Preparing Your "Shabbat World"


The goal of this lesson is to help students think through their Shabbat practice using the concept of מוקצה and the idea of one’s “Shabbat world.” What kinds of things are allowed or not allowed to enter our Shabbat world (or do we want to allow or not allow), and what kinds of Shabbat experiences does that produce?

Session Goals:

  • Students should begin to articulate a vision of their personal, ideal “Shabbat world,” and to identify whether or not their current practices help support this vision.
  • Students should be able to discuss why they think that certain activities are prohibited, using the underlying principles mentioned above.

Essential Questions:

  • What objects and actions diminish or augment one’s Shabbat World?
  • According to these sources, what objects and actions forbidden on Shabbat?
  • How do the sources explain why these activities are forbidden?
  • What constitutes your “Shabbat World” and how do you shape it?


  • Index cards
  • Writing utensils

I. Connect/Hook (15 minutes)

As a way of getting students to begin to think about the concept of the “Shabbat World,” tell them that they are going on a special Shabbaton on a desert island (it’s special because it has WiFi – i.e. they may bring electronic devices if so they choose). Pass out index cards and writing utensils and ask them to write down the five objects or people that they would bring with them to celebrate Shabbat. If they ask questions, like “Does challah/kiddush/candles etc. count?” tell them that they can interpret the prompt however they like. Give them five minutes to write.

After five minutes of writing, ask students to share and explain their lists. Prompt them to discuss why they chose what they did and how they planned to use those objects/people to help them celebrate Shabbat.

Transition this activity into a discussion about the purpose of Shabbat, including a discussion of the concept of עונג שבת. Ask students to define this phrase. Ask, what makes Shabbat, Shabbat? To what extent does Shabbat have to do with the objects with which one interacts? Introduce the concept of the “Shabbat World.”

The purpose of this activity is to get students to start thinking about the choices we make about what we include in our Shabbat world and to introduce the idea of intentionality in this practice.

II. Source Study (45 minutes)

Source #1: Excerpts from The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

“Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind and imagination. To attain a degree of excellence in art, one must accept its discipline, one must adjure slothfulness. The seventh day is a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, of joy and reticence. In its atmosphere, a discipline is a reminder of adjacency to eternity.” (pp. 14-15)

“Call the Sabbath a delight: a delight to the soul and a delight to the body… Unlike the Day of Atonement, the Sabbath is not dedicated exclusively to spiritual goals. It is a day of the soul as well as of the body; comfort and pleasure are an integral part of the Sabbath observance.” (pp. 18-19)

Discussion Questions:

  • If “perfect rest is an art,” what are the tools we need with which to make it?
  • What objects might be found in your vision of Heschel’s proverbial palace?
  • Heschel describes a body and soul-focused practice of Shabbat. What objects do you need in your Shabbat World to make Shabbat a delight?

Source #2: Shulchan Aruch, Orech Hayyim, 308:1 and Mishna Berura 2-3

כָּל הַכֵּלִים נִטָּלִים בְּשַׁבָּת חוּץ מִמֻּקְצֶה מֵחֲמַת חֶסְרוֹן כִּיס, כְּגוֹן סַכִּין שֶׁל שְׁחִיטָה אוֹ שֶׁל מִילָה, וְאִזְמֵל שֶׁל סַפָּרִים, וְסַכִּין שֶׁל סוֹפְרִים שֶׁמְּתַקְּנִים בָּהּ הַקּוֹלְמוּסִים, כֵּיוָן שֶׁמַּקְפִּידִים שֶׁלֹּא לַעֲשׂוֹת בָּהֶם תַּשְׁמִישׁ אַחֵר, אָסוּר לְטַלְטְלוֹ בְּשַׁבָּת וַאֲפִלּוּ לְצֹרֶךְ מְקוֹמוֹ אוֹ לְצֹרֶךְ גּוּפוֹ. וְהוּא הַדִּין לְקֻרְנָס שֶׁל בְּשָׂמִים שֶׁמַּקְפִּידִים עָלָיו שֶׁלֹּא יִתְלַכְלֵךְ.

It is permissible to carry all human-made implements on Shabbat except for those that are muktze because of the “loss of pocket” [the fear of the loss incurred by the object’s monetary value). For example, a knife used for the ritual slaughter of an animal or for the performance of a ritual circumcision, or hairdressers’ scissors, or the knife used by scribes to sharpen their quills. Since we are strict regarding these tools, in that they should not be used for any other purpose, it is forbidden to move them on Shabbat, even if you need [to use] its place or you need [to use] the object itself. This, too, is the law regarding hammers used to make spices, since we are careful regarding them that they not become dirty.

B) Valuable, work-related, human-made implements. What this means is that because of the suspicion of loss, one is careful with them and does not move them, and [then] pushes them out of his mind [i.e. stops thinking about them on Shabbat.]

C) The quills. And this is the law for the rest of things regarding which we are strict in order that they will not be used for a different purpose, in order that they will not be damaged. For example, a large saw with which beams are cut, or the knife of a leather belt maker, or a piece of paper that is ready to be written on, as the poskim wrote, and all things like this.

Discussion Questions:

  • What kinds of tools are being described here?
    • Occupation-related, specialized, high-value items.
  • What is מוקצה מחמת חסרון כיס?
    • Objects that are forbidden from use or moving on Shabbat because of a concern for financial loss.
  • Why might these objects have stricter rules regarding moving them compared to other objects?
    • We want to ensure that people will not think about their work on Shabbat.
  • What in your life is analogous to this? What do you need to ensure that you do not think about during Shabbat to help create your Shabbat World?

Source #3: Shulchan Aruch, Orech Hayyim, 307:1 and Mishna Berura 2-3

'וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר' (יְשַׁעְיָה נח, יג): שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא דִּבּוּרְךָ שֶׁל שַׁבָּת כְּדִבּוּרְךָ שֶׁל חֹל; הִלְכָּךְ אָסוּר לוֹמַר: דָּבָר פְּלוֹנִי אֶעֱשֶׂה לְמָחָר אוֹ סְחוֹרָה פְּלוֹנִית אֶקְנֶה לְמָחָר, וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּשִׂיחַת דְּבָרִים בְּטֵלִים אָסוּר לְהַרְבּוֹת. הַגָּה: וּבני אדם שֶׁסִּפּוּר שְׁמוּעוֹת וְדִבְרֵי חִדּוּשִׁים הוּא עֹנֶג לָהֶם, מֻתָּר לְסַפְּרָם בְּשַׁבָּת כְּמוֹ בַּחֹל; אֲבָל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מִתְעַנֵּג, אָסוּר לְאָמְרָם כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּתְעַנֵּג בָּהֶם חֲבֵרוֹ (ת''ה סי' ס''א).

“Nor speaking thereof” (Isaiah 58:13): That your words on Shabbat shall not be like your words of the week; therefore it is forbidden to say: “I will do it tomorrow” or “I will sell and buy it tomorrow,” and even with conversations about unimportant things, it is forbidden to have too many of them. Hagah: And for the one for whom talking about rumors and news is a delight to him, it is permissible to talk this way on Shabbat as on a weekday. But for someone who does not delight in such talk, it is forbidden to tell these stories for the sake of his friend’s delight.

B) Unimportant things. This is the same as the following: that there is nothing about them that reminds someone of working or busying themselves at all. And further, there are no shameful or negligent words. For if it were not thus, even a little [of it would be] forbidden.

C) A delight to them. It is forbidden to say anything that will make someone sad on Shabbat.

Discussion Questions:

  • What kind of conversations are forbidden and permitted on Shabbat? Why do you think that might be?
  • What kinds of conversations do you want to have or want not to have on Shabbat?
  • How does speech impact our Shabbat World?
  • Thinking about this source in relation to the previous one, in what ways does speech function like an object in the context of the Shabbat World?

III. Extension (10 minutes)

Ask students to retrieve their index card from the beginning of the shiur and turn it over. Ask them to reflect for a few minutes and write down some components of their ideal Shabbat World. Then, after five minutes, instruct them to write down three objects that they would want to include in their Shabbat World and three that they would want to exclude. Some examples might include committing not using a laptop for homework for a given period of time on Shabbat, or to not using screens on Shabbat.

IV. Reflection (10 minutes)

Ask everyone to share one item from their list and explain why they chose it and how they hope that it will augment their experience of Shabbat. In what ways is your Shabbat World formed by the objects with which you bring into it or leave out of it? What objects serve your personal experience of Shabbat vis-à-vis your communal experience of Shabbat?