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Queen Shabbat: Israel’s partner


‘Queen Shabbat: Israel’s partner

(Midrash Bereshit Rabba, 11)


‘More than Israel has kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept Israel’

An old Jewish saying



Shabbat in the ‘shtetl’ before the Shoah

‘’And bring us together from the four corners of the earth’’
                                                     (from the Shemoneh Esreh on weekdays)


Ethiopian Jews during the reading of the Torah on a weekday.


Shabbat in Antwerp, 21st century
(Photo’s taken by non-Jews)


Overview of the essay on Shabbat


Meaning of the name: Halting of creative work; ‘Yom Kippur as ‘Shabbat Shabbaton’ and figuratively: ‘Shemitah’ (the seventh year of lying fallow). The idea that Shabbat is for humans, animals and for the earth in ‘Eretz Israel’.


Origine of the commandment to keep Shabbat: fourth commandment of the Ten Words, which defines the relationship between G’d and man, universally in Shemot/Exodus 20 with the story of Creation, and nationally in Devarim/Deuteronomy 5. In the Prophets Yeshyayahu/Isaiah, Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah, Yecheskel/Ezekiel en Nechemyah/Nehemiah the Shabbat commandment is repeated and emphasized.


The extra soul: ‘Neshamah Yetterah’: Much appreciation in the Talmud and Kabbalah for Shabbat as a day of spiritual revitalization and as a day of security, of being free of cares and of relaxation.


Non-Jews and Shabbat: The fundamental idea of Shabbat has been recognised by all monotheistic faiths (Islam and Christianity) and even by some of the polytheistic religions. The Shabbat as a ‘Halachic concept’ has only been given to the People of Israel.

Torah prohibition of working on Shabbat: 39 main prohibitions of work (‘Avot Melachah’) and derivative Shabbat- prohibitions of work (second grade transgressions or ‘Toladot’); definition of ‘Melachah’= work on Shabbat; the ‘Kara’im’ and their mistaken interpretation of the prohibition of making and using fire on Shabbat. All Shabbat prohibitions and Shabbat precepts give way to the saving of a human life (‘Pikuach Nefesh’)!  

Two Jewish religious members of ‘Hatzalah’ (medical aid) in Antwerp who do voluntary work during the whole week, including on Shabbat and Yamim Tovim. They give assistance to everyone, irrespective of origin or religion.

Rabbinic prohibitions on Shabbat

Muktzeh’: Rabbinic prohibition for Shabbat to prevent us trespassing a Shabbat Torah prohibition. It is a preventive measure instated by the Rabbis to protect Shabbat.

The 5 main categories of ‘Muktzeh’. Examples: items used for writing, money, musical instruments etc.

Shvut’: the Rabbinic prohibition against directly asking non-Jews on Shabbat to do work prohibited to us on Shabbat, for example the switching on or off of an electrical light on Shabbat.


Marit Ayin’: activities which might give the impression that we are violating Shabbat. For example entering a shop, without buying anything.


U’vdin d’Chol’: activities which might profane the sphere and holiness of Shabbat. Examples are jogging or sunbathing on Shabbat.

Eruv’: a Rabbinic measure to ease life within the Jewish Community on Shabbat. For details see the essay.

We know 4 types of ‘Eruvin’:

1.       Eruv Tavshilin’: in case a Festival day is followed directly by Shabbat, to enable us to prepare food for Shabbat through the means of the ‘Eruv Tavshilin’. This is the most common ‘Eruv’.

2.       Eruv Reshuyot’: known mostly simply as ‘Eruv’, but often also called the city Eruv. It creates the possibility of carrying permitted items from a private domain to a public domain and vice versa, by means of the construction of a Halachic wall around the Jewish neighbourhood.

The ‘Eruv’ of Antwerp is recognised by all the Orthodox groupings.

3. Eruv Chatzerot’: if there is no city Eruv, the possibility exists of carrying permitted items by means of this ‘Eruv’ in the stair well of a religious Jewish apartment/building or, when some Jewish houses are alongside each other, from one garden to the other garden.

4. ‘Eruv Techumin’: least used and least well known ‘Eruv’. We are permitted to walk without restrictions within the urbanised part of a city. At the end of the urbanised city area, we are permitted to walk 2000 cubits (about 1,5 km) in every direction, but by means of an ‘Eruv Techumin’ we are permitted to walk a further 2000 cubits in every direction. An example of the use of this ‘Eruv’ is under certain conditions on Shabbat visiting an ill person who is in a hospital in the outlying areas of a city.


Observing and profaning Shabbat: ‘Shomer Shabbat’ and ‘Mechallel Shabbat’ – praise by the Prophet Yeshyayahu/Isaiah (58:13-14 and 56:1-7) for those who observe Shabbat and accusations/condemnation by  Amos (8:5), Nechemyah/Nehemiah(13:14-23 and 10:32-34) and Yecheskel/Ezekiel (20:12-24, 22:8 and 44:24) for those who desecrate/profane Shabbat.


The preparations for ‘Shabbat

Cleaning the house before the day of Shabbat.

Preparing the Shabbat meals on Thursdays or on ‘Erev Shabbat

Extra beautiful clothes in honour of Shabbat.

Besides ‘the honour of Shabbat’ also the pleasures of ‘Shabbat’, for example delicious food and sleeping longer on Shabbat.

Baking ‘Challot’ for Shabbat oneself if that is at all possible.

Hospitality and care for the poor and single as well as for people who are on the margins of the Jewish community.

Shabbat candles

The privilege of woman to bring the ‘light of Shabbat’ into the home.Akèrèt HaBayit’: the Jewish woman as the basis of the Jewish family. Also a sort of ‘making up’ for the seduction of Adam, the primordial human, which had the consequence of bringing death and darkness into the world.

Amount of candles: minimally two, but more are possible (see essay).

Reasons for lighting: ‘Shalom Bayit’, the special atmosphere and Rabbinic tradition against the misleading interpretation by the Karaites. Very important Mitzvah, with Halachic priority above the blessing over the wine (‘Kiddush’).

The candles can be made from paraffin or from olive oil.

Blessing the children: Boys are blessed with the traditional blessing Ya'akov Avinu gave Ephraim and Menasse. Girls are blessed with the traditional blessing of the people of Beth Lechem to Ruth, that she may be as Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. At the conclusion parents kiss their children and Hungarian Jews have the custom that children kiss the hand of the parents.

Kiddush: On Shabbat we make ‘Kiddush’ twice: on Shabbat night and on Shabbat afternoon. The word ‘Kiddush’ is derived from the Hebrew root letters Kuf, Daled en Shin and means holy. With the ‘Kiddush’ we declare Shabbat to be a holy day and a special day. The two ‘Kiddushim’ on Shabbat are very distinct when compared to each other.

The Shabbat night ‘Kiddush’ is a Torah obligation and can only be performed over wine or grape juice. The text of this ‘Kiddush’ concerns the conclusion of Creation by HaShem at the end of the sixth day. It is customary to say this ‘Kiddush’ while standing.

The Shabbat afternoon ‘Kiddush’ is an obligation instated by the Rabbis and may be recited on every important drink containing alcohol. The text concerns the liberation of the Children of Israel from Egypt. We are permitted to recite this ‘Kiddush’ while being seated.


Shabbat meals:

    •                    Obligation to eat 3 meals on Shabbat: the first meal on Shabbat night, the second on Shabbat afternoon and the third meal before the end of Shabbat, at the latest before ‘Shkiya’ (setting of the sun). At all three meals it is obligatory to say the blessing ‘HaMotzi’ on 2 breads.
    •                    Shabbat dishes with their explanation: ‘gefilte fish’ and ‘Chulent’/’Chamim‘, ‘Kiegel’, chopped eggs with fine onions, chopped liver with a choise of salades and Israeli oriental dishes, like Techina, aubergines, Chumus.
    •                    Accompanying Torah thoughts from the ‘patron of the house’ or from family members or guests.
    •                    Shir HaMa'alot’, ‘Birkat HaMazon’ with 3 important additions.


Zemirot’ (religious Shabbat songs): As the first songs ‘Shalom Alechem’ (a greeting for the angels who guard and accompany us), Eshet Chayil’ (a song in praise of the diligent and talented Jewish wife and mother, for her large contribution throughout the week and especially on Shabbat with all its important preparations), different songs during each of the 3 meals from the ‘Zemirot’ book. Most of these songs are millennia old and were composed by great Rabbis like Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572 C.E.), also known as the ‘Ari HaKadosh’, father of the practical Kabbalah, Rabbi Israel Najara (1555-1625 C.E.), Rabbi in Gaza and student of the Ari and Rabbi Baruch ben Shmuel from Mainz (died in 1221 C.E.) , one of the most important Tosafists (commentators on the Talmud).

An extended Daum family at a Purim meal in 1960. Rabbi Daum is seated forth on the right. Because it is prohibited to make photos on Shabbat, we chose a picture from Purim, because on that Festival there are no Halachic prohibitions to work.

Shabbat’ in synagogue: On weekdays we have 3 main services: ’Ma’ariv’ (evening prayer), ‘Shacharit’ (morning prayer) and ‘Mincha’ (afternoon prayer). On Shabbat we have 4 services: ‘Kabbalat Shabbat/Ma’ariv’, ‘Shacharit’, ‘Mussaf’ (added service in honour of Shabbat) and ‘Mincha’.

Kabbalat Shabbat’ (taking upon oneself and greeting of Shabbat) is the most recent part added to the evening service of Shabbat, introduced by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572 C.E.) and the Kabbalists. They based themselves on the Talmud where it is stated that in earlier Mishnah times the Sages welcomed Shabbat on the hilltops of the Galilee dressed in white and with the face facing West, where the new Jewish day begins (at the setting of the sun) with the words: ‘Come Queen Shabbat, come Shabbat bride).

The illustration on the title page is based on this tradition from the Talmud.

Shiurim: countless ‘Shiurim’ (Torah lessons) in the 33 synagogues in the Jewish Quarters of Antwerpen. Most well-known are the ‘Daf HaYomiShiurim in nearly all synagogues on the page of Talmud to be studied according to the ‘Daf HaYomi’ cycle. Also many Shiurim on the ‘Parashat HaShavua’ with the classic commentaries by Rashi, Nachmanides and Ohr HaChayim and during summer Shabbatot many Shiurim on ‘Pirkei Avot’ (Sayings of the Fathers), also known as Ethics from Sinaï.

Havdalah: Saying farewell to Shabbat (temporarily - till the next Shabbat!). It is an obligation based on Torah to also bid Shabbat farewell, as it is to welcome Shabbat with a ‘Kiddush’ on the night of Shabbat.

Usually the farewell ceremony is recited over a glass of wine or grapejuice. After the ‘Berachah’ over wine a ‘Berachah’ over spices/herbs (‘Vesamim’) and a ‘Berachah’ over a ‘Havdalah’ candle are said. The ‘Havdalah’ candle must contain several wicks and shine like a torch. The reason for the spices/herbs is to comfort the soul for the loss of her added soul (‘Neshamah Yetarah’), as the soul only enjoys a good fragrance. The reason for the ‘Havdalah’ candle is to make it known that Shabbat has ended and that now we are permitted to light fire, as the most well-known prohibition on Shabbat concerns the lighting of fire. According to the Tradition the first human, Adam, created fire after being driven from Paradise at the end of the first Shabbat.




Shabbat is a holy day, meaning it is special and linked to HaShem.

In Bereishit/Genesis 2:3 we can see that G’d himself sanctified Shabbat and in Shemot/Exodus 20:8 the people are given the command to sanctify Shabbat.

Shabbat is thus a constant sign of the solidarity between G’d and His People Israel.

Keeping Shabbat means sanctifying time!

It requires special mention that Bereishit/Genesis 2:3 is the only time in Genesis (“B’Reishit”) that the word “Kadosh” occurs. The next time it occurs is in Exodus (“Shemot”) 19:6: “you shall be a Holy People”. Holy means: set apart, brought to its destination and marriage.

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Jitschak, the most renowned commentator of Tenach and Talmud, who lived in Northern France 1040-1105 C.E.) comments: “what did the world lack after the six days of Creation? Rest, “Menuchah”, rest in the sense of: joy, relaxation, harmony and spiritual development”.

Humans possess big creative powers, but also the power to set limits. Our creations must not dominate us. Putting limits on oneself is the only surety for real freedom! Human dominion stops one day. And all creatures (grown-ups, children, animals, plants, trees and flowers) share in our freedom! It is a day for deepening our connections to that which is higher than we are.


Shabbat Introduction

Shabbat is mentioned many times in the Torah and in ‘Nach’. The first time we encounter Shabbat is when HaShem finished  His Creation and stopped to create at the end of the sixth day. He blessed and sanctified the seventh day, the Shabbat (Bereishit/Genesis 2:1-3). At this time there were no Jewish people, only Adam and Chava. The reason that it is mentioned in the Torah is to tell us to walk in G'ds ways and to emulate His ways (‘Imitatio Dei’).



The second time it is mentioned is at the Revelation
(Shemot/Exodus 20:8-12) where it is written as the Fourth Commandment. HaShem speaks directly to the People of Israel: ‘’Remember (‘Zachor’) the Shabbat day to keep it holy’’. This means fulfilling all the positive ‘Mitzvoth’ connected to Shabbat, which we will soon explain in detail.

The motivation for keeping Shabbat is that HaShem finished Creation in six days and stopped at the end of the sixth day. Therefore we are also commanded to stop any creative activities on Shabbat.

The third time it is mentioned is in the second version of the Ten Commandments and Revelation reported and repeated by Moshe Rabbenu (Devarim/Deuteronomy 5:12-16). However here the Fourth Commandment about Shabbat differs considerably from the first version spoken by G'd in Shemot/Exodus 20. The Shabbat commandment is stated with the words: ‘’Guard (‘Shamor’) the Shabbat day to keep it holy’’.  From this the Rabbis learned that on Shabbat you have to stay away from certain activities: ‘Lo Ta’asseh’ (‘don’t do’). The motivation given here to keep Shabbat is that HaShem has liberated us from the slavery in Egypt and therefore He commands us, our son and our daughter, our slave and maid, and also the stranger who has the right to settle in Israel (‘Ger Toshav’), our ox, donkey and all our animals, to rest on Shabbat  (don’t do any creative work, so as to show that we are now free people). So the motivation for keeping Shabbat is here centred around the Exodus. Keeping Shabbat according to ‘Halachah’ and ‘Tradition’ gives us real freedom and liberates us from all kinds of slavery that still exists nowadays: e.g. being a workaholic, addiction to the internet/mobile phone, longing for materialistic values, thoughts about gaining money, commerce and last but not least, especially common among women, being constantly enslaved to clean and keep tidy (in German: ‘Putzfummel’).


In the context of the ‘Mann’ (the manna from Heaven), it is written in the Torah: ‘’they should prepare what they need (for Shabbat)’’. From this the Rabbis learn that the preparations ahead of Shabbat are as important as keeping Shabbat. In the famous saying of the Rabbis: ‘’whoever toiled before Shabbat, will enjoy Shabbat’’. This contains the idea that we should welcome Shabbat as we would welcome a queen, ‘Shabbat HaMalka’ and therefore all necessary preparations must be done well ahead of Shabbat. Examples are doing all groceries necessary for Shabbat, cooking all necessary food for Shabbat, cleaning the house tidily, physically washing oneself etc.

So ‘Erev Shabbat’ lasts until the kindling of the Shabbat candles and is meant to do all the necessary preparations ahead of Shabbat. It is also a Mitzvah for everyone to participate in the preparations for Shabbat. Even if someone has a cleaning lady, he/she is still obligated to contribute to the preparations for Shabbat.

Another very important aspect of Shabbat is to be at home early and not to take long trips or flights on ‘Erev Shabbat’, which could result in the profaning of Shabbat. One should be at home at least two or three hours before Shabbat. This is true for winter Shabbatot as well as for summer Shabbatot. One should really avoid planning a flight on ‘Erev Shabbat’ or even on Thursday nights, specifically with low-budget flights which are known to be notoriously late for Shabbat.

A ‘Melachah’ on Shabbat does not only apply to creative work, but also to creative thinking.

We can find the ‘Melachot’ in our Torah.

One of the most important ‘Melachot’ is that of burning. We can find this in the ‘Pasukadjacent to the construction of the ‘Mishkan’.

All the ‘Avot Melachahare deduced from activities relating to the construction and deconstruction of the ‘Mishkan’, for example: burning, ploughing, sowing, harvesting and carrying an item from private to public property.

During the time of the ‘Sanhedrin’ sacrifices had to be brought to the ‘Beth HaMikdash’ when someone did a ‘Melachah’ on Shabbat unintentionally. When a person did a ‘Melachah’ on Shabbat on purpose, he was subjected to the death sentence (by stoning).

The ‘Sanhedrin’ and ‘Beth HaMikdash’ do not exist anymore and sinners are nowadays punished by Heaven.

On Yom Kippur we can do ‘Teshuvah’ and ask forgiveness for our unintentional sins (‘Shogeg’).

In the Prophets we can also find direct references to the sanctifying of Shabbat or the profanation of Shabbat. All three great late Prophets of Israel speak about the privilege and great attainments of guarding the Shabbat and on the other hand profaning the name of G'd and Israel by desecrating Shabbat. The Prophet Yeshayahu/Isiah ( in 56:5-7) speaks about ‘Gerim’ who have joined G'd en keep Shabbat, of their great reward and importance to HaShem: ‘’And the members of a foreign nation who have joined themselves unto HaShem to serve Him, and to love the name of HaShem, to become to Him as servants – whoever guards the Shabbat against desecrating it and those who hold fast to My covenant – I shall bring them to My mountain of holiness, and I shall gladden them in My house of prayer, … , for my House will be called a House of Prayer for all peoples’’.

In Yeshayahu/Isiah 58:13-14, which is also part of the Haftarah on Yom Kippur (which also has the Halachic status of Shabbat (Shabbat Shabbaton), the Prophet speaks about the benefits of Shabbat and he speaks and refers to ideas of Shabbat, like the enjoyment of Shabbat (‘Oneg Shabbat’), honouring Shabbat (‘Kvod Shabbat’), and guarding ones feet on Shabbat (which may be an reference not to walking outside the ‘Techum Shabbat’). And guarding ones tongue, a hint that we may not talk about mundane matters on Shabbat.


We read the Prophet saying the words: (13) ,,If you restrain, because of the Shabbat, your feet, (refrain) from engaging in your personal pursuits on My holy day, if you describe the Shabbat (as) a delight, (describe) the holy (day) of HaShem (as) the honoured one, and if you honour it by not engaging in your own affairs, (refraining) from seeking your personal pursuits and discussing (inappropriate) matters (14) – then you will delight in HaShem, and I will mount you astride the heights of the world, I will provide you the heritage of Ya'akov, your forefather –  for the mouth of HaShem has spoken’’.

In the Haftarah of a Shabbat coinciding with Rosh Chodesh we read in the last chapter of Yeshayahu/Isaiah about the custom and maybe also the obligation to visit the house of G'd on Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh. And so it is written: (23) And it shall be, each month in its month and each week in its week (Shabbat), all flesh shall come to prostrate (themselves) before Me, said HaShem’’.


The Prophet Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah who prophetically foretold the destruction of the State of Judea, of Jerusalem and of the Temple, in chapter 17:19-23 laments the public profanation of Shabbat by the carying of loads, the performance of creative work and engaging in trade. He declares the kings of Judea to be responsible for these wrongs and says: (24) ,,If you obey Me – declares HaShemand do not bring in burdens through the gates of this city on Shabbat, but hallow Shabbat and do not work on it, (25) then through the gates of this city shall enter kings who sit upon the throne of David, with their officers – riding on chariots and horses, they and their officers – and the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.... (27) But if you do not obey My command to hallow the Shabbat and to carry no burdens through the gates of Jerusalem on Shabbat, then I will set fire to its gates; it shall consume the fortresses of Jerusalem and it shall not be extinguished’’.


Ezra the Scribe, together with the great leader Nechemyah/Nehemiah tried at the beginning of the Second Temple Era to bring order and also religiosity to the small remnant of Jews, to keep them on the right path both spiritually and religiously. Ezra the Scribe is well-known to all those familiar with studying Tenach, from the chapters 9 and 10 of the Book of Ezra, for his uncompromising struggle against marriage with those outside of the Jewish faith.

He also introduced other important measures to Judaism, like the preparations for Shabbat, doing the laundry on Thursdays and backing Challot on ‘Erev Shabbat’ (Talmud Jerushalmi Megilla 4:1).


The leader Nechemyah/Nehemiah, who was directly responsible for the building of the wall around Jerusalem, to protect the city, and for combatting abuses in religion, laments the public desecration of Shabbat in Jerusalem as follows  (Nechemyah/Nehemiah 13:15-22): ,,At that time I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on Shabbat, and others bringing heaps of grain and loading them onto asses, also wine, grapes, figs, and all sorts of goods, and bringing them into Jerusalem on Shabbat. I admonished them there and then for selling provisions. (16) Tyrians who lived there brought fish and all sorts of wares and sold them on Shabbat to the Judahites in Jerusalem. (This is the first source for the eating of fish on Shabbat in Tenach) ...  (22) I gave orders to the Levites to purify themselves and to come and guard the gates, to preserve the sanctity of Shabbat’’.

Nechemyah together with Ezra the Scribe and all sections of the Jewish population renewed the Covenant with G-d, known in Hebrew as the ‘Amanah’.

The first obligation for the Jewish People was not to marry outside of the Jewish faith.

The second issue was that no trade was allowed on Shabbat, as is written: ,,They shall not buy the merchandise and different sorts of grain which the inhabitants of the land offer to sell us  on Shabbat, on Shabbat or any Feast day’’.

The fact that Shabbat is the second item on the agenda of the ‘Amanah’, is an indication of the centrality of the Shabbat commandment and of the persistent, courageous and successful action by the Prophets of Judea against de desecration and profanation of Shabbat, especially when we consider in retrospect, 2500 years later, the central position of the Shabbat commandment both religiously and nationally. Our Sages remarked: ,,One who keeps Shabbat, is considered to keep the complete gammut of ‘Mitzvoth‘ and is reliable on all religious topics’’. ‘’One who profanes and desecrates Shabbat (this is also applicable to non-religious Jews), is considered not to keep the entire gamut of ‘Mitzvoth’ and is not reliable on all religious topics’’. (Talmud Bavli Shabbat 118b)


We have mentioned the measures Ezra the Scribe introduced to Judaism to prepare for the coming Shabbat. In Shemot/Exodus chapter 16 we learn about the duty to prepare for Shabbat.  The chapter is about the miraculous heavenly bread, the ‘Mann’, which appeared every day for every individual during the forty year long wanderings of the Israelites in the desert, except for on Shabbat. The Israelites received a double portion of ‘Mann’ on Friday (‘Lechem Mishneh’) as a lesson to all future  that one should prepare in advance for Shabbat, so that one will be able to sanctify Shabbat. We read in Shemot/Exodus 16:5: ‘’And it shall be on the sixth day (when) they prepare what they bring, that it will be double over what they gather every day”. In verses 22 and 23 we read: ,,It happened on the sixth day that they gathered food that was double, two Omers for each one; and they came – all the princes of the assembly – and they told Moshe. He said to them: ,,this is what HaShem had spoken; a rest day, a Shabbat of holiness for HaShem is tomorrow. That which you wish to bake, bake, and that which you wish to cook, cook, and all that is left over, put away for yourselves for safekeeping until the morning.’’

And as follows in Shemot/Exodus 16:29: ‘’See that HaShem has given you the Shabbat; therefore He gives you on the sixth day food for two days. You should remain – each man – in his place; let not any man go out from his place on the Seventh Day.’’

And in Shemot/Exodus 16:30 we read: ’’And rest did the people on the Seventh Day’’.


This chapter about the ‘Mann’, with the encouragement of HaShem and ‘Moshe Rabenu’ to make preparations for Shabbat, is the foundations of the Shabbat commandment according to Torah and Halachah.

Every Halachic work on Shabbat, from the past up and until today, begins its discussion of the theme of Shabbat with the preparations for Shabbat.

The Talmudic literature on great Talmud Sages relates of their partaking in the preparations for Shabbat themselves.

Halachah goes a step further and states that even if one has personnel working in his/her house, the man or woman must prepare something for Shabbat themselves. For example the man or husband should prepare the Shabbat candles, so that they are ready for the lady of the house. The wife can for example prepare the Shabbat clothes for her husband, so that he will not have to search for them and can quickly dress for Shabbat.


Of the many contributions by my students/friends on the theme of Shabbat, I would here like to quote from a description by Hendrik and Heleen van Silfhout from Middelburg, the Netherlands, (given in blue) who are preparing to do Giyur at the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and to make ‘Aliyah’ to our beloved ‘Eretz Israel’. They describe their preparations for Shabbat and their experience of Shabbat in a provincial Dutch town without any real Jewish infrastructure.


‘’Because Shabbat is a day to look forward to every week, we already start to prepare a few days in advance. We do that by for example having all the necessary groceries in the house on time for the timely preparation of the (three) extra festive meals on Shabbat (“sjalosj se’oedot”). The women bake “challot”, braided breads, which symbolise the double portion of mannah which descended from heaven on Friday for two days during the forty years in the desert, so there was no necessity to collect it on Shabbat. At all of the three meals we eat on Shabbat, we have two “challot” which are covered with a special cloth symbolising the protective layer of dew with which the mannah was covered.

We take care that the food for the whole of Shabbat is ready before Shabbat starts and that the timers have been set for the lights and for the  sjabbatplate on which the food is kept warm.

We take care that it is clean and cosy in and around the house (every member of the household takes part in this), we put some flowers in the house and invite family and friends.

The table is decorated as beautifully as possible to receive “Queen Shabbat” and we put on nice clothes after taking a shower.

The People of Israel is the partner of Shabbat:

Kabbalat Sjabbat”, receiving, welcoming and taking Shabbat upon oneself on Friday night, is a sort of spiritual warming up for Shabbat. It is the moment at which Shabbat is welcomed as a bride by her groom, the Jewish people. The custom to greet Shabbat as a bride with joy and song goes back to the times of the Talmud and was later elaborated in Tsfat.

Those who are at home, take Shabbat upon themselves by the lighting of the Shabbat candles, two candles, one for “zachor” (remember) and one for “sjamor”(keep); they are lit by the woman because she is usually home at that moment.

Those who are in shul, take Shabbat and its “mitzvoth”, like cessation of all creative activities, on themselves by saying or singing “mizmor shir leyom hashabbat” (Psalm 92), a song for the Shabbat day, which follows directly onto “Lecha dodi”.

Lecha dodi” is the song in which Shabbat is welcomed. This song describes Shabbat as a bride who comes to visit her groom, the Jewish people, every week. The groom is encouraged to go to greet his bride. “Come my friend, towards the bride; let us bring Shabbat our greeting of welcome”.

Lecha dodi’’ gets everyone in shul into the mood of shabbat. The service in shul continues with the abovementioned “mizmor sjir leyom hashabbat”.

The “Amidah” (the silent prayer said while standing, also called “18 prayer”) is on Shabbat made up of seven Berachot; the middle bracha concerns the sanctity of Shabbat. Before the beginning of and at the end of the “Amidah” pieces of the Torah are mentioned which refer to Shabbat (“Weshameru”, which is said before the start of the “Amida” and concerns the Torah command to keep Shabbat in memory of creation). In contrast to other evenings, when the “Amida” is not repeated, it is repeated on Friday evenings (“Tefilla-Mé-én Sjewa”).

When we arrive home, we sing, before we go and sit at the nicely laid table, “sjalom aleechem” (that peace may come upon you and we greet the angels of peace who accompany us from the synagogue to our house); G’d is so happy that we keep Shabbat, that He sends angels to bless us. The husband sings for his wife from Proverbs 31:10-31: “Eshet Chayil” a song of praise for his industrious housewife.

Kiddush” is made over a cup of wine or grapejuice to sanctify Shabbat. The kiddush of Friday evening (“Wajechulu”, B’Resjiet 2:1-3) concerns the command to keep Shabbat because G’d ceased creating on the seventh day and it reminds us of the Exodus from Egypt, when G’d gave Shabbat as a heritage to His people.

Every Shabbat morning Torah is “layend” (read from in a special singing way). For this purpose seven adult Jewish males are called up.

During “shachariet” (the morning prayer) we pray an added prayer (“musaf”). After “musaf”, we make “kiddush” again and enjoy the second festive Shabbat meal at home.

On Shabbat and Festivals we sing “shir hama’alot”, Psalm 126, after the meal. The “birkat hamazon” (blessings after the meal) is usually sung on  Shabbat and Festivals. The birkat hamazon” also has some added  phrases on Shabbat (“retzei ve hachalitzeinu” en “harachaman”).

We have time for each other, our family and friend and for acquiring extra spiritual depth. By reading and learning from the Torah we enrich ourselves and receive new energy.

At “mincha” (the afternoon prayer) we repeat that the Torah has planted eternal life within us.

In “mincha” Shabbat is called “yom menucha u kedusha”, a day of rest and sanctification. During the afternoon service a piece of the “sidra” (the  Torah portion) of the upcoming Shabbat is read; this part is repeated on Monday and Thursday. In this way the Torah is in our thoughts during the whole week and we continually direct ourselves towards Shabbat.


The middle seventh brachot of the Amidah, concerning the sanctity of the day, have a different emphasis during every service:

during ma’ariv it is about creation;

during shacharit it is about the tablets of stone with the ten commandments;

during musaf it is about the Temple service;

during mincha it is about the harmony and peace of Shabbat.


By making it a special day, we already receive a foretaste of the world as G’d intended it.’’


From the essay ‘The people of Israel is the partner of Shabbat’ by Hendrik en Heleen van Silfhout




Positive commandments (‘Mitzvoth Asse’) of Shabbat

Shabbat’ candles

Shabbat’ candles are central to the celebration of ‘Shabbat’. According to ‘Halachah’ the wife and mother lights the candles for ‘Shabbat’. It is one of the most important tasks the Rabbis reserved for women. From the ‘Halachic’ viewpoint ‘Shabbat’ starts officially with the kindling of the candles by the woman (and she takes Shabbat upon herself when she says the Berachah over the kindling).

What is the reason that the wife or mother has been singled out for this religious command (‘Mitzvah’)?

Concerning Shabbat there is no difference between men and women. We do not apply the term time dependent Mitzvah to Shabbat, because women are obliged just as men are, since they were also part of the slavery machine in Egypt. We are also obliged out of ‘Chinuch’ (Jewish religious education of children) to educate our children to observe Shabbat. For girls it would mean lighting one candle on Shabbat from an educational age onwards. Both boys and girls have to be aware of the prohibitions on Shabbat and have to respect these. ‘Chinuch’ of course also applies to boys, but there is a very important additional aspect for the boys from an educational age onwards, which is to take them along to the synagogue.

A.     The Shabbat starts from the time when the woman kindles the candles of Shabbat. For men who are welcoming Shabbat at ‘Plag HaMincha’, Shabbat starts when they say ‘Mizmor Shir leYom Shabbat’ (Psalm 92). Kindling of the lights of Shabbat is a Rabbinical Mitzvah. The two essential reasons why the Rabbis introduced it are:

1. ‘Family harmony’ (‘Shalom Bayit’), so that people should see each other and find what they need and not stumble and engage in strife.

Since the introduction of electricity (this has only been known for about 150 years) the candles of Shabbat are nowadays definitely used to spread a festive atmosphere and for celebrating Shabbat and Yom Tov in an appropriate and dignified manner.

1.       Historical reason: The Karaites (7th-12th century C.E.) (a sect which departed from mainstream Judaism and denied the validity of the Oral Law, comparable with today’s sectarian Reform-Liberal or Reconstructionist sectarian Judaism) did sit in darkness and did not warm food on Shabbat because of incorrect and misleading interpretation of the prohibition of making fire on Shabbat. Therefore the Rabbis insisted that we light candles ahead of Shabbat, not only as an allowance, but as an obligation, in honour of and for the enjoyment of Shabbat. For the same reason we eat also warm food on Shabbat, which is placed on the Shabbat warming plate ahead of Shabbat. According to the ‘Shulchan Aruch’ if somebody eats only cold food on Shabbat, we suspect him/her that he/she might be a heretic (a Karaite).


The religious obligation was given to the woman for the following reasons:

  • The Hebrew term for housewife is ‘Akeret HaBayit’. This means ‘the central figure or the fundament of the house’. Because the woman is usually at home more often than the man, the Sages gave priority to her to kindle the lights. Whenever it is not possible for the wife to kindle at home (for example due to hospitalization), the oldest daughter above the age of ‘Bar Mitzvah’ or the husband can perform the ‘Mitzvah’.
  • According to the Midrash the kindling of the candles is a sort of ‘restitution’ for her incorrect behaviour in violating the first command given by G’d to mankind. Chava seduced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, through which death entered the world. By lighting the ‘Shabbat’ candles, light, as the symbol for life, is accentuated.


How many candles does one light for ‘Shabbat’?

The minimum amount is two candles, in accordance with the ‘Shabbat’ commandment which is mentioned twice in the Ten Words. Some families light as many candles as there are people in the family. ‘Halachah’ is strickt concerning fulfilling this ‘Mitzvah’.

If a woman ever forgot to light ‘Shabbat’ candles, ‘Halachah’ provides a sort of fine, in the form of the obligation to light an extra candle for each next Shabbat during the rest of her life.  The high status of ‘Shabbat’ candles can be illustrated by the following 2 examples:


  •       If a Jew has little money and can choose to buy only one of the following: candles for ‘Shabbat’ or wine for ‘Kiddush’,  ‘Halachah’ decides that the candles should be bought, because the declaration of ‘Kiddush’ (declaring the sanctity of ‘Shabbat’ over a cup of wine) can in an emergency also be made over the ‘Challot of Shabbat.
  •       Light can be associated with life as well as with wisdom. The Talmud states that someone who carefully and elaborately fulfils the ‘Mitzvah’ of the ‘Shabbat’ candles shall have wise children. A legend is told about one of the greatest Rabbis and leaders of Israel, ‘Rashi’ (1040-1105 C.E.). The mother of Rashi once had no money to buy ‘Shabbat’ candles and sold a precious jewel so as to be able to buy the candles. The consequence was that HaShem gave her the small Rashi, who grew into one of the biggest lights of Israel, one of the most famous Torah and Talmud commentators.


The candles can consist of paraffin, but pious Jewish women give preference to candles made from olive oil (in the Temple the Menorah burned with olive oil). The ‘Shabbat’ candles should be placed on the dinner table and must burn as long as the meal is ongoing. They decorate the ‘Shabbat’ table.


Kindling the lights is part of the ‘Chana Mitzvoth’ (‘Challah’, ‘Niddah’ en ‘Hadlakat Nerot’), for which the woman is given precedence and for which the Rabbis placed the responsibility in the hands of the women.


Lighting the candles is also one of the three Mitzvoth, which is first performed and only afterwards the ‘Berachah’ is recited:

a.       Lighting the candles for Shabbat en Yom Tov, because with the recitation of the ‘Berachah’, Shabbat and/or Yom Tov begin and then it is to late to light the candles.

b.       Netilat Yadayim’, because we need clean hands to be able to recite the ‘Berachah’.

c.       Mikvah’ for family purity. A ‘Niddah’ visits the ‘Mikvah’ after the days of her menstruation and purification days. When she immerses herself in the ‘Mikvah’, she becomes ‘Tahor’ (culticly, spiritually pure). A ‘Ger’ or ‘Giyoret’ also says the ‘Berachah’ after immersion, because immersion marks the deciding conclusion of the Giyur procedure for the Halachically recognised Beth Din and as the person is then Jewish, he/she may say the ‘Berachah’.


The reason that the woman covers her eyes when she says the ‘Berachah’ over the candles, is that she does not want to enjoy the Shabbat light as long as she has not yet said the ‘Berachah’. The reason for the circling arm movements before the recitation of the ‘Berachah’ is probably that the woman wishes the atmosphere of Shabbat to extend throughout the house.


Shabbat’ in the synagogue

More than all other days of the week we spend much time in synagogue on ‘Shabbat’.

Shabbat is also called ‘Shabbat La’HaShem’ in the Torah, which means that Shabbat in particular deserves more attention than ordinary working days and that we need to spend more time and effort to consciously experience Shabbat as a day of HaShem.

It is also certainly our intention to revitalize our ‘Neshamah’ (human soul) on Shabbat and to experience Shabbat in the intensive sphere of ‘Tefillah and Torah.

Kabbalat Shabbat’ deserves special mention. Until the 16th century the evening service of Shabbat began with Psalm 92, ‘Mizmor Shir Le’Yom Shabbat’ and in this way those present Halachically took Shabbat upon themselves.

During the golden age of Lurianic Kabbalah in the 16th century in Safed Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572 C.E.), the ‘Lion of the  Kabbalah’ and the founder of practical Kabbalah, together with his followers introduced ‘Kabblat Shabbat’. For this they based themselves on the Talmud which mentions that during the time of the Mishnah the Sages welcomed Shabbat on the hilltops of the Galilee, dressed in white festive clothing and facing West, where the new Jewish day begins at sunset, with the words: ‘Come Queen Shabbat, come Shabbat Bride’. Shabbat is female in Ivrit.

The ‘Ari’ brought together 6 Psalms, 1 psalm for every working day. They cover Creation, nature singing about HaShem, about Yehuda and Tzion, about the leadership of Moshe and Aharon and about G-d's power manifesting itself in nature. A famous student of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known under the name of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (1500-1580 C.E.), is the author of the most famous Shabbat song, ‘Lecha Dodi’, which is sung all over the religious Jewish world by all ethnic groups (Ashkenasim, Sefardim etc.) in a rich variety of melodies. ‘Lecha Dodi’ has 6 stanzas, all starting with and forming the acronym of his name, Shlomo Halevi. The stanzas are a masterpiece of genius, a collection of verses from Tenach on the themes of Shabbat, the Jewish People, Redemption and Welcoming Shabbat. Following on from Lecha Dodi Psalms 92 and 93 are said, as the ‘Shir Shel Yom’ (Psalm for Shabbat and Friday respectively).

The Ashkenasim have the custom to read the second Mishnah chapter of the Tractate Shabbat, concerning all aspects of the lighting of the Shabbat candles.

Sefardim and Chassidim recite a part of the Zohar on het special atmosphere of Shabbat here on earth and in heaven. It starts with the words: ‘Raza d’Shabbat’ (the secret of Shabbat is Shabbat itself). Directly after ‘Kabbalat Shabbat’ the evening service of Shabbat begins.



The Shmoneh Esreh of Shabbat consists of seven (7) ‘Berachot’. The first three praise HaShem, the fourth ‘Berachah’ is about the holiness of the day and the last three Berachot’  thank HaShem.

On ‘Shabbat’ 4 prayer services are envisioned:

  • On Friday night ‘Kabbalat Shabbat’ (welcoming ‘Shabbat’ with the song ‘Lecha Dodi’), followed by the evening prayer for ‘Shabbat’ (Ma’ariv’). The Shmoneh Eshreh of Ma’ariv on Shabbat night is about Creation.
  • On ‘Shabbat’ day the morning prayer is ‘Shacharit’. The Shmoneh Eshreh of Shacharit are about the Stone Tablets with the Ten Words which Moshe Rabenu received on Har Sinai , containing the Shabbat commandment. Shacharit is followed by the weekly reading from the Torah and Prophets. The Rabbi gives a discourse on the weekly Torah portion. The morning service closes with a special added prayer for ‘Shabbat’, ‘Mussaf’. The Shmoneh Eshreh of ‘Mussaf’ is about the extra sacrifice in honour of Shabbat during the Temple times. After this in most synagogues a ’Kiddush’ is given. Usually people are interested to come to the Kiddush because it offers the oppertunity for social contacts.
  • The afternoon prayer takes place about one and a half hours before the end of ‘Shabbat’. ‘Minchah’ is followed by a short reading from the Torah. The Shmoneh Eshreh of Minchah is about the harmony and peace of Shabbat and gives us a glimpse of the Messianic Shabbat.
  • Shabbat’ ends with the evening service for working days.


B.     Praying and reading the Torah on Shabbat. From the words ‘VeYom HaShvi’i Shabbat LaHaShem’ (Devarim/Deuteronomy5:14) we deduce and learn that we have to dedicate time and efforts to pray intensively on Shabbat, hearing the portion of the reading of the ‘Sidrah’ and the ‘Haftarah’ (reading from the Prophets).

Since the time of Ezra we have been obliged and privileged to read ‘Parashat HaShavuah’ every Shabbat as an appropriate portion of the Torah. A special Parashah is also read on the ‘Yamim Tovim’, appropriate for each Festival day. On Shabbat we have the maximum amount of people we need to call to the Torah, which is in accordance of the seven shepherds and leaders of Israel (Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef and David), like the ‘Ushpeszin of Sukkot. Seven is a minimum, but we can increase it to more if necessary. From the times of Antiochus Epiphanes (167-164 B.C.E.) and the Roman Emperor Hadrianus (132-135 C.E.) decrees were issued against keeping Torah and Mitzvoth. Reading from the Torah was forbidden and as a replacement a portion of the Prophets was introduced, called the ‘Haftarah’, literally conclusion. Nowadays we conclude the Reading of the Torah every Shabbat and Yom Tov, as well as fast days, with the reading of ‘Haftarah’. The ‘Haftarah’ is always contextually related to the ‘Parashah’ or to the Festivals and was selected by our Rabbis with great care and diligence.

Blessing the children

Boys are blessed with the traditional blessing Ya'akov gave to Efraim and Menasse. Girls are blessed with the traditional blessing the people of Beth Lechem gave to Ruth, that she may be as Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel en Leah. After the blessing the parents kiss the children. Hungarian Jews however have the custom that the children kiss the hand of the parents.



During ‘Shabbat’ meals traditional, beautiful Hebrew ‘Shabbat’ songs are sung. A special book of ‘Zemiroth’ has fitting 'Shabbat’ songs for each meal.

We begin ‘Shabbat’ with the very famous song ‘Shalom Aleichem’ in which the angels of peace are greeted, who, according to the Talmudic tradition, accompany us home from synagogue and who are present during the ‘Shabbat’ meals. However, this happens only in a Jewish family who has festively prepared for ‘Shabbat’. Next comes a song in praise of the Jewish mother and wife, known as ‘Eshet Chayil’, the strong and energetic woman, who has taken so much trouble for this festive ‘Shabbat’ and who especially takes care of an intact and harmonic family life. It is noteworthy that there is no song for the ‘Ish Chayil’, the Jewish man.


Some ‘Zemiroth’ books with songs for Shabbat were even written a thousand years ago. Among the authors of ‘Zemiroth’ we can find Donash ben Labrat (920-990 C.E.), author of the famous Shabbat song ‘Dror Yikra’, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi (1075-1141 C.E.), author of the Shabbat song ‘Yom Shabbaton’, Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164 C.E.), with his Shabbat song called ‘Ki Eshmera Shabbat’, the Tosafist Rabbi Baruch ben Shmuel (died 1221 C.E.), author of the Shabbat song ‘Baruch El Elyon’ en the Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572 C.E.), author of the famous Shabbat song ‘Yom Ze LeYisrael Orah Ve’Simcha’. This is but a small list of famous composers from a thousand years old tradition of ShabbatZemiroth’. A story is told about Rabbi Menachem Man Shach (1899-2001 C.E.), the greatest Talmud Sage of the 20th century, who was asked why he did not have much success with the upbringing of his son. He answered succinctly: ‘’during the Shabbat meals I always studied Chumash with commentaries, instead of singing Shabbat songs with my children’’. This true anecdote should be a lesson to all of us to sing ‘Zemiroth’ with our children on Shabbat.


From the words in the Torah: ’’Remember (‘Zachor’) the Shabbat day to keep it holy’’ and from another verse in the Torah: ‘’God sanctified the Shabbat day’’, we learn that there is a Mitzvah to declare the holiness of Shabbat on Shabbat night as well as on Shabbat day. The ‘Kiddush’ is a declaration of the specialness of the day of Shabbat, during which we also mention the reason of keeping Shabbat.

Shabbat night

According to all Halachic authorities the obligation to make ‘Kiddush’ on Shabbat night stems from the Torah. It has to be performed on wine or grape juice. The text differs considerably from the ‘Kiddush’ recited on Shabbat day. It centers on the idea of the completion of Creation at the end of the sixth day. Usually we perform it while standing, because the first part of the ‘Kiddushconstitutes giving witness to believing in HaShem as Creator and to the idea of Shabbat. Since we are giving witness, we have to stand. We are obliged to taste from the wine of the ‘Kiddush’, but people who are listening to the ‘Kiddush’ don’t need to make a ‘Berachah’, because we are tasting the wine as part of  the Mitzvah of making ‘Kiddush’, and but not because of ‘enjoyment’.

Kiddush’ on Shabbat Day

According to most Halachic authorities it is a Rabbinical obligation to make ‘Kiddush’ on Shabbat day. It can be performed on any important beverage which contains alcohol. It can be performed on a small glass and does not need a silver cup, but preference should be given to wine or grape juice. The text is much longer and centers around the Exodus and liberation from slavery. It can be performed while sitting. People who are listening to the ‘Kiddush’ on Shabbat Day should taste from the wine, grape juice or alcoholic beverage, but do not have to say the ‘Berachah’ as previously explained.

Lechem Mishneh

Since the time of the generation in the desert, on Fridays, a double portion of ‘Mann’ (Mannah, Heavenly bread) came down, one for Friday and one for Shabbat. We deduce from it the general idea of preparation for Shabbat, symbolized by the ‘Lechem Mishneh’. For each of the three meals we need ‘Lechem Mishneh’, (double ‘Challot’), so that the minimum we need would be four ‘Challot’ or four ‘Matzot’ in case we do not have ‘Challot’. The ‘Challot’ have to be complete and not broken; the same applies to the ‘Matzot’. Ashkenasim may use ‘Matzot’ for ‘Lechem Mishneh’, because all year round they recite the ‘Berachah’ of ‘HaMotzi’on Matzot. Sephardim, who only recite ‘HaMotzi’ on ‘Matzot’ during Pesach and for the rest of the year say ‘Mezonot’, cannot use it as ‘Lechem Mishneh’ for Shabbat.


The ‘Ba’al HaBayit’ (master of the house) keeps in mind to fulfil the Mitzvah of ‘Lechem Mishneh’ for all participants when reciting HaMotzi. The other participants have to eat a piece of the ‘Challah’, usually dipped in salt, but they do not have to say the ‘Beracha’ of ‘HaMotzi’, because the eating constitutes fulfilling the Mitzvah of ‘Lechem Mishneh’ and not the aspect of ‘enjoyment’. It is a nice custom that the ‘Ba’alat HaBayit’ (lady of the house) bakes ‘Challot’ for Shabbat on ‘Erev Shabbat’ and so has the occasion to fulfil the Mitzvah of separating ‘Challah’, which is one of the three Mitzvoth reserved for women (Chana Mitzvot’).


It seems to me important to explain why we call the bread of ShabbatChallah’ or ‘Challlot’. On weekday we call bread ‘Lechem’, which has the root letters ‘Lamed’ ‘Chet’ and ‘Mem’. This means to fight or to have a war, like ‘Milchamah’, which is a reference to the battle for life that we are constantly preoccupied with during the week, being busy getting a livelihood. ‘Challah’ or ‘Challot’ might be a reference to the fact that that the women have performed the Mitzvah of separation of ‘Challah’ on this ‘Challot’ bread. Over time ‘Challah’ and ‘Challot’ became synonymous with Shabbat and Yamim Tovim.

The meals of Shabbat (‘Seudat Shabbat’)



In Hebrew we distinguish between ‘Aruchah’ and ‘Seudah’. ‘Aruchah’ comes from the root letters ‘Aleph’,’ Resh’ and ‘Chet’ which means guest. This implies that the meal is eaten fast, in a snack-like manner. ‘Seudah’ on the other hand is reserved for Shabbat and Jewish Festivals and has the root letters ‘Samech’ ‘Ayin’ and ‘Dalet’ which means strengthen or support, an indication that the meals of Shabbat should enable us to serve G'd.

We are obliged to eat three meals on Shabbat. The three meals of Shabbat are explained as follows:

A.     In the context of ‘Mann’, it is written three times ‘Shabbat HaYom’, hence we have to eat three meals on Shabbat.

B.     The three meals are representative for our three Patriarchs.

C.     In Talmudic times it was customary on a regular weekday to eat only two meals a day, in the morning and the evening. On Shabbat we eat three meals, to underscore the importance of Shabbat. The first meal on Shabbat night, the second meal is lunch time after ‘Davening’ (praying) and reading the Torah and the third meal before ‘Shkia’ (sunset), towards the end of Shabbat. One may eat more meals and more food on Shabbat, because of the shortage of the traditional 100 ‘Berachot’ that we are supposed to say every day, because of the shorter ‘Shmoneh Esreh’ (consisting of seven ‘Berachot’) and of not putting on Tefillin. However, three meals on Shabbat is the minimum.


The ‘Shabbat’ meals have a particularly relaxing influence in a secure atmosphere. The complete family is sitting at the table and the best dishes and delicacies are served.

Normally the meal consists of four courses:

Shabbat night:

  •       Fish or gefillte fish
  •       Chicken broth
  •       Mostly meat, chicken or beef, with salads
  •       Dessert


Shabbat afternoon:

  •       Mostly chopped liver or liver pie and egg salad
  •       Cholent’ (warm soup with beans, beef and potatoes) and ‘Kiegel’ (a warm potato cake (Polish style) or warm, spicy  noodle cake with much sugar (Yerushalmi style)
  •       Meat or different sausages with salad, mostly different varieties
  •       Dessert


Third meal:

  •       Snack consisting of a cocktail-like salad, herring or Oriental dishes (Humus, Techinah)

Very often these are only eaten by the men in synagogue.


Every ‘Shabbat’ meal is accompanied by thoughts on the weekly Torah portion. Often the children will present a few thoughts which they have learned in the Jewish school. If they are not so inclined, another family member will submit some thoughts on the Torah.

After every meal which contains bread, the ‘Birkat HaMazon’ is said. This command is stated in the Torah: ‘You will eat, and you will be satisfied, and you will bless HaShem, your G’d ...’ (Devarim/Deuteronomy 8:10) .

It is traditional for the children to sing the Birkat HaMazon together with the whole family and so end the meal in a pleasant, inspiring and festive atmosphere.

In Birkat HaMazon of Shabbat we make three important additional changes compared to the Birkat HaMazon of weekdays:

1 A section called ‘Retzei’, a prayer speaking of the Holiness of Shabbat, the rest of Shabbat and of being comforted by HaShem by the construction of Tzion and Jerusalem. If we completely forget this section, we have to repeat ‘Birkat HaMazon’ adding the section of ‘Retzei’. If we remember it before finishing ‘Birkat HaMazon’ we return to the section of ‘Retzei’ and we continue from there and finish ‘Birkat HaMazon’.

2 A ‘HaRachaman’ especially for Shabbat

3 We say ‘Migdol’ instead of ‘Magdil’.

For educational reasons it is nice that the children sing ‘Birkat HaMazon’ and so get into the routine of ‘Bentching’ and with time come to know it by heart, which can be very helpful in case they do not have a Siddur or ‘Birkat HaMazon’ at hand.


Sji’urim’ (Torah learning)

On ‘Shabbat’ it is prohibited to perform work, but intellectual activities are desirable and are promoted. We have more time for learning on Shabbat, for the revitalization of our intellect. It is therefore customary in many communities to organise Torah lessons on different aspects of Talmud, Tenach, ‘Pirkei Avot’, ‘Mussar’ and Kabbalah, at every level, for men, women and for children.                                                                   

In Antwerp there are countless Torah lessons at every level in the 33 synagogues spread throughout the Jewish neighbourhood.

For women lessons are organised by the ‘Agudahwomens association during summertime and in the winter in the afternoons shortly before the end of Shabbat. Rabbi Shabtai Slavaticki, Shlita, of Chabad during summer Shabbatot, organises thematic presentations which draw a large crowd of Jewish women.




The word ‘Havdalah’ means to distinguish or to differentiate.

It goes back to the text of the ‘Havdalah’ itself, in which we recite that HaShem distinguishes between holy and profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and other nations and between Shabbat and the other six weekdays.

The obligation of making ‘Havdalah’ comes from the Torah, deduced from the sentence: ‘’Remember the Shabbat day to keep it holy’’ and it is understood by the Rabbis in the Talmud and ‘Shulchan Aruch’ that we welcome Shabbat when it enters by making ‘Kiddush’ and we say goodbye to the Shabbat by performing the ‘Havdalah’ ceremony.


We distinguish three types of ‘Havdalah’:

1.       The ‘Havdalah’ that usually men say during the silent ‘Shmoneh Esreh’ of ‘Motzei Shabbat’, by adding the additional passage of ‘Atta Chonantanu’ in the fourth ‘Beracha’. In this passage we find a part of the text of ‘Havdalah’ and Halachically after saying this passage those who have said the Shomneh Esreh may do all regular matters that we perform on weekdays.

2.       After the time of the exit of Shabbat, women may perform profane activities after saying the sentence: ‘Baruch HaMavdil Ben Kodesh LeChol’. According to Rav Y.M. Lau (1937 C.E.) in his Halachic work ‘Hanachat Yesod’ (Foundations, One Hundred Concepts in Judaism, ISBN 978-965-482-757-7) there are two types of ‘Havdalah’ which go back to the Jews of Babylon, who were extremely poor and could not afford to buy wine for ‘Havdalah’. Nowadays the ceremonial ‘Havdalah’ is obligatory.

3.       The ceremonial ‘Havdalah’ that we do in the circle of the family, usually after saying some prayers and wishes for a good and prosperously week. We usually preferably make ‘Havdalah’ on wine or grape juice. We may according to the ‘Halacha’ do it on beverages of the country (‘Chamar Medinah’), which is usually beer and which is preferred by Chassidim for ‘Havdalah’. We also use dried or fresh ‘Besamim’ in the ‘Havdalah’, for example cloves or herbs, like lavender, rosemary or mint. In the first case we will say: ‘’ Boreh mineh vesamim’’. And in the second case of fresh herbs, we will say: ‘Boreh mineh isfeh vesamim’’. The reason for using ‘Besamim’ in the ‘Havdalah’ is explained as follows. At the end of the exit of Shabbat our ‘Neshamah Yetterah’ (the extra soul) given to us on Shabbat for relaxation and for the revitalization of our spirit is departing. Our Sages taught us that the only thing that our ‘Neshamah’ (human soul) enjoys is a good smell. To comfort our soul for the loss of the extra ‘Neshamah’, we smell a good odour. Chassidim even smell ‘Besamim’ when Shabbat enters, in order to increase the number of ‘Berachot’ to the ideal number of 100 (because of the shortage of ‘Berachot’ on Shabbat, because we only pray seven ‘Berachot’ in the Shmoneh Eshreh’). We need to have a ‘Havdalah’ candle which should have several wicks. At least two candles are needed to form a ‘Havdalahcandle. The reason for that is that we want to create a short of torch so that everybody should perceive that Shabbat is over. Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinksi (1863-1940 C.E.) even permitted to say the ‘Berachah’ on an electrical light in case of an emergency, as an electric light is considered to be fire respectively a source of fire.


The idea behind using a ‘Havdalah’ candle, which is Halachically speaking a kind of torch, is to make it publically known that Shabbat is over. Most people, Jews and non-Jews alike, associate Shabbat with the prohibition of using or making fire. With the ‘Havdalah’ candle it is made known to all that Shabbat is over and that we may use and make fire. Another explanation from the Midrash is as follows. Fire was created by ‘Adam HaRishon’ (the first original man created by G'd) at the end of Shabbat. Adam was granted permission to stay in ‘Gan Eden’ (Paradise) for the first day of his existence (Shabbat). He was created on Friday as it is written in the Torah and sinned on the same day, but with the grace of HaShem, he was allowed to stay in the ‘Garden of Eden’ with his wife Chava on Shabbat. After the end of Shabbat, he and his wife were driven from ‘Gan Eden’ and encountered night and darkness. By using two stones skilfully Adam created fire and it is in remembrance of this fact that we make a ‘Berachah’ on fire at the exit of Shabbat.

The text at the introduction of the ‘Havdalahdifferers according to the Ashkenasy or Sefardic Minhag (custom), because they use different ‘Psukim’ (verses from Tenach). However, the ‘Havdalah’ text and the ‘Berachot’ are the same.



When the ‘Berachah’ over the fire is said, we should hold our fingers near the fire and look at the nails in order to benefit from the fire. At the end of the ‘Havdalah’ the ‘Havdalah' candle is extinguished by the wine or beer.

Chassidim have the custom to use some drops of the beverage left over after extinguishing the Havdalah candle to moisten the eyebrows, based on the verse in Psalms 19:9: ‘’ the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes’’.

The pockets are also moistened with the wine left over after ‘Havdalah’ as an omen for prosperity and a successful week. Ashkenasim and Mitnagdim do not follow this custom.

It is also a custom to sing a song about the coming of the Prophet Eliyahu with hopefully the Mashiach Ben David, because according to the Talmud the Messiah will not come on Shabbat, so that the rest of Shabbat will not be disturbed.

Accordingly the first occasion that Eliyahu the Prophet along with Mashiach Ben David can come is at the end of Shabbat.

Many people say different prayers for a harmonious week and Chassidim and pious men usually also eat an additional small meal, called ‘Melaveh Malkah’ (escorting the Queen of Shabbat). ‘Shulchan Aruch’ speaks highly about this custom and compares it to the Mitzvah of hospitality, as we have the duty to accompany our guests when they leave, and so similarly do we escort Queen Shabbat as she leaves. ‘Melaveh Malkah’ on the short winter Shabbatot has been used during the last few years to raise funds for various Torah and charity (Chesed) organisations. People are invited for a nice meal in a spacious catering hall after the exit of Shabbat, where they are served a full meal and listen to speeches by Rabbinically talented speakers and later on are asked to donate for a worthy charitable cause.


In case ‘Havdalah’ was forgotten or was for some reason not made at the end of Shabbat, we may do it till and including Tuesday, until the start of the fourth Jewish day (Tuesday evening).


Women are obliged to listen to and to make ‘Havdalah’ in case there is no man in the family. Then they have to do it by themselves. If there is a boy above ‘Bar Mitzvah’ he may perform it. My late mother, ‘Immi Morati’, Rivka Daum (1928-2009 C.E.), s.z.l, was very ill during her last years and my dear brother, Reb Shlomo Chananel Daum, Shlita, used to make ‘Havdalah’ every ‘Motzei Shabbat’ and my mother used to listen to the ‘Havdalah’ over the telephone. This is definitely a nice example of the Mitzvah of ‘Honouring Father and Mother’.

A sort of ‘Havdalah’ is performed when a Festival falls on Shabbat and Sunday. In this case at the ‘Kiddush’ of the second night, a section concerning ‘Havdalah’, called ‘Va’to’di’enu’ is added to the ‘Kiddush’. And after Yom Tov a simple ‘Havdalah’ is performed by saying only the text of the ‘Havdalah’ on a cup of wine (without Besamim and a Havdalah candle, because we already use fire on Yom Tov and get no Neshamah Yeterah on Yom Tov).

After the ‘Havdalah’ we wish each other: ‘Shavua Tov’ and a ‘Gut Woch’ or a ‘Gut Moed’ or ‘Moadim Le’Simcha’.


Writing on such a difficult and responsible topic I was influenced by the writing of the former Ashkenasy Chief Rabbi of Israel and present Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Rav Y.M. Lau, Shlita, who wrote two excellent Halachic works, which are standard works used for preparation for Giyur in Israel by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. These books are 1. ‘Practical Halachah’ and 2. ‘Foundations’ - One Hundred Concepts in Judaism (ISBN 978-965-482-757-7). Next to being an excellent orator and speaker, who even today is much sought after by all circles as well as by the Israeli radio, to speak on all Halachic topics, he is also an excellent writer, who wrote quite a few religious books about Halachah, and also his most inspiring autobiography about his traumatic years in the Shoah as a small child of five years old, 'Do Not Raise a Hand against the Boy’, translated into English as Out of the Depth.

In his writings Rav Y.M. Lau bemoans the fact that most non-religious Jews as well as of course non-Jews, associate Shabbat with the series of prohibitions and don'ts, i.e.: do not drive, do not use the computer, do not cook, do not do sports, so that a false picture is projected for many ignorant Jews, who thus associate Shabbat with passivity. Rav Lau gives a beautiful example to illustrate that Shabbat may not be characterised as a day of passivity. A person who at the start of Shabbat takes a sleeping pill and sleeps the whole of Shabbat, for 25 hours, did not according to Rav Lau do any prohibition, but he also didn’t fulfil the many positive Mitzvoth associated with Shabbat.

We chose on purpose to begin our essay about Shabbat with the positive Mitzvoth and with the beauty of Shabbat, illustrating Shabbat as a day of equality for all members of our society, including our servants, workers, cleaning personnel and even as a day of rest for our animals. The Shabbat is of course also a day of physical rest, but also of Holiness. We dedicate a considerable amount of time to prayers and studying Torah. And of course Shabbat is the day for the family, when the family comes together and celebrates Shabbat, so that we have time for our children and grandchildren.

Rabbi Samsom Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 C.E.) s.z.l., highlights another aspect of refraining from any forbidden work on Shabbat, namely avoiding addiction (a sort of slavery). A person who refrains from forbidden creative activity on Shabbat shows that he is not a slave of our current technical advancement which surrounds us constantly and everywhere. He can resist driving on Shabbat; he can live one day without a mobile phone, without using any electrical appliances and without doing any work that the Torah forbids. He is truly a ‘free man’. The Rabbis tell us in the Talmud that by accepting the Torah, we gain true freedom (‘Cherut’), because we can master our animalistic instincts and are in control of ourselves. So every observance of Shabbat is a statement that we are in control of our instincts and addictions, which often cause us to end up as workaholics.

Shabbat is also seen in most Jewish sources as a winning back of a part of the paradise lost by Adam and Chava after their sin. Shabbat is described as a taste of the ‘Olam HaBa’ (the future world) that we hope to inherit, but we can already catch a glimpse of in the 'World to Come' if we keep Shabbat. According to the Talmud and Midrash, we get a taste of ‘Gan Eden’ (paradise, from the Hebrew word Pardes, meaning a beautiful, refined garden). And as we express it nicely at the end of Mussaf: ‘’Shabbat is a serenade about the future, the Messianic World that will be at the end of time. A World which will be marked by the spirit of Shabbat and rest for ever’’.

Every Shabbat also incorporates the Messianic ideal and the notion that we already life decisively in this pre-Messianic epoch.


Avot Melachah

We also find the Shabbat commandment in the Torah at the occasion of the construction of the Tabernacle (‘Mishkan’), where it is written: ‘’For six days work may be done, but  on the seventh day it shall be holy for you, a complete rest to HaShem; anyone who does work (‘Melachah) on it shall be put to death ’’. And then follows: ‘’you shall not kindle fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day’’ (Shemot/Exodus 35:1-3). From this ‘Pasuk’ we can deduce two things:

1.       The construction of the Tabernacle/’Mishkan’ is inferior to the holiness of the Shabbat day and we may not profane the Shabbat for the building of the ‘Mishkan’.

2.       The fact that the Torah mentions the creative work of fire, makes it a ‘Binyan Av’ (an example of the rest of the 38 ‘Avot Melachah’ which were needed to construct or deconstruct the ‘Mishkan‘).


We distinguish between ‘Melachah’ and ‘Avodah’. In connection with Shabbat and Yom Tov the Torah mentions ‘Melachah’ and the definition of ‘Melachah’ is:

a.       Creative work and change of status.

b.       Creative work which requires thinking (‘Melechet Machshevet’).

c.       Expertise, something you have to learn in order to perform it.

All the 39 ‘Avot Melachah’ (main categories of forbidden work from the Torah on Shabbat) follow this definition.

In the Torah itself only four ‘Avot Melachah’ are directly mentioned:

1.       Making fire.

2.       Ploughing.

3.       Harvesting.

4.       Transferring matters which are not ‘Muktzeh’ from one domain to another domain.

All the rest of the ‘Avot Melachah’ have been deduced in the Mishnah and Talmud (Tractate Shabbat, chapter 7) and been formulated as Halachah in the ‘Shulchan Aruch’ (‘Orech Chaim, section Shabbat’) and are also considered to be prohibitions from the Torah (‘Melachah d’Oraitah’).

Avodah’ is mechanical, routine work which is not creative and does not require any thinking and therefore it is not directly forbidden on Shabbat. It comes from the ‘Shoresh’ (the root word), ‘Eved’, which means slavery. So walking 10 floors by stairs is an effort but not creative and therefore it is allowed to do this on Shabbat, but one should refrain from doing it because it is contrary to the spirit and atmosphere of Shabbat.

Carrying a table which is heavy in your private domain and which requires four people to carry it, is allowed on Shabbat. If you need to carry a load of books on Shabbat in your apartment it is also allowed, because it is not creative work and does not require expertise.

All Shabbat prohibitions and Shabbat precepts give way to the saving of a human life (‘Pikuach Nefesh’)! Even in cases of doubt, for example, if there is no possibility to consult a Rabbi or the Halachic literature, it is a Mitzvah to break the Shabbat prohibitions in cases of saving human life, because the Rabbis say it better to profane one Shabbat so as to be able to keep many Shabbatot. Halachah distinguishes between saving human live, which is a Mitzvah, and the prohibition to save common material, with the exception of holy articles like Torah scrolls.

Because these days people live in close proximity to each other, and there is a danger of spreading even with an ordinary fire, most Halachic authorities have a lenient attitude these days and state that a fire may be put out to prevent possible burns, destruction of buildings and death. It thus falls in the category of saving human life to put out the fire. This is also applicable to saving humans from other catastrophes, for example saving someone from drowning. Because of Darkeh Shalom (the ways of peace and harmonious relations with the non-Jewish world), we may not make a distinction between Jews and non-Jews, if no one else is available to save them.



There are 39 ‘Avot Melachah’ (first degree forbidden work categories), which also include ‘Toledot’ (second degree work prohibitions), and both degrees are equally forbidden from the Torah. Toledot are not Rabbinical decrees, but they are deduced directly from the Torah by the Rabbis.

The most well known Toledah is the use of electricity or appliances with batteries on Shabbat, because electricity or batteries cause a circuit of electric currents which make a spark, both when switching it on or of. When we start a car, a small flame is created which uses petrol. If we switch off the car, we extinguish the flame. When we use a mobile phone powered by accumulated electricity we cause light to be created and of course the different electronic operations which make phoning possible. When we close the phone we switch off the electric light and we stop the complete electronic operation which the mobile makes possible for us.

Another nice example of a Toledah on Shabbat is the prohibition of using an umbrella. When we open an umbrella, we create a sort of tent which protects us against the rain. When we close an umbrella we as it were dismantle a tent. Putting up or dismantling a tent (for example a circus tent) is directly related to the Melachah of building and deconstructing (destroying). An umbrella has therefore been declared ‘Muktzeh’ by the Rabbis. Religious Jewish men wear a raincoat and a plastic protection for the hat on Shabbat. Women also wear a raincoat and a plastic protection for the hair or wig.

Another good example of a Toledah concerns flowers on Shabbat. If we bring someone flowers on Shabbat, they have to be put in a vase with water which causes growth and revitalization of the flower. Therefore this falls under the Toledah of Zore’ah (sowing, planting etc.). When we take the flowers out of the vase it falls under the Toledah of harvesting, i.e. the flowers will die slowly as they are deprived of their element for living, water. The Rabbi's have declared flowers  to be ‘Muktzeh’ on Shababt, but if you need the space or it disturbs your view, you may remove a vase with flowers. It is therefore most unsuitable even for a non-Jewish person who is invited to to visit a Jewish home to bring a bunch of flowers on Shabbat, however kindly meant.


According to the ‘Gaon of Vilna’ (1720-1797 C.E.) every ‘Av Melachah’ has 39 Toledot (second degree prohibitions) connected to the main prohibition. Chief Rabbi Rav Y.M. Lau mentions this in his Halachic work ‘Foundations’ – One Hundred Concepts in the Halacha.


If someone unintentionally (Shogeg’) violated a ShabbatAv Melachah’ (main work prohibition) or a ‘Toledah’ (second degree prohibition), he/she had to bring a quilt offering (‘Korban Chatat’) to the Temple during the times the Temple stood.

If someone intentionally, on purpose (‘Meizid’) desecrated Shabbat by performing an ‘Av Melachah’ or ‘Toledah’ during the Temple times and it was declared to him/her beforehand that that it was forbidden (so one was warned) and he/she desecrated Shabbat in the presence of 10 adult Jewish people, that person was quilty during Temple times and was punished with capital punishment by stoning (‘Sekilah’).

In all of Tenach there are only two instances of capital punishment by ‘Sekilah:

1.       for gathering wood in the desert (Bamidbar/Numbers 15:32-36).

2.       Concerning Achan in Jehoshua/Joshua chapter 7, who took from the booty in violation of the prohibition. He and his entire family were stoned.



During the times the Sanhedrin functioned practically no capital punishments were enacted. Rabbi Akivah teaches us that a Sanhedrin which has a capital punishment performed once in 70 years, is considered a Sanhedrin of murderers.

At that time the Romans were the rulers in the country and did not permit the Sanhedrin from performing capital punishments. From these perspectives it is evident that the Jews had no part whatsoever in the crucifixion of Jesus. This can only be traced back to the Romans under Pilate. Besides this, in Judaism there is no such hideous and barbaric death penalty as crucifixion.



These days we unfortunately we have no Sanhedrin, so for violations of Shabbat any punishment is up to the Heavenly Court, which is certainly performed according to the Rabbis.



We have chosen to present a list with the most common main prohibitions of work ‘Av Melachot’, ‘Toledot’ (second degree prohibitions) and Rabbinic prohibitions mentioned in the ‘Kitzur Shulchan Aruch’ (Dutch version: ISBN -13: 978-90-71727-30-6

under appendix 10, Table of the 39 prohibited forms of work on Shabbat, pages 1083-1091).(
























We are grateful to Heleen en Hendrik van Silfhout who compiled the following list for us.



The 39 categories of prohibited forms of work on Sjabbat can be divided into 4 groups:

1.      activities nedded for making bread

2.      activities needed for making material

3.      activities connected to dressing leather

4.      activities connected to construction




Some EXAMPLES of forbidden forms of work:


  • AV MELACHAH: Ploughing (‘Choresh’), i.e. making the earth more suitable for sowing or planting.

TOLEDOT (related activities with the same purpose): removing stones from the earth; digging; dragging a heavy object over a terrain causing a trail.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: sweeping the floor with a hard broom, causing a trace or furrow; scattering sand on the ground.

You are allowed to walk on sand with a baby buggy if your intention is not to leave a trace.

  • AV MELACHAH: Sowing and planting (‘Zoreah’), i.e. enhancing or causing the growth of plants.

TOLEDOT: watering grass; weeding; watering flowers or plants.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: washing ones hands where grass or plants grow; refreshing water in a vase with cut flowers.

You are allowed to put flowers on the windowsill if you have no intention that buds will grow.

  • AV MELACHAH: Harvesting (‘Kotzair’), i.e. cutting a plant that is growing.

TOLEDOT: picking flowers of cutting off a branch.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: smelling flowers which are still connected to their source (because this can lead to picking), climbing a tree on Shabbat, riding on an animal or going to lie in a hammock fastened between trees (which might cause branches to break off).

You are allowed to walk on grass, but only if there is no other path available.

  • AV MELACHAH: Making sheaves (Imur), i.e. Bringing together agricultural or natural products.

TOLEDOT: gathering fruit which has fallen on the ground with the aim of selling or keeping it, or threading it on a string.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: making a bunch of flowers.

  • AV MELACHAH: Selecting (‘Borer’), i.e. Improving by removing waste.

TOLEDOT: sieving meal or fluids; removing rotten fruits from a mixture of good and bad fruits to make the remains more fit for consumption.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: removal of bad fruits from a mixture of good and bad fruit, causing the fit fruits to remain. (Exemption: removing good fruit for immediate consumption is permitted; also permitted is washing and peeling fruit and vegetables for immediate consumption); sorting out specific books or toys to get rid of (without using them); removing an insect from a drink (except when this is done with some fluid); using a skimmer (which separates solid and fluid); removing rotten bits from a head of lettuce.

The ‘Av Melachah’ of ‘Borer’ is covered extensively in Halachic literature and nearly always a Beth Din for Giyur asks questions on it. In principle it concerns selecting the bad from the good, primarily concerning food. A popular question is how one eats fish with bones. Two methods are possible: (1) removing the fish from the fish bones and leaving the fish bones on the plate or (2) taking a piece of fish with the bones in ones mouth and allowing the tongue to do the selecting. In my work “Halacha Aktuell” I write that the famous 'gefillte fish’ has its origin in the prohibition of ‘Borer’. One grinds together the fish with the bones before Shabbat and so solves the problem of ‘Borer’. ‘Borer’ can also be applicable to non-food items. One is not allowed to select cutlery on Shabbat into three groups; one may not select books according to theme or select clothes on Shabbat. Put all the other clothes aside and take the piece of clothes you want to wear.

  • AV MELACHAH: Baking (Afia), i.e. changing a substance through heating to make it more suitable for consumption.

TOLADOT: cooking: heating water to > 45 degrees; adding ingredients to a boiling pan; stirring food that is cooking; adding water to an extract of tea (except when this extract has been kept warm on the Shabbat plate).

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: adding cold milk to hot tea or coffee, unless the latter is contained in a “Kli Shlishi” (example: the kettle containing hot water for Shabbat is called the “Kli Rishon”. If we take water from the “Kli Rishon” and put it in a teapot, then the theapot is the “Kli Sheni”. If we pour the water from the teapot into a cup, the cup is the “Kli Shlishi”. One may then add the cold milk to the tea in the cup).

  • AV MELACHAH: Shaving (‘Gozez’).

TOLADOT: cutting nail or hair.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: combing hair with a hard brush (it is permitted with a soft brush); biting nails.

  • AV MELACHAH: Grinding (‘Tochain’).

TOLADOT: grinding pepper or coffee, grinding/crushing/mashing in a mortar.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: graining for example carrots or cheese, removal of clay that has dried up on for example shoes or clothes. An avocado or banana can be mashed, but with a ‘Shinuy’. Using medicines is prohibited. You may take a pill if you have a lot of pain.

  • AV MELACHAH: Writing (‘Kotaiv’).

TOLADOT: writing, drawing, colouring.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: making a business appointment; making a contract to buy or sell something. Pens and pencils have to be put away before Shabbat as they are “Muktzeh”.

You are not allowed to donate gifts on Shabbat, because resembles business. Writing in the sand or using digital numbers (for a code) is acceptable. One is not allowed to weigh or to measure, but one is allowed to read the temperature on the thermometer and to use measuring cups. You may cut a cake with drawings on it. You can walk with your shoes on sand.

  • AV MELACHAH: Building (‘Boneh’).

TOLADOT: hitting a nail, putting up a tent.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: opening an umbrella (walking with an umbrella on Shabbat, even if it was opened before Shabbat is  also not permitted for two reasons, namely the prohibition of carrying on Shabbat and the prohibition of Marit Ayin” (for an explanation see later)); stones are “Muktzeh” and may not be moved, even if one needs the space where they lie.

One is not allowed to build sand castles or a snowman. You may use retractable tables or chairs, puzzles and Lego. You may not play instruments (you could repair them, which is a ‘Melachah’). You are allowed to open cans and you can also mix two types of yoghurt. You are allowed to dance; but sailing on Shabbat is not allowed (you should embark three days before Shabbat).

  • AV MELACHAH: Making fire (Ma’avir’).

TOLADOT: lighting a flame, smoking a cigarette, using a phone, starting a car, switching a an electrical appliance or light.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: reading with the light of an oil lamp (because one could feel the urge to hold it in such a way that it will produce more light); changing the place of a burning lamp or candle; switching on the light of the fridge by opening the fridge door. A car is “Muktzeh” (one is not allowed to lean against it), as is a telephone, a mobile, a laptop, money, matches, lighters, remote controls etc. One must put them away or cover them before Shabbat.

  • AV MELACHA: Extinguishing fire (‘Mechabeh’).

TOLADOT: blowing out a candle to improve the wick; putting out smouldering wood.

RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: switching off the gass; switching off light (except in cases of danger to life: in that case one is obliged to extinguish a fire).

  • AV MELACHA: The last blow of the hammer (‘Makeh B’Patish’), i.e. the “finishing touch”.

TOLADOT: repairing a clock, machine or instrument; threading shoelaces in new shoes.


RABBINIC PROHIBITIONS: winding a watch or clock; changing its dials; specialised operations with complicated or vulnerable instruments (for example adjustment or repair; for this reason also no use of musical instruments).

One is not allowed to bring new kitchen utensils to the ‘Mikveh’ on




One of the most well known ‘Avot Melachah’ (main prohibitions of work on Shabbat) is ‘Hatmanah’ (insulating or keeping warm  food). During Talmudic times people used a special oven for keeping the food warm, which burned on a very low flame during all of Shabbat and which was sealed with a door so that the heat could not escape. In this way people could enjoy warm food on Shabbat. The Karaites of course did not do this, as we explained before, because of their incorrect and misleading interpretation of the prohibition of making and using fire on Shabbat, namely that no fire is allowed to burn on Shabbat, even if the fire was lit before Shabbat. The consequence being that the Karaites sat in the dark (they were without Shabbat candles) and ate only cold dishes. The Rabbis interpreted the prohibition of making fire to concern only fire we light on Shabbat. However, if we have light the fire before Shabbat, we are permitted to enjoy both light and warm food. Besides this aspect of ‘Oneg Shabbat’ (enjoyment of Shabbat), the Rabbis instituted the duty to eat warm food on Shabbat, to prevent us from being suspected of being a Karaite. Of course this is only allowed according to the Halachic rules if we have put food on the Shabbat hotplate before Shabbat begins.


Through time and thanks to modern technique, we now have Shabbat hotplates which keep the food warm (insulating) for the Shabbat day. Some people use a ‘Blech’ (a piece of aluminium they put on the stove) to diminish the fire/heating power, so the food doesn't burn. There are two sorts of Shabbat hotplates: (a) made of metal, mostly from Israël. The problem is that these hotplates are not tempered. Thus there is the serious danger that the food on this aluminium plate will be burned. Two possible solutions for this problem exist (1) covering the Shabbat hotplate with a thick aluminium foil or (2) using an asbestos plate under the pans. (b) Shabbat hotplate made of glass, mostly used in important restaurants to keep the food warm. These plates are about three times as expensive as the plate made from aluminium, but the big advantage is that the food is always tempered and thus does not burn (Rommelsbacher, available at all quality shops for kitchen utensils in Germany).


For Halachah it is important that we differentiate between two sorts of food: solid and fluid food. Concerning solid food, the Talmudic rule is ‘Ein Bishul Achar Bishul’ which means that cooking two times is not possible for solid food. The logic behind this reasoning is that one can also eat the cooked food cold. Thus one can eat cold chicken, rice or schnitzel without problems. Accordingly, one may place cold food on the Shabbat plate with a ‘Shinuy’ (a cange from the ordinary way of doing it). One is permitted to put a not so fresh ‘Challah’ on the pots with a ‘Shinuy’ to make it crispier. One can put a pot of rice on other pans which are already on the hotplate with a ‘Shinuy’, to warm the pot with rice with the steam from the other pots. You are allowed to place a cooked schnitzel wrapped in aluminium foyle (‘Shinuy’) on the hotplate.

The situation for fluid food is different, for example for soup, Chulent or gulash.  The rule ‘Ein Bishul Achar Bishul’ does not apply for fluid foods. This because a cold soup or Chulent is not enjoyable, and can only be eaten warm if we are to enjoy it. The consequence is that we must place the fluid foodstuffs like soup or Chulent, preferably already heated, on the hotplate before Shabbat.

Halachah distinguishes three degrees of ‘Bishul’ in connection with ‘Hatmanah’ (insulating) of fluid foodstuffs:


1.       Kli Rishon (first degree of cooking) concerns a pan on the hotplate. In such a case one may not for example directly take soup from the pan with a spoon to taste it. One may not stir or fill a spoon to the rim, to avoid the fluid falling back into the pan. Each action we have described is considered ‘Bishul’, because the pan is directly on the hotplate or stove.
The same applies to an electric warm water cooker. We are not permitted to scoop water directly from the warm water cooker.


If you remove the ‘Kli Rishon’ from the hotplate and put it on the table or sink, you are not permitted to return the ‘Kli Rishon’ to the hotplate. The fact that you place the 'Kli Rishon’ on a table or sink, means that Halachically speaking you do not have the  intention of returning it to the hotplate.
Only if you continuously hold the pan with both hands and do not put it down, you let it be known that you have the intention of returning the ‘Kli Rishon’ to the hotplate. This is then not considered to be ‘Bishul’.


2.       Kli Sheni(second degree cooking). According to many Halachic autorities a ‘Kli Sheni’ is not considered ‘Bishul’ (cooking) anymore and may be used. In the case of soup, Chulent etc. the ‘Kli Sheni’ is the plate or soupière into which one scoops the soup/Chulent.Kli Sheni’ is also the cup or glass into which you let the hot water stream from the electrical warm water cooker once you have opened the tap. The glass/cup with the warm water is the ‘Kli Sheni’. This may, according to many Halachic authorities be used for soup, Chulent, tea or coffee.


3.       Kli Shlishi(third degree of cooking). According to all Halachic authorities this is not considered to be  ‘Bishul and may ‘Lechatchila’ (a priori) be used. With soup or Chulent the ‘Kli Shlishi’ is the plate one scoops the soup or Chulent into from a soupière (‘Kli Sheni’). With water from the electrical warm water cooker a ‘Kli Shlishi’ appears if one uses a glass/cup with warm water (‘Kli Sheni’) to pour into another glass/cup, which than becomes the ‘Kli Shlishi’. According to all authorities this may be used for tea and coffee. If one uses teabags, one should be careful not to squeeze the teabags.


There are three types of Rabbinical prohibitions on Shabbat which have a preventive character. The reason behind these prohibitions is that we should not be seduced to profane the Shabbat by touching/carrying forbidden items, or losing the atmosphere and character of the Shabbat day by asking non-Jews to perform forbidden work for us or getting engaged in activities that are unfit and even contradict the spirit of Shabbat

1.       Muktzeh a preventive measure instated by the Rabbis in order to avoid that we profane the Shabbat. There are many types of ‘Muktzeh’, but we have selected the five most common types of ‘Muktzeh’. For more details or information, one should consult the most common and complete work on Shabbat: Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata, last revised edition 2010, by Rav Jehoshua Neuwirth, s.z.l. This work is also available in English translation in three volumes, published by Feldheim Publications.

The five most common types of ‘Muktzeh’ are:

a.       Muktzeh Machmat Gufo’, for instance stones, sand or merchandise. You may not remove this type of ‘Muktzeh’, even if you need the space, for instance to be able to sit or to place a dish there. If you have a stone on your table and you want to eat a plate of soup, you may not remove/push the stone, because the substance itself is ‘Muktzeh’.

b.       Muktzeh’, that we usually use for forbidden work, like a hammer, nails or saw. If for instance a hammer is on your chair and you want to sit on the chair, you may remove it. Or if you want to open a coconut, you may use a hammer in order to open it.

c.       Muktzeh’, because of a possible loss of money, for instance expensive porcelain, a unique collection of stamps or paintings.

d.       Muktzeh’ because of a Mitzvah we may not perform on Shabbat, like Tefillin, Shofar, Lulav or Megillah. If by accident you forgot to remove the Tefillin bag from the Tallit bag before Shabbat, you may do it in a speedy manner.

e.       Muktzeh” which is a basis for something forbidden, like a table on which candlesticks are standing. You are not allowed to remove the candlesticks or the table, even if there are no burning candles in the candlesticks, because it was a base for a forbidden work. An exception would be if you let it be known before Shabbat that you need the space, for instance by placing a small Challah on the tray of the candlesticks. By doing this you may, via the Challah which is not ‘Multzeh’, remove the tray with the burned out candlesticks or even replace the table if necessary.


2.       Shvut’, ‘Marit Ayin and UvDin D’Chol’: these things were forbidden by the Rabbis, because of the fear that if we allow them, we are going to lose the atmosphere and character of Shabbat.

Shvut basically means that you are not allowed to ask a non-Jew to do work for you which you are forbidden to do on Shabbat. You are not allowed to tell a non-Jew to put on the light for you in case of an electricity shortcut. However, you may tell the non-Jew in a non-direct manner that it is dark and he will hopefully understand by himself what needs to be done.

You are not allowed to bring the car to the mechanic shortly before Shabbat, because basically it means that the mechanic has to do the work for you on Shabbat. But you are allowed to bring it early on Friday and it is then up to the mechanic when he is going to repair the car. He has enough time to repair it on Friday and it is his choice when to repair it.

The last of the 39 forbidden categories of work on Shabbat is ‘Makeh B’Patish, namely the finishing act for an item.

In the prohibition of “Shvut” the prohibition to immerse utensils in the ‘Mikveh’ on Shabbat would also be included, because this is the finishing touch (‘Makeh B’Patish) of the vessel so that we can use it after immersion. This is also included in the prohibition of ‘Shvut’.

We are not allowed to separate ‘Trumah’ and ‘Ma’aser’ on Shabbat, because this is the finishing touch that makes the vegetables and fruits edible. This is another example of ‘Shvut’ on Shabbat.

You are allowed to ask a non-Jew to do forbidden work in case of a sick person, even when his/her life is not in danger. For instance if the sick person cannot sleep because of the light, you may ask a non-Jew to turn it off. In case of a rapid and unexpected climate change from hot to cold or vice versa, you are allowed to ask a non-Jew to turn the heating on or off if necessary, since according to the Talmud: ‘all people are potential candidates to become sick in case of a rapid change of climate’.

In case of death on Shabbat you are allowed to ask a non-Jew to turn the air-conditioning or ventilator on for the honour of the dead person (Kevod HaMet’) in order to avoid the disintegration of the corpse and a bad smell.

Marit Ayin’:

You are not allowed to do things on Shabbat so that other people might believe that you have violated Shabbat.

If your clothes got wet on Shabbat, you are not allowed to hang them on the terrace, because people might believe that you washed your clothes on Shabbat.

You are not allowed to pass or to enter a shop, even if you don’t consume anything, because people might think that you consumed something.

You are not allowed to enter a ‘Treife’ butcher shop, not on weekdays and not on Shabbat and ask for information, because people might think that you consumed non-Kosher meat.

An Israeli who is in Antwerp for Yom Tov may not do anything forbidden for the Jews of Antwerp on the second day of Yom Tov, and may not publically transgress ‘Yom Tov’ even in a place where there are no Jews, because of ‘Marit Ayin’.

You are not allowed to stroll in certain immoral streets (red-light district) because people might suspect you of immorality.


UvDin D’Chol’:

We have to avoid certain activities on Shabbat which are going to cause the loss of the atmosphere and character of Shabbat.

We may not sunbathe on our terrace or in our garden on Shabbat.

We may not jog and run on Shabbat, because it causes us to sweat and smell bad and it is not in accordance with the atmosphere of Shabbat.

We may not measure on Shabbat, even in private, because this contravenes the sphere of Shabbat.

We may not read profane books, even study books, on Shabbat and definitely not non-Kosher newspapers, because it is ‘UvDin D’Chol’.

Boys may not play football on Shabbat, even if there is no possible infringement of a Shabbat law, for instance on a paved ground, because of ‘UvDin D’Chol’.



1.       Eruvin

Introduction of ‘Eruvin’:

It was Shlomo HaMelech (King Salomon) who according to the Talmud introduced the concept of ‘Eruvin’ to facilitate life on Shabbat for observant Jewish society. ‘Eruvin’ is one of the seven Rabbinic Mitzvot. (The seven Rabbinic Mitzvot are: Chanukah, Purim, Netilat Yadayim (ritual washing of the hands), Hadlakat Nerot (kindling the Shabbat and Yom Tov candles), Eruvin, Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick), Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality)).

The concept of ‘Eruvin’ is explained in the Mishnah, Talmud and Halachah/’Shulchan Aruch’. It should be studied and be practised in every place where there is a substantial number of ‘Shomrei Shabbat’, so that we can make life easier on Shabbat and we can also prevent violations of Shabbat.

Most opponents who are against establishing an ‘Eruv’ around the Jewish neighbourhood are of the opinion that if we introduce an ‘Eruv’, people will violate Shabbat when they are outside of the boundaries of the ‘Eruv’ or visiting a place without an ‘Eruv’ (because they will forget and carry, being used to carry on Shabbat).

Antwerp probably has the best ‘Eruv’ in Europe. Dayan HaRav Shalom HaKohen Sternberg, s.z.l. erected this Eruv in 1902, which is the oldest still existing ‘Eruv’ in the world, and he received  approbations, support and blessings from all great pre-Shoah Halachic authorities of Eastern Europe, including the Sochatov Rebbe (1838-1910 C.E.), known as ‘Avnei Nezer’.

Dayan HaRav Shalom Sternberg, s.z.l.  Publicised all the designs and plans in his work ‘Birkat Shalom’ and later Rav Pinchas Kornfeld, Shlita, General Secretary of the Machsike Hadas Community, described this in detail in his work ‘Rechovot Ha’Ir’.


Rabbi Pinchas Kornfled, Shlita (left), together with Docter Gershon Guttfreund of the Orthodox Jewish Machsike Hadas Community. Rav Pinchas Kornfeld, Shlita, wrote a very important work on the ‘Eruv’ in Antwerp with the title ‘Rechovot Ha’Ir’. Rav Pinchas Kornfeld, Shlita, is Chairman and the ‘Eminence Grise’ of the Machsike Hadas Community. Dokter Gershon Guttfreund, Shlita (right) is a member of the Executive Board. He is a prominent religious ‘Shomer Torah uMitzvothdocter who performs much ‘Chessed’ (charity) in our city and is most competent concerning Halachic medical questions.


The ‘Eruv’ of Antwerpen which generally encompasses the areas with postal codes 2000 and 2018 and a small part of Berchem.

The principle of ‘Eruv’ is that we build a Halachic wall around the Jewish area, which consists of pillars, cables, wires and cords or natural separations. The river Schelde and railway bridges around the city form a natural part of the ‘Eruv’ in Antwerp. The ‘Eruv’ is regarded as one whole area, from the Jewish neighbourhoods till the Schelde, basically surrounding the postal codes 2000 and 2018.

Repairing an ‘Eruv’ requires a deep understanding of the Halachah, specifically the quite complicated Halachot of establishing an ‘Eruv’, and belongs to the domain of a Beth Din.

Establishing an ‘Eruv’ requires a permit from the city authorities and sometimes the permission of private proprietors of real estate where the ‘Eruv’ is situated. It is a costly enterprise and it requires a weekly check-up to see if the ‘Eruv’ is still Kosher or if it has been damaged by humans or nature forces, like snow and storm winds.

In an ‘Eruv’ of the city you can carry - within the ‘Eruv’ borders - items from your private domain to the public domain and vice versa, except of course for ‘Muktzeh’ items.

A public domain is from a strict Torah point of view, an area which has a daily circulation of 600.000 people walking or driving within this street or domain. Current examples are Oxford Street in London, the Champs-Élysées in Paris or Fifth Avenue in New York. On such a street or domain no ‘Eruv’ can be established. Such streets are known as ‘Reshut HaRabim D’Orayta’ and so Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, s.z.l.(1895-1980 C.E.) wrote in his famous responsa work ‘Igrot Moshe’ that no ‘Eruv’ can be established for Manhattan, because there is a ‘Reshut HaRabim D’Orayta’ in Fifth Avenue, Manhattan.

Chief Rabbi Rav Aryeh Ralbag, Shlita (left) together with Dayan Eliezer Wolff, Shlita (in the middle) and Dayan Raphael Evers, Shlita (right) look at a map to establish the ‘Eruv’ around the Jewish neighbourhood of Amsterdam.


It is historically interesting to note that 25 years ago it was Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, Shlita, Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, who championed the establishment of an ‘Eruv’ in Amsterdam. However, he encountered strong resistance to this from the then Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Rabbi Meir Just (1908-2010 C.E.), the most prominent Halachic Authority of the Netherlands after the ‘Shoah’. As a consequence of this difference of opinion Chief Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag, Shlita, left Amsterdam and established an independent community in Brooklyn, New York, called ‘Young Israel of Avenue K’. He manages a lucrative Kashrut family-business known as Triangle K. He was elected in Amsterdam in 2008 after the dismissal of Chief Rabbi Louis who served for 15 years as Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Community has a long record of dismissing Rabbis, starting with Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi (1656-1718 C.E.), known as Chacham Tzvi who was brutally driven out from his position as Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam. Today his portrait is adorning the Rabbinical page of the NIK. What a change of mind in the Amsterdam Community! It is noteworthy to mention that Rav Aryeh Ralbag, Shlita, serves both in his mother community in Brooklyn for seven weeks and for one week in his second community of Amsterdam. I do not know of any other place that does this. In Rabbinical circles the position of being a Rabbi in Amsterdam is often referred to as a ‘Halleluya’ position because of the many dismissals of Rabbis in Amsterdam.



1.       Reshut Karmelit’: neither a private nor a public domain, for example a beach, shopping centre, staircase or a nature reserve. We are not allowed to carry in or out in a ‘Karmelit’ according to the Rabbis. (It is not be confused with the funicular train of Haifa which connects the lower Carmel with the upper Carmel. This train is known as Carmelit.)

2.       Makom Tur’: a very narrow space where barely one person can stand or sit. It would be something like 10-20 centimetres diameter. One is not allowed to carry in this space on Shabbat.            

3.       Eruv Reshuyot’: an ‘Eruv’ of domains (‘Reshuyot’). If one speaks about ‘Eruv’ without any further description, it usually means ‘Eruv Reshuyot’. The name ‘Eruv’ is usually used in the context of a city, village or an area with substantial habitation by Jewish people.


Eruv Chatzerot’ is to be seen in the Oostenstraat-synagogue of ‘Machsike Hadass’ in Antwerp.

4.       Eruv Chatzerot’: Eruv of gardens or a stairway in an apartment house.

In a city where there is no ‘Eruv’, a group of Jewish people living together can make an ‘Eruv Chatzerot’. For example, religious Jewish people living in the same building, or five religious families living next to each other in houses attached to each other, can make an ‘Eruv Chatzerot’ in a staircase of an apartment house or terrace in order to carry from one garden into another or in the staircase. It is a requirement that they are all ‘Shomer Torah uMitzvoth’.

This ‘Eruv’ is based on the fact that all participants are partners in sharing the expenses of a package of ‘Matzah’. The Eruv has to be renewed every ‘Erev Pesach’ on a package of Matzah. This package of ‘Matzah’ has to be kept in a place which is accessible to everyone.

An ‘Eruv Chatzerot’ is not necessary if there is a city ‘Eruv’.

The reason that in the Oostenstraat synagogue of Antwerp you can see an ‘Eruv Chatzerot’ in a hermetically closed box is that people should be aware that, in case the general ‘Eruv’ of the city is out of order, they have to establish a ‘Eruv Chatzerot’ if the circumstances allow it.


In this drawing one can see how an ‘Eruv Chatzerot’ is constructed around a Jewish neighbourhood. Around the Jewish neighbourhood  pillars with cables are put up. In this way the Jewish neighbourhood is surrounded by an ‘imaginary’ Halachic wall.
In the background one can see a sign with ‘Eruv Techumin’, which means that one is permitted to walk 2000 cubits from the city limits to this sign if one has made an ‘Eruv Techumin’.


5.       Eruv Techumin’: Eruv of the city border. One can walk without any limit in the streets as long as one is in the urban area of the city. If one reaches the city limits, one is allowed to go a further 2000 cubits (about 1500 meter) in every direction.

If one creates an ‘Eruv Techumin’ before Shabbat, he is allowed to walk another 2000 cubits in every direction after he reached the first 2000 cubits.

This ‘Eruv’ consists of a dish of a hard-boiled egg and one piece of ‘Matzah’ or ‘Challah’ which are placed at the end of the 2000 cubits before Shabbat. One has to say a ‘Berachah’ and then one is permitted to walk another 2000 cubits.

This ‘Eruv’ constitutes the residence of the one who made the ‘Eruv Techumin’ and therefore he may walk another 2000 cubits. This ‘Eruv’ is rarely used nowadays. In the past the cities were much smaller and by using this ‘Eruv’, Jewish people from the city could visit the people in the towns who lived on the border of the city and vice versa.

This ‘Eruv’ is still used nowadays to visit sick people in a hospital just outside the city.

Eruv Tavshilin

This chapter has been written by Matthijs (Mattityahu Akiva) Strijker, who is preparing to do Giyur.

On Shabbat we may under no circumstances cook, bake, insulate or transfer fire from a burning fire source. However, in regard to Yom Tov, the Torah permits exclusively to prepare, cook, bake, insulate, to transfer fire from a burning fire source and even to slaughter (‘Shechitah’) on Yom Tov, because all things which are necessary to ‘keep us alive’. ‘Ochel Nefesh’ (‘food for the soul’) is allowed on Yom Tov, with one restriction, namely that we may not create new fire on Yom Tov or extinguish the fire of a burning fire source. But we may use a fire source that was put on before Yom Tov and which remains burning on Yom Tov.

On Yom Tov we may cook only the food we need right away for the next meal. We may not cook ahead from the first day of Yom Tov for the second day of Yom Tov. We may cook in the morning for lunch, but we are not allowed to cook in the morning for the meal in the evening. We are allowed to cook only for Jewish people on Yom Tov, because the Torah explicitly mentions ‘Lachem’ (‘for you’) and the Rabbis understood ‘for you’, as ‘Bnei Brit’, the Jews, and not for non-Jews.

What about people who are busy with the preparations for Giyur? My Rebbe, Rav Ahron Daum, Shlita told me that his Rebbe and teacher Rabbi Moshe Botschko (1916-2010 C.E.), s.z.l., of Montreux, Switzerland, wrote in a ‘Teshuva’ (responsa) that people who are already well established in the process of Giyur are not considered to be fully ‘Nochrim’ (non-Jews). My Rebbe, Rav Ahron Daum, Shlita, asked Dayan Rabbi David Jacob Schmall, Shlita, of the ‘Shomre Hadass’ community in Antwerp and he told him that Dayan Rav Krausz, head of the Manchester Beth Din wrote a ‘Teshuva’ about it, in which he favours a lenient standpoint and permits inviting people who are in the process of Giyur on Yom Tov and naturally also to cook for them.

Rabbi Moshe Botschko (1916-2010 C.E.) s.z.l.  Dayan Rabbi Y.D. Schmahl, Shlita      Dayan Rabbi Gavriel Krausz, Shlita

What is the situation if Shabbat follows Yom Tov, for instance if  Yom Tov falls on Thursday and Friday, followed by Shabbat, as often occurs outside Eretz Israel, but it can also happen in Eretz Israel if Rosh HaShana falls on Thursday and Friday like at the start of this year, 5774, because Rosh HaShana is kept for two days all over the world. Another possibility can be if Yom Tov falls on Friday and Shabbat. Also here we face the same problem: are we allowed to prepare on Yom Tov for Shabbat?

From the standpoint of the Torah we are only allowed to prepare food on and for Yom Tov and not for Shabbat. Considering the fact that in ancient times there were no freezers or refrigerators and food had to be eaten right away and could not be stored for a long time, it would mean in case of a sequence of two days Yom Tov on Thursday and Friday, followed by Shabbat, that people would stay without food on Shabbat, because they were not allowed to cook on Yom Tov for the Shabbat.


The concept of ‘Eruv’ in general is to ease the life of observant Jews keeping Shabbat. It is ascribed to King Salomon that he in his wisdom introduced the concept of ‘Eruvin’ and indeed ‘Eruvin’ is one of the seven Rabbinical Mitzvoth.

To solve our problem the Rabbis introduced the concept of ‘Eruv Tavshilin’.

On Erev (eve) Yom Tov in a case of Shabbat following on from a Yom Tov, that is to say either Wednesday or Thursday before the start of Yom Tov, every family will make an ‘Eruv Tavshilin’.


It has to be done on Erev Yom Tov and not on Yom Tov. It can be done by the ‘Ba’al HaBayit’ (master of the house) or ‘Ba’alat Habayit’ (lady of the house).

The Eruv consist of a complete ‘Challah’ or complete ‘Matzah’, symbolizing the allowance of baking on Yom Tov for Shabbat, and a cooked dish, usually a hard-boiled egg, symbolizing that we are allowed to cook from a burning source of fire on Yom Tov for Shabbat.

We put the two items on a plate in a well guarded place and will say the ‘Beracha al Eruv Tavshilin’ followed by a declaration in Aramaic for those who understand Aramaic or otherwise in one's mother tongue. Because it is a declaration it has to be understood by the person who makes the declaration.

The declaration contains the following statement: ‘’With this ‘Eruv’ we are allowed to cook, bake, insulate (keep warm), transfer light from a burning source lit before Yom Tov, for us and all Israelites who live in this city’’.




The Talmud explains the ‘Eruv Tavshilin’ as follows:

A. by putting an ‘Eruv Tavshilin’, all food prepared on Yom Tov is also intended as being prepared for Shabbat. So to speak all food that we cook on Yom Tov is ‘mixed’ (‘Eruv’) together for Yom Tov and Shabbat.

B. by putting an ‘Eruv Tavshilin’ we let it be known that only on Yom Tov we are allowed to cook, but not on Shabbat. We are allowed to cook on a Yom Tov which falls on Friday before Shabbat, but we are not allowed to cook ahead on Thursday for the second day of Yom Tov and definitely not for Shabbat.

C. Another possible explanation would be that by putting the ‘Eruv Tavshilin’ on ‘Erev Yom Tov’ we already started to cook on ‘Erev Yom Tov’ and we will finish it on Yom Tov.

We are not allowed to eat the Eruv before we finished the cooking for Shabbat.


In case that the Challah or Matzah got lost or was mistakenly eaten before Shabbat, it is still allowed to cook or insulate, but if the dish (the hard-boiled egg) was eaten, we may not continue to prepare the food for Shabbat.

The custom is to use the Matzah or Challah for ‘Lechem Mishneh‘ on Shabbat, so that we are going to do two Mitzvoth with the Challah: “Eruv Tavshilin” and ‘Lechem Mishneh’.


If somebody forgot to put aEruv Tavshilin’ or was unaware of the obligation to put ‘Eruv Tavshilin’ (“Shogeg”) he/she may rely on the Rabbi’s ‘Eruv’ or on the inhabitants of the city, because in the declaration of the ‘Eruv’ we explicitly state that it is for us and all the Jews who live in this city. So ‘Eruv’ in this case also becomes ‘Arevut’, solidarity with our fellow Jew. However, if one did not put an ‘Eruv Tavshilin’ on purpose (‘Mezid’), he/she may not prepare food on Yom Tov for Shabbat.

This is a summary of the Halachoth of Eruv Tavshilin in

Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata

A decorative poster from the early nineteen century with the ‘Berachah’ of ‘Eruv Tavshilin’ and the declaration which follows after setting aside the ‘Eruv’ and saying the ‘Berachah’.


We have made an attempt in this brief essay to bring together all of the important aspects of Shabbat, both the religious Jewish perspective on Shabbat as well as most Halachic aspects of Shabbat.

Literally hundreds of books have been written on Shabbat in Hebrew and other languages. It was a difficult challenge for us to write about such a complicated theme in such relatively little space.

In writing this essay I had two groups in mind: (1) candidates for Giyur and (2) people who are interested in becoming Jewish, to give them the chance enrich their knowledge about Shabbat. It is impossible to cover all the aspects of the Shabbat commandment, because in principle it is a lifelong assignment to learn all the various and diverse details of this most central commandment of Judaism.

We might well ask why the Shabbat command is of the highest priority and is one of the few Mitzvoth that is explicitly demanded to be taught thoroughly to a potential Giyur candidate (who must also keep it!) by our teachers, both in Talmud and in ‘Shulchan Aruch’.

According to Rabbi Yehuda Ha’Levi (1075-1141 C.E.), the author of ‘Kuzari’ (one of the foundation stones of philosophical Judaism), the reason for the prominent position of the commandment of Shabbat, is that those who keep Shabbat, show that they believe in HaShem and hold onto the work of Creation of HaShem and do not follow the false idea of an eternally existing world.

Rabbi Yehuda Ha’Levi also states the idea that by keeping Shabbat our soul is healed en cleanses itself of the load, pressure and unrest it encounters during the six working days.

Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164 C.E.), one of the most well-known and original exegetics of Tenach from the Middle Ages states the idea that Shabbat was given to enable us to spend more time studying Torah and no time and thought on worldly matters.

During the times of the Prophets it was customary to visit the Temple on Shabbat and learn Torah from the Sages or Prophets.

Nachmanides (1194-1270 C.E.), one of the most well known Kaballistic exegetics of Torah, writes in his Torah-commentary on the Shabbat commandment, that the Shabbat day is the source of all blessings and that the holiness of Shabbat reflects on the other six working days of the week.

This is the reason that our Sages have taught us that the Shabbat commandment is equal in weight to all the other commandments put together. When we keep Shabbat we give testimony that we believe in the Work of Creation of HaShem. When we profane Shabbat, we deny that a Creator of this world exists. We count all the days towards Shabbat, for example we say: today is the first day to Shabbat, today is the second day to Shabbat etc. Non-Jews however give their days the names of planets, idols, the sun, moon and other natural phenomena.

Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abrabanel (1437-1508 C.E.), one of the most remarkable exegetics of all of Tenach from the late Middle Ages, writes about the Torah verse ‘’My Shabbatot you shall observe...’’ (VaYikra/Leviticus 26:2): the Torah mentions two kinds of Shabbat: the Shabbat of this material world as a remembrance of Creation and the renewal of this world, and Shabbat as a spiritual Shabbat, as a remembrance of the eternal existence of the soul in the hereafter, after death. Shabbat is here a reflection of the deep faith that the soul will not be lost and her rest in the future world of the souls.

In the Kaballah we find the concept of the blessing of Shabbat consisting of the human not suffering any material loss, despite not working on Shabbat. ‘’The Eternal sends His blessing to those who respect His will’’, writes Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (1522-1570 C.E.) in his most well known Kaballistic work ‘Pardes Rimonim’.


Rabbi Samsom Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 C.E.), Rabbi of the Neo-Orthodox religious community of Frankfurt am Main, where also I served as Chief Rabbi for some years, writes in his famous commentary on the Pentateuch: ‘’Of all the good gifts our Torah gives to those who keep to Torah, there is no better gift than the age old Mitzvah of Shabbat. ‘Queen Shabbat’ brings a new world into the house of the Jewish human being on Shabbat; no memory of the six working days lingers; no world of sadness and worries, no distress and gloom.”


Shabbat brings forth an atmosphere which is completely good and is characterised by peace and harmony. Even the walls of the house reflect that is Shabbat day, a day of holiness and rest. A Jewish human removes the yoke of labour and dusts off the dirt of the working days. The lines on his brow disappear on Shabbat and his soul returns to its rest. This is the holy Shabbat of the People of Israel and thus the Shabbat day reflects back on the Jewish human being.


Shabbat is the most spiritual day of the week. It accords us a spiritual dimension. All week long a human is preoccupied with his/her livelihood, as the Torah states: ‘’By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread ...’’ (Bereshit/Genenesis 3:19.). How can a Jewish human being spread the light of its Faith throughout the world in this manner and how can he keep to his G'dly destination to be a light for the nations?


This forms the reason that HaShem gave us the Shabbat day, not only as a day of physical rest, but especially as a day of holiness for our People. It is the day during which we are intensely preoccupied with holy interests: we learn about the weekly readings from the Torah and Prophets, we sing the holy Shabbat songs, listen to Torah discourses. In short, it is a day which is completely spiritual. For this reason this day begins with a ‘Kiddush’, the declaration that Shabbat is a special and holy day, and ends with the Havdalah to differentiate between Shabbat and the working days.

Our Sages make a connection between the light of the Shabbat candles and the Messianic light that will shine over Tzion and Jeruzalem. In ‘Yalkut Shimoni’ we find: ‘’if you keep the lights of Shabbat, I will show you the lights over Tzion’. As we say in our Morning Prayer every day: ‘’HaShem will at the Messianic Time let shine a new (spiritual) light on Tzion and Jerusyalayim, and may we all soon be privileged to merit to behold it with our eyes’’ Amen.



Prof. Rabbijn Ahron Daum, B.A., M.S., Emeritus Chief Rabbi of Frankfurt am Main.

25 Kislev (Chanukkah) 5774/28 November 2013


First adaptation and photo material:

Mattityahu Akiva Strijker


Adaptation in English and Dutch:

Margreet Westbroek, the Netherlands


Contribution in Dutch:

Heleen en Hendrik van Silfhout , Middelburg Nederland


Photoshop and special effects;

Angelo Prins, Antwerpen


Website designer:

Yitzchak Berger, Melbourne, Australië




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