Someone is keeping the Sabbath today
Prayers, wine and yeast braid
Before that, the family celebrated the onset of the Sabbath with a solemn evening prayer in the synagogue. During the last lines of the famous Sabbath song, everyone symbolically turned to the door to see the "Queen Sabbath" (Shabbat haMalkah) enter. "Shabbat Shalom", a "Sabbath of Peace", is what those who attend the service want at the exit.
Back home, the father blesses his children. A small jug of water is available for ritual hand washing. You pour water three times each over your left and right hand. If the father is Orthodox, he even sings the biblical enumeration of the "virtues of the capable housewife". He says the Kiddush prayer and the blessing over the full cup of wine and then passes it around.
Then he takes the blanket from the Sabbath loaves, called the challah. The challah is a kind of yeast plait, sometimes sprinkled with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. The host speaks the bread blessing and hands everyone a piece of bread sprinkled with salt. Whether life is lavish or sparse, there is always reason to be grateful.
The following morning is structured by two consecutive services, followed by another in the late afternoon. The focus of this day is on the scriptures, the reading of the Torah in the synagogue, the interpretation, the discussion, and self-study. However, everything happens as effortlessly as possible, in keeping with the calm and harmony of the Sabbath.
A farewell candle
The Sabbath is running out when the first three stars can be seen in the sky on Saturday night. This is followed by the hawdala, the "separation" between the holy day and the rest of the week. An open, silver box with fragrant herbs - the bessamim can - is passed around.
A blessing follows because God also created the wonderful fragrances. One is reminded of the beautiful in the world to ease the pain of parting with the Sabbath. A thinly braided hawdala candle is lit because it is now allowed to start the fire again. The hands are illuminated with it, they should tackle and work again. The candle is then extinguished in a drop of spilled wine.
Core of the week and of life
The Sabbath - a day off a week - is arguably the greatest gift the Jews give to the world. As a reminder of God's day of rest during creation and the liberation of Israel, Jews are supposed to keep the Sabbath, according to the two biblical explanations.
The Sabbath commandment is one of the Ten Commandments that Moses received from God and therefore has a binding meaning for all Jewish schools, even if the degree to which the individual Sabbath rules are followed can be very different.
In the spiritual sense, the Sabbath serves for inner peace, contemplation and harmony with the environment. It is the core of the week and of life, a center that one always likes to return to.
Holiday to protect Jewish identity
"The Jews did not keep the Sabbath, but the Sabbath kept the Jews," wrote the Jewish writer Achad Ha’am in the 19th century. This most important, weekly holiday became the central point of identification and gathering in the checkered history of Judaism.
On this day, a distance from everyday life is achieved through many rituals and rules. A space is created in which a Jew becomes free to assure himself of his religion and his people. The Sabbath is above all a protection against the dissolution of one's own identity and the forgetting of one's own roots.
In the various societies in which Jews lived, they had to fight again and again to be allowed to keep their Sabbath and not have to work. Until the introduction of the Sabbath, it was completely unusual to give people a day of rest. The Roman philosopher Seneca ridiculed the Jews "because they lose about the seventh part of their lives doing nothing".
However, this inaction has proven to be an extremely effective means of preventing others from taking possession of them. Flavius Josephus wrote that the Romans discovered three wonders of the world when they conquered Judea: the Dead Sea, the showbread table in the temple, and the Sabbath.
The rules of the Sabbath
"Melacha", work or labor, is forbidden on the Sabbath. The definition of work in the sense of the Jewish religion is the creation of a new situation that did not exist before. That is why traveling is also included. You can only walk 1000 meters to the synagogue in the city.
Basically all activities that interfere with the course of events and influence the external environment are prohibited. With this general rule, Sabbath prohibitions can be explained and given a meaning. All modern rules are derived from this interpretation of the Sabbath commandments.
The most important guideline is the list of 39 activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath, summarized in the Babylonian Talmud. They try to summarize the Sabbath-keeping instructions that are scattered throughout the five books of Moses, the Torah.
For example, the Talmud prohibits plowing a field on the Sabbath or the prohibition on writing two letters on the day of rest. "Plucking" is prohibited and "carrying from one area to another" is prohibited. To interpret these rules and to implement them in individual rules for a life in the modern age leads again and again to heated discussions in Judaism.
In any case, there is a tendency for the rules to strengthen family life because they are considered particularly divine and worthy of protection. The modern danger that families turn on the television instead of talking to each other has been averted in Judaism. Turning on the television is forbidden.
There is even a Sabbath commandment, which more than any other strengthens the cohesion at home: Married couples are encouraged to sleep together on the Sabbath evening after dinner. Because the highest commandment is the "Oneg Shabbat", the enjoyment of the Sabbath.
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