Kabbalah views Shabbat as much more than just a day of rest. It views it as the opening for reaching levels of consciousness that are otherwise unattainable. On Shabbat it is the world in it’s entirety that becomes elevated. The following are a number of special Kabbalistic Shabbat customs:
- Wearing White Garments
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, also known as the Ari, was the founder of new school of Kabbalistic thought. He was very particular about wearing mostly, if not all, white clothes on Shabbat. In fact, in his writings it is related that there was a soul that was sent back down to the world as it needed to report the punishment it had received of wearing black, customarily associated with mourning, on the Shabbat day.
In times gone by many Chassidic and Sephardic Kabbalists would indeed wear white on Shabbat. Nowadays some people still do and those who prefer not to will try to wear dark blue as opposed to black suits.
- Immersion in the Mikveh on Shabbat eve
Women ritually immerse themselves according to Jewish law according to their monthly cycle in preparation for marital relations. There is similarly a tradition for men to immerse themselves on the eve of Shabbat. How is one similar to the other? The women immerse themselves in anticipation of a physical union. Men immerse themselves in anticipation of a spiritual union. On Shabbat, we play role of the receiver, receiving the Divine.
- Kabbalat Shabbat in the fields, facing West
The Ari taught that it is most desirable to go out to welcome in the Shabbat day in the fields. We leave our comfort zones in the city to experience the holiness in an intermediate realm between the city and the wild. When pronouncing the words, “Come my bride, come my bride” in reference to the Shabbat queen, it is customary to turn and face west. This custom is based on Kabbalistic teachings, related to male and female forces, with the female being associated with the west. As the Shabbat is regarded to be feminine, hence queen, we turn to the west to welcome her.
Nowadays, very few will go out to the fields to welcome Shabbat but it is already an almost universal custom to turn west at the climax of the Shabbat services.
- Twelve Shabbat Challahs
The Shabbat Challahs correspond to the twelve loaves in the Temple, placed on the Table on Friday afternoons. The Ari instructs one on how to arrange the twelve Challahs in a special formation and also provides a simple meditation for it. For more information see http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/1318207/jewish/Kabbalistic-Shabbat-Customs.htm
If you are interested in purchasing a special item for Shabbat to make it that bit more special, be sure to check out the vast range of Shabbat items available online.