Best books about Shabbat

Shabbat. Shabbos. The Sabbath. Call it whatever you want, it’s an important and special thing, observed in countless traditions by Jewish communities around the world. Here is a collection of Shabbat books to help create a meaningful island of time (or just to understand the custom better, if it’s a new or unfamiliar concept).

(Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr)
(Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr)

The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time
By Judith Shulevitz

In this beautifully-written book, Shulevitz first defines the concept of a day of rest and its origins both cultural and spiritual, then explores both the Jewish and Christian sabbaths, blending memories, ideas, legends, histories, philosophies as well as an account of Shulevitz’s own struggle to keep this difficult, yet rewarding day sacred.

The Modern Jewish Mom’s Guide to Shabbat
By Meredith Jacobs

Don’t let the cute cover mislead– in this detailed book, Jacobs explores a variety of customs to help create a meaningful Shabbat and get children, teens and entire families into the rhythm of weekly observance through activities, games, songs, food, summaries of weekly Torah portions, and all in a conversational, friendly tone.

The Sabbath (FSG Classics)
By Abraham Joshua Heschel

Elegant, passionate, and filled with love for both Judaism and the divine, Heschel’s text has been hailed a classic of Jewish spirituality since original publication. In this brief yet profound meditation on the meaning of the day of rest, Heschel, one of the most respected religious leaders of the 20th century, introduces the idea that Shabbat appears not in space but in time. Judaism, he argues, is not a religion of space or material things, but is a religion of time.

An Invitation to Shabbat: A Beginner’s Guide to Weekly Celebration
By Ruth Perelson

A step-by-step exploration of Shabbat from essential brachot (blessings– in Hebrew, English and transliteration in this text) and candle-lighting to Havdalah ceremonies to end the day of rest. With focus on essential elements of tradition alongside with modern options, this book also offers folklore and both Ashkenazic and Sephardic recipes, this book encourages meaning and mindfulness on Shabbat.

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives
By Wayne Muller

Less a Jewish text and more of a this-idea-of-a-sacred-day-is-available-to-everyone, Muller’s book argues that our modern, relentless pursuit of productivity puts us out of touch with the necessary rhythm of life, the balance between work and rest, and our feeling of being both exhausted and deprived in the midst of great abundance. He then shows how to create a sacred, personally meaningful time of rest, delight and renewal to regain our creativity and refresh our bodies and minds.

Gates of Shabbat: Shaarei Shabbat: A Guide for Observing Shabbat
By Mark Dov Shapiro
An accessible reference of how-to instructions for home rituals, gender equality-driven text translations, clear transliterations of Hebrew and insightful answers behind many Shabbat symbols and practices.


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