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Special Sabbaths

SABBATHS, SPECIAL, those Sabbaths on which special events are commemorated. They are distinguished from the regular Sabbaths through variations in the liturgy and special customs. Two such Sabbaths, which recur on several occasions throughout the year, are numbers 1 and 2 below.

1) Shabbat Mevorekhin

(Heb. שַׁבַּת מְבָרְכִין), the Sabbath that immediately precedes a new month. In the later Ashkenazi rite a special petition, composed by *Rav "to renew unto us this coming month for good and for blessing," etc. (Bet. 16b), is recited in the synagogue after the reading of the law. The older Ashkenazi rite, and that of Ḥabad, begins with "He who wrought miracles…." The name of the new month and the day on which Rosh Ḥodesh occurs are then announced. In many communities, where women did not usually attend Sabbath services, they went on Shabbat Mevarekhin because of the new month petition (see *New Moon, Announcement of).

2) Shabbat Rosh Ḥodesh

(Heb. שַׁבַּת רֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ), a Sabbath which coincides with Rosh Ḥodesh. The reading of the Torah for the New Moon is added, and a special *haftarah (Isa. 66:1–24) is read.

The other Sabbaths (listed here chronologically according to the Jewish calendar) are:

3) Shabbat Shuvah

(Heb. שַׁבַּת שׁוּבָה; "Sabbath of Repentance"), also called (erroneosly) Shabbat Teshuvah (תְּשׁוּבָה), the Sabbath which occurs during the *Ten Days of Penitence (between Rosh Ha-Shanah and the Day of Atonement). The name is derived from the initial word of the haftarah "Return [שׁוּבָה], O Israel, unto the Lord" (Hos. 14:2) read on that Sabbath. One main feature of Shabbat Shuvah is the sermons on repentance delivered by the congregational rabbis.

4) Shabbat Ḥol ha-Mo'ed

(Heb. שַׁבַּת חוֹל הַמּוֹעֵד), the Sabbath of the *Passover and *Sukkot intermediary days. The liturgy includes *piyyutim appropriate to the festivals and special Torah readings, instead of the regular weekly Torah portion. *Song of Songs during Passover and *Ecclesiastes during Sukkot are also recited.

5) Shabbat Ḥanukkah

(Heb. שַׁבַּת חֲנֻכָּה), the Sabbath (sometimes two) during *Ḥanukkah. It is marked by an added Torah reading for the festival and, if it coincides with Rosh Ḥodesh *Tevet, also for the New Moon (see above).

6) Shabbat Shirah

(Heb. שַׁבַּת שִׁירָה; "The Sabbath of the Song"), the Sabbath on which the Torah reading is Exodus 14–17. The name is derived from Exodus 15, which includes "The song of Moses and of the children of Israel" at the Red Sea. In some rituals special piyyutim are also recited. This Sabbath does not occur on a specific date but depends on when the Torah portion is read.

7) Shabbat Shekalim

(Heb. שַׁבַּת שְׁקָלִים), the first of four special Sabbaths, which are also called Arba Parashiyyot ("the four pericopes"), and which occur in spring. Shabbat Shekalim is observed on the Sabbath immediately preceding the month of *Adar (in a leap year, the second month of Adar). In addition to the weekly Torah portion, Exodus 30:11–16, whose theme is the duty of donating half a *shekel toward the upkeep of the Temple, is also read. It commemorates the custom according to which on the first of Adar special messengers were dispatched to all Jewish communities to collect these donations (Shek. 1:1). Special piyyutim are included in the ritual of the Sabbath.

8) Shabbat Zakhor

(Heb. שַׁבַּת זָכוֹר; "Sabbath of Remembrance"), the second of the four special Sabbaths. It is the Sabbath before Purim. The name derives from the additional Torah portion read from Deuteronomy 25:17–19 whose theme is the duty "to remember" what *Amalek did to Israel. The traditional belief is that *Haman the Agagite was a direct descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites (e.g., I Sam. 15:9ff.). In some rites special piyyutim are recited.

9) Shabbat Parah

(Heb. שַׁבַּת פָּרָה; "Sabbath of the Red Heifer"), the third of the four special Sabbaths. It is the Sabbath preceding Shabbat ha-Ḥodesh. An additional portion is read from the Torah (Num. 19:1–22) whose theme is the ritual purification with the ashes of the red heifer. The purification was compulsory in Temple times for all those who had been defiled by contact with a corpse. Shabbat Parah commemorates the custom of everyone who would participate in the Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem having to cleanse himself in due time. Special piyyutim are also added to the liturgy in some rites.

10) Shabbat ha-Ḥodesh

(Heb. שַׁבַּת הַחֹדֶשׁ), the last of the four special Sabbaths. It precedes, or falls on the first day of, the month of *Nisan. On it, in addition to the weekly Torah portion, Exodus 12:1–20 is also read. It states that the month of Nisan "shall be the beginning of the months [of the Jewish year]" and includes many details on the ritual laws concerning the Passover sacrifice and the interdiction to eat leavened bread (*ḥameẓ) on the festival. Special piyyutim are also recited in some communities.

11) *Shabbat ha-Gadol

12) Shabbat Ḥazon

(Heb. שַׁבַּת חֲזוֹן; "Sabbath of Vision"), the Sabbath that precedes the Ninth of *Av. The name is derived from the initial word of its haftarah. "The vision of Isaiah" (Isa. 1:1–27), in which the afflictions which God will visit on Israel in punishment of its sins are prophesied. The Yemenites call this Sabbath "Shabbat Eikhah," and read Isaiah 1:21ff. for the haftarah portion. Shabbat Ḥazon occurs during the period of mourning (see *Nine Days) for the destruction of the Temple, and the haftarah is therefore appropriate since its theme is destruction and possible redemption. The destruction is understood as a punishment for the sins of Israel, and repentance is a prerequisite for the restoration of the Temple. It was customary not to dress in festive garments during that period, including (in a few communities) the Sabbath.

13) Shabbat Nahamu

(Heb. שַׁבַּת נַחֲמוּ), the Sabbath immediately following the Ninth of Av. It is so called after the first word of the haftarah "Comfort ye [Naḥamu], Comfort ye My people" (Isa. 40:1).

On most of these special Sabbaths the memorial prayer for the deceased (see *Av ha-Raḥamim) as well as the prayer Ẓidkatkha in the *Minḥah service are omitted. In the Reform ritual some of these Sabbaths (e.g., Zakhor, Parah) are not observed. On the other hand, other special Sabbaths (e.g., "Brotherhood Sabbath," "Sisterhood Sabbath," "United Nations Sabbath") have been innovated.


Elbogen, Gottesdienst, 156, 159, 163; E. Levi, Yesodot ha-Tefillah (19522), 308, 244.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.