Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


SHABBAT (Heb. שַׁבָּת), first tractate in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and the two Talmuds of the order Mo'ed, dealing in 24 chapters with the laws relating to Sabbath and its observance. The last four chapters are missing in the Jerusalem Talmud.

Chapter 1 deals with the problems of "domains" (reshuyyot, see *Reshut) and with questions concerning what may or may not be done on Friday before sunset. Chapter 2 deals with the kindling of the Sabbath lights. Chapters 3–4 are on keeping food warm or warming it up on the Sabbath. Chapter 5 concerns the injunction that one's domestic animals rest on the Sabbath. Chapter 6 discusses what one may carry as a part of one's apparel and includes an interesting discussion as to whether weapons are to be regarded as apparel. Chapter 7 is notable for its enumeration of the 39 principal categories of works forbidden on the Sabbath. It also discusses the sin-offering due for the inadvertent violation of the Sabbath and the minimal quantities which incur guilt. Chapter 8 continues the question of quantities, chapters 9–15 deal with the definitions of these various labors, and Chapter 16 discusses mainly the problems arising from conflagration. Chapters 17–18 deal with *mukẓeh, chapter 19 with the problem of circumcision on the Sabbath, and chapters 20–24 with a great variety of questions relating to the Sabbath, such as bathing, casting lots, attending to the dead, and feeding cattle.

The following passages of the Babylonian Gemara deserve particular mention: the description of the origin of Ḥanukkah (21b); the discussion on whether the Books of Ezekiel, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs should be considered canonical (13b, 30b); the humility and leniency of *Hillel in contrast to the stringency of *Shammai (29b–30a); differences in the attitude of the sages toward Rome and the story of Simeon b. *Yoḥai hiding in a cave for 12 years (33b); and on the ministering angels (malakhei ha-sharet) accompanying the Jew from the synagogue to his home on the Sabbath eve (119b). The Tosefta to this tractate is divided into 18 chapters. Chapters 6–7 refer to many interesting customs and superstitions, some of which are denounced as idolatrous.

The tractates Shabbat and Eruvin were originally one tractate. The last chapter of Eruvin belongs to Shabbat as does that of the Tosefta. The Mishnah of Shabbat derives from various sources and different layers can be detected. Most conspicuous is the combination of Mishnah collections. It contains some of the Mishnah of Meir, Judah, Yose, Simeon, and Eleazar. It contains matters that belong together but which are scattered in various places and also conflicting views both in different places and in one and the same Mishnah. Several of the mishnayot (1:11; 13:1–3, 6, 8; 14:3; et al.) are clearly of early date. Nevertheless the Mishnah of Shabbat in its present form is in the main from the version of Akiva's pupils. From the arrangement of the Tosefta it is clear that it had in front of it mishnaic sources different in arrangement and scope. The whole of the chapter dealing with "the customs of the Amorite" in the Tosefta chapters 6 and 7 (see above) is from the Mishnah of Yose. The talmudic tractate was translated into English by H. Freedman in the Soncino edition (1938).


Epstein, Tanna'im, 282–99; Ḥ. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, 2 (1958), 9–15.

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