*Disclaimer: In the next weeks, I begin a series covering concepts in Judaism. It is not exhaustive, but it is meant to go over in a general way what are Jewish beliefs and where they are found in the Hebrew Bible (What Christians call the “Old Testament”).
These articles are for educational purposes only. If you have further questions, you should ask your religious leader, or you can email me, for further information. (End of Disclaimer)*
This week we look at the Sabbath/Shabbat in Judaism.
As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “Shabbat is an Island of time” (for humanity).
The word in English Sabbath is from the word “Shabbat” in Hebrew. Shabbat means, “Rest” in Hebrew.
We understand a few things from the Hebrew Scriptures about the Sabbath:
First, we know that Shabbat is from sundown to sundown: (Genesis 1:5)
“God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (JPS: 2004).
Second, we are to do no work on the Sabbath: (Exodus 16:23, 25, 26, 29, 20:8, 20:10, 23.12, Leviticus 19:3 23:3,). Unlike other commandments in the 5 books of Moses (Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), the admonition of not working on the Sabbath, is found in 40 different places.
Yet, except for a few specific issues like starting a fire (Exodus 35:3), the concept of “You will do no work” is not specified.
There was great concern as to someone doing something during the Sabbath that could be considered work, and by extension, breaking the Sabbath inadvertently.
So, in the years that followed after the destruction of the Temple (70 CE/AD), the Sages devised what constitutes work on the Sabbath.
What followed were 39 general prohibitions or “Melachos” in Hebrew.
For the sake of space I have a link to Wikipedia for those Melachos:
They are as follows:
some common examples are: Buying (Handling Money), lighting a fire, or, Hammering (working on a project/creating).
Most of the Prohibitions were based on the Agrarian/farming culture at the time.
The main purpose of Shabbat is to basically do as G-D did when the Almighty did at the end of Creating the Universe: To stop and count your work as a blessing.
It is not about sitting in the dark, eating cold food, but for us to appreciate all that we’ve worked hard for all week.
Modern Jewish families have made traditions to separate Friday night from the rest of the week. Many of us light two candles. Each candle represents the two commandments regarding the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8 and Deuteronomy 5:12) which reminds us to “Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it Holy”.
We also have a tradition that we present a double loaf of bread and a cup of Wine. The Double loaf is reminding us of the double portion of manna that we received in the Wilderness and the wine is the reminder of joy in our lives because of the Sabbath.
We have other traditions, such as putting on a stew, most times chicken, in a slow cooker that goes from 4 hours before sundown Friday and continues until sundown Saturday. It is so we have a hot meal that is prepared, so no one has to cook on the Sabbath. The meal is called “Cholent” in Yiddish.
The purpose of all these preparations is to just stop.
That means, other than going to your place of worship, you make no plans besides, say, taking a nap or reading. You spend time with each other in a quiet home. No TV, smartphones, or electronics of any kind.
A number of studies have shown that just by making it a practice to unplug your life, one day a week, lowers your stress, and the health benefits from this are numerous. – article from INC Magazine: www.inc.com/rhett-power/a-day-of-rest-12-scientific-reasons-it-works.html
How often do we end our week on the Friday workday, with everyone around us staring at the TV or Smartphone, instead of thanking G-D for all the bounty we have been presented?
When is the last time you and your family sat around a lovely meal and enjoyed each other’s company thanking the Living G-D of the entire Universe for what we have been presented?
Shabbat is a time to give thanks for what you have, not because you made it, but because all that is made is G-D’s and you should take at least one day to thank HIM for allowing you to have such blessing.
By unplugging and just pausing for 25 hours, allows you to reset your mind, body, and Soul. It allows you to step away from the stress, angry and turmoil in the world. It allows you to get perspective and yes, maybe a nap.
It is an island in time for you to rest, recharge and thank the Almighty for what has been given to you.
Take the time to stop, rest, and, give thanks for what G-D is made possible.
Shabbat: It’s not just a good idea, it’s the Law.
Next week: What is a Noahide?
Dir. Rel. Ed and History