Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
YEHOVAH God's Sabbath -- a Day Beyond Space and Time
There is much more to YEHOVAH God's weekly Sabbath day than most people have perceived. Let's take a good look into the many facets of this special Holy Day, and see its tremendous significance, vital meaning, and incredible importance to YEHOVAH's people. What is its true import and meaning? What is its intrinsic value? Why do we observe it? Here is a profound insight into the height, and depth, and width and breadth of YEHOVAH God's uniquely special "holy day."
by HOIM Staff
Even though the Jewish people are no longer keeping YEHOVAH God's holy Sabbath day at the right time, it is noteworthy that the Jews have a great deal of insight into the significance of this holy day, and its meaning for mankind. Therefore, let's study into this day, and glean what we can from knowledgeable sources, and in so doing come to a much greater appreciation of YEHOVAH's "holy time."
It is, first of all, very important that we understand how the Sabbath day is related to creation itself. It is no accident that YEHOVAH God "created" the Sabbath day at the very end of "Creation week," thus identifying this day with Creation, as well as "rest."
In the book Judaism, by Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, we read: "In a basic Rabbinic image, mortals are God's partners in the work of creation. God labored and then He rested; human beings labor to perform their creative tasks and they, too, must rest" (p.170).
The Big Mistake
The Jews, however, added to the Torah's commandments regarding the Sabbath. The Mishnah, the code of Jewish law edited by Rabbi Judah the Prince in the second century after the Messiah, is the "kernel" of the Talmud, which is the record of three centuries of exegesis of the Mishnah. The Jewish rules for the Sabbath are contained in the Mishnah, with a comment or two of interpretation found in the Talmud. Notice! To the Jews, Sabbath observance became so important, that it became almost a religion in itself! Says the Mishnah:
"The rules about the Sabbath, Festal offering and sacrilege are like mountains hanging by a hair, for there is scant teaching about them in Scripture while the rules are many" (Mishnah Hagigah 1:8).
Why did the Jewish rabbis add so many rules and laws about the observance of the Sabbath? In a nutshell, they were very concerned about YEHOVAH's wrath for disobedience of His holy day. They knew that Judah was sent into captivity because of idolatry and sabbath-breaking, in the days of the Babylonian empire under king Nebuchadnezzar. Fearing lest they should be cast out and into captivity once again, they focused mightily upon the Sabbath, in an attempt to insure that they would not be "guilty" of Sabbath breaking in the future.
However, in YEHOVAH's sight, an exaggerated sense of the Sabbath, and a manmade "casket" of laws regarding its perfunctory observance, is just as bad as neglect and negligence in Sabbath observance! Both extremes are to be avoided like the plague! The Jews of Yeshua's time were so focused on the technical rules they had invented to supposedly safeguard Sabbath observance, that they turned YEHOVAH's festive and joyous holy day into a day of bondage, a yoke of burdensome rules and nit-picking regulations. Because of these added "do's and don't's," Yeshua upbraided and rebuked the Pharisees, reminding them that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
How many categories of work does the Mishnah forbid on the Sabbath?
"The principal categories of work [which are forbidden on the Sabbath] are forty less one [39 categories]: sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, cleansing crops, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing, washing, beating or dyeing wool, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying a knot, loosening a knot, sewing two stitches, ripping in order to sow two stitches, hunting a gazelle [or similar beast], slaughtering or flaying or salting it or curing its hide, scraping it or cutting it up, writing two letters [that is, two letters of the alphabet in a row!], erasing in order to write two letters, building, pulling down, putting out a fire, lighting a fire, striking with a hammer and taking anything from one domain to another [e.g. from private domain to public domain or vice versa]. These are the principal categories of work: forty less one" (Mishnah Shabbat 7:2).
The religious leaders among the Jews would get completely bent out of shape if they saw anyone "violate" any of these "work categories" on the Sabbath day. That is why when Yeshua healed the sick on the Sabbath, they were outraged. When he commanded a man whom he had healed on the Sabbath to pick up his bed and walk, they were infuriated with him, and accused him of desecrating the Sabbath day by permitting "work" on it -- the work of carrying an object such as a bed roll (see John 5:6-12; Matt.9:6; Mark 2:11; Luke 5:24).
Not only this, but to the Jews it was a "sin" to reap or "harvest" on the Sabbath -- and to them, that included ANY picking of grain from a field -- even a few kernels to eat on the spot, as it were! When Yeshua's disciples went through a wheat field, plucking the ears of wheat to eat, the Pharisees and rabbis found fault with them (Mark 2:23-24). Yeshua, however, rebuked them for their rigid and rigorous interpretation of the Sabbath law, pointing out that what the disciples did was indeed permitted because they were hungry -- even as it was all right for David and those with him to eat the shewbread, which technically only the priests could eat, since they were in need and hungry at the time (Mark 2:25-26; Luke 6:1-5).
To the Pharisees, "healing" or "curing" a man of an illness was considered "work," and something which must not be done on the Sabbath day. However, Yeshua deliberately healed a man whose right hand was withered on the Sabbath day, thus performing "work" in their eyes (Luke 6:6-10). As a result of this "work," which the religious leaders considered a flagrant violation of the Sabbath command to rest, "they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11). The Jews had gone so far as to make an IDOL out of a day itself! They virtually worshipped the day, instead of the One who created the Day -- YEHOVAH God Himself!
John tells us, "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God [that is, on the same plane as YEHOVAH God]" (John 5:18).
Getting a Balanced Approach
The Jewish leaders did admit, however, that "Whenever there is doubt as to whether a life may be in danger, the laws of the Sabbath may be suspended" (Mishnah Yomah 8:6). Thus in extreme emergencies, they would admit that the Sabbath could be broken to "save life." However, Yeshua took this principle many steps further! He declared it was all right to break the Sabbath to heal or help the sick or injured, even if life were not threatened. He declared it was all right to carry a bed on the Sabbath, if one had just been healed, even though in general one should not carry "burdens" of any kind on the Sabbath. He considered this an exception to the rule, obviously.
In addition, Yeshua plainly showed it was all right to "eat out" on the Sabbath, by "harvesting" grain and eating it, if one were passing through a grain field. We do not have agrarian grain fields all around us, today, as they did in those days. However, we do have many restaurants and cafes, and eating places, which are "open" on the Sabbath. The principle Yeshua was showing is that it is all right to "eat out" on the Sabbath if one is hungry, and in need of food! (He was not saying, however, that one should "go through a grain field" every Sabbath, or, in today's terms, go to a restaurant every Sabbath!).
Clearly, Orthodox Judaism took the Sabbath command and made it into a strict and fastidious burden. Imagine! You could not tie your shoelace on the Sabbath, or even untie it! You could not strike a match -- or blow one out! You could not pick up an object on the ground -- that would be considered "lifting"! And on and on it went -- to the detriment of the people, who began to develop a negative attitude toward the Sabbath, and a hatred toward others who did not agree with their legalistic approach!
The Jewish religious leaders made such a fetish out of the Sabbath itself, that Rabbi Levi is reputed to have said:
"If the Jewish people would observe the Sabbath properly even once, the son of David [the Messiah] would come. Why? Because observing the Sabbath is equal to all the other commandments in importance" (Exodus Rabbah 25:12).
We must strive for balance in regard to YEHOVAH's commandments and laws. Nowhere does the Torah, or Word of YEHOVAH God, state that Sabbath obedience is equal to all the other commandments combined in importance. That is sheer nonsense! Rather, as the apostle James so plainly tells us, all the commandments of YEHOVAH God are equally important, as parts of a divine chain. He wrote: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou are become a transgressor of the law" (Jas. 2:10-11).
The Rigorous and Ascetic Sabbath Cults
In the days of the Second Temple, after the time of the Maccabees, various sects and cults began to develop among the Jewish people, including the sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Samaritans. Some of these held the Sabbath to be a rigorous and exceedingly strict day of austerity and abstinence. Writes Hayyim Schauss in The Jewish Festivals: History and Observance:
"There were among the Jews certain groups and sects for whom the Sabbath had only a rigorous and ascetic character. No fire or light was allowed on the Sabbath, even when that fire or light was kindled before the Sabbath. One was scarcely allowed to stir or move on the Sabbath. During the days of the second Temple sects and groups which observed this rigorous Sabbath included the Samaritans, the Essenes, and probably, the Sadducees; in later times the Kairites were added to these sects. Among the Pharisees, however, and that means among the great majority of the people, the Sabbath never assumed this one-sided, rigorous character. It is true that the Pharisees increased the prohibitions of work on the Sabbath down to the most minute detail, but, on the other hand, they eased, in many respects, the ` rigor of the Sabbath rest and preserved the character of the Sabbath as a day of delight and joy. They did more than permit the burning of lights on Friday night; they declared it a precept. They permitted walks of two thousand cubits in any one direction on the Sabbath, and, provided food had been placed at that point on the day before, the place was considered an abode and a further walk of two thousand cubits was allowed. If it was a question of succoring the sick, of saving an endangered life, breaking the law was allowed. There were many such moderations of the rigorous Sabbath rest, for the Sabbath was given to the Jews, not the Jews to the Sabbath, said the Pharisees" (p. 11-12).
The Pharisees, as a whole, were more moderate in their Sabbath rules and requirements than the competing sects of the Essenes and Sadducees, who were extremely legalistic and rigorous in their interpretation of the Sabbath laws of the Torah. But even among the Pharisees there were disputes between the School of Shammai, which tended to be on the strict side, and the school of Hillel, which tended to be more liberal and permissive. At the time when the Messiah walked the streets of Jerusalem, and the neighboring regions, it was the School of Shammai which was in power and authority, and which no doubt led the censure and criticism of the Messiah and his disciples regarding their Sabbath observance.
"Holiness in Time"
Nevertheless, there are some vital insights and understanding imparted to us concerning the Sabbath from the Jewish people. The Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1973) declared of the Sabbath day:
"Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals . . .
"One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the word qadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine. Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?
"It is, indeed, a unique occasion at which the distinguished word qadosh is used for the first time: in the Book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation. How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time: 'And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy' [Gen. 2:3]. There is no reference in the record of creation to any object in space that would be endowed with the quality of holiness.
". . . The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world" (Judaism, p. 176).
Preparing for the Sabbath
To properly observe the Sabbath day, it is necessary for "preparation" to be made in advance of the day itself. That is, [the sixth day]... is considered the normal "preparation day." This principle is derived from Exodus 16:5, where YEHOVAH God says relative to the Sabbath day, "On the sixth day they shall prepare . . ." Says Rabbi Judah the Pious (1150-1207), one of the saintliest men of medieval German Jewry, about Sabbath preparation:
"'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy' [Exo.20:8]. But is one liable to forget the Sabbath day? For it does recur every seventh day. The verse means to imply that one must remember to remove those things which would make him forget to remember the Sabbath. For example, one should not be sad on the Sabbath . . . Each Sabbath, one should do those things which remind him that it is a Sabbath: One should bathe ono Sabbath eve and dress in his best clothes and arrange for an oleg shabbat ('joy of the Sabbath') celebration, and read those things which are suitable for the Sabbath day. . .
"'On the sixth day they shall prepare' [Exo. 16:5]. One must very diligently prepare for the Sabbath in advance. He must be diligent and quick in this as one who has heard that the Queen is going to lodge at his home, or as one who has heard that a bride and all her company are coming to his home. What would he do in such instances? He would greatly rejoice and say, 'They do me great honor by staying under my roof.' He would say to his servants, 'Make the house ready, set it in order, sweep it out and make the beds in honor of those who are coming. I shall go to buy as much bread, meat and fish as I can, in their honor.' What, for us, is greater than the Sabbath? The Sabbath is a bride, a Queen, the Sabbath is called a delight. Therefore, we surely must take pains to prepare for the Sabbath; each person himself must prepare, even though he has one hundred servants" (Sepher Hasidim, quoted in Judaism, p. 175).
In our modern age, all too often we forget, or neglect, to prepare in advance for YEHOVAH's weekly holy day as we should! We ought to look forward with anticipation toward the Sabbath rest, from the moment the new week begins, and begin preparing for it day by day. But the most special, urgent preparation ought to be done on [the sixth day]... the preparation day, itself.
Prayers for the Sabbath
In Jewish liturgy, there are special prayers for the Sabbath day, and then the prayer over the wine, called the kiddush, the symbol of joy, with which the [Preparation Day]... evening meal, the Sabbath festive meal, begins. The Sabbath prayer is rich with symbolism and meaning, and goes like this (in English):
"Those who celebrate the Sabbath rejoice in Your kingship, hallowing the seventh day, calling it a delight. All of them truly enjoy your goodness. For it pleased You, to sanctify the seventh day, calling it the most desirable day, a reminder of Creation.
Permit me to interject a brief note here, that the Sabbath not only points back to Creation, and the God of Creation, but it also points like a signpost to the future, the seventh week in YEHOVAH God's celestial Plan -- the Millennial reign of the Messiah who is shortly to come! Thus it points both forward and backward -- to the past, and to the future. Also, it represents not only a reminder of the original Creation, completed long ago, but is a constant weekly reminder of the continuing Creation which is still going on -- that is, YEHOVAH is still in the process of "creating" perfect, righteous, holy character in human beings, so that they may one day join Him in His Kingdom, which is typified by the Sabbath as well. YEHOVAH God is even today creating His holy character within us. Those who are separated unto Him, by observance of His holy day, are uniquely His, and show that they belong to Him by observing the Sabbath -- and in so doing, show that they are His people, whom He is fashioning and shaping into His perfect character image and likeness.
The Sabbath prayer continues:
"Our God and God of our ancestors, accept our Sabbath offering of rest. Add holiness to our lives with Your mitzvot [commandments] and let Your Torah be our portion. Fill our lives with Your goodness and gladden us with Your triumph. Cleanse our hearts and we shall serve You faithfully. Lovingly and willingly, Lord our God, grant that we inherit Your holy gift of the Sabbath forever, so that Your people Israel who hallow Your name will always find rest on this day. Praised are You, Lord who hallows the Sabbath" (Trans. from Siddur Sim Shalom, p. 435, 437, in Judaism, p. 177).
Another Sabbath prayer, prayed at the beginning of each Sabbath, declares:
"Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the universe whose mitzvot [commandments] ` add holiness to our lives, cherishing us through the gift of His holy Sabbath granted lovingly, gladly, a reminder of Creation. It is the first among our days of sacred assembly which recall the Exodus from Egypt. Thus You have chosen us, endowing us with holiness, from among all peoples by granting us Your holy Sabbath lovingly and gladly. Praised are You, Lord who hallows the Sabbath" (Siddur Sim Shalom, p. 319).
In an ancient Jewish legend, YEHOVAH speaks to the children of Israel, saying, "My children, if you are willing to accept the Torah and observe its precepts [mitzvot, or commandments], I will grant you a most precious gift."
"And what is this precious gift to be?" ask the children of Israel.
"The world-to-come," is the reply.
"Tell us what the world-to-come is like," retort the children of Israel.
And God responds, "I have already given you the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a taste of the world-to-come."
The Most Important Holy Day
The weekly Sabbath day, above all things, is a day of rest and spiritual rejuvenation and refreshing. It is the "day of joy" of the entire week. Properly observed, the Sabbath draws families together, and parents and children dine together on this great day. They sang together. They studied the Torah, or the Word of YEHOVAH God, together. They enacted the role of a united, growing, harmonious family of YEHOVAH God.
The Sabbath is considered the most important day of YEHOVAH's calendar -- even more important than Yom Kippur or any of the other annual holy days. In one sense, it is more important than the other holy days for a very obvious reason -- it is observed every week throughout the year according to the lunar reckoning! The other holy days or "Sabbaths" of YEHOVAH God are observed only once a year!
The Sabbath is even more important than Yom Kippur, because the penalty for desecrating the Sabbath is death itself. Violation of this day was a very serious matter. We read in the Torah: "Whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 31:15); "every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death" (v. 14). On the other hand, the penalty for desecrating Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is banishment or excommunication from the people of YEHOVAH God, the assembly of His children (Lev. 23:30). In essence, then, the weekly Sabbath day is the most important day of the year!
YEHOVAH God "rested" on the Sabbath day, setting us an example of what He desires us to do on this day (Gen. 2:1-3). Says Harold S. Kushner in his book To Life! concerning this "rest":
"The two words used in Biblical Hebrew to describe God resting on that first Sabbath are not the usual words for resting. The first means 'He ceased His labors,' and the second means, 'He got His soul back.' We are commanded to rest on the seventh day first to demonstrate our freedom from slavery, and second to get our souls back.
"We are commanded to rest on the seventh day, but 'rest' is defined as more than sleeping late and doing nothing strenuous. It has at least three other dimensions.
"First, Sabbath rest is defined as leaving the world alone, restraining our impulse to tinker with it. There will be six days coming up to work at fixing what is wrong with the world. For one day, let well enough alone. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to stop fussing with it and let it take care of itself.
"Second, Sabbath rest is defined as freedom from obligation. You don't have to do anything. . . My own definition of Sabbath observance would involve taking my watch off at sunset [on the Preparation Day]...and not looking at it until sunset on [the Sabbath]...There is perhaps no more oppressive, though necessary, taskmaster in our lives than the clock, as we rush to catch a certain train, fearful of being late, fidget nervously in traffic jams . . . A day on which I didn't know and didn't care what time it was would be a day of liberation for me.
"And finally, Sabbath rest is a time of detaching ourselves for a day from all of our problems, everything unpleasant and unfinished. . . For one day, we try to see the world as it is supposed to be, free of pain and problems, to hold on to the vision of what it could be if we could just finally manage to get it right. We needn't worry; our problems won't disappear. They will all be there waiting for us at Sabbath's end -- the unpaid bills, the family conflicts, the problems at work. But for one day we will have had the liberating experience of not worrying about them" (p. 98-99).
Truly, properly observed, with even the heart and mind -- the attitude "adjusted" -- the Sabbath can and ought to be a "delights" -- a day we put our problems behind us, and just "worship" YEHOVAH in faith and fullness of joy.
All "work" was forbidden on the Sabbath. However, the Bible categorizes only a few activities as "work," including plowing and harvesting (Exo. 34:21), and the kindling of fire (Exo. 35:3). In their great zeal to uphold the law, however, the Jews went beyond the Scriptural definition of "work" and eventually evolved 39 categories that they called "work" which was forbidden on the Sabbath. The kind of activity that was called "work" was related to the building and functioning of the Tabernacle and the Temple.
Some Jews, today, will not even use electricity on the Sabbath, or turn on an electric light, or a furnace to keep warm (even in sub-zero weather), or turn on a radio or television or use any electrical appliance on the Sabbath. They take the prohibition in Exodus against kindling a "fire" to apply to electricity as well, as it is considered a form of fire.
A study of religious observance in Israel showed that 22 percent of Israeli Jews do not ride in a car on the Sabbath. However, other Jews find it acceptable to ride in a car on the Sabbath to a synagogue, if the synagogue is not within walking distance. Others believe it is all right to use a car for social purposes -- to visit friends, relatives, or a hospital patient -- but not for "work" purposes.
Music is an interesting aspect of Sabbath observance. Interestingly, some Orthodox Jews do not permit any musical instruments to be played on the Sabbath in the synagogue. According to them, although music was a vital part of Temple worship in ancient times, due to the destruction of the Temple, Jews today "mourn" for the loss of the Temple by refraining from using any musical instruments on the Sabbath! Other synagogues, however, believe that the richness and beauty that music can add to a worship service is more important and adds joy and delight to the Sabbath day, which was never intended to be a day of mourning.
The Sabbath -- The Day of FAMILY!
The ceremony of welcoming the Sabbath ought to be one of the family highlights of the week. The simple ceremony of lighting the candles, the blessing of the bread and wine (the motzi and the kiddush), and the enjoyment of the festive Sabbath meal together, ought to be a wonderful family highlight and tradition, as often as possible. Neglect of such ceremonies, I believe, is why we have so many split and sundered families, so much of a "generation gap" between parents and children. We have, sadly, never really learned the essence of what it really means to be "family"! How often do modern families even sit down together at the dinner table? Everybody is rushed in and out, like an express elevator, each going to his own destination, getting off on his own floor. So seldom it seems we have time for each other, in a relaxed, calm, peaceful, tranquil, pleasant environment!
But the Sabbath, as a "cathedral in time," represents just such an opportunity!
Says Harold Kushner:
"If we do nothing to make it special, [the Preparation Day]... night is no different from [the evenings of the fourth and fifth days of the week]...We have the power and the responsibility to make it special, to sanctify it. . . the Sabbath eve rituals testify to the power we share with God, the power to take the ordinary and make it special.
On [the evening of the Preparation Day]...the table is set more formally than on an ordinary weekday. The family will have arranged to eat together. No one drifts in late; no one runs off early. (A psychologist friend of mine tells me, to my astonishment, that the most reliable indicator of how well a student will do in high school is how often he eats dinner with his parents!). In a home where the wife and mother is present, she lights the candles and offers a blessing praising God for teaching her how to bring holiness into her home by performing the mitzvah of lighting Sabbath candles. There is also the lovely custom of her reciting a silent personal prayer for the well-being of her family: may all the coming week be as peaceful for all of us as this moment is" (To Life!, p. 101-102).
Family togetherness! What a rich opportunity! Says The Jewish Book of Why, about the importance of the Sabbath in uniting families and sealing the familial bond:
"Families were drawn together on the Sabbath. Parents and children dined together. They prayed together. They studied together. They sang together. They were a family" (p. 161).
The prophet Malachi tells us that one of the major accomplishments of the prophet Elijah, or the one who comes in his power and spirit "before the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal.4:5), is that he will teach the basic truths of the laws of YEHOVAH God, revealed through Moses, "with ALL the statutes and judgments" (Mal.4:3). One of these special statutes and holy laws is the proper reverence for the Sabbath day! As a day that powerfully reinforces family unity and cohesion, and togetherness, the Sabbath is a unifying principle of the entire Torah and Law of YEHOVAH God! By teaching its proper observance, as a family matter, Elijah will
". . . turn the hearts ofd the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse [that is, in Hebrew, "total destruction"]" (Mal. 4:6).
How To Celebrate the Sabbath -- The Lighting of Candles
Lighting of Sabbath candles at the beginning of the Sabbath is an ancient tradition. Although it does not go back to Biblical times, as part of welcoming the Sabbath, it is a good practice, as is proven by the "fruits." The custom originated in the eighth century, after the Messiah, "in order to combat the hostility of the Jewish Karaite community, which forbad the use of all light on the Sabbath" (The Jewish Book of Why, p. 168). The Karaites were a sect of Jews which developed in the eighth century, in opposition to the rabbis and descendants of the Pharisees. They followed the practices of the Sadducees, who were very strict in terms of legalistic interpretation of the laws of Moses. The Karaites not only forbad making any fire on the Sabbath,but even forbad the use of all light on the Sabbath! To counter this heterodox teaching, the rabbis adopted the custom of the lighting of candles to welcome the Sabbath.
The candles are usually lit about 18 minutes before the Sabbath begins (before sunset), about forty minutes before nightfall. One custom is to light two candles at the beginning of the Sabbath, representing the two important references to the Sabbath which state: 1) "Remember the Sabbath" (Exo. 20:8); and 2) "Observe the Sabbath" (Deut. 5:12). One candle represents remembering, and the other observing. However, some people light a seven-branch menorah on the Sabbath, with seven candles, one for each day of the week, or to correspond to the original seven-branch menorah which was lit in the Temple in Jerusalem, before the Holy of Holies.
The lighting of candles to begin the Sabbath seems to be a good practice, though not commanded in the Bible. Yeshua the Messiah said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). Lighting two candles on the Sabbath, one for YEHOVAH God the Father, and one for Yeshua the Messiah, seems a very appropriate thing to do, to introduce the Sabbath and the Festive Sabbath meal. These two lights, representing the Father and the Son, are symbols, even as the sun and moon are the two great lights of the heavens, and symbolize the Father and the Son. "And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night" (Gen. 1:16). "He made the stars also" (same verse). This corresponds to the people of YEHOVAH God -- the saints! For as we read in Daniel: "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3).
Yeshua said again, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5). He is the light that "shineth in darkness" (John 1:5). He was "the Light" (John 1:7-9), the "true Light." He said to His disciples, "Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" (John 12:35-36). As He was (and is) the Light, so we too are the "light of the world" (Matt.5:14), and Jesus commands us, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (v. 16).
How fitting it is, then, to light Sabbath candles, in memory of the Father and the Son, the "two great lights," and even of the seven-branched candelabra, symbolic of the "light" of the seven churches of Revelation, or the seven spirits of YEHOVAH God (Rev. 1:20).
The lighting of the Sabbath candles is generally done by a woman. Rashi explains that as it was the downfall of Eve that caused the light to be diminished in the world, so a woman should be the one who lights the candles to bring the light back into the world. Interestingly, the Messiah, the "light of the world," was born of a woman, and was thus brought into the world by a "woman." Therefore it is fitting for a woman to light the candles, but if she is unable, then a man may do it.
Challah -- Special Sabbath Bread
Special bread is eaten on the Sabbath day, and annual holy days, called "challah." The Hebrew word challa is usually translated as "a loaf" or "a cake" (Num. 15:20). The children of Israel were commanded to set aside from the bread they bake a small portion of dough (taking challah) for the sustenance of the priests. The word challa was first used in the Bible (Lev. 24:5) in reference to the twelve loaves of shewbread (Heb., lechem pahanim, literally, "bread of the face") presented before YEHOVAH God each week in the Temple. The twelve loaves were laid out in two rows of six loaves in each row.
Two loaves of challah bread are customary to be placed on the table for the Sabbath meal because when Israel came out of Egypt, YEHOVAH showed them which day was the true Sabbath by a special miracle. He sent them a certain portion of manna six days of the week. But on the sixth day, in preparation for the Sabbath, He sent them a double portion! (Exo. 16:22). Each person was to gather twice as much on the sixth day, as no manna would be sent on the Sabbath itself. The Hebrew word here is lechem mishne, which means "double allotment," or "double bread." In memory of this miracle, then, the Jewish people have two loaves of challah bread served at the Sabbath table.
Another explanation of the two loaves of challah is that the shewbread in the Temple was placed in two rows. Thus each loaf of challah represents one row of shewbread in the Temple. Each Sabbath fresh shewbreads were prepared to replace the old ones, which became the property of the priests. In order to glorify YEHOVAH God, and to celebrate the Sabbath, the challah loaves of bread are made in a variety of shapes and styles -- rectangular, oblong, flat, braided, round, filled with raisins, sprinkled with seeds (such as sesame seeds, poppy seeds), to represent the manna in the desert.
Eating the challah bread, at the beginning of the Sabbath, or the Sabbath festive meal, also is preceded by the prayer over the bread. This also has special significance to those who know and worship the Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth! For he said plainly, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:48). The challah -- which is the very bread that the Messiah and the apostles ate the night before the Passover, before his death on the tree as our "Passover lamb" (I Cor. 5:7-8) -- represents the very body and flesh of Yeshua the Messiah! He said, "This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the BREAD that I will give IS MY FLESH, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:50-51).
This bread represents the body of the Messiah, which we partake of at the communal meal, as often as it is possible. As Paul wrote, "That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took BREAD [artos, regular leavened bread -- actually, challah]: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is [represents] MY BODY, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me" (I Cor. 11:23-24).
As the challah is broken and passed around the table so all can break off a piece, the leader recites the prayer over the bread, as follows:
"Blessed are You, O Lord our God, who provides us bread from the earth."
"Thank you, O Lord, for Yeshua who is the 'Bread of life,' and through whom we can receive eternal life, and He said that whosoever eats His flesh has eternal life. And He said, 'Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me."
The Kiddush -- the Wine
Following the candle-lighting ceremony, and the prayer of blessing after the candles are lit, and the blessing over the bread, the blessing of the Kiddush over the wine is given. Wine represents the "joy" of life. The Sabbath is a day of special joy, it is fitting that it be introduced by the "beverage" of joy, a glass of wine, "which cheers God and man" (Judges 9:13).
According to the Talmud, the Kiddush, which means "sanctification," or "setting apart," was introduced between the "sixth and fourth centuries B.C.E. by the Men of the Great Assembly. It celebrated two events: the Creation and the Exodus" (The Jewish Book of Why, p. 172).
However, in a more archaic and original form, the Kiddush goes back to the very time of Abraham, when he was met by Melchizedek, the high priest of YEHOVAH God, "who brought forth bread and wine" (Gen. 14:18). Notice that like the Messiah, Melchizedek brought forth first the bread, and then the wine! Most Jewish people have this procedure reversed, and bless the wine first, and then the bread. However, I believe the better format to follow is that used by both Melchizedek and the Messiah -- having the bread first, and then the wine -- as his is the right and perfect example to follow, and he commanded the bread first, and then the wine (I Pet. 2:21; John 2:6; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20; Matt. 26:26-29).
The wine is a symbol of the blood of the Messiah, who gave his life in love that we might be forgiven our sins (Matt. 26:27-29). It is fitting that we drink of this emblem of his blood at the beginning of the Sabbath day -- which prefigures and foreshadows his Messianic Kingdom. He said he would not drink of the wine again until that day he does so in the Kingdom, at his return -- but we do "proclaim" his death and his resurrection and his coming every time we partake of the wine Kiddush. As the apostle Paul declared,"For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (I Cor. 11:25-26). Clearly, this is something we ought to be doing "often"!
When the wine has been distributed to all around the table, the host or leader present recites the following blessing:
"Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who gives us the fruit of the vine. It is the fruit of the vine which 'cheers God and man.'
"Thank you, Lord, for sending your Son, Yeshua, who gave His blood to pay the penalty of our sins, to cover our sins, to die for us, that we might inherit eternal life. As the wine is a symbol of life, and of the blood of Christ Himself, who died for us, so we partake of this wine as a symbol of His blood shed for us, as He commanded, saying, 'This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many. I will drink it no more until the day I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of God.'"
The Blessing of the Wife
After the blessing said over the bread, it is customary for the husband to read from Proverbs 31, the chapter on the "virtuous woman," and recite appropriate verses from the description of the godly woman found in this chapter. Then, upon finishing the passage, he recites the final verses which sum up the blessing on his wife, saying to her, in front of all those guests present, and before the children:
"Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. . . .
"She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reachest forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. . .
"Her husband is known in the gates, where he sitteth among the elders of the land. . . Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue in the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
"Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
"Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her own hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates" (Proverbs 31:10-31).
What a wonderful blessing this is, when a husband recites it, in honour of his own wife, at the Sabbath festive meal, or any appropriate public occasion!
The Blessing of Children
Following the Kiddush, and the blessing of the wife/mother, and before the Sabbath meal, if there are children present, one of the most enjoyable activities is for the parents to "bless" their own children (and those present, of course), at the Sabbath table. Imagine how unifying this is to a family, when parents literally "BLESS" their own children, every week, as the Sabbath day begins, or when the Sabbath festive meal is eaten!
First, a general blessing is recited for each child, or for all together -- the blessing of the priests for Israel. It goes like this:
"The LORD bless you and keep you,
The LORD make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you,
"The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you Shalom [peace]."
After this general blessing on the children, the blessing that is then recited for sons -- the male children present -- is based on the blessing that Jacob made on the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. It goes like this, in English:
"May the LORD make you [or bless you, and make you fruitful] like Ephraim and Manasseh."
The blessing said for the daughters is as follows:
"May the LORD make you [or bless you, and make you fruitful] like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah."
At this point, all may greet each other, around the table,
"Shabat shalom," "Shabat shalom," "Shabat shalom," which means "May the peace of the Sabbath be with you," "Sabbath peace to you," "May YEHOVAH God bless you with Sabbath peace and prosperity forever."
Harold S. Kushner, in his book To Life! A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking, describes his own feelings about the blessing of the children. He writes:
"In families where there are young children and the father is present, after the candles have been lit, the father blesses the children. He places his hands on their heads and recites the benediction 'May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He send His light into your lives and deal graciously with you. May He look favorably upon you and grant you shalom, peace.'
"When our children were young, this was my favorite moment of the week. There is something deeply stirring about a parent blessing a child, telling them that he loves them and wishes them well. (How many adults are emotionally wounded today because they never heard their parents tell them they loved them?) This ritual has the virtue of telling you when and how to do it, instead of asking you to find the occasion and make ` up the words yourself" (p. 103).
Time to Study the Word of YEHOVAH God!
On the afternoon of the Sabbath, the reading of the Torah was introduced by Ezra the Scribe. He also introduced the reading of the Torah publicly on [the second and fifth days of the week]...Ezra felt that since many tradesmen could not come up to Jerusalem to hear the Torah read on [the second and fifth days of the week]...both of which were market days, days of business affairs, that the reading of the Torah on Sabbath afternoons would provide an extra opportunity for these Jews to fulfill the obligation of hearing the Torah read. In its broad sense, the Torah refers not only to the first five books of Moses, but to the entire Bible -- the Word of YEHOVAH God.
Bible reading should be a part of every Sabbath day. Yeshua said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
The apostle Paul declares in plain language: "STUDY to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15).
Paul pointed out, further, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect [mature], thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16-17).
Spending Sabbath time in Bible study, drawing close to YEHOVAH God, learning more about Him, His truth, His way, is a very important obligation and duty of man. As Paul wrote, "For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. . . For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:11-15).
YEHOVAH God's Word is "the word of faith" (Rom. 10:7). As David declared, "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89). "How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103). He asserted with clarity and power, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (v. 105).
Drawing close to YEHOVAH on the Sabbath is the major purpose of the day! The Sabbath should not, therefore, be so cluttered with activities and things that Sabbath Bible study becomes neglected or forsaken or despised -- or eliminated! YEHOVAH forbid! Although it is not necessarily wrong to watch a little television, such as the news, or some uplifting, inspirational, or educational program on the Sabbath, or to listen to the radio, to similar programs, even these things should not be allowed to intrude into the sanctity and holiness of the day, or to conflict with Bible Study and time spent drawing close to YEHOVAH God in prayer, study, and meditation!
Also, in studying the Bible, I should point out that it is not wrong to pick up a pen, or use a pen or pencil, or some other contrivance -- even a computer with special programs -- to study and research the Word of YEHOVAH God. However, again, all things should be in moderation and in true godly balance. As Paul so vividly declared: "Let your moderation be known to all men" (Phil. 4:5). Do not go to extremes, or excess, on the Sabbath. Remember, it was created to be a useful tool for mankind to draw close to the Creator God -- and to be refreshed, and rested. Even Bible study, or Torah study, taken to excess, can become "work." But refreshing time spent in Bible study on the Sabbath can and should be a pure "delight"!
David put it well, when he declared, "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97). He also put it very well when he stated, "for thy law is my delight" (Psalm 119:77). He added, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11). Memorization of key Bible verses is something that can be done on the Sabbath -- and become a real blessing to the one who reviews, meditates on, and learns by heart the Scriptures of truth!
"A Holy Convocation"
Other activities that can be done on the Sabbath, helping to make it a joy and a rejoicing, are, first, sleeping in late Sabbath morning! (Ah, doesn't that make you feel like a King?!! or a Queen!!?) You have no "deadlines" to meet this day. It is a day of REST! So -- rest! Get a extra "forty winks" in the morning. Sleep in, till you feel truly refreshed.
After you get up, you may shower, or take a bath, and get ready for the day. It is not a sin to take a shower or a bath on the Sabbath!
Then, depending on the time available, and when or if you are able to go to Sabbath services, remember, the Sabbath is a day which is also "a holy convocation," as well as a "FEAST of the Lord" (Leviticus 23:2-3). A holy convocation is a day for meeting and assembling with brethren to worship the Lord!
If it is possible, one should meet with brethren of like understanding, to worship YEHOVAH God on His Holy Day. Where this would be impossible, and no assemblies are possible because of a lack of truly converted people in an area, it is possible to fellowship with others through the vehicle of reading articles and studying the Bible. Many people have found this a wonderful way to spend the Sabbath, and to be instructed, encouraged, uplifted and inspired.
Sometimes maybe a few families or couples can get together and have enriching Bible studies as they study the Scriptures together. As Yeshua the Messiah said, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).
Fellowship, as it is possible, is important, and should not be neglected. As Paul wrote, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:12-13).
Paul also declared: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto LOVE and to GOOD WORKS: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching" (Heb. 10:23-25).
Of course, the most important thing to remember is this: Even if we don't have regular Sabbath fellowship with brethren of like understanding, still, as the apostle John wrote, "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly OUR FELLOWSHIP IS WITH THE FATHER, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your JOY may be full" (I John 1:3-4).
Even if we lack human fellowship at times, or even for months on end, we can have total and complete fellowship with YEHOVAH God our Father and Yeshua the Messiah our Saviour -- and knowing that, we can have fullness of JOY, brimful and running over the top! As Paul wrote, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:16-21).
Other Sabbath Activities
From time to time, on the Sabbath, one may make special plans to go to a park, and enjoy the scenery and animals, and creation of YEHOVAH God. Maybe a local lake, where ducks swim, swans go their regal way, or pigeons like to be fed.
One might go on a short nature "hike," and explore the out-of-doors, YEHOVAH's handiwork of Creation. One might go on a picnic to a special scenic place in the local mountains, or at a nearby lake or stream or river. One might visit the beach, or coast, if it is not far, and enjoy watching the waves roll in on the sand, curling and crashing, and foaming up the sand.
One might visit a special museum that would be appropriate, or a botanical garden. Here in Southern California we have Huntington Library with lovely flowered and sculptured lawns and gardens, as well as Descanso gardens in La Canada, and the world-famous Arboretum in Arcadia. Such an outing might help a family, or a single person, get a new perspective on the Sabbath, and Creation, which the Sabbath celebrates -- YEHOVAH's Creation! Even a trip to a local zoo, with a picnic lunch, could be an enjoyable Sabbath activity, on occasion. Any such trip, of course, should be conducted from a Sabbath perspective, and not be allowed to degenerate into a worldly, mundane, carnal frolic or party. YEHOVAH God and His Creation must be kept paramount and in top priority. As Isaiah was inspired to write:
"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, so as not to do thy pleasure on the holy days, and shall call the sabbaths delightful, holy to God; if thou shalt not lift up thy foot to work nor speak a word in anger out of thy mouth, then shalt thou trust on the Lord; and he shall bring thee up to the good places of the land, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken this" (Isaiah 58:13-14, Septuagint Version).
Whatever activities we allow on the Sabbath should be conducive to the key elements of the Sabbath -- rest, worshiping YEHOVAH God, spiritual rejuvenation, drawing close to YEHOVAH, and learning more of His ways -- things which are spiritually enriching activities. Notice! The Septuagint version of this passage states that IF we properly observe the Sabbath, that it will INCREASE OUR FAITH in YEHOVAH God! The Sabbath will help us to really "TRUST ON THE LORD," as the passage states. Furthermore, it shows that if we keep the Sabbath, YEHOVAH God Himself will additionally bless us, and give us the heritage and promises He gave to our forefather Jacob!
"Havdalah" -- Concluding the Sabbath
Just as we "mark" the beginning of YEHOVAH's Holy Day, often, to conclude the Sabbath day, Jewish families conduct a special ceremony called the "Havdalah," as the sun begins to set. The word havdalah literally means "separation, division." The "Havdalah" ceremony, then, is a ceremony of "separation, of saying "Good-bye" to the Sabbath, and welcoming the beginning of the new week. During the ceremony a prayer is recited, and a blessing, giving YEHOVAH God thanks for the joyous Sabbath that is waning, and welcoming the new day, and asking His blessing to carry on the lessons learned on the Sabbath, and that its spirit may permeate the new week. The "Havdalah" separates the holy from the mundane; the holy Sabbath day from the regular work day that follows and its mundane activity.
The origin of the "Havdalah" ceremony is also attributed to the Men of the Great Assembly, of the fourth and fifth-century B.C. -- during or shortly after the time of Ezra the Scribe. This custom of ending the Sabbath day thus predates the time of the Messiah by about four hundred years.
At the Havdalah ceremony, a cup of wine is filled to overflowing, representing the overflowing joy and happiness of the Sabbath day. It also represents the "abundance" of the Sabbath day. As Yeshua the Messiah so plainly declared: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it MORE ABUNDANTLY" (John 10:10).
At this ceremony, it is customary to recite the passage of Scripture in Isaiah 12:2-3:
"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD YHVH [Yahveh] is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
"Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."
What a powerful, and wonderful, way to end the Sabbath -- with our thoughts focused on YEHOVAH God as our Salvation, our strength and our song -- and the thought of irrepressible JOY bubbling up out of the wells of salvation!
Originally, two lighted candles were held during the Havdalah ceremony because the prayer recited used the plural form for light, that is: "Blessed art Thou, who created the lights of fire" -- in Hebrew, boray me-oray ha-aysh. Today, however, in most Jewish homes two candles are replaced by one double-braided candle with a double wick, which provides a more torch-like fire. This reminds us that "the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes" (Psalm 19:9).
The candle is held high, so all can see it, and the blessing is recited: "Blessed art Thou, O God, Lord of the Universe, who created the fiery luminaries in the heavens." The one conducting the Havdalah ceremony then would pray along the following lines:
"The Sabbath has brought light into our life, and given us spiritual and physical rest. Our eyes have been focused on Yeshua, our Messiah, who is the Light of the world. Lighting the candle at the end of the Sabbath, as the first day of the new week begins, reminds us that on the first day of the week of Creation, God said: 'Let there be light.' And so the new week begins with the 'light,' which represents Messiah."
"Blessed are you, O Lord, King of the Universe, who creates the light of the fire."
Also part of the Havdalah ceremony today consists in putting spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and other sweet smelling odors, into a spice box, or goblet, and passing it around for everyone to get a whiff of the fragrant smelling spices. This custom reminds us again of the joy of the holy Sabbath day, which is passing, and "fortifies" us to face the week ahead, remembering the fragrance of YEHOVAH's Sabbath.
After smelling the sweet spices, reminiscent of the Sabbath's sweetness, the Havdalah prayer is recited. In English, it goes as follows:
"Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who makes a division between the holy and the secular, the sanctified and the mundane, between light and darkness, who has separated the Sabbath and set it apart from the other days of the week. Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, who makes a distinction between the sacred and the secular, the holy and the common."
Think about it. What a way to mark the conclusion of the Sabbath!
Truly, as we perform these simple customs and ceremonies, it reinforces in our hearts and minds the uniqueness and separateness -- the holiness -- of YEHOVAH's Sabbath day, and how distinct and different it is from all other days!
At the end of the ceremony, the lighted candle is extinguished by plunging it into the glass holding the overflowed wine. The origin of this particular custom is obscure. However, I suggest the following blessing and prayer be said at the extinguishing of the Havdalah candle:
"May the light and joy of Shabbat be mixed together into one, reflecting the truth that Yeshua the Messiah is both the light of the world and the joy of the world. He is the Saviour of the world, who is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all come to repentance, and to the true light.
"Even as the light is mixed with the overflowing wine, and extinguished, so too the Plan of God must eventually be fulfilled, and finished -- completed, and come to an end. The day of salvation must eventually draw to a close. God is patient, not willing that any should perish, but eventually time will run out, and 'there shall be time no more.' May God help us, then, to make use of our time wisely, redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16).
"Blessed are You, O Lord our God, who has given us the lunar week, and the Sabbath day of rest, picturing your Plan, and your Kingdom to come. Thank You, Lord, for calling us and sharing with us your Sabbath-Plan of salvation. Thank You for Yeshua, Jesus Christ, who makes it all possible! Amen and Amen!"
The Sabbath and the Messianic Kingdom
How does the weekly day of rest, the Sabbath, relate to the Messianic Kingdom? How does it picture YEHOVAH God's Kingdom?
Writes Rabbi Irving Greenberg in The Jewish Way: "The Shabbat is the foretaste of the messianic redemption. But even as this enclave of perfection is carved out in the realm of time, the world goes on as usual in the realm of surrounding space" (The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays, by Rabbi Irving Greenberg, p. 129).
The world of the Sabbath is completely different from the weekday universe, Irving Greenberg tells us. He speaks of the world of the Sabbath as "an alternate reality." In the Sabbath, there is no work to do, no deprivation. Says Greenberg, "Since such a world does not yet exist in space, it is first created in time, on the seventh day of the week. Jews travel through time in order to enter a perfect world for a night and a day. The goal is to create a reality so complete and absorbing that these time travelers are caught up in its values and renewed" (ibid.).
Says Greenberg, "The Sabbat comes to an end weekly, but it creates an appetite and a satisfaction that lasts through the week until it is renewed again" (p. 130). He goes on, "This periodic taste of fulfillment became the protection against the bitterness of gratification indefinitely postponed. Every seven days, the people of Israel were 'married' again to the Divine Lover and to the beloved Shabbat queen."
Greenberg continues: "The Shabbat experience nurtures that special kind of love called chessed. Chessed embraces the world even in its grimmest reality. Because love accepts life totally, love is not discouraged by its flaws. Simultaneously, chessed affirms life's capacity to be perfected. By embracing all of being, chessed sets in motion the very process of becoming perfect. A person blessed with the wisdom of chessed knows that life is rooted in the infinite. Therefore, life can grow out of its fetters and flaws. Life can outgrow death by creating more life before death comes. Therefore, notwithstanding the universal power of death, life will overcome it."
In these poignant remarks, Irving Greenberg describes how the Sabbath is in reality a sanctuary in time -- and a remarkably powerful reality in itself, picturing and foreshadowing the Messianic age. It is a powerful builder of character, the character that YEHOVAH God desires to see perfected in His people. Observing the Sabbath is the route -- the roadway -- the highway -- to the kingdom of YEHOVAH God.
The Sabbath is the day of the week which is most thoroughly involved with Messiah. It pictures his coming Kingdom. It is a day of Rest -- and Messiah himself said, in essence, that he is our "Sabbath-Rest." For Yeshua the Messiah declared, "Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). He will provide "rest unto your souls" (v. 29).
The weekly Sabbath day is a tiny microcosm of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. It is a foretaste -- a predictor -- of YEHOVAH's Kingdom, and what it will be like. Therefore, every time we observe it, and enter into its rest, we in a sense enter into the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God itself! It empowers us, spiritually; it recreates within us the courage, fortitude, and spirit of boldness to face life's difficulties and dilemmas. YEHOVAH God works His Spirit, and in a special sense His Sabbath day, to strengthen and enrich and empower us, spiritually, to do His Work, and to fashion within us His very character and likeness -- His "chessed," which means "lovingkindness"!
Says Greenberg, "The weekly encounter with messianic perfection saves one from internalizing the indignity and injustice of the status quo. The taste of salvation gives new energy to resist the counsels of despair and to press on for higher levels of dignity and justice for all. It gives the Jew and all who benefit from the Sabbath the renewed strength to affirm with renewed credibility the classic proclamation: 'I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though the Messiah tarry, I will continue to wait ever day.'
"And when the final deliverance comes, there will be those who will know what to do . . . where to go" (The Jewish Way, p. 132).
The week consists of six days in which man is told to do his work. This is followed by the seventh day Sabbath of rest. Thus for six days man is commanded to rule the earth, and subdue it -- settle it, and fulfill its potential. But on the seventh day man is commanded to stop working, and to reflect on what he has done, what he has made, during the preceding week, and to put it aside, and to enjoy the peace of the Sabbath.
Says Greenberg, "The Shabbat rest teaches us that change is completed by peace, and action is enriched by contemplation. Since power is sometimes perfected by restraint, the overwhelming power of God is put aside to allow a truly equal partnership between God and humanity or between one human and another. Shabbat is the completion and celebration of that partnership" (p. 139).
Greenberg adds, "The movement from weekday work to Shabbat is a move from acting outward to developing inward. The Shabbat is more than a day of being, it is a day of becoming. Rest is more than leisure from work, it is a state of inner discovery, tranquility, and unfolding. The ability to accept and affirm life in its own right frees me to become more than I am -- through self-development and through intensified relationships with others. The Sabbath command is not just to stop working, it is actively to achieve menuchah (rest) through self-expression, transformation, and renewal. On this day humans are freed and commanded to explore themselves and their relationships until they attain the fullness of being" (p. 139-140).
YEHOVAH God has called us to be His "partners" in the expanding Universe -- in the process of Creation of new worlds and new horizons. We are, as the Scriptures say so eloquently, "His offspring" -- His "children," made in His own image and likeness. We are to become like Him in every way! As the apostle John wrote, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2).
Paul also wrote of this incredible truth, that we are partners with YEHOVAH God -- as His very own family, and children: "And if children, then HEIRS; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we might be glorified together." Paul added, that this calling and partnership is so great that, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the GLORY which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:17-18).
In the resurrection we will attain what Rabbi Greenberg calls "fullness of being." We will be TRANSFORMED, and renewed, as the sons of YEHOVAH God! As Paul wrote to the Philippians, "For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto HIS GLORIOUS BODY, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:20-21).
The weekly Sabbath is a very vital part of this divine program! To ignore it, and to trample it under foot, is to miss out on the power and salutary benefits that accrue to those who observe it faithfully, and whole-heartedly! Yeshua said it plainly, but I often think we MISS the real depth of the words he spoke to us. He said:`
"The Sabbath was MADE FOR MAN . . ."
The Sabbath was a Divine GIFT which YEHOVAH God Almighty bestowed upon the human race -- a special, unique GIFT -- an island in the stream of time -- for us to be RENEWED, rejuvenated, re-empowered, resuscitated, and spiritually resurrected -- for us to be REFRESHED! The weekly Sabbath is a time of spiritual RENEWAL, refreshing, and REBIRTH!
Says Irving Greenberg speaks of the Sabbath blessing for mankind, and the family:
"Around the table, in the presence of family, the Sabbath meals overflow with conversation and catching up on family The Ten Commandments are recorded not once but twice in the Torah. In the book of Exodus, Shabbat is linked to the creation of the world and to the divine rest that completes it. In the book of Deuteronomy (5:12 and following), Shabbat is linked to Exodus. Here, Shabbat speaks for FREEDOM and an END OF OPPRESSION" (p. 149).
Every week, then, as Sabbath draws nigh, it is like welcoming the Messiah with out-stretched arms. It is like entering into freedom and rest from oppression. It is in essence a "mini-Millennium"! How much do we really appreciate YEHOVAH God's wonderful Gift? How much do we rejoice in it? How much do we enjoy observing it, and hallowing it, and keeping it holy?
May the Lord God of the Sabbath, give you true rest, and Shabbat Shalom!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
Hope of Israel Ministries
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