shabat, shabas, shabes [Hebrew, "rest"] - A day of rest after a week of work; one of the oldest and most enduring holy days in the Jewish tradition.

The Sabbath is a commemoration of the day the Creator rested after the creation of the world. The Ten Commandments included a command to observe this day: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work... For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20: 9�11).

The Sabbath begins on Friday evening and ends on Saturday evening (Jewish calendar). Jews are completely banned from doing any work that would demonstrate their mastery of nature, since the Lord rested that day. Religious law names 39 different kinds of work that are forbidden during that time, most of which are related to agriculture and shepherding, influencing nature, such as ploughing, sowing, shearing sheep, as well as building things, lighting fires and writing.
In order not to break this ban on work unintentionally, no activities are allowed that are even similar to those that are banned. These include printing, drawing or turning electric lights on and off. In order to avoid some of the bans (such as moving things out of the house), Jewish communities were surrounded by a wire or string (eruv), which symbolically created one "household" encompassing the entire neighborhood or even town. In many Jews homes, a non-Jew (shabes goy) was hired during the Sabbath to do all the necessary domestic work.

Before the Sabbath begins, Jews go to the mikva for ritual baths. The holy day begins with the lighting of two candles on Friday, just before sunset. They symbolize God's light and man's soul. The women light them and say a blessing over them, which is their most important religious obligation. It is believed that if they fail to do this, they are in danger of dying during childbirth. Men greet the Sabbath in synagogue. In very religious families, the women and children wait for them at home, or taking a walk outside in their Sabbath finest.
After the men come back home, there is a special meal, which begins with Kidush. No one should be hungry during the Sabbath, which is why in many homes poor people or students are invited to share the meal. The most popular dishes in Eastern Europe were herring and challah, as well as stuffed fish, chopped liver and cymes. For Saturday dinner, chulent, stuffed chicken necks, kishke and kugel were served. On Saturday evening, the third Sabbath meal was eaten, seuda shlishit (suda), and Sabbath songs were sung (zmirot).

Chasidim, in the belief that the Messiah would come on a Saturday, made the final meal and singing last late into the evening. The holiday ends with a special Sabbath blessing, Havdala [Hebrew, separation], which separates the period of the holiday from that of daily life. A blessing is said over light, wine and aromatic herbs, which are placed in besamin boxes. Two entwined candles are lit, symbolizing holiness and daily life.

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