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Shabbat 101

Please note: A variety of customs have emerged over the centuries, differing from community to community and from family to family, therefore these questions and answers have been presented in their most basic form and reflect the traditions of Breaking Challah's Founders. Their interpretations will change in households of varying degrees of religious observance. Should you wish to delve into a deeper understanding  of Shabbat and other Jewish practices, we recommend and refer you to the source of our information, 'The Jewish Book of Why' by Alfred J. Kolatch.  It is available here on Amazon.  


What is Shabbat?


Throughout history, the Sabbath has been central in Jewish life.  From biblical times onward, it has been observed as a day of rest and spiritual rejuvenation.  Families were drawn together on the Sabbath. Parents and children dined, prayed, studied and sang together. They were a family. Even today, many extended families who have little or no religious observance, will still meet for Shabbat dinner and say the blessings on the candles, the wine and the challah. 


Why do Jews observe the Sabbath as a day of rest?


The Sabbath as a day of rest has its origin in the Bible. It tells us that after creating the world in six days, God rested on the seventh day.


"For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is therein, and rested on the seventh day, wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."


Why are two or more candles lighted on the Sabbath?


The lighting of two candles represents the two important references to the Sabbath in the Bible; "Remember the Sabbath" and "Observe the Sabbath".


Why are women required to light the Sabbath candles?


The primary, but not exclusive obligation for lighting candles belongs to women.  The traditional explanation is that because it was women who were the cause of man's downfall (Eve when tempted by the snake), causing the light of the world to be dimmend, it is woman's obligation to light the candles and bring back light.


Why do women cover their eyes after they have lit the candles?


One opinion is that by covering her eyes, the woman is blocking out all extraneous thoughts, thereby giving full concentration to the words she is expressing.


Why is the Kiddush (blessing over the wine) recited?


Kiddush (sanctification) celebrates two events: Creation and Exodus.  It is recited in the home before eating Sabbath and holiday meals, and also chanted in the synagogue so that strangers in town will have an opportunity to hear the prayer recited in the company of fellow Jews.


Why are two 'challot' placed on the Sabbath table?


According to tradition, the origin of the custom dates back to the period of the Children of Israel's forty-year trek through the desert. When there was no food, God miraculously sent down manna from heaven.  Enough manna fell each day to meet the needs of one day only. So that the Isrealites would not have to do work by collecting manna on the Sabbath, on the sixth day a double portion of manna of sent down.


Why is the Sabbath Challah braided?


Jewish law makes no demands as to the size or shape in which a challah should be made, however it is suggested that to venerate and celebrate the Sabbath, it is shaped in a variety of styles.


We would love to hear about your special family Shabbat traditions.  Share your traditions on our social media pages.






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