Mystical Shabbat

The masters of Kabbalah explained all of the elements of the Sabbath rituals as a consistent thematic drama of the reunion of the Shekhinah the Sabbath bride, with her mate--and in so doing exerted considerable influence on the shape of those rituals.

Print this page Print this page

9. Recite the blessing after food: This rabbinic practice is associated, according to the Zohar, with the sefirah of hesed. The Zohar explains that one who says this blessing with intention will invoke hesed upon the world.

10. Bless a final cup of wine: According to rabbinic tradition, a final cup of wine is blessed following the blessing after food.

These practices illustrate the way Jewish mystics reinterpret traditional practices in light of mystical teachings. The Sabbath is turned into a theurgic drama that unfolds in sequence.

The mystics also introduced completely new customs. For example the custom of singing Eshet Hayyil ("Woman of Valor") as a hymn at the Sabbath table--in praise of the wife and alluding to the Shekkinah--was introduced by the Safed Kabbalists.

Ritual innovation can also be seen in the Zohar's approach to human sexuality. The Zohar considers Sabbath the most propitious occasion for unitive and restorative mysticism through human sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse on Sabbath eve produces the special Sabbath soul. Therefore, this is the time when a righteous man and woman should have sexual contact.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Dr. David S. Ariel

Dr. David S. Ariel is head of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He was previously president of Siegal College of Judaic Studies (formerly the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies). He is author of Spiritual Judaism: Restoring Heart and Soul to Jewish Life and The Mystic Quest: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism.