Jewish people are commanded by G-d to rest on the seventh day. G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. Jewish people try to emulate G-d’s ways and traits and in the same way that He rested on the seventh day, they too rest every seventh day- every Saturday. In Judaism this day of rest is called Shabbat.
Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday night. In the Jewish lunar calendar the days start in the night of the day before, therefore Shabbat is observed from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. The Shabbat is ushered in by the women of the house who light Shabbat candles. In some communities girls from the age of three light a candle for Shabbat and then add another candle when they get married. In other communities Shabbat candles are only lit by married women who start lighting two candles from the first Shabbat after they get married. For every child that is born an additional candle is lit for Shabbat, therefore, for example, a family with four children will light six candles every Friday night.
After candles are lit family members go to pray special Shabbat prayers in their Batei Knesset (Houses of Prayer). The prayers welcoming in the Shabbat day are traditionally full of songs, most of which are based on Psalms. After prayers the family gathers together for the first of three obligatory Shabbat meals. Wine is blessed over, special braided bread called Challah is blessed over and a meal consisting of many courses is enjoyed. During the meal, talk is traditionally focused around the weekly portion that is to be read the following morning in the House of Prayer. Special songs that speak of Shabbat are sung by all the present. The meal is leisurely, unrushed and is a special time for the family.
The following morning, the family attends special morning prayers in the Synagogue that include a reading from the Bible. After the prayers, the families return home and enjoy another festive meal together. The day is then enjoyed with family and friends. Any creative work is forbidden on Shabbat, which includes the use of electrical appliances and Shabbat is therefore the perfect time to catch up on reading, to chat with friends and family, sleep and just enjoy the special atmosphere.
A third, lighter meal is eaten just before sunset and after sunset a special Havdalah ceremony is carried out which formally differentiates between Shabbat and the rest of the week. After this ceremony, the family returns to the mundane week.
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