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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Sect. 6 TOC Q7.2 >

Question 7.1:
What is the Jewish Sabbath and why is it on Saturday?


The Sabbath/Shabbat/Shabbos/Shabbath is the seventh day of the week. It begins around sunset Friday night and ends around nightfall Saturday night. In some Western languages the word for "Saturday" means "The Sabbath", such as "el Sa'bado" in Spanish.

The Sabbath commemorates G-d's refraining from continuing creation on account of the world being "complete." We emulate this by refraining from various categories of "creative work," such as starting a fire, building items, and ploughing fields, and lots of smaller-scale activities related to these. However, Sabbath meals are festive and song-filled, Torah learning is encouraged, and married couples are encouraged to reconsummate their union. The idea is to refrain from weekday activity in order to devote the day to sacred matters.

The laws of Shabbat are extremely complicated, and the various movements differ considerably concerning which activities are permissible and which activities are encouraged. A popular thumbnail sketch is The Sabbath by Dayan I. Grunfeld.

The Jewish Sabbath is on Saturday because of the passage in Torah (Bereishis [Genesis] 2:1-3) that describes how G-d rested on the seventh day and how we are commanded to similarly rest (see Sh'mot [Exodus] 16:28-30, 23:12, 31:12-17, and others).

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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