is another prayer service that’s followed by Shabbat lunch. Before lunch, another prayer is offered over a cup of wine and the braided challah bread. These two loaves of bread represent the double portion of manna that fell before the Sabbath for the Israelites in the wilderness. For the Friday evening and Saturday morning meals, it’s customary to serve meat or fish or both.
Late Saturday afternoon, it’s tradition to have another synagogue prayer service followed by the final meal of Shabbat. This meal is usually lighter and pareve (no meat or dairy products). In many homes, Shabbat formally ends at nightfall after three stars appear in the sky, but there can be variation in how long families hold Shabbat. When they formally bid farewell to Shabbat, a havdalah (Hebrew for “separation”) prayer is offered over a cup of wine, often with braided candles. Once this havdalah ritual is complete, Shabbat ends.
Prohibited Shabbat Activities
There are some activities that are expressly prohibited on Shabbat in order to keep the day sacred and to commemorate God and recognize the day He rested as well. There can be variation between sects of Judaism, but these are the most common and important restrictions:
Plowing, sowing, reaping, binding sheaves, and threshing
Grinding and sifting
Shearing, washing, beating, and dyeing wool
Scraping, cutting, or marking hide
Writing two or more letters
Erasing two or more letters
Extinguishing a fire
Kindling a fire
Putting the finishing touch on an object,
Transporting an object
In general, deliberate activities or craftsmanship are prohibited on Shabbat. Many Orthodox or Conservative Jews also prohibit the use of cars and some types of electricity to follow these scriptural restrictions for Shabbat.
Encouraged Shabbat Observance
There are many activities that are encouraged as part of Shabbat observance in the Jewish book of scripture the Talmud. These activities help Jews “remember” or “keep” the Sabbath. Many of these activities also help promote intellectual and spiritual growth. These are the activities that most Jewish denominations encourage during Shabbat:
Reading, studying, and discussing Torah, Torah commentary, and the Talmud, and learning some halakha (Jewish law) and midrash (interpretation of the Talmud)
Synagogue attendance for prayer ceremonies
Spending time with other Jews and socializing with family, friends, and guests at Shabbat meals
Singing the special songs for Shabbat meals
Sex between husband and wife
Shabbat is a religious practice and a holy day in Judaism. The seventh day observances are a way for Jews to commemorate God, spend special time with their families, and rest from the cares of the week. They pay tribute to the way God rested after creating the world we are blessed to be living in. Shabbat also provides a day of prayer to look forward to the future and re-center life on God.
During Shabbat, Jews use the phrase, “Shabbat Shalom” to bid each other a peaceful Sabbath. That is what Shabbat is all about. It’s a day to find peace and to observe the Sabbath as instructed by God in the scriptures. Some activities are prohibited in order to help the day be one of peace and with focus on family and God.
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