Greetings in the Name of HaShem:
In both Christian and Jewish worlds, a Sabbath (usually the seventh or first day) is supposed to be observed once weekly. This blog will be in two (or more) parts – first on the Jewish Sabbath (ancient and modern, Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed) and then on the Christian Sabbath (ancient and modern, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant). That’s a LOT of ground to cover in just one blog so, hopefully, this will be the start of a series of blogs. Since my knowledge of Islam is very limited, I know only that they have a Sabbath on Friday/Saturday and usually it is observed by the faithful so I won’t be writing about theirs.
First let’s consider the ancient Sabbath. For now we (myself and any comments posted to this blog) will assume that the Masoretic text is as close as you can get to what HaShem actually said. I use the word(s) HaShem for the name of The Eternal – meaning “The Name” – for our Heavenly Father rather than any other in respect to most factions or sects of Judaism. Also, I use the name G-d for reference to HaShem rather than using the full name for the same reason. After all, this is going on the internet and I have no idea how it will be used so I try to stay with Judaic convention of writing.
First, almost every Christian and Jew knows of the “Big Ten” commandments and the Fourth Commandment. These are found in Deuteronomy and Exodus in the Torah, or the first five books of the Old Testament. Since the main subject of this blog is about the Shabbos, permit me to quote just a few passages about it from the KJV (slight editing by yours truly) of the bible:
Deuteronomy 5:12-15: Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as HaShem thy G-d hath commanded thee. (13) Six days thou shalt labour and do all thy work: (14) But the seventh day is the Sabbath of HaShem thy G-d: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor the stranger within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. (15) And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt and that HaShem thy G-d brought thee out thence with a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore HaShem thy G-d commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.
Exodus 20: 8-11: Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. (9) Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work. (10) But the seventh day is the Sabbath of HaShem they G-d: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, they manservant, nor they maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days HaShem made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day: wherefore HaShem blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Now that alone should point out that since HaShem took more space and time to be sure that everyone understood what he was saying that we, Jews and Christians alike, should always keep the Sabbath day as a holy day and do no work therein. Also, before someone jumps in with any side tracks, let’s leave the reasoning for the words “Keep” and “Remember” or the wording or phraseology of each one for another time and another topic. For now, we will focus ONLY on the Sabbath, keeping the Sabbath and what all that entails.
For now we will consider only the two passages above. The two things to consider here is that HaShem took most of His time on this commandment and therefore some think that by taking this amount of time that He considered it more important than the others. Hardly! Would keeping the Sabbath be more important than not worshipping other gods? Or more important than not taking His name in vain? However, when we consider that the punishment for not keeping the Sabbath – which is considered as a dishonor to HaShem Himself – was death, it is AS important as the others. Today, this is thought of as being barbaric and inhuman treatment.
When HaShem said “Thou Shalt Not Steal” the punishment was not death but to replace five times the amount stolen back to the person from whom it was stolen. There did not seem to be any prison sentences in HaShem’s Torah (Law) – no prisons until much later. So we might consider that the commandments that involved death as a penalty as something that was really, really important to HaShem.
Second: What do we mean by “Keep” or “Remember” the Sabbath? The main thing is not to work. But also, and just as important, is to do those things that honor HaShem; usually studying His word, singing praises to Him, meeting together to study and sing praises as well a privately, but most that the day should be focused on HaShem and not just reading or watching TV. Some go so far as to ban all reading of anything except holy works, book on the bible, watching TV programs about HaShem, listening to radio or music that either tells of His great works or sings his praises. A lot of this will be covered next week.
Conclusion for Part One: On the Sabbath, from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, we should consider meeting with others of like mind to worship HaShem. If you are Christian (something for another discussion) then from Sunday morning until Monday morning is considers “The Lords Day” and is equivalent to the Jewish Sabbath. During that time, we should focus our minds and hearts and energies on G-d, not on earthly things. CAN/MAY we watch a football game? Or even play in a football game? Certainly. Personally, I would think that an hour or two break to release energies should be permissible. But NOT if it is for pay nor if it is in exchange for tuition at college, which is the same thing as pay. Nor would practice if you are a professional or playing for tuition at college. Playing music, playing piano or guitar is fine UNLESS you are doing this as a professional musician or if you are learning to be a professional musician. Singing and playing at temple or church is fine – that is something that is in honor and praise of HaShem so long as you take no money nor anything in payment for your services.
There was a time (and maybe still is) when Jews would hire a “Goy Boy” (young man of the nations, not a Jew) to come in and turn on lights, warm the food, whatever. That was NOT honoring the Shabbos – it was circumvention and having a manservant or maidservant work on the Shabbos. Today we use timers to turn the lights on and off or turn coffee pots on and off. That would be fine if the timers and coffee pots are set the day before. Even setting a timer for a roast to cook the day before is fine.
What about washing up the dishes? Probably not OK but probably putting them in a sink full of water would be fine. Fine line stuff has to be worked out between you and HaShem, not with anyone else in between you and HaShem. Read and think: Do you really think that you are smart enough to fool the same G-d that created the Heavens and the Earth? He knows your heart and He knows when you are “trying to put one over on Him.” When in doubt, DON’T DO IT!!
What about writing a blog on Shabbos? Well, if you are a professional writer, and the blog is NOT about HaShem, of course not! If you are not a professional writer, will it wait until tomorrow or the next day? (You know it will, right? Or course, right!) But if the blog or article (for which you do NOT get paid) is about HaShem, then you *should* write it. Just pray for inspiration before writing. Maybe He will give you inspiration, maybe not. But if you are writing or singing or reading about HaShem, then all is in order.
Here’s the important thing: Whatever you do, do it in honor to HaShem Himself. Not for filthy lucre (money) but as praise and honor and glory to His Holy Name. If you fail and do something other than that on Shabbos, ask His forgiveness. And do it right the next time.
Next week, the next blog will pick up here and continue with the other passages in both the Old and New testament on the Sabbath. Meanwhile, to see what the Sabbath SHOULD mean, watch the movie “Chariots of Fire” this weekend.