By Ellen Jaffe
Growing up in NY with extended family, Shabbat represented a time that everything stopped! Of course we had to work feverishly to prepare for it beginning Wednesday and then begin the cycle again every week. Wednesday, you would begin to clean the house, on Thursday you would shop so that all the food was fresh and ready to be prepared on Friday morning. All the blankets and pillows were hung out on the line (no dryers in those days) and we would love the smell of fresh air on our linens. Momma would allow us to help with little chores; setting the table, getting the Shabbat candles ready, putting the siddurs (Prayer books) on the table, getting the “good dishes” out, wiping the silverware to make sure it looked shiny. We alwa ys prepared some sugar cubes in a special glass bowl, in case visitors came for tea or coffee. Zaydie provided fresh Challah (egg bread) which is braided and reminds us that G-d provided a “Double Portion” of manna for Shabbat, so that we would not have to labor on His Holy Day.
Egg bread has the most delicious aroma, and when smothered in butter, is the quintessential “comfort food”! hee heee.
So, bear with me here, because I am leading you to a place beyond “memory lane”J
Shabbat, especially for poor families, is a time when you transcend earthly things..and cook your best food, serve your best wine, invite friends, neighbors and family, as though you were kings and queens. It is a time for lively table discussion, debates on Torah (first 5 books of Moses), and playing games with children. Many funny stories were told on Shabbat, in several languages usually concluding with Yiddish jokes. We wore our “dress up” Friday evening (erev Shabbat) garments, and had our Shabbat Shul (temple) clothes already prepared for the next morning. Arising early, we would wash, dress and dash off to shul with Bubbie (Grandma) and sit dutifully in our respective places (men separated from women). The Chazan (Cantor-man who sings the blessings and parsha’s (portions) of Torah and Haf-Torah (prophets, Psalms, Wisdom, etc.) singing was my favorite person in the weekly ritual……his voice filled the sanctuary from (no microphone either!) a small room (which I was convinced, was the place where he and the angels rehearsed together). The vibration of his voice stirred my little spirit. (years later I would discover that there were Several Chazans in my own family line).
By this point you may be saying,,,,what has this got to do with me!? Well I am so glad you askedJ
G-d had some very strong ideas about this day that He calls “Holy”
Exodus 13:12-17 “And the L-rd spoke to Moses saying, Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the L-rd who sanctifies you. You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoeve r does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for 6 days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the L-rd. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in 6 days the L-rd made the heavens and the earth and on the 7th day He rested and was refreshed.”
Wow, death!!!!!!! For not keeping the Sabbath….that’s intense!
So how should we view this now, is a subject of much debate, especially amongst modern-day Orthodox and other branches of Judaism. It is also a topic of Believers in churches, and some denominations build their whole theology around keeping Shabbat….but I want to avoid theological debates here, and go in a direction that is redemptive for wherever you are on this issue, because Shabbat provides opportunity!
Shabbat, which comes every Friday evening thru Saturday at sundown, provides one of the best evangelistic opportunities we have!!!! EVERY WEEK.. Just look at what Yeshua did on Shabbat if you think I’m kidding!!!!! He demonstrated the Kingdom more on Shabbat, then most any other day….think about that! There is a message planted in His example that the church has missed, but we in this hour are learning to take advantage of!
The first step is getting past the idea that Shabbat keeping is legalistic! It is the WAY you KEEP Shabbat, that determines whether your heart attitude and behavior come from either Freedom or Bondage!
Matthew 4:23 “Now Yeshua went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people”
In the next verses that follow, we see that His fame goes out because of His teachings and demonstration and soon multitudes are coming to be healed, saved, delivered, coming from Syria, Jerusalem and beyond the Jordan. In Matthew 5, we see Yeshua sitting with His disciples beginning to expound Torah and the true intention of the Law (5:17< /SPAN>-“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill)” The reason He said this is because He KNOWS that we will misunderstand. It’s the same reason He always says “do not FEAR” because He knows we fear!
At the conclusion of His teaching…the people were astonished, why!!!! Because He had AUTHORITY!!!!! The Pharisees taught out of a different spirit and lacked both authority and power. Yeshua worked within the biblical framework, that He himself set up so that the true INTENT of the Law could be realized…..look at Matthew 8:4 Yeshua had just healed a leper… “And Yeshua said to him, see that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” In Matthew 9:10-13…we see Yeshua eating with many tax collectors and sinners and was accused by the Pharisees for doing so. Yeshua said, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick……For I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” Did you notice in scripture how much Yeshua gets accomplished around a dinner table? Why do you think Jewish people love to eat! Heee heee (that’s my own joke)
Again in Matthew 9:35 it is repeated “And Yeshua went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease among the people”
Again, we see Yeshua on Shabbat – Matt: 12, He is walking thru the grainfields and His disciples were hungry and began plucking the heads of grain to eat,,,,immediately spotted by the Pharisees and accused for doing something unlawful on Shabbat, Yeshua retorts that they should look at what King David did when he was hungry and fed himself and the soldiers with him on Shabbat and not only did that but took the food from the TEMPLE!!! And concludes 12:8 “For the Son (Yeshua) of Man is L-rd, even of the Sabbath” Right there, Yeshua is declaring Himself L-rd…just in case they missed all the other things He said and did!
So how do we appropriate this for ourselves in modern-day 21st century homes?
First, we must be persuaded in our own heart that G-d has a purpose for Shabbat that is greater than any traditional or legalistic notions we held before.
Next, we need to meditate on what it means to “Labor to enter into His rest” Isaiah 56 gives great substance to this as it addresses the non-Jewish lovers of G-d.
Beloved, you have a great opportunity to present a Kingdom atmosphere in your own home to your friends and neighbors every week….or even once each month! When is the last time you sat down to dinner with all your family members on a Friday night and did not rush away from the table, but actually spent time talking about G-d? And….then allowed each family member to tell a story or ask questions and look at the word together?
You see, G-d who is so clever, knows that we are very “busy”…we have endless distractions in our lives, and so He gave us permission to put everything aside one day each week to practice Kingdom living!!! I guess He thought we would like it so much, that we might let it spill over into the rest of our week!
It doesn’t matter if you are Jewish or not! In fact, think of the impact it has on your neighbor who is wondering why you would choose this practice!
You can even create new traditions and learn some of the prayers that are spoken, select a favorite Psalm and allow your family members to teach, share, etc. The table is a great place to ask questions and reason together! In our culture, this is lost art that we have the power to recapture!
Stay tuned for “Shabbat II”