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Return to Guide to Shabbat for Interfaith Families.
In Jewish culture, Shabbat is a day of peace, rest, reflection, hospitality and family. In North American Jewish families, Shabbat dinner on Friday evening can be important family time. In Israel, secular Jewish families get together on Saturday to eat and just be together. The Jewish cultural values of hospitality and family find their expression in the customs of Shabbat.
In Judaism as a religion, Shabbat is deeply meaningful, with both universal messages and particularistic Jewish ones. Shabbat is explicitly an imitation of God. Just as God rested in the creation narrative in the biblical book of Genesis, human beings rest. Genesis 2:1-3 is part of the Shabbat kiddush, the blessing over the wine which sanctifies the holiday. The verses in the Torah that explain Shabbat say that non-Jewish people who live with Jews are also to rest--everyone can take part in the appreciation of creation that resting enables.
The particularistic theology of Shabbat is that it is a symbol of God's covenant with the Jewish people. Shabbat features in the Ten Commandments, and the commandment to keep Shabbat is repeated in the Torah. In Judaism, Shabbat is both a universal experience for everyone who shares in the delight of creation, and a special experience for the Jewish people.