Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath. It is a day of rest and spiritual enrichment that occurs every Friday evening just before sundown until an hour after sundown on Saturday evening. In observance of Shabbat, Jews are to refrain from all work and focus their attention on the holy day. Shabbat is observed Friday evening until Saturday evening because it is written in Genesis that on the 7th day of creation, God rested. This day is a day of rest, peace and prayer.
Shabbat services are held at synagogues and have certain rituals that must be completed in order to usher in this celebration. Services include: singing songs and prayer, musical accompaniment and sacrifice. This structure was established at the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and the same order is used in Synagogues today.
The service begins by lighting two candles and a blessing that is recited by the Rabbi. This ritual officially marks the beginning of Shabbat. The two candles represent two commandments; zakhor (remember) and shamor (observe.) These must be lit before sundown because doing work is not permitted during Shabbat and lighting a fire is considered work.
It is not unusual to find professional singers or leaders of worship as part of the service in a synagogue. These people may sing or play instruments and lead the congregation in praise and worship. Passages from the prayer books are often sung and the rest of the congregation is free to sing along or pray.
During a Shabbat service, you will also find a blessing of the wine and bread, along with a ritual washing of the hands. Kosher wine is poured first and then blessed. Next, water is poured over the hands and then they are dried. Lastly, two challah loaves are placed on the table. Challah is a traditional braided egg bread. The challah bread represents the manna that the Israelites gathered and ate while in the dessert. This is based off of writings from Exodus. The challah is blessed and God is thanked for...