Sabbath A day of rest and spiritual enrichmentSabbath, a day of rest and spiritual enrichment.is a weekly day of rest, observed from sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday nightit is a precious gift from G-d, a day of great joy eagerly awaited throughout the week, a time when we can set aside all of our weekday concerns and devote ourselves to higher pursuits. Shabbat is primarily a day of rest and spiritual enrichment. The word "Shabbat" comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest. Shabbat is not specifically a day of prayer. Although we do pray on Shabbat, and spend a substantial amount of time in synagogue praying, prayer is not what distinguishes Shabbat from the rest of the week. Observant Jews pray every day, three times a day. To say that Shabbat is a day of prayer is no more accurate than to say that Shabbat is a day of feasting: we eat every day, but on Shabbat, we eat more elaborately and in a more leisurely fashion. The same can be said of prayer on Shabbat. The weekly day of rest has no parallel in any other ancient civilization. In ancient times, leisure was for the wealthy and the ruling classes only, never for the serving or laboring classes. In addition, the very idea of rest each week was unimaginable. The Greeks thought Jews were lazy because we insisted on having a "holiday" every seventh day. Shabbat involves two interrelated commandments: to remember (zakhor) Shabbat, and to observe (shamor) Shabbat.
A Typical Shabbat At about 2PM or 3PM on Friday afternoon, observant Jews leave the office to begin Shabbat preparations. The mood is much like preparing for the arrival of a special, beloved guest: the house is cleaned, the family bathes and dresses up, the best dishes and tableware are set, a festive meal is prepared. In addition, everything that cannot be done during Shabbat must be set up in advance: lights and appliances must be set (or timers placed on them, if the household does so), the light bulb in the refrigerator must be removed or unscrewed, so it does not turn on when you open it, and preparations for the remaining Shabbat meals must be made. Shabbat, like all Jewish days, begins at sunset, because in the story of creation in Genesis Ch. 1, you will notice that it says, "And there was evening, and there was morning, one day." From this, we infer that a day begins with evening, that is, sunset. For the precise time when Shabbat begins and ends in your area, consult the list of candle lighting times provided by the Orthodox Union, by Chabad or by any Jewish calendar. Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited no later than eighteen minutes before sunset. This ritual, performed by the woman of the house, officially marks the beginning of Shabbat. Two candles are lit, representing the two commandments: zakhor (remember) and shamor (observe), discussed above. The family then attends a brief evening service (45 minutes - that's brief by Jewish standards - see Jewish Liturgy). After services, the family comes home for a festive, leisurely dinner. Before dinner, the man of the house recites Kiddush, a prayer over wine sanctifying Shabbat. The usual prayer for eating bread is recited over two loaves of challah, a sweet, eggy bread shaped in a braid. The family then eats dinner. Although there are no specific requirements or customs regarding what to eat, meals are generally stewed or slow cooked items, because of the prohibition against cooking during Shabbat. (Things that are mostly cooked before Shabbat and then reheated or kept warm are OK). After dinner, the birkat ha-mazon (grace after meals) is recited. Although this is done every day, on Shabbat, it is done in a leisurely manner with many upbeat tunes. By the time all of this is completed, it may be 9PM or later. The family has an hour or two to talk or study Torah, and then go to sleep. The next morning Shabbat services begin around 9AM and continue until about noon. After services, the family says kiddush again and has another leisurely, festive meal. A typical afternoon meal is cholent, a very slowly cooked stew. My recipe is below. By the time birkat ha-mazon is done, it is about 2PM. The family studies Torah for a while, talks, takes an afternoon walk, plays some checkers, or engages in other leisure activities. A short afternoon nap is not uncommon. It is traditional to have a third meal before Shabbat is over. This is usually a light meal in the late afternoon. Shabbat ends at nightfall, when three stars are visible, approximately 40 minutes after sunset. At the conclusion of Shabbat, the family performs a concluding ritual called Havdalah (separation, division). Blessings are recited over wine, spices and candles. Then a blessing is recited regarding the division between the sacred and the secular, between Shabbat and the working days, etc. For details, see Havdalah Home Ritual. As you can see, Shabbat is a very full day when it is properly observed, and very relaxing. You really don't miss being unable to turn on the TV, drive a car or go shopping.
Sunday Sunday is the first day in which the weekly observance of the Resurrection since Puritan times– and celebrated with a Eucharist however it is not a biblical commandment. It is considered the first and eight day of a seventh day week. Traditions include avoiding shopping, leisure activities, and work unless absolutely necessary. Early church historians Sozomen and Socrates cite the seventh day as the Christian day of worship except for the Christians in Rome and Alexandria. In 321 AD, Roman emperor Constantine the Great enacted the first civil law regarding Sunday observance. The law did not mention the Sabbath by name, but referred to a day of rest on "the venerable day of the sun." On the venerable day of the sun let the magistrate and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however, persons engaged in agricultural work may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain growing or for vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine: Q. How prove you that the church hath power to command feasts and holy days? A. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same church. Q. How prove you that? A. Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the church’s power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin; and by not keeping the rest [of the feasts] by her commanded, they again deny, in fact, the same power. The Augsburg Confession: They [the Catholics] allege the Sabbath changed into Sunday, the Lord’s day, contrary to the decalogue, as it appears; neither is there any example more boasted of than the changing of the Sabbath day. Great, they say, is the power and authority of the church, since it dispensed with one of the ten commandments. A Doctrinal Catechism, Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept? A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her. She could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority. Catholic Christian: Q. Has the [Catholic] church power to make any alterations in the commandments of God? A. ...Instead of the seventh day, and other festivals appointed by the old law, the church has prescribed the Sundays and holy days to be set apart for God’s worship; and these we are now obliged to keep in consequence of God’s commandment, instead of the ancient Sabbath. The Catechism of the Council of Trent: The Church of God has thought it well to transfer the celebration and observance of the Sabbath to Sunday!
We are commanded to remember Shabbat; but remembering means much more than merely not forgetting to observe Shabbat. It also means to remember the significance of Shabbat, both as a commemoration of creation and as a commemoration of our freedom from slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 20:11, after Fourth Commandment is first instituted, G-d explains, "because for six days, the L-rd made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and on the seventh day, he rested; therefore, the L-rd blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it." By resting on the seventh day and sanctifying it, we remember and acknowledge that G-d is the creator of heaven and earth and all living things. We also emulate the divine example, by refraining from work on the seventh day, as G-d did. If G-d's work can be set aside for a day of rest, how can we believe that our own work is too important to set aside temporarily? In Deuteronomy 5:15, while Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments, he notes the second thing that we must remember on Shabbat: "remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the L-rd, your G-d brought you forth from there with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm; therefore the L-rd your G-d commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." What does the Exodus have to do with resting on the seventh day? It's all about freedom. As I said before, in ancient times, leisure was confined to certain classes; slaves did not get days off. Thus, by resting on Shabbat, we are reminded that we are free. But in a more general sense, Shabbat frees us from our weekday concerns, from our deadlines and schedules and commitments. During the week, we are slaves to our jobs, to our creditors, to our need to provide for ourselves; on Shabbat, we are freed from these concerns, much as our ancestors were freed from slavery in Egypt.
The benefits of the Sabbath If you come to understand the importance and holiness God places on His Sabbath, you will want to fellowship with like-minded Christians who love God’s laws and deeply appreciate His calling and His mercy. You will want to worship with those who seek to have God’s laws written on their hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10).
God gives His people the Sabbath and the fellowship of His Church as gifts that produce wonderful blessings. These include:
Support in trials.
Family closeness and belonging.
The opportunity to worship God together with other believers.
A shared mission—an overarching purpose that motivates us.
What is Work?
Of course, no discussion of Shabbat would be complete without a discussion of the work that is forbidden on Shabbat. This is another aspect of Shabbat that is grossly misunderstood by people who do not observe it. Most Americans see the word "work" and think of it in the English sense of the word: physical labor and effort, or employment. Under this definition, turning on a light would be permitted, because it does not require effort, but a rabbi would not be permitted to lead Shabbat services, because leading services is his employment. Jewish law prohibits the former and permits the latter. Many Americans therefore conclude that Jewish law doesn't make any sense. The problem lies not in Jewish law, but in the definition that Americans are using. The Torah does not prohibit "work" in the 20th century English sense of the word. The Torah prohibits "melachah" (Mem-Lamed-Alef-Kaf-Hei), which is usually translated as "work," but does not mean precisely the same thing as the English word. Before you can begin to understand the Shabbat restrictions, you must understand the word "melachah." Melachah generally refers to the kind of work that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over your environment. The word may be related to "melekh" (king; Mem-Lamed-Kaf). The quintessential example of melachah is the work of creating the universe, which G-d ceased from on the seventh day. Note that G-d's work did not require a great physical effort: he spoke, and it was done. The word melachah is rarely used in scripture outside of the context of Shabbat and holiday restrictions. The only other repeated use of the word is in the discussion of the building of the sanctuary and its vessels in the wilderness. Exodus Ch. 31, 35-38. Notably, the Shabbat restrictions are reiterated during this discussion (Ex. 31:13), thus we can infer that the work of creating the sanctuary had to be stopped for Shabbat. From this, the rabbis concluded that the work prohibited on Shabbat is the same as the work of creating the sanctuary. They found 39 categories of forbidden acts, all of which are types of work that were needed to build the sanctuary:
Making two loops
Weaving two threads
Separating two threads
Sewing two stitches
Cutting hide up
Writing two letters
Erasing two letters
Tearing a building down
Extinguishing a fire
Kindling a fire
Hitting with a hammer
Taking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain.
(Mishnah Shabbat, 7:2) All of these tasks are prohibited, as well as any task that operates by the same principle or has the same purpose. In addition, the rabbis have prohibited handling any implement that is intended to perform one of the above purposes (for example, a hammer, a pencil or a match) unless the tool is needed for a permitted purpose (using a hammer to crack nuts when nothing else is available) or needs to be moved to do something permitted (moving a pencil that is sitting on a prayer book), or in certain other limited circumstances. Objects that may not be handled on Shabbat are referred to as "muktzeh," which means, "that which is set aside," because you set it aside (and don't use it unnecessarily) on Shabbat. The rabbis have also prohibited travel, buying and selling, and other weekday tasks that would interfere with the spirit of Shabbat. The use of electricity is prohibited because it serves the same function as fire or some of the other prohibitions, or because it is technically considered to be "fire." The issue of the use of an automobile on Shabbat, so often argued by non-observant Jews, is not really an issue at all for observant Jews. The automobile is powered by an internal combustion engine, which operates by burning gasoline and oil, a clear violation of the Torah prohibition against kindling a fire. In addition, the movement of the car would constitute transporting an object in the public domain, another violation of a Torah prohibition, and in all likelihood the car would be used to travel a distance greater than that permitted by rabbinical prohibitions. For all these reasons, and many more, the use of an automobile on Shabbat is clearly not permitted. As with almost all of the commandments, all of these Shabbat restrictions can be violated if necessary to save a life.
Are the 10 Commandments abolished?
Some churches believe that the commandments no longer apply to Christians—that they were done away with. Of course, they don’t object to most of the 10 Commandments; everyone believes murder and stealing are wrong, for example. If you get right down to it, most Protestant Sunday-keeping churches really only think the Sabbath command was done away with.
But consider these New Testament passages about the 10 Commandments. Do they seem like they are abolished?
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
Jesus also said, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17; see verses 18-19 for confirmation Jesus was referring to the 10 Commandments).
The apostle John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12).
Paul also wrote, “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters” (1 Corinthians 7:19).
Following Christ’s steps A Christian will “follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin’” (1 Peter 2:21-22). The Bible defines sin as lawlessness—breaking God’s laws (1 John 3:4). Jesus never broke the law, and He died to pay the penalty of our past sins so we can strive with His help to not break the law. Notice these quotes from Jesus and Paul:
“Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
“Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2).
What did Jesus do? He kept the Sabbath. Observing the Sabbath was Jesus’ custom and practice (Luke 4:16, 31). It continued to be the custom and practice of the apostles and the New Testament Church (Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 14:1; 17:2, 10; 18:4). Jesus never broke God’s law, even if the Pharisees accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Sabbath. His healings on the Sabbath were totally acceptable to God, though they might have gone against the extra human rules that Jewish tradition had added. Jesus corrected them and showed that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:12). Jesus should know. He was present at its creation and when it was thundered to Israel as part of the 10 Commandments, and thus He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). He made the Sabbath holy. What is holy to God? “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [made it holy], because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:3). He reiterates this in the Sabbath commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). We are not to add to or take away from God’s commands (Deuteronomy 12:32). As rebellious Korah discovered, it is dangerous for people to take it on themselves to try to define what is holy (Numbers 16:3-5). We must let God tell us what He has made holy. Holiness is not just an Old Testament concept. The apostle Peter urged Christians to live “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16). But how can we be holy if we don’t respect what God made holy—like His holy Sabbath day? (Read more in our article “Holy Days: Who Makes Them Holy?”) God created the Sabbath and made it holy time. Who can change that? Only God.God created the Sabbath and made it holy time. Who can change that? Only God. There is nothing in the Bible about God changing His day of rest and worship. Obviously changes did occur in the church that gained influence over the pagan Roman Empire, but not in the small faithful flock that continued in the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Read more about how Sunday came to be the majority day of worship in our articles “Did the Early Christians Worship on Sunday?” and “When and How Did the Change in Worship From Saturday to Sunday Occur?” The future of the Sabbath Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man—for the benefit of all of humanity, not just the Jews (Mark 2:27). It was created just after humanity’s first parents were created. Isaiah 56 shows how important the Sabbath is to God and how the Sabbath is for everyone. God pronounces a blessing on the person “who keeps from defiling the Sabbath and keeps his hand from doing any evil” (Isaiah 56:2). This includes people from all nations: “The sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer” (verses 6-7). Isaiah 66:23 also describes a future time when all people will be on God’s calendar and all will be celebrating God’s holy Sabbath. So how can anyone say the Sabbath doesn’t apply now?
"High Sabbaths" are observed by Jews and some Christians. Seven annual Biblical festivals, called miqra ("called assembly") in Hebrew and "High Sabbath" in English and serving as supplemental testimonies to Sabbath, are specified in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy; they do not necessarily fall on weekly Sabbath. Three occur in spring: the first and seventh days of Pesach (Passover), and Shavuot (Pentecost). Four occur in fall, in the seventh month, and are also called Shabbaton: Rosh Hashanah (Trumpets); Yom Kippur, "Sabbath of Sabbaths" (Atonement); The first and eighth days of Sukkoth (Tabernacles). "High Sabbaths" is also often a synonym of "High Holy Days", viz., Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The term has been used to describe a similar weekly observance in any of several other traditions; the first crescent or new moon; any of seven annual festivals in Judaism and some Christian traditions; any of eight annual pagan festivals (usually "sabbat"); an annual secular holiday; and a year of rest in religious or secular usage, the sabbath year, originally every seventh year.