Shabbat is the most important ritual observance in Judaism. It is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat recalls the Biblical Creation account in Genesis, describing God creating the Heavens and the Earth in six days and resting on the seventh.
It is the only ritual observance instituted in the Ten Commandments: the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, when God commanded the Israelite nation to observe the seventh day and keep it holy.
Shabbat is also the most important special day, even more important than Yom Kippur. Shabbat is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The word “Shabbat” comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest.
Shabbat involves two interrelated commandments: to remember (zakhor) Shabbat, and to observe (shamor) Shabbat.
Zakhor: To Remember
” זָכוֹר אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, לְקַדְּשׁוֹ.”
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.“
We are commanded to remember Shabbat: remember the significance of Shabbat, both as a commemoration of creation and as a commemoration of our freedom from slavery in Egypt.
What does the Exodus have to do with resting on the seventh day? It’s all about freedom. By resting on Shabbat, we are reminded that we are free. Shabbat frees us from our weekday concerns, from our deadlines and schedules and commitments. During the week, we are slaves to our jobs, to our creditors, to our need to provide for ourselves; on Shabbat, we are freed from these concerns, much as our ancestors were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Shamor: To Observe
“שָׁמוֹר אֶת-יוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת, לְקַדְּשׁוֹ, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוְּךָ, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ.”
” Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD thy God commanded thee.“
This is another aspect of Shabbat that is grossly misunderstood by people who do not observe it. Shamor relates to how the Sabbath sanctifies and elevates the Jewish people. It refers to the intrinsic sanctity of the day, above and beyond all mundane activities, as it inspires us to a higher realm of holiness.
We remember these two meanings of Shabbat when we recite kiddush Friday night kiddush refers to Shabbat as both zikaron l’ma’aseih v’rei’shit (a memorial of the work in the beginning) and zeikher litzi’at Mitz’rayim (a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt).