Shabbat, or the Sabbath, is a key holiday within the Jewish year. Like all Jewish days, the Sabbath begins and ends at sundown. Every week, from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, all work is set aside in fulfillment of the commandment to rest on the seventh day. Celebrating the Sabbath commences with the lighting of candles and recitation of prayers just before sunset, and continues with family gatherings, prayer, study, and song through the following day.
Because Shabbat was a home- as much as a synagogue-based holiday, each member of the family had a role to play in its celebration. Women and girls would spend Fridays getting the home ready for the Sabbath, cleaning and cooking. By late afternoon, as elaborate a dinner as the family could afford was prepared; and, since no cooking was allowed after sunset, special long-cooking dishes were placed in individual or communal ovens for consumption the following day. Just before sunset, the woman of the house would light and bless the Sabbath candles. Shabbat dinner, ideally a festive, family moment, would start with the man of the house blessing the wine (kiddush) and the woman saying the blessing over the special bread, the challah. Boys and men devoted Saturday morning to study and prayer; by the afternoon, while some continued to study and pray, others turned to rest and sociability. The family reconvened in the home for the conclusion of the Sabbath. The havdalah ceremony marked the day's closure; a special braided candle, wine, and sweet spices were part of the ritual. As the 1921 print by Jakob Steinhardt shows, the Sabbath, because of its association with joy and plenty, was often used by artists as a vehicle to lend greater poignancy to their depictions of Jewish poverty and misery.
The central place of the Sabbath in Jewish life, the domestic rituals upon which it rested, and the objects used in its celebration (candlesticks, kiddush cup, havdalah candles and spice box) inspired many illustrators and artists across Europe and across the centuries.
3. Isaac Snowman (1874-1947). Ushering in the Jewish Sabbath. [In: The Illustrated London News, April 9, 1898.]
|5. Minhagim. Amsterdam: Yitshak di Kordovah, .|
|6. Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1799-1882). Sabbath-Ruhe auf der Gasse. In: Oppenheim. Bilder aus dem altjüdischen Familien-Leben / photographirt von J. Schaefer. Frankfurt am Main: Heinrich Keller, [18--?]|