The Commandment to Keep and Remember

For the Jews, Shabbat is the most important day of the week. What is more, the Jewish tradition considers Shabbat more sacred than any other holiday—even Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). It is the only holiday specifically addressed in the Ten Statements, where God commands the Jews to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” This charge, a sign of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, carries with it both a blessing and a responsibility.

What is a midrash?

A midrash is a commentary or a story that deals with a biblical passage and attempts in some way to explain it or elaborate on it. A midrash may be understood in opposition to a peshat, or the literal interpretation of a particular biblical passage.

Shabbat is such a unique time that it has been compared to the Messianic Age. A midrash explains that when God was preparing to give the Torah to the Israelites, He said that He had something extraordinary to give them if they would accept His commandments and the Torah. The Jews asked what that could be and God replied that it was the “world-to-come.” The Israelites wanted to know what it was like, and God answered that it was just like Shabbat because the world to come is simply one long Shabbat.

The word Shabbat comes from the Hebrew root shin-bet-tav, which means “to rest” or “cessation of labor.” It is also referred to as the Sabbath Queen, the Queen of the week, or the Bride because Jewish mystics believed that on Sabbath eve, God's Presence or Shekinah (often considered to be God's feminine component) descends to earth.

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