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Shabbos, Part IV


I’m beginning to have discussions with my son and his friends about the Sabbath, or Shabbos.  Since my household has to obey Shabbos (as we try to obey all of the law of HaShem) I have a problem explaining sufficiently what one can do and what one cannot do on Shabbos.  Basically, I try not to get into particulars unless he asks but here is a brief (really brief) recap of our discussions this week.

Microwaving coffee:  Son, “All we’re doing is warming up food that is already cooked.”  Hmmm…  OK, if I were a Jew traveling with Moshe, then my argument would be, “All I’m doing is putting food on the fire to warm it up.”  Immediate stoning follows that one.  😦

Son, “OK, all I’m doing is throwing a switch to start the microwave.”  Again, traveling with Moshe, “All I’m doing is lighting a match to light the fire to warm the food.”  OK, no matches in those days but you get the idea.  Bad move.

Son, “All I’m doing is going to the Mall to look around.”  My answer to that one was fairly easy, “But looking is shopping even though you did not pay for anything today.”

Son, “Are we going to start sacrificing animals now?” Answer, “No, there is only one place to sacrifice animals and that is the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  No temple, no sacrifice.  G-d has forbidden sacrificing on every high place in the land.”

Son, “OK, what SHOULD we be doing?”  Answer, “Those things that are pleasing to HaShem and not things that are necessarily pleasing to us.  This is also covered in previous posts Shabbos, part II and Shabbos, Part III.  Watching football is pleasing to us, but are we using it to glorify G-d?  Playing football?  Could be…  If we are playing football with unbelievers in order to tell them about HaShem and the joy of serving Him.  But if we are just playing to pass time, then that time could be better spent reading the bible, listening to recordings about HaShem or watching pre-recorded video on talks about HaShem.  Mostly, it comes down to how much do we love G-d and how much do we want to please him.  (Something taken from an earlier comment.)  We can play for just the fun of football at another time on another day.

If walking in the forest is communion, so be it.  Not argument there.  But not at the expense of gathering with other believers on a weekly basis.  We should be walking with HaShem, G-d, every day, all the time, in a state of constant communion and prayer.  This is what Paul meant when he said to be in constant prayer.  A prayer, after all, is communion with G-d and not necessarily bowing your head and closing your eyes.  That would be really dangerous on the interstate at 60 mph.

Son, “OK, when does Shabbos begin?”  At dark – most Jewish calendars have the time on Friday afternoon when Shabbos begins and when to light the candles.  In winter, it begins about 5:00 to 5:30 p.m., depending on location.  In summer, it could begin at 9:00 p.m.  At the North Pole or the South Pole or anywhere in between, you should observe 24 hours of Shabbos.  (North Pole in Summer has 22+ hours of sunlight, but it begins at dark on Friday and ends at dark on Saturday, roughly 24 hours.)  We get this from Genesis where HaShem records that “This was the evening and morning of the first day.” And the other six days as well began on the evening, not at the Roman time of Midnight.

Finally, I had to tell him that I don’t have all of the answers.  BUT, he has to go read the bible himself and talk to G-d about what he wants to do.  After that, then come discuss it with me.  After all, when he has his own home then he will have to make the rules and reason out the why and why not so long as these things are based on scripture, not what I said, not the feelings nor writings of Rabbim, not what somebody else said that G-d said.

Keep the Faith.  The bottom line is to read G-d’s word and try your best to do what He said to do and not do what He said NOT to do.




December 12, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | Leave a comment

What About the Sabbath – Part 2


This is a continuation of What About the Sabbath blog from last week.  I will try and denote “rabbit trails” – those thoughts that pop up that are not pertinent to the central thought of this blog – as [begin RT] and [end RT].  In that way you can skip random thoughts.

[begin RT] I have always thought that the Sabbath was a good time to talk about things to do with Ha Shem.  Last week I wrote the beginning of a blog on the Sabbath and I’ve had some time to think about it and do some more reading about it.  Because of the various background of my readers (both of them) I don’t vary much from the many and varied translations of the bible itself or the original Masoretic text in Hebrew or the Christian New Testament in (Textus Receptus or Majority Text) Greek.  And, as I have said many times, I am NOT a scholar of either Hebrew or Greek – I know just enough to be dangerous but I do find the original languages much more explanatory than some of the translations.[end RT]

[begin RT] For Christian translations I like King James Version [KJV], New KJV [NKJV], The NKJV Greek Interlinear, The Amplified Bible, and a few others.  I also have an interesting Hebrew-English version of the New Testament [NT] that makes for helpful translations.  For Jewish and Old Testament [OT], I still like the the Christian translations but in addition I like J. P. Green’s Interlinear, the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) with English (1999), and the older 1955 JPS w/o English.  Also, from time to time, I consult two or three Jewish Prayer books since the translations there give some insight into what the Jewish people really believe about that particular passage of scripture.  So, enough about translations and versions and on to the main topic, the Sabbath, or Shabbos as some call it, which, actually, is a much better pronounciation of the word. [end RT]

Wilson Mar commented last week that the punishment that Ha Shem imposed was rather Draconian.  Draco was a man, a created being.  So, to my way of thinking, to call the law and enforcements of the laws of Ha Shem something like a man would indicate that Ha Shem was being like a man rather than the man behaving like Ha Shem.  Or something like that.

[begin RT] Even though Draconian is a word that I have frequently used myself to describe some overly eager application of some law or rule, I looked it up and it has to do with a “law giver” in Athens, Greek, in about 620 BC.  (I don’t care for the artificial BCE appelation – either use Judaic dates and time or Christian dates and times but BCE is silly and used mostly by Israeli archeologists.)  [end RT]

In the early days, the Mosaic law (the Torah) was pretty explicit about who is G-d and the things that He expects of us.  Wilson’s comment that, “I think this severity is warranted because what we do during the Sabbath demonstrates our willingness to submit to Him.” is spot-on.  How we observe Shabbos, if this observance comes from the inside of a person, shows our zeal for G-d and our own personal search for Holiness.  As it says in Lev 11:44 “… ,and ye shall be holy; for I am holy… ” This same precept is echoed in the Christian New Testament, I Peter 2:16, “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”  G-d has called His people, Jews and Christians, to be holy even as He is holy.

Some seek holiness by fasting and prayer.  Indeed, there are tales of Christian churches (Christians interpret the word “church” to mean the people of the congregation, not the building) who fasted and prayed until there was an “answer from G-d Himself.”  In like manner did many of the ancient prophets, and some of the prophets today, isolate themselves to prayer and communion with G-d until they had release.  Perhaps Shabbos itself could be a day of prayer if not fasting.

Now, let us consider what we SHOULD be doing and not doing on Shabbos as G-d commanded us to do or not do.  Considering the early Christians (more on the name later) were all Jews for a while, they kept both the Shabbos (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) and then kept a “Lord’s Day” in honor of Y’Shua (Jesus) by starting the day with prayer and songs – then going to work with the rest of the world.  The gentiles (goyim – or nations) had never kept the Jewish Shabbos so they usually just kept the first day as a Sabbath.  (this from a brief description in Cruden’s Complete Concordance.)

It is here that I will make the distinction between Shabbos (Jews) being Friday sundown to Saturday sundown and Sabbath (Christian) being just before sunrise on Sunday morning to sometime late evening (near midnight) on the same day.

Ex 16:22-30: And it came to pass that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. (23) And he said unto them, This is that which The LORD hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. … (25) And Moses said, Eat that today; for today is a sabbath unto the LORD; today ye shall not find it in the field.  (26) Six days ye shall gather it but on the seventh day,  which is the sabbath, in it there shall be noon. … (29) See, for that theLORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore He giveth you the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.  (30) So the people rested on the seventh day. [KJV]

Note that the italicized words are not found in the original Hebrew and that the KJV used LORD rather than Ha Shem or “YHVH” or Jehovah.  (Jehovah is a really bad transliteration since it is nowhere near the true name of G-d.)  I rather like that about the KJV rather than the JPS that is fairly liberal with the translation.

What I gather from this are two things.  (1) We are pretty much commanded to stay home, or very close to home.  Later it became a Jewish (and some Christian) tradition that a Sabbath days Journey was about a mile.  Even later, the Rabbim took it to mean any place around which you could place a rope.  So some congregations came up with REALLY long ropes that would encompass entire cites to allow the congregation to travel anywhere within the city.  This seems to be a contrivance to avoid, or get around, G-d’s laws concerning Shabbos rather than an attempt to obey them. (2) Gather and prepare for Shabbos on Friday during the day by preparing twice as much food as you would for just Friday so that you won’t have to cook anything, including coffee, on Shabbos.

The question that has arisen in my home is, “Well, what about using the microwave?  That isn’t a fire is it?”  My answer up until recently has been to pray and do as G-d leads.  But my family seems to try and push the limits of the laws of Shabbos rather than trying to go out of their way to honor Ha Shem.  Maybe it’s just the natural rebellion of mankind.  Anyway, beginning next Shabbos, we will learn to do without the microwave – coffee will be prepared the day before and set on a timer.  We will eat leftovers that are not “nuked” or prepare only sandwiches.  As the father / leader / papa of this home it falls to me to be sure that my family and anyone living in my home observe G-d’s laws, if not in spirit at least in form and function.

The only fire that I read about that was permitted (actually, commanded) on Shabbos was that one in temple which was for the sacrifices.  And then only the High Priest could do these things.  And, before you ask, yes, the priest does work on Shabbos but that is by commandment.  Whether the priest takes Friday or Sunday as Shabbos is usually up to the individual person or congregation.  In ours, the priest works on Saturday and Sunday and takes Monday for Shabbos.

Ex 23:10-12: And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof.  (11) But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat and what they leave the beast of the field shall eat.  In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard and with thy olive yard.  (12) Six days thou shalt do thy work and on the seventh day thou shalt rest; that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed. [KJV]

Lev 25:2b-7: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of the LORD. (3) Six years you may sow your field and six years you may prune your vineyard and gather in the yield. (4) But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the LORD: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. (5) You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your untrimmed vines; it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.  (6) But you may eat whatever the land during its sabbath will produce – you, your male and female slaves, the hired and bound laborers who live with you, (7) and your cattle and the beasts in your land may eat all its yield.  [JPS]

Now, personally, I have trouble reconciling verses 6 and 7 with verse 5.  Verse 5 says not to reap but verse 6 says that I can eat of it.  How can I eat of it without reaping?  One explanation would be that during the Sabbath year for the land that you do NOT sow the field nor prune the vineyard (i.e., do not do the “normal” work in the vineyard).  BUT, you can eat whatever springs up of itself during the Sabbath year for the land.  Maybe a rabbi or two will weigh in with an answer…

Since this is almost 1,800 words, I’ll pick up here next week.  Maybe by then we’ll have an answer for verse 5, 6 and 7.  Besides, no blog should go much over 2,000 words or it becomes an chapter in a book.

SDG, Yaakov Kohen

November 22, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

What About the Sabbath?

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.  



November 15, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment