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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q18.4.16 TOC Q18.4.18 >

Question 18.4.17:
Fallacy: Reform Jews do not observe Shabbat


Gates of the Seasons, the American Reform Movement's guide to the Jewish Year, views Shabbat as a unique Jewish contribution to civilization, and a central activity to surviving the forces of assimilation and corruption. As such, it calls out the following mitzvot for Reform Jews:


The Mitzvah of Shabbat Observance

It is a mitzvah for every Jew, single or married, young or old, to observe Shabbat. The unique status of Shabbat is demonstrated by its being the only one of the holy days to be mentioned in the Ten Commandments. ... Shabbat observance involves both positive and negative mitzvot, i.e., doing and refraining from doing.


The Mitzvah of Joy

IT is a mitzvah to take delight in Shabbat observance, as Isaiah said, "You shall call Shabbat a deligh". Oneg implies celebration and relaxation, sharing time with loved ones, enjoying the beauty of nature, eating a leisurely meal made special with conviviality and song, visiting with friends and relatives, taking a leisurely stroll, reading, and listening to music.


The Mitzvah of Sanctification

It is a mitzvah to hallow Shabbat by setting it apart from the other days of the week. ... Shabbat must be distinguished from the other days of the week so that those who observe it may be transformed by its holiness.


The Mitzvah of Rest

It is a mitzvah to rest on Shabbat. However, Shabbat rest (menuchah) implies much more than refraining from work. The concept of Shabbat rest includes both physical relaxation and tranquility of mind and spirit. On Shabbat, one deliverately turns away from weekday pressures and activities.


The Mitzvah of refraining from work

It is a mitzvah to refrain from work on Shabbat...Abstinence from work is a major expression of Shabbat observance; however, it is no simple matter to define work today. Certain activities that some do to earn a living, others do for relaxation or to express their creativity. Clearly, though, one should avoid one's normal occupation or profession on Shabbat whenever possible and engage only in those types of activities that enhance the joy, rest, and holiness of the day.

See Gates of the Seasons for additional details. Note support for Shabbat is also in the 1999 Statement of Principles (, which says:

We bring Torah into the world when we seek to sanctify the times and places of our lives through regular home and congregational observance. Shabbat calls us to bring the highest moral values to our daily labor and to culminate the workweek with (kedushah), holiness, (menuchah), rest and (oneg), joy.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>