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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 19.2:
Why is "shabbat" spelled sometimes shabbath, shabbath, shabbos, shabbes?


The Hebrew word is as follows, and it's pronounced in various ways:

      ___  __   _ _ *
      |  | . |  | | |
     _|  | __|_ |/_/
  	    T    --

"Shabbos" and "Shabbat" are examples. The final letter in the word is pronounced as "s" by Ashkenazis, as "t" by Sephardim, and as "th" by Yemenites and (according to some scholars) speakers of Hebrew around the year 3700. "Sabbath" is an anglicization of the Hebrew. Ephraimites may have been the actual source of this variant, as in Judges 12, it is reported that they were not able to pronounce the letter shin. Another possibility relates to the Greek alphabet, which has no "sh" sound, so in the Greek New Testament, which is primarily where the word would have been exposed to a Gentile audience, it was written with a sigma. It's all the same word, and the pronunciations are used interchangeably in this FAQ. Same with Kashrus/Kashrut/Kashruth.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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© (c) 1993-2004 Daniel P. Faigin <>