Sod ha-Shabbat

The Mystery of the Sabbath

By Elliot K. Ginsburg

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion
Paperback : 9780791470688, 280 pages, August 2006
Hardcover : 9780887067808, 280 pages, June 1989

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Table of contents





Note on Transliteration and Orthography


Biographical Notes
Content and Structure of the Tola'at Ya'aqov
Influences: Meir ibn Gabbai's Library
Purpose of the Book
The Tola'at Ya'aqov's Influence
On Sod ha-Shabbat

Sod ha-Shabbat: The Translation

Section 1: On Friday morning one should take pains to personally prepare whatever is necessary for the Sabbath
Section 2: To complete the weekly portion together with the congregation, [reading] the Hebrew text twice, and the Targum once
Section 3: To pare one's nails
Section 4: To make Sabbath-fusions in the courtyards ('eruvei hazerot)
Section 5: To wash one's body
Section 6: To change one's garments so as to emulate one's Creator
Section 7: To add to the holy by taking from the profane [by beginning the Sabbath early]
Section 8: To light candles on Sabbath [eve]
Section 9: The evening prayers for Shabbat
Section 10: To recite the Sanctification [Qiddush]over the wine
Section 11: The festive meal of Sabbath night
Section 12: The prescribed "time" for scholars
Section 13: The morning prayers [Shaharit] and Torah- reading
Section 14: To cease from labor in accord with the mystery of Creation
Section 15: To delight in the Sabbath
Section 16: Concerning mundane speech
Section 17: The hidden meaning of keeping a dream-fast on the Sabbath
Section 18: To study Torah
Section 19: The mystery of Minhah, the prayers of Sabbath afternoon
Section 20: The mystery of the three festive meals
Section 21: To add to the holy [by taking] from the profane at the Sabbath's departure
Section 22: The mystery of "May the Lord's Pleasantness" and the mystery of Havdalah

Notes to the Introduction

Notes to Sod ha-Shabbat




The Sabbath has been one of the most significant and beloved institutions of Jewish life since late antiquity. Over a period of several centuries, the classical Kabbalists developed a rich body of ritual and myth that articulated a fresh vision of the Sabbath. The mystical understanding of the Sabbath was assimilated by virtually every Jewish community. This volume is a translation and critical commentary to Sod ha-Shabbat, a treatise on the mystical Sabbath by the influential Spanish-Turkish Kabbalist, R. Meir ibn Gabbai. This important text, the most systematic treatment of the Sabbath in classical Kabbalah, has been inaccessible to the English reader until now.

The study includes an Introduction to ibn Gabbai's life and work, accompanied by extensive critical notes that clarify general problems of translation and place the work in its historical context. Broader theoretical issues regarding myth and the ritual process are also discussed.

Elliot K. Ginsburg is Associate Professor in the Judaic and Near East Studies Program and the Department of Religion at Oberlin College.


"The translation is accurate and felicitous; the notes throughout are accurate, scholarly, and quite comprehensive." — Michael Fishbane, Brandeis University