It’s Friday afternoon, and the typical Jewish house is a tornado of activity. Tensions are high as every family member races against the clock to get his or her tasks done.

A younger child is sweeping; another sets the table and prepares the candles. Someone is in the shower, and the little ones need help getting dressed in their best outfits. Savory aromas from the kitchen waft through the house. Chicken and seasoned potatoes are roasting in the oven, and a slow cooker on the counter is starting to bubble. One helper inspects leafy greens and makes a salad while someone else is finishing up the dishes.

Golden sunbeams stream through the western window at a low angle. “Time to light candles!” The girls rush to their mother’s side. As usual, they didn’t cross out every item on the to-do list, but the essential tasks are done. Mother takes a deep breath, lights the candles, and intonates the Shabbat candle blessing. With gentle breaths, she whispers a prayer for her family’s peace, health, and success.

Urgent preparation is necessary because Shabbat (the Sabbath) is a day of rest. For traditional observant Jews, all work stops when the sun goes down on Friday. No cooking, no cleaning, no shopping, no homework. Orthodox Jews even abstain on Shabbat from certain activities that are not strenuous or unpleasant at all. While knitting a sweater or journaling may be relaxing, an Orthodox Jewish person refrains from these kinds of creative activities on the Sabbath day. Have you ever wondered why?

Here is another mystery: While Shabbat begins the moment the sun sinks below the horizon on Friday evening, it is a universal custom not to keep working until that moment despite the frantic rush of preparations. Instead, observant Jews accept the restrictions of Shabbat a little bit early—commonly at least eighteen minutes before sunset.