What are some useful and accessible resources for those who are just beginning to keep the Sabbath? General primers, overviews of the Law, sources of advice on making things easier, and guides to making a traditional Shabbos at home would all be welcomed...as would be sources of Shabbat-related inspiration to read during and before Shabbat. What key books might form a good basic toolkit for beginning Shabbat learning?

4 Answers 4


Here are some resources I would consider useful/practical for those new to Shabbos and seeking to cultivate an Orthodox observance, based on my own experiences as a baalas teshuvah.

Shabbos primers:

Broad overviews can be found which aspire to put everything you need to know about Shabbos in one book. Many of these, such as such as Noam Zion's "A Day Apart" and Dayan Dr. I. Grunfeld's "The Sabbath: A Guide to Its Understanding and Observance" are quite beautiful, and mix inspiration and instruction with sound advice about Sabbath practicalities. However, I am not aware of any single book that actually meets the goal of being everything you need for Shabbos. In my experience, these broad overviews are really best suited as sources of uplift and inspiration in one's Shabbos-keeping journey.

Guides to the Law:

Beyond a basic breakdown of the 39 melachos such as can be found online, I would suggest only a book of piskei din, preferably listed by activity in (English) alphabetical order. It is really important to have a print version of this book so that one can refer to it Shabbos, when one is wondering, as one frequently will, whether it is legal to do something. These books can be hard to find--for some reason, they aren't marketed to baalei teshuvah--but are worth their weight in gold. A short list:

  • R'Yaakov Goldstein, A Semikha Aid for Learning the Laws of Shabbos, vols. 1-3

  • Harav S.Z. Auerbach, Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah

  • Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, The 39 Melochos: An Elucidation of the 39 Melochos from Concept to Practical Application, vols. 1-4

  • R'Yehoshua Neuwirth, Shemirath Shabbath, vols. 1-3

  • Rabbi Simcha Bunin Cohen, The Shabbos Home, vols. 1-2

If you want shorter, perhaps more accessible guides to start off, books oriented toward children and teens can be a great option. I liked The 39 Avoth Melacha of Shabbath by Baruch Chait and Can I Play Chess on Shabbas by Joe Bobker.

In the other direction, an excellent and extremely comprehensive guide to the positive and negative mitzvot of Shabbos, including piskei din for every sort of situation imaginable, is the full seven-volume set by Rabbi Cohen: in addition to both volumes of The Shabbos Home, mentioned above, it includes The Shabbos Kitchen, Muktzeh: A Practical Guide, Radiance of Shabbos ("The complete laws of the Shabbos and Festival candle-lighting, Kiddush, Lechem Mishneh, meals, Bircas HaMazon, and Havdalah"), Sanctity of Shabbos ("A comprehensive guide to the laws of Shabbos and Yom Tov as they apply to a non-Jew doing work on behalf of a Jew"), and Aura of Shabbos ("A selection of relevant Erev Shabbos and Shabbos laws"). A further book of Rabbi Cohen's to add to this collection might be Shabbat, The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas, which seems to be an extension of Aura of Shabbos.

Guides to Making Shabbos/Positive Mitzvot:

Although there are a lot of books covering this topic, I think spending Shabbos with frum families is both necessary and sufficient to learn the basics of positive mitzvot, as well as how to make Shabbos. That said, some good books available are these:

  • Shabbos: Tasting Eternity by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis

  • Friday Night and Beyond: The Shabbat Experience by Lori Palatnik

Shabbos recipes, as well as guidelines for preparation and service of the traditional Shabbat meals are not too hard to find online. An excellent cookbook including details of Jewish tradition for Shabbos and every day is Spice and Spirit by Tzuvia Emmer and Tzipora Reitman.

Laws about reheating and use of the blech may be useful to print before Shabbos from a source like this.

Spiritual and Inspirational Resources:

I am not qualified to comment on or even list classical writings on the topic of Shabbos. There is a huge body of Shabbos literature, most of which, I am quite sure, is worth reading, although not much of which could be read by beginners without a chavrusa. Personally, what I found to be inspiring in my early days of keeping Shabbos were the remarks on the subject by Herman Wouk (in This is My G-d), Jonathan Sacks, and Abraham Joshua Heschel.

To read/consult during Shabbos:

In general, all books related to Shabbos are ideal to read and consult during Shabbos: especially at the beginning, Shabbos is an optimal time to learn about Shabbos. But there are some specific things that are useful, if not essential, to have in print for the actual day of Shabbat. The first would be the book of piskei din mentioned previously. Others are:

  • A Tanakh broken up into parshios, haftaros, and additional readings by week, ideally with Rashi and/or other commentary (or with a separate book of divrei Torah)

  • A siddur or bentcher with the texts of Friday night kiddush, Saturday kiddush, al natilas yadayim/hamotzi, table hymns, bentching, and psalms, ideally including translation and/or commentary

  • A siddur with the Shabbos davening: weekday minchah, candle-lighting, kabbalas Shabbos, Shabbos maariv, Shabbos shacharis, Shabbos mussaf, the Torah reading, Minchah, havdalah and weekday maariv. (A "synagogue companion" for Shabbos might also be useful.)

  • A songbook with z'miros


Good luck and Gut Shabbos!


Two online resources from Morasha:

The Shabbat Experience - Insight into Friday night seudah & mitzvos

Shabbat I: Plugging into the Goals of Life (basic concepts of Shabbos)

And a book to start with - Lori Palatnik's Friday Night and Beyond. Here is the Amazon descriptive blurb:

Friday Night and Beyond is a practical guide to Jewish Sabbath observance. Lori Palatnik walks us through the celebration with an easy-to-follow 'how-to' approach, allowing us to experience a traditional Shabbat. Common questions and concerns are explored by the author, who has also included personal reflections by other individuals on each aspect of the observance.

Good luck!


For a guide to the Shabbat Table Experience, try my book, Treasure of Shabbat: An Illuminated Guide to the Shabbat Table Experience: Finding Meaning and Inspiration through Shabbat Observance at Home

It is a step-by-step guide to Shabbat celebration at home. Easy instructions gently guide the reader through the Shabbat ceremonies. All Hebrew text is translated and transliterated. Heartening stories and clear explanations enable readers to follow along at someone else's home or celebrate in their own home. Full index. Two thousand source notes. Includes blessing after the meal and food blessings. Illuminated with two hundred color photos.

Here is the table of contents:

foreword vi preface vii acknowledgments viii how to use this book x sample shabbat schedule xiii list of needed items xv introduction xvi

FRIDAY AFTERNOON 1 candle lighting 3

FRIDAY NIGHT 11 shabbat angels 13 woman of valor 17 blessing the children 25 kiddush 29 washing the hands 43 blessing on bread 47 the meal 55 songs 61 rest and happiness 63 how cherished is your rest 69 the creator from whose bounty we have eaten 77 creator, master of the world 83 a day for israel 89 blessing after the meal 95

SATURDAY MORNING 97 kiddush 99 washing the hands & blessing on bread 111 the meal 113 songs 117 the source of all blessing 119 this day is honored 127 if i will guard shabbat 133 a day of rest 139 will call freedom 145 blessing after the meal 149

SATURDAY AFTERNOON 151 washing the hands & blessing on bread 153 the meal 155 songs 159 prepare the meal 161 a song of david 165 the spirit's beloved one 167 blessing after the meal 171

SATURDAY NIGHT 173 havdallah 175

BLESSING AFTER THE MEAL 189 introduction 191 a song of ascents 193 washing the hands 197 blessing after the meal 201 addition for festivals 243 addition for chanukah 249 addition for purim 255 invitation after a wedding meal 259 seven blessings after a wedding meal 265 song for a circumcision meal 277 invitation after a circumcision meal 285 addition for a circumcision meal 291

FOOD BLESSINGS 301 introduction 303 blessings before food 305 blessing on grain products 307 blessing on grape wine or grape juice 309 blessing on fruit 311 blessing on vegetables 313 blessing on everything else 315 blessings after food 317 special foods blessing 318 regular foods blessing 326

pronunciation guide 329 glossary 330 photo credits 332 colophon 337 notes 338 index 398

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  • 2
    Jonathan Bressel, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for sharing this resource and very properly disclosing your personal interest! I hope you'll stick around and continue sharing your expertise here, perhaps elsewhere among our shabbat questions.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 14:58

Aish has some very nice articles here. http://www.aish.com/sh/?s=nb

  • You should summarize and not give the link only. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 1:50

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