How to keep Shabbat Holy

Many sincere descendents of Israel are awakening and returning to Torah and Covenant with the one true God of Israel and one of the first steps is a sincere interest in keeping the 7th day Shabbat as this is the Almighty’s sign which seperates the “sheep” from the “goats” and seperates His people from the world and the false Babylonian system of religion most are following blindly. In this week’s Torah parashah Beshalach, in Exodus 16 we read that the children of Israel are reminded about shabbat after their time in Egypt, as God instructed them to gather a double portion of manna on Friday, but tells them that none will descend on Shabbat, the divinely decreed day of rest, (as even He does not do any creative work on the 7th day). Some (like us today) disregard His instruction and still go to gather manna on the seventh day, but find nothing (as the blessing is in resting and trusting Him, and not working – i.e. trusting in ourselves!)

Yah reminds them later in Exodus 31:13 saying to Moshe,

Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Truly my sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.

The prophet Ezekiel in chapter 20 verse 20 acts as a double witness confirmation saying,

Keep my Sabbaths holy, which are a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.”

Many people write to us and sincerely ask, “How should I be keeping Shabbat holy?” We hope this article on the subject helps and blesses you in your knowledge and spiritual growth! In regards to the Shabbat we are commanded to remember “to keep it holy” in Ex 20:8 which means to set it apart from normal common activity.  (For more Biblical proof on how the 7th day Sabbath is still valid and essential today click here) God expounds a little more through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 58:13-14 saying,

“If you will turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day and you don’t think your own thoughts or speak your own words, then you will ride on the heights of the Earth and be fed with the inheritance of Jacob/Israel”

In essence He is saying we will be blessed!  This tells us, “that which is holy” is set apart from “that which is common” which includes all form of work; i.e. anything laborious or creative, buying and selling, worldly thoughts and normal pleasures that we would engage in during the 6 days of work.  It is permissible to be in nature as God reveals his great love through nature; to take short walks and to meditate on his word in nature, but I would not promote anything arduous such as long hikes or carrying anything unnecessary.  In ancient times they knew the details of the law including exactly how far was the permissible Sabbth’s day journey… and the Jewish people have preserved that knowledge to today.

Exodus 16:29-30 says, “Bear in mind that Adonai has given you the Shabbat, that is why on the 6th day He gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the 7th day; no one is to go out. So the people rested on the 7th day.”

This reveals another dynamic of keeping shabbat holy and that is that Friday is the preparation day where we should produce a double portion to carry over so we do not have to cook on shabbat or clean. Even the cleaning of our bodies and house is done before sabbath on Friday.


On Shabbat we focus on the weekly Torah portion at the Assembly havurah or Synogogue and love spending time with our families and fellowship like-minded community.  While we are commanded to rest, Shabbat is one of the feast days in Leviticus 23 and we are commanded to make it a joyous delight called an “oneg” in Hebrew,  which we do with festive song, and our best tablecloth and clothes for Friday night dinner when we usher in Shabbat with Kiddush, candle lighting and blessings and prayers before sundown and our best food and joyous time talking about God’s word.

“Happy is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps shabbat and does not profane it, and keeps himself from doing anything wrong.” (Isaiah 56:2)

People also gather for lunch on Shabbat after synagogue. Like a dinner party that happens in the middle of the day, these meals are long and luxurious with good food (cholent is a Shabbat afternoon tradition, but anything that can be reheated reasonably well will work) and wine.

Because Shabbat precludes work, no one is rushing to finish the meal to get to an assignment or activity. Before birkat hamazon, or grace after meals, many people will sing a few traditional songs for Shabbat, or zemirot.

After lunch and afternoon study, many people are ready for a nap. One of the great luxuries of the observant lifestyle is getting accustomed to a nice long nap on Shabbat afternoons. The rejuvenating powers of this nap cannot be overstated. Others prefer to go on short Shabbat walks, by themselves or with friends. Walking around the neighborhood or the park can be a totally different experience when there’s no distractions from an iPod or cell phone which we try to pull away from on Shabbat as well as television or other unholy distractions that could bring the world into our hearts and homes.

Shabbat afternoon, we often hold classes and/or teaching at the Assembly on Saturday afternoons, and hold an open beit midrash series, where pairs of people, or hevrutot can come to study a text together. Some people use Shabbat afternoon to go to a local hospital or old-age home and visit those who are not feeling well.

As evening descends, it’s time for minha, the afternoon prayer service, followed by Seudah shlishit, or the third meal of Shabbat. Seudah shlishit is generally a lighter meal than Shabbat lunch and is often followed by the singing of slow and mournful songs that refer to the beauty of Shabbat and the sadness that comes as it draws to a close.

At the end of Shabbat, when three stars are visible in the sky, the evening prayer service, maariv, is recited, followed by Havdalah, the ceremony that separates between Shabbat and the rest of the week. Then we wish each other “Shavua Tov” meaning “Have a good week!” as we beging the new weekly cycle.


(Download our family erev shabbat guide for beginners here)

1) Ready. Some make a point of covering the table with a special Shabbat tablecloth early in the day, as well as placing the candles and challah on the table in advance to usher in a Shabbat atmosphere.

2) Clean. One should wash the floor, vacuum the carpet, take a shower, don special clothing, and even change the bed sheets — all in honor of Shabbat.

3) Flowers. It’s a nice custom to buy flowers to adorn the Shabbat table. They should be placed in water before Shabbat begins. Plants should also be watered, if necessary, ahead of time.

4) Candlesticks. It’s nice to have special candlesticks to light candles on, especially if they were candlesticks handed down in the family. But in a pinch, melt the candles on the back of a plate. It’s nice to have extra candlesticks for guests to light as well.

Polish your silver candlesticks and kiddush cups and set them out on a white tablecloth to give your home a beautiful Shabbat atmosphere.

5) Devar Torah. Set aside an hour on Thursday night or Friday to review the weekly Torah portion, and prepare a few words that can launch a discussion of a relevant spiritual topic.

6) Make-up. All makeup should be applied before Shabbat begins, as it falls under the prohibition of “dyeing.” There is special Shabbat makeup available that can be applied on Shabbat (very loose powders, eye shadows, and others).

7) Muktzah (literally, “set aside”). These are things that have no use on Shabbat and therefore shouldn’t be handled, for example: money, pens, Palm Pilot. Place these items out of reach so you won’t come to use them. Some people have a “muktzah drawer,” into which things get thrown at the last minute.

Also: Unplug the phone, and put away (or cover) the toaster, telephone, stereo, etc.

8) Toys. Crayons, modeling clay, scissors, etc., shouldn’t be used by children on Shabbat. Try to put them away to avoid any problems.

9) Last-minute phone calls. Call someone and wish them “Good Shabbos!” — “Shabbat Shalom!”


1) Kerchiefs. When a married woman lights candles, it is proper for her to cover her head when saying the blessing. So have pretty kerchiefs available for yourself and for guests.

2) Kippot. Men and boys should wear a kippah at the Shabbat table, so it’s nice to have some extras around, in case your guests didn’t come with their own. (BYOK-Bring Your Own Kippah) Also called yarmulke (in Yiddish). Learn more at: Kippah: A Blessing On Your Head.

3) Kiddush cup. It’s nice to have a special cup to make kiddush with. This can be an expensive silver goblet, or an affordable yet attractive wine glass, or anything in between. The cup must hold a minimum of 4 ½ ounces.

4) Small kiddush cups. After the blessing over the wine, the wine is poured into smaller glasses to be passed around to all those seated at the table. Sets of these (in silver or glass) can be purchased at local Jewish book or gift stores, or simply substitute small “shot glasses” or plastic cups.

5) Washing cup. Two-handled cups can be purchased at Jewish book or gift stores, or a quick substitute can be a large mug or glass.

6) Washing sign. You can print out a sign with the blessing for washing hands in Hebrew and phonetics. It simplifies the washing process and helps those who may not know the blessing.

7) Challah board. There are bread boards and knives made especially for the Shabbat table, often made out of olive wood or stone. Or use any kind of cutting board.

8) Challah cover. This can be a pretty napkin, or it can be a specially made challah cover, which is draped over the challah before and during ha-motzi. This is symbolic of the dew that covered the manna that fell for the Jewish people in the desert.

9) Mayim Acharonim. This is the “final water” that is passed around to wash your fingertips with. You can purchase a cup and saucer designed especially for this, or simply use a cup in a small bowl.

10) Bentchers. These are small books that contain blessings for candles, Kiddush and Grace After Meals. Many bentchers also contain songs for the Shabbat table. It’s good to have enough for each person to have his or her own.

11) Havdalah candle. A braided candle is used for the Havdalah ceremony that officially ends Shabbat. They can be purchased at most Jewish bookstores and come in decorative colors and varied lengths. If you don’t have one, simply use two candles, putting their wicks together while they burn.

12) Spice box. Cloves or sweet pepper used in the Havdalah ceremony can be beautifully encased in a decorative spice box made of silver, ceramic, wood, or other materials (available at Jewish book and gift stores). If you don’t have one, just use the bottle that the spice came in.

Complete Havdalah sets — kiddush cup, candle holder, and spice box — are often purchased together. Makes a terrific gift!

13) Facial tissues. Make sure there are tissues or pre-torn toilet paper in all the bathrooms.

14) Foil and paper towels. You may want to pre-tear plastic wrap, foil, and /or paper towels, if you think you’ll be needing them on Shabbat. Foil can actually be purchased in pre-torn sheets in a large boxed dispenser. For a neat paper-towel substitute, just use inexpensive paper napkins.

We hope this teaching blesses you in your spiritual understanding and growth! As we are solely supported by your Tzedakah, please consider supporting this ministry for the continued spread of Truth by giving a love offering here.

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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.



  1. I have never celebrated or kept Shabbat. I didn’t know better until very recently that, even as a Christian follower of Messiah Jesus, honoring the Sabbath day is still a must! But how to do it? Thank you for this great beginners guide and all of the encouragement in this blog. I’m excited to learn, and to be worshipping God to the fullest with praise and obedience to this very special commandment, in the way it was meant to be celebrated weekly. Blessed be God!

  2. I had been a member of the Adventist faith for years, but have never experienced a Shabbat like this. My wife and I are eager to worship YHWH in the way He wants, not in any way we choose. All of these things add elements of festivity, but also of deep reverence and adoration! Thank you so much for sharing!!! Shabbat shalom!!!

  3. Whenever I read this website I really feel like an Ivryit Woman. And … thank you so much Rabbi. I am more and more clearing some of the difficulty I am having to keep Shabbat holy.

    I live in Ghana, West Africa, as I often times write. I don’t know if we have Jewish store in my country. I am excited to obey the instructions of Adonai and I am learning very much. I am pleasantly surprise that I am doing some of the things I have just read. For example, because I read in the Tanakh that we don’t kindle fire on Shabbats I don’t know why, I decided to take a bath on Friday and take another after the Shabbats is over.

    Now, I suspect Abba Father is teaching me how to do it because it has always been my prayer to do what the LORD want me to do. Halleluya Thank you so much. Shalom.

  4. How beautiful! I grew up in the mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) faith. Keeping the sabbath day holy ws a very big deal, but it was thought to be Sunday, and mostly it just meant attending church, not buying or selling anything, and not watching secular tv/movies. The most I knew about Jewish tradition is from when I was in the play Fiddler on the Roof! This is very helpful, as I’m trying to learn how to follow the holy bible’s teachings exactly, not a church’s interpretations.

  5. Ty for this information. I will be the only person in my house doing this observance. I’ll do my best ty again for this information

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