Q. Why is an informal Sabbath gathering, often on Shabbat afternoon, called an Oneg Shabbat?
A. The phrase is from Isaiah 58:13: V’karata laShabbat oneg, “You shall call Shabbat a delight”.
Chaim Nachman Bialik, pioneer of a weekly Oneg Shabbat in Tel Aviv, said, “To create forms of life that are rooted and genuine, the founders of the Oneg Shabbat movement feel they must use for their creative work only such material as is derived from the foundation stones of the original forms of Jewish life. They feel that they must dig down to the strongest of all our foundations, to the very cornerstone of Jewish life.
“They have found no form loftier or more profound than the Sabbath, which preceded the giving of the Torah and was observed by the Children of Israel while still in Egypt. Sabbath is the cornerstone of Judaism, and it is not without cause that it is called the ‘sign of the covenant’ between God and the Children of Israel. In the Sabbath are enfolded many national and social concepts. If in the Ten Commandments is enfolded the whole Torah, then in the Sabbath are probably enfolded all the Ten Commandments”.