There are endless debates… whole books eve… about HOW to keep Sabbath. The battle for people who have come to some kind of conviction about the fact that keeping Sabbath Holy (set apart from the other days) is how to execute it.
From my perspective it seems to grow and change. It has for me over years, and even in the last few months I have felt a deeper heart desire to actually “keep” (really more guard or watch over) it. It seems as if I have been missing something even more profound and lacking. I can rest all day, I can nap and sleep. I can turn off my work resources… and I can try to focus mentally away from work. I have been doing this for years. So the recent desire I have felt seem to be more attached to experiencing and connecting with what is behind or under the actions. More like the HEART of the Sabbath…
The main changes I have been through the last 8 years or so are:
- I need to have Sabbath
- In Torah, The Sabbath is Yehovah’s Sabbath, not mine. I am invited into it.
- Sabbath isnt Sunday, it is the 7th day of the week i.e. “Satur(n)day”. Scripture contextually understands a day to begin at sunset, not midnight.
- There are other days oriented around Biblical Holidays that are ALSO a Sabbath, and some have slightly different instructions.
- Work is forbidden
- Work seems to be literally things I do to make income or supply our home with resource, not things that require effort.
- Anyone else working on my behalf is forbidden.
- Slaves, Servants, and Foreigners in Israel were required to forgoe work per Torah.
- Others who dont keep Sabbath are not to work for me, nor am I to benefit from their labor.
- The exchange of money is almost always associated with someones labor or income (i.e. “work”) so the best way for me to guard the holiness of Sabbath is to avoid buying and selling
- Guarding the holiness of Yah’s Sabbaths seems to mean that in some way the day should be qualitatively different (i.e. Set-Apart) from other days.
- Originally this meant indulgence for me. Like I have wine or beer and celebrate. Desserts and treats. Watching media and things that are special.
- Lately, this has also meant more like taking the lack of obligation to work to have more time for things like learning Hebrew, reading scripture, listening to teaching etc…
- No chores, homework or similar drudgery because this day is a break.
The last points have their own set of problems. With 3 little kids, we make food constantly. As soon as everyone is awake, we just keep putting food out for everyone. By the time the day is over, we have a pile of dishes in the sink, we are out of step with the daily maintenance of running the dishwasher or laundry etc… means EXTRA work after this “day of rest”. It is almost MORE of a hassle… and I just cannot believe this fits the idea or heart of Sabbath.
So we employed a few techniques… lets use (and compost!) paper plates and bowls during the Friday evening meal. Lets premake some things on Friday so we prepare as little as possible during the day. Lets run the dishwasher and clear all the clean dishes before dinner Friday so we don’t have to do it before “catching up” Saturday evening, Sunday morning. Lets set aside more time and focus Friday afternoon to make sure this is accomplished.
This has been harder to accomplish than I thought. But it has been worth the effort.
One piece that seemed to make a lot of sense was food prep. Traditionally the Jewish community ranges from barely observing Shabbat to not cooking, not turning on lights, and using electricity and cars etc…. It is very common however to see things come back down to food. Manna was given, and yet you couldn’t keep it overnight unless it was the day prior to Sabbath. It was a test in fact.. one the children of Israel couldn’t quite get for a good while. Eventually Moses tells them not to leave their “place”, which sometimes gets interpreted as house. However as Nehemia Gordon states, with no indoor plumbing and 3 million people there is no way people didn’t leave their tents during the day.
Ive tried to engage this more and more… can we get away from making food and reduce the intensity and obligation and more deeply fulfill the requirement. The common verse used is following:
hen he [Moses] said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul, nor was there any worm in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.” It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions?” [Then Moses said to the people] “See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” Exodus 16:23-29
The phrase “Bake what you will Bake, Boil what you will Boil” which is used to apply to the idea about food prep. The general idea is “prep it all and get it all made so you dont have to do this on Shabbat”. And I like the idea, and love the heart of it. I make a lot of food, and it is something I enjoy. However, this would really make the whole day a lot more relaxing and more restful. However it has been harder to implement than I thought. I do agree it is a great idea, but until just now I had never seen what might be a very simple context/application of this.
“All that is left over put aside to be kept until morning”… Does this mean:
- The things you MADE (like bread, manna tamales, mannaghetti etc…)
- The manna itself
I just simply assumed it was the first example, and was steered into that idea by the traditions and practices of other folks. But the weird thing I didn’t realize; Manna spoiled when left over every night on other days, but it doesnt seem to say things MADE with manna spoiled. Ill have to do more research, but the test was collecting a bunch of manna in your house and saving it overnight. The fear you wouldn’t have enough for tomorrow, or someone else would get what you needed etc… drove people to not trust Yah and disobey. But Sabbath is totally different. Sabbath allows for keeping manna overnight, without spoiling.
If the manna can be left for 2 days means you would end up making something with manna the next day. Or at least you could if you wanted. If it is premade food that is the focus here, then you truly need to make at least 2 days food (probably more as Sat night would be a panic to make a bunch more food) by end of Friday night.
This would mean the process of making food isn’t the prohibition. And the fixation with it is coming from more bias than anything else. It could be a well intended, and heartfelt context, but missing the point. I want to reduce the activity and intensity of work on Sabbath, and make it different (set apart actually not just different). Premaking food and avoiding being under duress to make it on Sabbath is a great idea for me. But it possibly isnt one of the literal pillars of guarding the Sabbath in the first place.
Here is a great link to an article by Monte Judah that I think is a great read. We dont do a specific ritual, but we used to. I like the idea of developing things in your family to make this day special and set-apart. I also really love his simple idea… if this is a day Yah is inviting you into, how would you respond to that invitation, and how you would in turn make room, space and an environment to celebrate it with Yah?