It is commonly – and mistakenly – seen as a day filled with restrictions and prayer, when, in fact, it is a gift, a day when we put aside weekly worries and relax. In Jewish literature, music, and poetry, Shabbat is described as a bride or queen. The Jewish workweek does not begin on Monday, but rather on Sunday, which is why the Jewish Sabbath is on Saturday, and, as all Jewish holidays do, begins the night before at sundown.
There are two parts to fulfilling Shabbat: to remember it and observe it. Remembering Shabbat includes a lot more than not forgetting to observe it. One must remember the significance of Shabbat, as a commemoration of creation. Observance of Shabbat is the aspect of Shabbat that is most misunderstood. The “work” that is forbidden is not the physical labor or employment, as many people seem to think it is. By that definition, a rabbi would not be able to perform services on Friday night or Saturday because that is his or her employment.
The kind of work that is forbidden on Shabbat is generally referred to in the Hebrew as Melacha. Usually translated to mean work, Melacha actually means creative work that exercises control over one’s environment. The most relevant of the 39 forbidden acts include baking, washing, sewing, tying, writing, building, extinguishing or building a fire, and transporting an object in the public domain. An example of an act that serves the same purpose as one of the forbidden acts is turning on a light, which serves the same function as kindling a fire. How strictly one follows these rules depends on how observant one is. Traditions vary from family to family as well as denomination to denomination. While not everyone may attend services, a large Sabbath meal is customary, as is the lighting of the two Sabbath candles. This ritual is traditionally performed by the woman of the house, and commemorates the two mitzvoth of Shabbat: two remember and observe.
Then a kiddush, a blessing over the wine, is said, and the Challah (right), a thick sweet bread shaped in a braid, is cut.
Shabbat lasts until a little after sundown on Saturday. A ceremony called Havdallah separates Shabbat from the rest of the week. Blessings are recited over wine, spice, and candles, commemorating the separation between Shabbat and the workweek, returning to the secular from the sacred.