Give the Argument About Shabbat Rest a Rest

Every Friday and Saturday I see posts all over the Hebraic Roots and Christian Discussion Groups I am a member of about the Sabbath (Shabbat, in Hebrew), which is the 7th day. Most decry the Christian moving of the Shabbat to a Sunday, and many are very confused about what can and what cannot be done on the Shabbat.

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The Bible tells us all one, definitive thing about the Shabbat- it is to be kept holy. Holy, as I have said many times, simply means to be separated, and the Shabbat is to be holy, i.e. separated from our regular activities and dedicated to rest and to God. There can’t be any reasonable argument against this simple definition of what the Shabbat is: a day to be separated from our regular scheduled activities and dedicated to resting and to God.

The next question is: what, exactly, does it mean to rest?  And, as Shakespeare wrote, “There’s the rub!”

I will not tell you what you should do on the Shabbat. I will also not accept anyone telling me what I should do on the Shabbat; anyone, except God, of course, and he told me that I should rest from my regular work. To me (and you each have to determine what this means for you), resting is not doing that which I normally do on a regular basis that is not restful for me. As for dedicating the day to God, I dedicate every day to God and in this, I may be guilty of not separating the Shabbat from the rest of the week.

Will I follow the strict limitations that are found in the Talmud? No, I will not. I don’t believe that God thinks walking a certain distance is not work, but going a few feet further is work. I do not believe that driving my car is forbidden, and if I want to do work in the garden or around the house, which I don’t normally do during the week, although I will work up a sweat and it is often hard toiling, it is also restful for me in my spirit and my body (I love a good workout.)

Why is driving a car forbidden? We are told not to light a fire on the Shabbat (Exodus 35), and when you drive you are lighting a fire every time the spark plug creates the spark to ignite the atomized fuel in the cylinder.

There are so many rabbinic restrictions on people regarding the Shabbat, and I see neophytes in the Hebraic Roots Movement confused about them. The pressure from others to conform to strict restrictions is a new form of the legalism that the Galatians were being subjected to.  Look- if you want to spend the entire day in a Synagogue or sit quietly at home, not walk very far, not spend any money or doing any kind of physical activity at all (not even making the bed), I do not think that is wrong or a bad thing IF it is what you believe God wants from you.

Personally, on Saturday I will ride my bike, I will spend money if I need to go to the grocery store and I wil go out to brunch with Donna if we feel like it. I will drive my car if I need to go somewhere, and I will do many other things that many people (especially Orthodox Jews) would say I should not be doing. Do I do this in order to purposefully sin against God? Of course not! I do what I do on the Shabbat because I find it restful; if Donna and I want to see a movie on a Saturday, we will go. It is time together, it is restful, and it is not denying God our attention and devotion. That I give to God 24/7/365…and 366 in Leap Years!

I am not telling anyone that they can do whatever they want to do on the Shabbat, but if what they do is restful, enjoyable, connect’s them with family, and includes worship of and communion with God, then as far as I am concerned, that can’t be a bad thing. Maybe I am wrong, and if so, then I will have to ask forgiveness from God for misunderstanding him. I believe he will let me know if I am really off the mark.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing something on the Shabbat, then don’t do it. But don’t not do something just because someone else told you that you can’t. Ask God to show you what he wants from you, and always remember that it is our intrinsic nature to avoid God’s instructions, so filter what you want to do from what you think God wants you to (or not do), and when in doubt go with what you think God wants.

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And I always welcome comments, so long as you are nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

Comments

  1. Steven R. Bruck
    Rabelrouser May 9, 2019 at 09:01

    How many times have I seen this particular subject cause division in the Christian community, too many to count without a calculator, but at the same time you have put a very concise commentary to a subject that really does come down to a personal choice of the relationship with God that one has. And to me personally, that is the main point; knowing that God wants that time of rest and individual fellowship with each of us; and if that includes fellowship with others, so much the better.
    The dogmas of “Religion” are what causes the consternation that God has never advocated, and when that is realized, that personal relationship with God, the Lord,grows and produces greater fruit of the spirit and the individual life.

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