Ancient terracotta oil lamp, as used for Sabbath lights
Tractate of the Talmud
Number of Mishnahs:138
Babylonian Talmud pages:157
Jerusalem Talmud pages:92
Tosefta chapters:18
Eruvin →
This is about part of the Talmud; for the Jewish day of rest, see Shabbat.

Shabbat (Hebrew: שַׁבָּת, lit. "Sabbath") is the first tractate of Seder Moed ("Order of Appointed Times") of the Mishnah and of the Talmud. The tractate deals with the laws and practices regarding observing the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew). The tractate focuses primarily on the categories and types of activities prohibited on the Sabbath according to interpretations of many verses in the Torah, notably Exodus 20:9–10 and Deut. 5:13–14.

The Mishnah and Talmud go to great lengths to carefully define and precisely determine the observance of the Sabbath. The tractate is thus one of the longest in terms of chapters in the Mishnah, and folio pages in the Talmud. It comprises 24 chapters and has a Gemara – rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah – in both the Babylonian Talmud and all but the last four chapters of the Jerusalem Talmud. There is a Tosefta of 18 chapters on this tractate.

As its name implies, the tractate deals primarily with the laws and regulations for observing the Sabbath, which is the fourth of the Ten Commandments and one of the central religious practices of Judaism. As such, it is dealt with at length in the Mishnah and the Gemara, and many subsequent commentaries have also been written on this tractate, from the early Middle Ages until the present.

In the Babylonian Talmud, the Gemara also contains a discussion of the laws of Hanukkah.

The Jewish religious laws detailed in this tractate, and the subsequent legal codes based on it continue to be followed by observant and traditional Jewish communities in modern Israel and throughout the world.

Subject matter

Six days you shall labor and do all your work; but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath in honor of the Lord your God, you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger who is within your gates.

— Exodus 20:7–10, the Fourth Commandment, a key source for the subject matter of tractate Shabbat[1]

Main article: Shabbat

This tractate primarily covers the laws of observing Shabbat, the weekly day of rest. It provides comprehensive explanations of the types of activities prohibited on Shabbat, the sources in the Torah for these prohibitions, the details of the laws, and the rabbinic rulings connected with them. It also deals with matters concerning other mitzvot that apply on Shabbat. In addition, the main discussion about the laws of Hanukkah are included in the Babylonian Talmud.[2]

The Sabbath is one of the most important religious practices of Judaism, and the Mishnah and Talmud go to great lengths to carefully define and precisely determine how it is to be observed. This concern was a reflection of its importance in the Biblical sources, in which there are more reminders about Sabbath observance than about any other matter, with the possible exception of the prohibitions against idolatry.[3][4]

Biblical passages concerning the topics discussed in this tractate include references to the foundational concept of the Sabbath in Genesis 2:2–3, the two iterations of the Fourth Commandment prohibiting creative work in Exodus 20:7–10 and Deut 5:12–14, other actions such as desisting from weekday pursuits (Isaiah 58:13–14) or carrying (Jeremiah 17:21–22), and numerous other references.[4][5][6]


Jewish law relating to Shabbat and the activities prohibited on Shabbat in particular, are the primary subject matter of this tractate.[3]

Prohibited actions derived from the Torah, and rabbinic rulings designed to safeguard or enhance the practices of the cessation of labor and Sabbath rest, are as follows:


In addition to the legal discussions and analysis of the Mishnah, the Gemara in this tractate contains a considerable amount of Aggadah, including narratives and historical stories, as well as moral tales, exegetical interpretations, and sayings.[5]

A significant narrative section describes the origin of Hanukkah, relating that when the Hasmoneans defeated the Seleucid overlords and purified the Temple in Jerusalem, they found only one small jar of pure oil sealed with the High Priest's seal and apparently sufficient for a single day only; but by a miracle it lasted for eight days, so that the Festival of Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days.[5]

Other narratives describe how the Sages considered excluding the books of Ezekiel, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs from the canon of the Hebrew Bible; however, once interpretations and explanations for the passages that appear contradictory were provided, decided that they should be included.[4][5]

Also discussed is Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, who was forced to flee and lived in a cave for twelve years following his criticism of the Roman conquerors and rulers of the Land of Israel.[4][5]

The gentleness of the sage Hillel contrasted with the severity of Shammai is illustrated by several examples. Among the sayings and ethical teachings are Hillel's famous distillation of Judaism — "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor." Other aggadic sayings cited are: 'Truth' is the seal of God; and "Repent one day before your death" – meaning always be ready to appear before God, an idea also illustrated by a parable of wise and foolish people invited to a royal feast.[4][5]

The Torah is extolled in an aggadic passage which says that God specified that the world would return to primordial chaos unless Israel accepted the Torah, that Israel accepted it joyfully and Moses fought to obtain it, in appreciation of an understanding that God's kingdom on earth can be established only after struggle. The Gemara also elucidates that hatred of the Jewish people is a religious animosity dating from the time when the Revelation at Sinai gave the people of Israel a faith which differentiated it from other nations.[5]

In relation to the Sabbath, the primary theme of this tractate, an aggadah relates that the Sages found the spiritual significance of the sanctity of the Sabbath in the desire to be at harmony with God as the core and essence of Judaism. Also recounted is the tradition that two angels accompany a Jew home from the synagogue on Friday evening after the evening service.[4][5]

Structure and content

The tractate consists of 24 chapters and 138 paragraphs (mishnayot) and has a Gemara – rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah – in both the Babylonian Talmud and all but the last four chapters of the Jerusalem Talmud. There is also a Tosefta of 18 chapters for this tractate.[5][9]

In standard printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud, the Gemara contains 157 folio (double-sided) pages and is the longest tractate by page count after Baba Batra, which has 176 folio pages. There are 92 folio pages of Gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud.[2][4]

In the Jerusalem Talmud, the Gemara for the last four chapters of the Mishna no longer exist. It is likely that handwritten manuscripts of these four chapters existed before the age of printing but that all the copies were destroyed in periodic acts of antisemitic violence, as well as by acts of deliberate destruction and suppression of the Talmud, such as at the Disputation of Paris.[5][9]

The mishnayot in the tractate are arranged in a sequential order, apart from the first one, which addresses the topic of carrying, but which can, however, be relevant right at the beginning of Shabbat. The tractate then continues to discuss what may not be done on Friday afternoon, and goes on to topics relevant to actions and preparations immediately before Shabbat.[4][10]

The tractate then deals with lighting the Shabbat candles, discussing the oils and wicks that may be used for the Sabbath lights; it goes on to discuss matters concerning food on the Sabbath such as which food may be stored for the Sabbath, and keeping food hot for the Shabbat meals by leaving it on top of a stove from before Shabbat and insulating hot food before the beginning of Shabbat; and then continues to discuss the laws of carrying, mentioned first at the beginning of the tractate, for transferring from one domain to another.[4][10]

The Mishnah then lists the 39 principal categories of work, derived from the Torah and known as melakhot, and these are discussed in detail in the subsequent chapters. After that, the tractate covers several subjects, including those actions which are rabbinical injunctions, such as shevut and muktzeh. The tractate concludes with laws applicable at the end of the Shabbat, such as walking to the furthest extent of the Shabbat border to get an early start on a journey, and the laws of taking care of animals on Shabbat.[4][10]

An overview of the chapters is as follows:

Historical context and influence

Fragment of a stand for a Sabbath lamp on which the word "Shabbat" is engraved (Horbat 'Uza layer 8, c. 340-410 C.E., northern Israel).

The Mishna was composed towards the end of the Mishnaic period (c. 30 BCE - 200 CE) in the Roman province of Judaea and forms an early part in the lengthy development of Jewish law regarding Sabbath observance. The categories of work defined in the Mishna were appropriate for ancient Israel's largely rural society whose economic base was farming. As Jewish society evolved in the Land of Israel, and then also in the Roman and Persian Empires, particularly Babylonia, the Gemara and subsequent legal literature elaborated on the basic foundations and principles laid out in the Mishnah to address new and different circumstances than those originally encountered in the time of the Mishnah.[3][11]

As one of the distinguishing features of Jewish society from ancient times, the Talmud views Shabbat observance as an institution upholding basic teachings of Judaism – belief in God's acts of creation, God's role in history, and God's covenant with Israel – and after the loss of Jewish sovereignty and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in the first century CE, as a bulwark for the preservation of the Jewish people.[12][13]

The Mishna and the Gemara define the rituals that continue to be observed by traditional Jewish communities until modern times, with some elaboration, to both "remember" and "keep" the Sabbath and to sanctify it at home and in the synagogue. In addition to refraining from creative work, the sanctification of the day through blessings over wine, the preparation of special Sabbath meals, and engaging in prayer and Torah study were required as an active part of Shabbat observance to promote intellectual activity and spiritual regeneration on the day of rest from physical creation. The Talmud states that the best food should be prepared for the Sabbath, for "one who delights in the Sabbath is granted their heart's desires" (BT, Shabbat 118a-b). The emphasis on the Sabbath as a day of eating and drinking was meant, according to some scholars, to counteract the ascetic tendencies of the Essenes.[1][12][13]

Among traditional Jewish communities, and in the modern State of Israel, where the Sabbath is the official day of rest, contemporary responsa, based on the application of the principles of the Mishnah, as interpreted by the Gemara, and subsequently expounded upon by halakhic authorities, focus mostly on technological advances in terms of the correct practice according to Jewish law. Examples of these issues include a wide variety of subjects, such as using electricity, how crossing the International Date Line affects the observance of Sabbaths and festivals, the use of elevators, and medical questions ranging from whether hearing aids may be worn on the Sabbath to driving a vehicle on Shabbat for an emergency.[13][14]



The primary commentators on this tractate are Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi (1040 – 1105), the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, and the Tosafot, the collected "additional" commentaries of numerous rabbis from the 12th to the mid-15th centuries in France and Germany.

The Rambam, Maimonides' Commentary on the Mishnah composed in c.1158−c.1168, provides a running commentary on the entire Mishnah, and often includes a halakhic ruling based on the Talmud's conclusion.[15]

Commentaries of other early Rishonim include the following:[10]

Sefer ha'Mafte'ach and Megilat Setarim and the commentary of Rabeinu Chananel were reprinted from manuscripts, with footnotes by rabbi David Metzger, in Jerusalem in 1990. Sefer ha'Yashar was reprinted in 1980 in Jerusalem, based on two original manuscripts, with footnotes by Rabbi Shimon Schlesinger.[10]

Commentaries of Rishonim who lived in the medieval kingdoms of Aragon, Provence and Narvona include the following:[10]

Commentaries of Rishonim who lived in medieval France, Germany and other locations include the following:[10]


There are many commentaries by the Acharonim ("later scholars") on tractate Shabbat. Some of the classic works include the following:[10]

Anthologies on the tractate include the following:[10]

Halakhic discussions of the issues of the tractate include the following:[10]

Works focused particularly on the 39 categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat include the following:[10]

Liturgical uses

The morning service in both the Ashkenazi and Sefardi liturgy begins with recital of blessings over the Torah, followed by brief selections from the Hebrew Bible, Mishna and Gemara, in accordance with a statement in the Talmud (Kiddushin 30a) that Torah learning comprises these three elements. The biblical text are the three verses of the Priestly Blessing, the Mishna is from tractate Peah, about commandments that have no fixed measures, including the mitzvah of Peah, and of learning Torah), and the passage from the Gemara is from this tractate, BT Shabbat 127a, about the reward for good deeds in this world and the next.[22]

The second chapter of the Mishna of this tractate, called Ba'meh Madlikin ("With what may we light?"), is recited during the Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday evenings in both the Ashkenazi and Sefardi liturgies. The recitation of this chapter referenced the disagreement with the Sadducees and Karaites, who rejected the Oral Tradition codified in the Mishnah, and held that the commandment "Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day" (Exodus 35:3) meant that the use of any light was forbidden, while the followers of Rabbinic Judaism, who accepted the authority of the Oral Tradition, held that the verse excluded kindling on the Sabbath but not the use of a light that had been lit before the Sabbath began.[23][24]

Immediately following this chapter, in the Ashkenazi liturgy, but not the Sephardi, additional passages from the Babylonian Talmud are recited, including a paragraph from tractate Shabbat (12a), quoting Rabbi Haninah saying that one should examine one's clothing on the Sabbath eve before nightfall, to ensure one is not carrying anything, and Rabbi Yosef commenting that this is an important law about the Sabbath, as it is easy to forget and accidentally violate the sanctity of the day of rest.[23]

The Sabbath hymn Yom Zeh M’khubad ("this day is the most precious of all days"), composed by an unidentified poet whose name appears in the acrostic as Yisrael Ha’Ger (Israel the proselyte) in the verses of the song, is based on the statement in this tractate (118a) that the best food should be prepared for the Sabbath, for "one who delights in the Sabbath is granted their heart's desires".[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Birnbaum, Philip (1975). "Sabbath". A Book of Jewish Concepts. New York, NY: Hebrew Publishing Company. pp. 579–581. ISBN 088482876X.
  2. ^ a b Steinsaltz, Adin (2013). Reference Guide to the Talmud. Koren. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-59264-312-7.
  3. ^ a b c Lipman, Eugene J., ed. (1970). "Shabbat – Sabbath". The Mishnah: Oral Teachings of Judaism (1st ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 79–80. OCLC 1043172244.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Freedman, H. (1948). "Introduction to Shabbat". In Epstein, I. (ed.). Shabbat. The Babylonian Talmud. London: The Soncino Press. pp. xxxiii–xxiii. ISBN 9789562913447.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Shabbat". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
  6. ^ Other Biblical references cited as sources for tractate Shabbat include Exodus 16:22–30, Exodus 23:12, Exodus 31:12–17, Exodus 34:21, and Exodus 35: 12–17; Leviticus 19:3, Leviticus 23:3, Leviticus 26:2 and Numbers 15:32–26
  7. ^ a b c Kehati, Pinchas (1994). "Shabbat". In Tomaschoff, Avner (ed.). Mishnayot Mevuarot [Commentary on the Mishna]. Vol. Seder Mo’ed vol. 1. Levin, Edward (translator). Jerusalem, Israel. pp. 1–2.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ a b c d Steinsaltz, Adin (2013). "Shabbat". Reference Guide to the Talmud. Koren. pp. 260–263. ISBN 978-1-59264-312-7.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ehrman, Arnost Zvi (1978). "Shabbat". Encyclopedia Judaica. Vol. 14 (1st ed.). Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House Ltd. p. 1215-1216.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Kornfeld, Mordecai. "Introduction to tractate Shabbat". Dafyomi Advancement Forum. Jerusalem, Israel: Kollel Iyun Hadaf. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
  11. ^ Steinsaltz, Adin (2013). "Life in the Talmudic Period". Reference Guide to the Talmud. Jerusalem: Koren. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-59264-312-7.
  12. ^ a b "History and Development of Shabbat". My Jewish Learning. 2003-01-07. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  13. ^ a b c "Judaism - The Sabbath". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  14. ^ Bleich, J. David (1977). "Sabbath and Festivals; Medical Questions and Shabbat". Contemporary Halakhic Problems. Vol I. New York: Yeshiva University Press. pp. 33–60, 129–145. ISBN 0870684507.
  15. ^ "Rambam on Mishnah Shabbat". Sefaria: A living Library of Jewish Texts (in Hebrew). New York, NY: Sefaria, Inc. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  16. ^ "Bartenura on Mishnah Shabbat". Sefaria. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  17. ^ "Yachin on Mishnah Shabbat". Sefaria. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  18. ^ "Melechet Shlomo on Mishnah Shabbat". Sefaria. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  19. ^ "Tosafot Yom Tov on Mishnah Shabbat". Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  20. ^ "Ikar Tosafot Yom Tov on Mishnah Shabbat". Sefaria (in Hebrew). Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  21. ^ "Tosafot Rabbi Akiva Eiger on Mishnah Shabbat". Sefaria. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  22. ^ Sacks, Jonathan, ed. (2009). The Koren Siddur (1st ed.). Israel: Koren Publishers. pp. 8–11. ISBN 9789653010673.
  23. ^ a b Sacks, Jonathan, ed. (2009). The Koren Siddur (1st bilingual ed.). Israel: Koren Publishers. pp. 328–330. ISBN 9789653010673.
  24. ^ Tefilat Bnei Tzion (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv, Israel: Sinai Publishing House. 1984. pp. 186–187.