Saturday, February 10, 2018

The difference between a Shabbat and a Shabbat Shabbaton

Question to The Refiner’s Fire: Referring to https://therefinersfire.org/counting_the_omer.htm, I can only find three occasions within time which  are called Shabbat or Shabbat Shabbaton, namely, the seventh day of the week, Yom Kippur and the agricultural Shmita Year (PS. I've learned that Shabbat isn't the actual name of that day but a description: i.e. the seventh day is called "Shabbat" after a certain characteristic of that day, and so, certain days are also called "Shabbaton" after a certain characteristic of those days).

Our reply:
 
Thank you for writing. 

I hope our article which you referenced, was not confusing, as we advocate the counting of the Omer from the 16th of Nisan, and not from a weekly Sabbath.

You have brought up some interesting points though about the "Shabbat" vs the "Shabbat Shabbaton".  Please let me try to clarify. 

A "Shabbat" is any day of cessation, or day of rest.  The Hebrew word for "Shabbat" means "rest", or "cessation".  In that vein, all 8 recurring holy days are "Shabbats" because each are identified as days of "no ordinary work".

But there are three "special" Shabbats, called "Shabbat Shabbaton" which are more than a regular "Shabbat" (the weekly Shabbat, Yom Kippur, and the agricultural 7th year Shmita), but not for the reason you have come to assume.  These "special" Shabbats are special (i.e., Shabbat Shabbaton) because of their position as the "7th" in a sequence, not because they have a "special characteristic" of a particular day:

- The Weekly Sabbath is the 7th day of the week.
- Yom Kippur is the 7th of the named High Holy days of the year - the only day on which atonement is offered. (The weekly Sabbath is its own Sabbath, see Lev 23:2-3).
- The agricultural year, the 7th year is the year of rest for the land.

All the other "Sabbath" days are "days of rest", that is, they are important days of "cessation" from activity. (The 1st and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day of Shavuot, Yom Teruah, and the 1st and last days of Sukkot).  Each of these day are, indeed, "Sabbaths", but they are not "Shabbat Shabbatons", because they are not the "7th" in a sequence.

Thus, the weekly Sabbath is a "Sabbath", because it is a day of cessation, but it is also a "Shabbat Shabbaton" because it is the 7th day of the week.  And Yom Kippur is a "Sabbath", because it is a day of cessation, but it is also a "Shabbat Shabbaton" because it is the 7th of the annual Sabbaths, on which atonement is offered.

And the year of the Shmita is a "Sabbath" year, because it is a year of cessation of planting or harvesting, but it is also a "Shabbat Shabbaton" because it is the 7th year of the agricultural years.

Of course few studies such as this are "perfect". While the idea posed here has merit, Leviticus 23:39, which is about the 1st and last days of Sukkot, reads "On the first day is a rest [shabbaton], and on the eighth day a rest [shabbaton]" adding a bit of confusion.  Perhaps it is no wonder then why the Mishnah records that even the Sages pondered these differences. "Mishnah. There is no difference between festivals and Sabbath save only in the matter of [preparing] food."

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