B.A., Ph.D., D. Lit.



Foreward by The Chief RabbiPAGE xiii
Introduction to Seder Mo‘ed by the Editorxxi
Introduction to Shabbath by the Translatorxxxiii
Chapter I2
Chapter II20
Chapter III36
Chapter IV47
Chapter V51
Chapter VI57
Chapter VII67
Chapter VIII76
Chapter IX82
Chapter X90
Chapter XI96
Chapter XII102
Chapter XIII105
Chapter XIV107
Chapter XV111
Chapter XVI115
Chapter XVII122
Chapter XVIII126
Chapter XIX130
Chapter XX137
Chapter XXI141
Chapter XXII143
Chapter XXIII148
Chapter XXIV153
Index of Scriptural References
General Index
Transliteration of Hebrew Letters

Directory of Sedarim and Tractates


Intro 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80
81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100
101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110
111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120
131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140
141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150
151 152 153 154 155 156 157      


[page xxxiii] Shabbath is the first treatise of Mo‘ed, the second Order of the Talmud. It contains 157 folios divided into 24 chapters, and is the second longest Tractate of the Talmud, being exceeded only by Baba Bathra, which runs to 176 folios.

As its name implies, the Tractate deals with the laws and regulations of the Sabbath. It is obvious that an institution of such far-reaching importance, which is indeed one of the foundations of Judaism and for the violation of which Scripture prescribes the supreme penalty,1  had to be carefully defined, and its observance precisely determined. To this task the Rabbis devoted themselves in the present treatise.2

The Biblical data are furnished by the following passages: Gen. II, 2-3; Ex. XVI, 22 seq.; XX, 8-11 (the Fourth Commandment); XXIII, 12; XXXIV, 21; XXXV, 2-3; Num. XV, 32 seq.; Deut. V, 12-15 (the Fourth Commandment in the Deuteronomic revision); Jer. XVII, 21 seq.; Amos VIII, 5: Neh. X, 32 and XIII, 15 seq. From an analysis and examination of these we learn that the following labours are forbidden: baking and seething; gathering manna and bringing it in; harvesting and ploughing (and perhaps the labours associated with these); kindling; bearing burdens and carrying into a town (Jerusalem) or out from a private house; buying and selling; treading winepresses, and lading asses.3  But of course, mere chance references, as many of these are, could not be regarded as exhausting the labours forbidden [page xxxiv] on the Sabbath, and a scientific investigation was necessary for the full understanding of its observance.

It will help to an understanding of the Tractate to know the principles upon which the Rabbis based their definition of labour, and the various categories of forbidden work which they distinguished. The locus classicus for determining the meaning of 'work' was found by them in Ex. XXXV. There the instructions to build the Tabernacle are preceded by a short passage dealing with the prohibition of labour on the Sabbath which is apparently superfluous. The Rabbis accordingly interpreted it as intimating that whatever work was required in the building of the Tabernacle constituted 'work' which is forbidden on the Sabbath. Acting on this principle they drew up a list of thirty-nine 'principal' labours, which they extended by adding 'derivatives', i.e., such as partook of the nature of the 'principal' labours.

In addition to the foregoing they forbade other actions (shebuth) on the Sabbath which while not falling into the categories of either 'principal' labours or 'derivatives' were nevertheless felt not to harmonize with the sacred and restful nature of the Sabbath. And finally, they prohibited the handling of certain articles under the term 'mukzeh' (lit., 'set apart').

It would be too wearisome to give a detailed summary of each of the twenty-four chapters [see list above]. Suffice it to say that with the exception of the first Mishnah a definite order of sequence may be discerned. Thus the Tractate commences with the things which may not be done on Friday, goes on to discuss the oils and wicks which may be used in kindling the Sabbath lights; the things in which food may be stored for the Sabbath; the ornaments which may be worn, and then the enumeration of the thirty nine 'principal' labours, in the seventh chapter. The following nine chapters consist of definitions of these labours, while from Chapter XVII until the end a number of miscellaneous subjects are dealt with, including those things which are forbidden as a 'shebuth' or under the heading of 'mukzeh'. A special chapter (XIX) is devoted to circumcision on the Sabbath. [page xxxv]

A considerable portion of the Tractate consists of Aggaduh. It is difficult to make a selection from the rich store of Rabbinic legend, sentence, apologue and aphorism in which the Tractate abounds, but perhaps special attention might be drawn to the following: Prayer must be preceded by preparation; the judge who judges truthfully becomes a partner with God in the Creation; the Sabbath is God's gift to Israel; the story of Hanukkah (the Feast of Lights); the attempt to exclude Ecclesiastes and Ezekiel from the Canon; the heathens who wished to embrace Judaism on certain conditions and Hillel's famous epitome of Judaism — 'What is hateful to thee do not do to thy neighbour'; R. Simeon b. Yohai's criticism of the Roman Government and his flight; 'truth' is God's seal; Rome was founded when Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter; God's stipulation that the world was to return to chaos unless Israel accepted the Torah; Israel's joy in accepting it and Moses' fight to obtain it — an appreciation of the fact that God's kingdom on earth can be established only after struggle; the Torah is the cause of the nations' hatred of Israel; why Jerusalem was destroyed; schoolchildren are God's anointed; and finally, 'Repent one day before thy death' and the necessity to be ready at all times to appear before God illustrated by the parable of the wise and the foolish men invited to the king's feast. In that desire to be at harmony with God, which is the core and essence of Judaism, the Rabbis found the spiritual significance of the sacredness of the Sabbath.



  1. In actual practice this was hedged about with so many restrictions as to make its application virtually impossible.
  2. On the relationship between 'Shabbath' and 'Bezah' (or Yom Tob) v. Halevi, Doroth Harishonim I, 3, p. 253.
  3. In these texts too the sanctity of the Sabbath is stressed, the persons who benefit by this day of rest, and the reasons for same. In connection with the last it may be mentioned that while Gen. II, 2-3 and Ex. XX, 8-11 state God's resting after the Creation as the reason, in Deut. V, 12-15 the Sabbath is based on Israel's bondage in Egypt and their eventual liberation. Thus the Sabbath emphasizes God's Creation of the world on the one hand, and freedom as an essential right of man on the other.

The Indices of this Tractate have been compiled by Judah J. Slotki, M. A.


The Editor desires to state that the translation of the several Tractates, and the notes thereon, are the work of the individual contributors and that he has not attempted to secure general uniformity in style or mode of rendering. He has, nevertheless, revised and supplemented, at his own discretion, their interpretation and elucidation of the original text, and has himself added the notes in square brackets containing alternative explanations and matter of historical and geographical interest.