In this week’s Torah Portion, Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1–40:38) Moses assembles the people of Israel and reiterates to them the commandment to observe the Shabbat (Sabbath):
“1 Moses assembled the whole community of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things which Yehovah has ordered you to do.
2 On six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is to be a holy day for you, a Shabbat of complete rest in honour of Yehovah…”
Why is the Sabbath so important. Of what significant benefit to mankind is it?
These are worthwhile and important questions to ask. What follows is just a small attempt to offer some of the answers.
The Sabbath was and is one of the most significant indicators of freedom ever!
In the ancient world no other people group had a day off each week; no other nation had such freedom. The Sabbath is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given man – a day free from labour and a day to honour the King of the Universe, our Creator!
In the desert wanderings of the Exile from Egypt, a double portion of the manna was collected on the 6th day to last through the Sabbath. When this was tried on other days the manna rotted. God demonstrated in this miracle alone, how important it was Him, that His people observed a day of ceasing or abstaining from their normal labours of providing for themselves and their families.
The Sabbath day; a day spent with community and family in study, prayer, discussion, and peace, reminds us how we should regulate and perfect our spiritual, intellectual, physical, domestic and social behaviours.
Observing the Sabbath reminds and instructs us to sanctify our lives, the way God has sanctified the Sabbath day.
This commandment does not limit our freedom, it gives us distinct guidance toward holiness and therefore meaningfulness for our lives.
The first six days God made good, the seventh He made holy.
We may struggle to stop working on the Sabbath (‘Shabbat’ in Hebrew), but because it is commanded by God, their should be no guilt about having some downtime.
The Sabbath also reminds us of our potential for doing good. We, human beings, created on the 6th day are the bridge between the worldly and the divine – between the rest of creation (on the first 5 days) and the sanctified 7th day.
The appreciation of a non-productive day is predicated on a week of labour. “Six days you shall labour, and do all your work” Ex 20:9 (ESV)
During the week we emulate the creative side of God.
The Sabbath is then the culmination of a productive week on which the non-productivity can be appreciated only when preceded by creativity.
Community prayers and fellowship are an important part of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to the Israelites as a reminder of God’s freeing them from slavery – as a reminder then of both God and the sanctity of human freedom. It should serve the same purpose for all followers of Yeshua who, along with all his disciples and the Apostle Paul also observed Shabbat every week.
On the Sabbath we search for the essence of God.
Shabbat is the antidote to the tendency toward self-idolatry.
Every time we live a day dedicated to holiness we have the opportunity to bring some residual effect into our daily lives.
The Sabbath is not about time off, it is about sacred time.
The Sabbath is a real day, NOT some theoretical, spiritual inner delusion of rest when the real man/woman continues to sweat blood and tears!
“The Sabbath is spirit in the form of time.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel – ‘The Sabbath’ 1951)
For more on the Sabbath I recommend my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’ (available from Amazon.com as a Kindle eBook It is also available in paperback or as a free pdf on the Links page at circumcisedheart.info).
Also I highly recommend: “The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life” by Dr Laura Schlessingger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel.