If you are new to the Torah walk and have asked yourself this question then you are in very good company. Most pursuants of the Torah ask this question at one time or another, and sometimes seek for years to capture the true and pure essence of what it means to Keep the Sabbath and set it a-part. As we pursue the ‘righteous’ walk we must first make sure that our footsteps line up with the profession of our mouths.
One thing I understand more as I transition through this lifestyle is that keeping the Sabbath is an issue of the heart. Keeping the Torah in itself is a heart issue. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he think in his heart, so is he…” the actual Hebrew word that is used for heart is Nephesh which means more than just heart, but it means life or being/soul, as in how a person lives their life, so if one lives his/her life with evil intent then that is who he/she is. So before making a decision to come into this Hebrew walk one must first determine what is in his/her heart. If the intent of the heart is true towards walking out the Torah lifestyle, then the life will mirror the confession.
I think that it is very important to say that you can probably find a loophole in most any contract drawn up by man. People do it everyday and we see the results of that with the extreme number of court cases held in this country. We must be very careful not to try and find loopholes within the Torah to justify our own agenda. Father looks at the heart and He knows the inner workings of our thoughts, therefore it would not be to our advantage to seek ways to not keep the Torah once we have made the covenant to keep it. Bottom line, Father commands us to keep His Sabbath and there are no ‘contingent provisions.’ Many times when coming into this walk we have jobs or careers that cause us to work on Sabbath because for the most part this country does not consider the Sabbath as being on the seventh day of the week, but most worship on the first day of the week (that’s another teaching). It is at these times we will reconsider our job and try to work out a resolution so that we can begin to keep the Sabbath. For some this is an option and for others it is not. That is when we must do as Mosheh did; he went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus saith YaHWeH of Israel, let My people go…” Do you go into your Supervisor’s office and say, “God rebuke you let me keep Sabbath!” Probably not, that may make for a very difficult work environment. You may want to pray about what you should say and then go in and present the words that Father gives you for you Supervisor. Remember, Father commands us to keep His day so, if you truly want to keep it for Him He will make a way, but He also does try us to show us our hearts:
Deuteronomy 8:2 “And you shall remember that Yahweh your Elohim led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, prove you, to know what is in your heart, whether you guard His commands or not.”
He knows what is in our hearts and how we choose to live our lives, so the knowledge is not for Him, but for us. He wants hearts and lives of pure intent for Him and the keeping of His Torah. Make no mistake, He is omniscient. Trying to fool Him would be absurd. He wants us to keep His Torah because we love Him not because of the blessings or so that we will look more righteous than others. All of that is vain and will show the true inner workings of oneself and the desire within.
So as we walk through a few Sabbath truths let us put on the garment of righteousness and stay humble, so that He will keep our hearts pure towards Him…”as he think in his heart, so is he…”
There are five laws that govern the Sabbath they are:
- You remember (guard) the Sabbath and set it apart (Exodus 20:8)
- You do not kindle a fire in your dwellings (Exodus 35:3)
- You do no work (Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 23:3)
- You rest; we follow The Most High’s lead (Exodus 20:11; Leviticus 23:3)
- You have a set a-part gathering (Leviticus 23:2-3)
There are many traditions that have been kept in regards to the Sabbath and I will try to touch on a few as they relate to keeping of the Sabbath. Father in the above Scriptures tells us the minimal of what He expects from us in keeping His Set Apart day and we must always take His Word first literal as that is the lowest level of understanding. So we should guard the day by making sure that we set it apart from the other six days, which means what we do on the other days we should do something different on Sabbath. He starts with setting the day apart, how, by not kindling a flame, not working, resting, and gathering together. Each is defined by its literal meaning; let’s look at each one from the traditions of man and line the tradition up with the literal meaning:
Remember “Zakar et Yom Shabbath”
The word ‘zakar’ is Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions and Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary H2142, and it literally means to remember, recall or call to mind; to make as a memorial. This is a primitive root and is a verb, so we are expected when we see this word to exhibit a physical action. Shabbat is to be in our hearts and spirits, but also has to be walked out. To say you keep the Sabbath in your heart only is a falsehood, as that would take away from the very literal expectation that Yah has for us in keeping this fourth commandment. Just as we have ‘Memorial Day’ in this country to commemorate the soldiers that have died in the wars that this country has fought; we see the ‘actions’ of not working, going to memorial sights to put flowers on graves of soldiers and ceremonies to remember their gifts to humanity. Each year government dignitaries go to the tomb of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ in Arlington cemetery to remember the lives of those who gave and died leaving no trace of their physical bodies to bury. This is the same understanding concerning the seventh day of the week, when our Creator fashioned the heavens and the earth; saw what He had done was ‘Good’ and rested to reflect on its goodness. He has given us the honor to take part in His rest, to reflect on all that He has done during the week and to give Him acknowledgement and Praise.
Kindling a flame
The Scripture says that we should not kindle a flame in any of our dwellings on the Sabbath. One Jewish Sabbath tradition is to light two candles 18 minutes before the sun goes down. The woman of the house lights the candles and covers her eyes and says a blessing to Father concerning kindling the Sabbath lights or remembrance. This is a Jewish tradition and is not commanded by Scripture. We teach that if we are not sure about the origin of a tradition we should not continue in that tradition especially if we see the tradition goes against the literal implication of Scripture. As I researched the word origin for ‘fire’ I found that the Hebrew word used to describe fire in this Scripture is ‘esh’ but the word to describe Flame or light of fire is ‘ur’. The difference in these two words is that esh also means ‘God’s anger’ the word ‘ur’ could be used to describe the lighting of a flame. In understanding this we could assume that Father was saying do not kindle my wrath in any of your dwellings or we could assume that He is saying literally do not light a flame of fire in your dwellings. I think that if we are going to error, not intentionally, but we are at the mercy of the translators and we were not there when the original word was given so, we teach to error on the side of caution. If The Word says to not light a flame in our home we do not light candles and we do keep the Sabbath therefore not kindling Father’s anger by not keeping it.
Do No Work
From a physics standpoint ‘work’ refers to the amount of energy transferred by a force, so the energy within our body would be transferred out by our mind and body to complete a task of some kind. Human labor would be the effort applied to produce a deliverable or accomplish a task. Both scientific and physical are pretty much the same you think about completing a task and your brain commands your body to accomplish the task. This effort is called work. The word used in this Scripture is Brown-Driver, Briggs Hebrew Lexicon H4399 ‘Malakah’ which refers to: occupation, work, business, service, use, work (something done or made) and types of work are described as: public, political or religious. The literal meaning of the word ‘work’ in this Scripture seems clear concerning expelling energy, but let’s look a little closer to see if we can capture the deeper meaning of this, because Messiah was accosted in Matthew 12; Mark 3 and Luke 6 by the Pharisees when he healed the blind man on the Sabbath. He was accused of breaking the Sabbath, but Messiah’s response was, “So it is right to do good on the Sabbath.”
“…but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest,” (Leviticus 23:3) I just don’t know why this is disputed. Physically the human body needs rest. It’s is one day and you have worked six, Father YAH is so Faithful to His people that He has allowed us as His creation to take a ‘day off.’ Only man in all his wisdom can make that a bad thing. Studies show that without rest a person becomes fatigued in physical strength and mental strength. Without rest the human body would not be able to function properly eventually not working to full capacity. In Exodus 20:11 The Most High says, “For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore יהוה blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart. There is much to understand concerning this day and how important it is to rest on it; in Exodus 31:17 The Most High tells Moshe, ‘Between Me and the children of Yisra’ěl it is a sign forever. For in six days יהוה made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ” There is a refreshing attribute to the Sabbath that cannot be denied once you experience His Sabbath rest. We see in Hebrews 4:9, “So there remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of Elohim. In Greek the word is sabattismos, which means Sabbath-keeping. This literally means that we are to remain in the keeping of the Sabbath. Hebrews goes on to say,
Hebrews 4:10 For the one, having entered into His rest, has himself also rested from his works, as Elohim rested from His own.
Hebrews 4:11 Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.
Hebrew 4:12 For the Word of Elohim is living, and working, and sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through even to the dividing of being and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Keeping the Sabbath is always a heart issue, if you truly love Elohim you will keep His Commandments. The Sabbath is also the ‘sign’ of His covenant with His people, that we belong to Him. It is His wedding ring to us to set us a-part to Him, and a sign forever. When does forever stop?
Have a Set-Apart Gathering
Let us start with the Commandment as it relates to gathering on the Sabbath:
Leviticus 23:2-3 “Speak to the children of Yisra’ěl, and say to them, ‘The appointed times of יהוה, which you are to proclaim as set-apart gatherings, My appointed times, are these: “Six days work is done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a set-apart gathering. You do no work, it is a Sabbath to יהוה in all your dwellings.”
Some believe that they are setting the Sabbath a-part by just locking themselves and their family in the house and not doing anything other than reading the Bible. This law is just as important as the other four laws that YAH commanded Israel to keep concerning the Sabbath. This day is to be set a-part from all the other days of the week. If you gather with you family every other day of the week, the Sabbath must be different. If there is an assembly of Sabbath keepers somewhere near you, go and assemble yourself with them. If there is not an assembly in your area and no believers near you; those who have services via internet is a great alternative. There is much to say for a physical assembly to join to, as the wisdom of the Proverbs states, “Iron is sharpened by iron, And a man sharpens the face of his friend” Proverbs 27:17. As we gather and proclaim the great Works of our Elohim and study His Torah; we midrash to rightly divide the Scriptures to get a better understanding. As we walk out this wonderful time of rest and reflection The Most High gives us new and delightful experiences in His Word of Truth.
Happy Sabbath; may your life be whole and complete, nothing broken nothing missing.