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Well-known author Norman Mailer once observed that New York City would benefit from having all the electricity turned off for one day a week. People could stop their frantic activities and reflect a bit. Mailer understood the importance of Shabbat, the Sabbath, even though it's doubtful he was thinking of a day for worship.
Shabbat is meaningful to both Jews and Christians. A Jewish tradition states that when all Israel-as a nation-keeps the Sabbath, the Messiah will come. Whether or not the rabbis who postulated this position literally believed it, it demonstrates how important they deemed Shabbat to be.
Another way of expressing the special nature of this day is the traditional Jewish saying: "A precious jewel have I in my possession, which I wish to give to Israel, and Sabbath is its name." Another viewpoint is that "the Sabbaths were given to Israel in order that they might study Torah." The widely-read author, Herman Wouk, said in This is My God, "The Sabbath is the usual breaking off point from tradition, and also the point at which many Jews rejoin Judaism" (p. 61). Keeping the Sabbath holy was an "acid test" of who was an observant Jew.
The Sabbath has meant something to Christians, as well. The New Testament records many discussions about this day. Moreover, the Sabbath day is a symbol of eternity. In post-biblical times, the Catholic Church even went so far as to insist on its observance, but on Sunday, the first day of the week. Because of the importance of Shabbat to the Jewish people, this change of day by the Catholic Church, as much as anything else, made "Christianity" anathema to Jews. Much controversy revolves around Shabbat.
There are many books on the Sabbath. Lederer/Messianic Jewish Publishers-the organization that I direct-published one called Shabbat: Celebrating the Sabbath the Messianic Jewish Way. Because I wanted to address some of the controversial aspects surrounding the Sabbath, as well as offer a complete handbook for keeping the Sabbath, I decided to write a new book on the subject of Shabbat.
Previously, my theological view, like that of many believers, didn't allow much room for a high position on the Sabbath. I intuited that it was probably a good idea to have a day of rest, one in seven. But it didn't really matter much to me. I was confused as to what Messiah's statement, "I have come to fulfill the Law," meant as it related to Shabbat. Back then, I believed that his "fulfilling the Law" meant I was free from the need to follow the Law. Discovering that the expression "fulfill" was a Hebrew idiom meaning "to interpret correctly" helped me to understand what Yeshua meant. "I have come to interpret the Torah correctly, not incorrectly (i.e., 'to abolish the Law')."
Furthermore, the day on which to take this day of rest didn't matter to me, either. I was pastoring the oldest "Messianic congregation" in the country. Having been influenced by the Presbyterians, who began it in the early 1900s, the congregation observed Sunday as their day of worship. At first, this was fine with me.
However, my wife, along with my two daughters, desired to keep a more Sabbath-observant home, and began instituting certain Sabbath practices. (She will share some of these in this book.) Because of the change in our home, as well as my own re-examination of certain theological presuppositions I had always held, I began to study the Scriptures to understand more about the Sabbath. The result of my research, coupled with my "ladies'" instinctive change, led to my change of views.
As you read this book, I hope you will consider not only the ways you can enjoy this special day, but understand its background as well. I believe you will be blessed by learning more about the Sabbath-its Scriptural basis and its special practices-and how it has been misunderstood.
As we Jews say when we begin our Sabbath observance, "Shabbat shalom." May you have a Sabbath of peace . . . even into eternity.
Celebrating Shabbat in Your Home
Menus and Recipes for Shabbat