The most important day in the Jewish tradition is weekly Shabbat. Religious Jews gather in their homes and synagogues to celebrate together their special day.

Shabbat begins on Friday evening before the sunset and continues to Saturday sunset. The day is considered to be an exceptional gift intended for Jews only. Shabbat is given directly by God and, unlike the rest of the week, is sacred. Preserving Shabbat is one of the foundations of Jewish faith, the expression of liberty given to the Chosen People thanks to the Exodus from Egypt, as well as the expression of their devotion to the Creator. As any other holiday, Shabbat comprises a series of detailed religious rules and prayers. Its celebration is also connected to preservation of very old traditions.

It is difficult to define a precise moment of establishing Shabbat. According to Martin Buber, the holiday existed already before Moses received the Ten Commandments. However, it is not known how it was celebrated because the first description of any practices connected to Shabbat can be seen in the description of the wandering of the Chosen People through the Sinai Peninsula.

When the Temple in Jerusalem still existed, a specially prepared sacrifice called “musaf” was made. The meaning of Shabbat increased during and after the Babylonian captivity (around 597-539 B.C.) because it became the only way to cultivate the tradition and the language, and to bond the scattered nation. Moreover, it was a break from the everyday hardships. The very etymology of the word “Shabbat” emphasizes the Babylonian episode. It is assumed that the word comes from “shabbatt” – the name of the seventh day, when no actions were undertaken because the day was believed to bring bad luck (connected to the change of lunar phase). This way, when the captivity was over, the Israeli introduced for the first time a seven-day week, later adopted by Muslims and Christians.

From the Middle Ages to modern times the tradition practiced to this day was shaping. The form of Shabbat we know now was largely influenced by a number of Jewish scholars such as Maimonides, Luria and Raszi.

Kinga Banasik

I used the book entitled ”Moses” („Mojżesz”) by Martin Buber, Ed. Cyklady, Warsaw, 1998

 

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