Parashah Behar 2019 (On the mount) Leviticus 25 – 26:2

In this reading from the Torah, we are given the instructions for celebrating the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee.

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The Sabbatical year (called the Shemita) is the Shabbat rest for the land. Just as every seventh day the people rested, every seventh year the land would also get a rest. God promised that the sixth year produce would be great enough to be able to feed the land-owner not just for the sixth year, but for the next two years, as well, until the planting that started in the year after the Sabbatical year was harvestable.

Sounds just like the promise (that God kept, of course) regarding the collection of Manna on the sixth day lasting for two days over the Shabbat instead of morning to morning, as it did on the other six days of the week.

The Shemita also gave us rest from the burden of debt, in that all debts were to be released in the Shemita year. This was only for debts within the Israelite community and did not affect debts to or from non-Israelites.

The Jubilee year (called the Yovel) occurs the year after every 7th Shemita year or every fiftieth year. It is a year of rest, as well. Not just a rest for the land, but a rest from slavery or debt-bondage. In the Jubilee year, all property was to be returned to the hereditary owner and all slaves (again, only fellow Israelites) were to be set free.  In fact, the Jubilee Year was the basis for buying and selling of land and people in debt-bondage, in as much as the cost of land or freedom from bondage was to be prorated (you could say amortized) based how much production from the land or person could be expected by the next Jubilee Year.

Why all this resting? Didn’t God know about Type A personalities? What are they supposed to do with themselves when there is no work to be performed?

Maybe God instructed these different times of rest (Shabbat, Shemita, and the Yovel) so that we could have a moment in which to stop worrying about our life and start thinking about our eternity? Maybe God was thinking that if he made sure we had nothing that required us to concentrate on ourselves or what we were doing we could then concentrate on what is really important- where we will be going?

People are inherently self-centered. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are selfish or egotistic, it just means that when we receive input from the world, we identify and relate it to personal experience and understanding. Essentially, we are each of us the center of our universe, and as such we relate everything to ourselves. When we have nothing to worry about, nothing to occupy our time doing, we then can settle down and expand our vision, so to speak, to see things from someone else’s eyes.

In the Bible, God gives us his view of the world and the people in it. We are given the opportunity to see and understand things from a different viewpoint. And, when there is nothing else to do but study the Bible, we can mature both spiritually and emotionally because we learn to see things the way others see it.

Notice that I say we have the opportunity to see and understand other’s viewpoint- as with everything in life, there are those who will open their minds and hearts to others, and there are those that refuse to acknowledge anyone else’s feelings or opinions.

Every covenant and promise God has given to us, he has given as an open-ended agreement. He always keeps his end of the bargain, but we have the choice to accept or reject his covenants and promises. The way we demonstrate acceptance or rejection is through obedience. When we obey God’s instructions that he gave in the Torah (which Yeshua confirmed and discussed in spiritual terms), we will receive those things that God promised. When we disobey, be it by volition, ignorance, or instruction from others (meaning a religion’s doctrine), we reject God and will not receive all the blessings he has for us.

God isn’t just willing to bless us, he desires to bless us tremendously, and how much we receive is directly proportional to how well we follow his instructions. He wants us to obey as a love response and result of trusting him, but he doesn’t care why we disobey.

I am going to finish this message with what I believe is a really interesting thought- you don’t have to wait for one of God’s Shabbat rests before you rest. You can take a Shabbat any time you want to. Since I have retired, I am still active (as my ministry work online shows) but I am now in what I like to call a perpetual Shabbat. I don’t hafta do nothin’ if I don’t want to, and I am much more relaxed than I ever was when I was a member of the Rat Race. Don’t get me wrong- I liked my job, but I like not having to do it even better!

Enjoy the Shabbat that God has instructed you to enjoy. Take a break from your own life and learn about others. Expand yourself, emotionally and spiritually, by concentrating on something and someone other than yourself. You’ll find it very restful.

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I welcome comments and whether you agree or vehemently disagree, all I ask is that your comments be made in a nice way.

Tonight begins God’s weekly Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Until next time….L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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.

Thank you for being here, and please subscribe, share me out and buy my books. I use the income (what little there is) to send my books and Bibles to people who ask me for them.

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

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

Is It Okay to Take a Shabbat Rest from the Shabbat?

How many of you are actively involved in your place of worship? What I mean by “actively involved” is that you do more than just come to services and tithe. Are you in a ministry? Are you on the Council? Do you help out with tasks and work that needs to be done? Do you help to lead liturgy?

When you are involved to the point where you are expected to be there and to help those in charge, the Shabbat can become something you have to do and not something you want to do. And if that happens, I would like to think (this is mainly for myself) that it is OK to feel that way.

I was exceptionally involved with the Messianic Temple where I worshiped in Philadelphia. I started slowly, just making coffee for the Oneg each Shabbat (we had Friday night services), then started to teach the Shabbat school (which now was taking time during the week to prepare), and after some 17 years or so I was on the Council with monthly meetings, helping to process the tithes, helping the Rabbi to lead liturgy (which included giving the message when the Rabbi wasn’t there), and I did all the construction and handy-man work needed. I also helped with the music ministry and was a member of the Dance ministry.

When the Rabbi left to start his own missionary program, those of us on the Council (4 of us) took over, and I was the one who (mostly) ran the Friday night service (liturgy and message), created the liturgy and led the High Holy Days services, and also led the bible study every Wednesday night. All the preparation had to be done during the week, somewhere between my 60 hours a week with work, commute and homelife.

I am not telling you this to brag on myself, but as an example of how much effort I, as well as many, many others, devote to our house of worship. And this was all volunteered- I never received a Shekel. Same thing for where I worship now- I am on the Council (I am the Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer- OY!) and I also help with the liturgy, music, whatever.

In my case, the Shabbat rest isn’t always very restful. Although I love serving the Lord, sometimes it is tough to get myself “up” for it. In truth, as Friday approaches I often feel anxious, and find myself waiting for it to be over.

Do any of you feel that way sometimes?

The place where I worship will probably be completely changed, if not disbanded, in the next few months. The Senior Pastor is stepping down, and the Assemblies of God will be taking over the church. It is currently (as it has been for years) a Hebraic Roots congregation, which is not the typical A of G church, but the Presbyter has been very accommodating, and we have been a sovereign church under the A of G, so they have pretty much left us alone. However, now that we are so small we don’t qualify as sovereign anymore (we cannot even meet our own bylaws for Council membership) and the Senior Pastor is going to be gone (we do not have any A of G credentialed Pastor to replace him), the A of G will reclassify us as a District church, and will put someone in charge. That means we will be having Sunday services (we will need to find another building) and (most likely) will not be a Hebraic Roots congregation. Consequently, the few remaining congregants will have to find somewhere else to worship, and I will absolutely NOT be a member of the typical Assemblies of God church. Their recent change of position regarding Israel is against God. As a stand-alone Hebraic Roots church I have no problem with the “legal” A of G association, but to worship as they do is not going to happen for me.

So, what will I do? I will do nothing. Really- no church, no Messianic Synagogue, no Home Worship groups, nothing but my own Sabbath rest from the Sabbath. I confess that Shabbat has become a bit of a burden the past year or so, especially since the Pastor has been out of town a lot and I have been running the show in his absence. I admit that I’m tired of doing it, and when what you are doing is supposed to be a joy, but it is a drag, then you need to get away for a while.

So, for me, I will be taking a Sabbath rest from the Sabbath. That doesn’t mean I will ignore the Sabbath- not a chance, but I will just be resting from running the services for everyone else’s Sabbath. Even the Priests under King David were given rest from their duties on a regular basis, so why not me? Or you?

Here’s the really hard thing to confess to you: I am actually hoping that the A of G will not replace our Pastor with a Hebraic Roots Pastor so that I can take off. If we continue as Hebraic Roots, I will have to stay because that will be (for me) a sign from the Lord that He is not done with me there. Not yet.

So, after my little kvetch about being tired, I want to say that if you ever feel that you need to take a Shabbat rest from the Shabbat, it is OK. I do believe, since the Levites were allowed rest, that God will also allow us rest from the obligations of running a service (so long as there is someone else there to handle things) now and then. I am not preaching or even suggesting you do not honor the Shabbat- that we must always do- but if you want to stay home and relax with family, or just by yourself, that is OK. In fact, I will go as  far as to say it should be done every once in awhile.

We all need to change our routines now and then. There is a word for when we do the same things the same way all the time, and that word is: stagnation.