Read an Excerpt
(Excerpted from chapter 1)
Shabbat The Sabbath
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord'" (Leviticus 23:1-3).
It might surprise some to see a discussion of the biblical holidays start with Shabbat. After all, this is such a common day. It occurs once a week. The Jewish perspective is different. It is not that Shabbat is so common, but that it is so special, that we are to observe it every seven days. With that in mind, it is perfectly logical to mention the Sabbath at the head of the list. Besides, in the chronology of Leviticus 23, Shabbat comes first.
Shabbat means "to rest," which tells us a large part of the purpose of this important observance-restoration. From the ancient Greeks to the modern corporate executive, mankind tends to become obsessed with work and "getting ahead." There is always more to do. Yet, without proper rest and refreshment, human strength and creativity fail.
In his infinite wisdom, God told the children of Israel to recharge themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. God demonstrated this principle when he created the universe. For six days he formed the world and everything in it; but, on the seventh day he rested. Consequently, the seventh day, Shabbat, is to be a perpetual reminder of God the creator and our need to find rest in him (Exodus 31:16?17).
Based on the creation account of Genesis, Shabbat lasts from sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday. God defines a day in the following order: "there was evening, and there was morning." Hence, the Hebrew calendar traditionally starts a day at sunset of the previous evening.
Some Christians might call Sunday the "Christian Sabbath"; however, this is technically incorrect. Sunday is never called the Sabbath in the Bible. In fact, the word "Sunday" never appears in the original text of the Scriptures. It is called "the first day of the week" (see Matthew 28:1 and I Corinthians 16:2, NIV). This is the biblical way of reckoning days of the week. All days are counted in relationship to Shabbat (first day, second day, etc.), giving further evidence of the centrality of this day to Jewish people.
TRADITIONAL JEWISH OBSERVANCE
The traditional Jewish community understands the observance of Shabbat on many different levels. To the classical rabbis, verses such as Exodus 20:8 were to be eminently practical as we "remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." The implications of this verse have filled volumes of rabbinic commentaries, but the two?fold theme is clear: remember the creator and set the day aside to rest in him. Many beautiful Jewish customs have developed to remind people of these truths. . .