Jewish life ebbs and flows around the celebration of Shabbat. The days of the week are labelled by a count toward Shabbat (Sunday is Yom Rishon, the first day; Monday is Yom Shaynee, the second day, etc). Fast Days (other than Yom Kippur) are rescheduled so that the celebration of Shabbat will not be compromised by the sadness of the fast. Indeed, with the exception of the fast of the tenth of Tevet, even Friday fasts are rescheduled.
Shabbat is referred to as a gift God gave the Jewish people from his treasure room (Talmud Shabbat 10b). The gift is far more than a day off from work, a day to rest. It is a day of working on one’s relationship with God. The fulfillment of a complete and total observance of Shabbat is a powerful key to redemption.
On a personal level, the sages record that the proper observance of Shabbat is enough to negate even the sin of idol worship: “Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba said in Rabbi Johanan's name: He who observes the Sabbath according to its laws, even if he practices idolatry... is forgiven” (Talmud Shabbat 118b).
Additionally, Shabbat is meant to be a day of enjoyment: “Rav Judah said in Rav's name: He who delights in the Sabbath is granted his heart's desires” (ibid).
Shabbat is so powerful that it actually provides the key to salvation on a national level as well: “Rav Judah said in Rav's name: Had Israel kept the first Sabbath, no nation or tongue would have enjoyed dominion over them” (ibid).
Indeed, the unified observance of Shabbat by all Jews remains the continual hope of the Jewish people, as “Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai: If Israel were to keep two Sabbaths according to the laws thereof, they would be redeemed immediately”(ibid).
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