As the sun sets each Friday night, Jewish women around the world light candles to usher in the Sabbath – Shabbat. For twenty-five hours, we step back from the worries of the work-week to reflect and spend time with our loved ones.
The commencement of the Shabbat meal–the kiddush (sanctification)–sets the tone for the meal and day and defines what makes it special. The words in the kiddush testify that G‑d, Creator of the world, rested on the seventh day and sanctified it, telling us that this is not an ordinary day and not simply a meal, rather it is a celebration and affirmation of this day that G‑d has consecrated.
A big part of the “delight” of Shabbat is the enjoyment of three Shabbat meals, mainly the first two—Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch—that are elegantly prepared, preceded by the sipping of ceremonial kiddush wine and the breaking of traditional challah bread, and lingered over with songs, inspiring thoughts and camaraderie.
Shabbat is a day of holiness, set apart and elevated above the rest of the week. The special laws pertaining to Shabbat preserve its sanctity and beauty. The prohibitions against “work,” far from being negative or burdensome, are an integral part of the experience of Shabbat as a day when body and soul are in true harmony.