Kabbalistic “Seventh Day” Customs

Jewish mysticism views the days of the week as a microcosm of world history. In the same way that we are in exile and are preparing for the redemption of the world, so too the days of the week are for working towards the seventh day of Shabbat which parallels the time of redemption.

In the early and mid-16th century a number of unique Shabbat customs were introduced by Kabbalists living in the holy city of Tzfat. These customs reflected the understanding that the redemption is drawing closer and that in order to connect with this, we needed to start connecting with the day of Shabbat which is, as of now, one of the ways we can get closer to and get a taste of the ultimate redemption.

A few select Kabbalistic Shabbat customs are as follows;

  • Immersion in a ritual bath (known in Hebrew as a Mikve) on the eve of Shabbat
    Many Jewish men will visit a ritual bath or natural spring on Friday afternoon before Shabbat. This immersion can be compared to the ritual immersion that married women carry out in order to prepare for relations with their husbands. In a similar fashion, Jewish men prepare themselves for the spiritual union that occurs on Shabbat between the male and female dynamic.
  • Receiving the Shabbat in the fields while facing west
    Just before sunset on Friday afternoons, it is related that the spiritual worlds begin to ascend and male and female archetypes unite. In order to align ourselves with these cosmic phenomena the Kabbalists initiated some special practices for Kabbalat Shabbat (the “Receiving of the Shabbat” prayers that are recited on the eve of Shabbat). Firstly, there is the custom to go out to the fields in order to welcome the Shabbat. This is based on the mystical teaching that Shabbat can elevate creation in ways that cannot be achieved during the week. In the same way that food and drink that is consumed on Shabbat is on a different level than food and drink consumed in the week as the Shabbat sanctifies these physical aspects in a way that the regular weekdays can’t, so too we leave the towns and the security that they provide us in order to experience holiness without our usual boundaries of safety.
  • Wearing white clothes on Shabbat
    There is a Kabbalistic custom to wear only, or mostly, white garments on Shabbat. In the past, entire communities would do so (especially Sephardic Kabbalists and Hassidim) and even today one can find people who do so (primarily in Israel).
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