The First Shabbat

On the seventh day, God rested from the work of Creation.
The seventh day of Creation was designated as a day of rest — Shabbat. From the description of Shabbat in the Creation story, we will learn about how God rested and we will explore how we rest from our weekday routines.

Resource Ages: 6-8, 9-11


Then the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their array.

With the seventh day, God completed the work God had done.

God rested on the seventh day from all the work God had done.

God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God rested from all God’s work, which God had created and done.

(Genesis 2:1‒3)

וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל צְבָאָם.  

וַיְכַל אֱ-לֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה; 

וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה.  

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱ-לֹהִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ:  

כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא אֱ-לֹהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת.

Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • What resources support/enable/inspire my growth?
  • How do I grow as a result of the Jewish calendrical cycle?
  • How do Jewish rituals and practices enrich the way I experience my life and the world?

Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions

  • How is the importance of a day of rest expressed?
  • What kind of connection is there between Shabbat and the other days of the week?
  • What are some of the non-physical ways we can rest?

Background for Teacher

In the Torah, the story of Creation is described in Chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Breishit (Genesis). According to this story, God created the world in six days. Each day, God created a different part of Creation: light and darkness, the...

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In the Torah, the story of Creation is described in Chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Breishit (Genesis). According to this story, God created the world in six days. Each day, God created a different part of Creation: light and darkness, the heavens and the earth, the oceans, animals, the celestial bodies and, of course, humans. On the seventh day, God “rested” from the work of creating the world. God blessed the seventh day and set it apart from the other days of the week. In Jewish tradition, the seventh day is a day of rest, in remembrance of the day on which God rested from the work of Creation. Like God, the tradition teaches us not to do any work on this day and to take a break from our weekday activities. Over the generations, Jewish law and philosophy have defined the boundaries of Shabbat rest — specifying which actions should be avoided, in order to meet the definition of “rest”. People who do not hold closely to Jewish law can define rest for themselves. That rest might include physical rest, family time, time for hobbies, time for prayer, time to just ‘be’ without a need to ‘do’ and accomplish, or any other thing that feels to them like a way of taking a break from the routine of the week.

This passage begins the Kiddush that is said on Friday night.

Optional Hooks
In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study

For younger students: 

  • Ask the students to act out different types of work (for example, building, cooking, cleaning, homework, office work, gardening, etc.) and different types of rest (encourage them to think about different types of rest – not just sleep, for example: reading a book, taking a leisurely stroll, doing something they love, etc.). Then, act out the same actions to music. Play music with a strong rhythm and call out in a loud voice: “Monday”, “Tuesday”, etc., while the students act out the different types of work. When you get to Shabbat, change the music or lower the volume and have the students act out different types of rest.

For older students:

  • Associative activities involving concepts of work and rest aimed at developing these concepts beyond initial and automatic thoughts: Draw two concept maps on the board, one with the word “work” and one with the word “rest”. Ask the students to try to come up with other words that they associate with the words ‘work’ and ‘rest’. Then, draw a table that has two columns. Have the students fill in the table with the words they wrote in the concept maps. The first column is for words that they associate with weekdays and the second column is for words that they associate with Shabbat. Examine whether all the words associated with rest ended up in the Shabbat column and whether all the words associated with work ended up in the weekday column. Are there words associated with work that they linked with Shabbat? Which words and why?

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.

  1. On the seventh day of Creation, what did God rest from?
  2. Do you think that God needed to rest after creating the world? If not, why did God rest?
  3. By the end of the week, do you need to rest? Why? Over the course of the week, what do you work hard at?
  4. Are there things that you feel you don’t have time to do over the course of the week? What are they?
  5. How do you rest?
  6. What does resting on Shabbat contribute to the rest of the week?

For older students:

  1. Why do you think the Torah tells us about the break from the work of Creation instead of just ending the Creation story with the last work of Creation, which was done on the sixth day?
  2. What’s the relationship between stopping work and resting? Are they the same thing? If not, what is the difference?
  3. The verse states that God blesses Shabbat and makes it holy. Explain these actions in your own words. What is the blessing of Shabbat, for you?
  • Show this presentation, which includes illustrations depicting the creation of the world. Explain the different things that were created each day and have the students find them in the illustrations. Now, ask the students to draw a picture of Shabbat. Think together: How can we draw Shabbat? How can we draw rest? What things represent Shabbat and rest for us?
  • Challenge: Ask the students to pick a set of colors that they feel represent rest and then have them use those colors to draw a picture of their Shabbat. What colors do not match a feeling of rest? Why? To conclude the exercise, you can hang up all the pictures that the students drew and compare them with one another. Note the different ways that each student chose to depict Shabbat and see if the pictures share anything in common — something common to all of the students’ Shabbat experiences.

For older students: 

  • Together with the students, on the board, make a list of ways in which they can rest, to store up energy. Have the students split up into pairs. Each student should tell their partner about their own Shabbat and how they rest on Shabbat. Suggest that they think of one Shabbat that was particularly fun for them and on which they felt that they gathered new energy for the week ahead. Conclude the lesson as a class: What are the different ways to rest? Which ways are the most common? Why do the actions that were mentioned help us to rest?
  • Show pictures of rest and leisure activities. Have each student choose three pictures and rank them according to the level of rest that they each depict. The students can also include activities that do not appear in the pictures, but that they feel represent rest, in their rankings. Ask each student to tell the others what picture they feel represents the highest level of rest and what picture they feel represents the lowest level of rest.
    Discuss: What makes one activity more restful and another activity less restful? Is it a matter of the level of physical activity? Are there things that are sometimes considered restful and at other times not? Is a hike sometimes restful and sometimes not? Why? Ask the students to define rest.
    Up to this point, we have emphasized that the commandment to rest on Shabbat does not only refer to physical work. But, refraining from physical work is part of resting on Shabbat.
  • Mark your position on the line below:

    I’m a  ‘resting’ kind of person ……………………………………..I’m an active person
    (I like to sit around, etc.)                                 (I like to run and jump, etc.)
    ‒  Are you satisfied with where you’ve positioned yourself?
    ‒  Would you want to try to act in a different way?
    ‒  Are there situations in which you tend to be more restful and situations in which you tend to be more active? Which situations and why?
    ‒ What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach?
  • Read the passage from The House at Pooh Corner about doing “Nothing”.
    What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?”
    “Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best-” and then he had to stop and think.[…] when he had thought it all out, he said, “What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying, ‘Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.”
    “I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.””How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time. “Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and you go and do it.” “Oh, I see,” said Pooh. “This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing right now.” “Oh, I see,” said Pooh again. “It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear and not bothering.” “Oh!” said Pooh.

    The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne

    Discuss how we can do “Nothing” and what’s so nice about it. What does Christopher Robin enjoy about doing “Nothing”? Have the students write down a recent memory of doing “Nothing” and enjoying it.

  • Read the story  “The Gift” about the gift that Shabbat rest can give. This story provides an example of how Shabbat rest can renew our creativity and refresh our strength as we enter a new week. How is this story similar to the story of the creation of the world and God’s resting on the seventh day? If you are teaching grades 3‒5, you can address the question of whether the creation of humans was finished on the sixth day or whether, like in the story, things can still be added to that creation.
  • Study the text of the Friday-night Kiddush, which includes a description of the first Shabbat. This blessing is the ceremony that opens Shabbat and Havdalah is the ceremony that ends Shabbat. In the time between these two ceremonies, we are invited to experience a time that, traditionally, has been perceived as a special time of rest.