by Birgit Barandica, June 2010
Shabbat (שבת ʃaˈbat, in the plural Shabbatot), the seventh day of the week, is the day of rest, appointed by God. So we read at the end of the creation story,: "...and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it..." (Genesis 2:2-3, KJV).
It is the only day that has its own name. All other days are numbered in the Hebrew language, with Sunday being the first day, Monday the second day, Tuesday the third and so on.
At first, the Shabbat didn't have its name yet, but was called 'seventh day' or 'resting day'. The first time, the name 'Shabbat' is mentioned is when the Israelites left Egypt and were still in the desert. In the morning, God sent them manna, the bread of heaven. They were grains described as white as coriander seeds and as sweet as honey. The people should only collect as much of it as they needed per day. Nothing should be kept overnight. Whoever kept it though, found it the next morning full of maggots and it stank (Exodus 16:14-36, NIV). The Lord wanted to teach them to confide in His providence.
Yet while collecting the usual ration of manna on the sixth day, it doubled all of a sudden. Amazed, the people went to Moses asking him what this was all about. He told them, "This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning'," (Exodus 16:23, NIV). [I'll stick to the Hebrew word 'Shabbat', although in the English Bible it is translated 'Sabbath'.]
This is when the seventh day is called 'Shabbat' for the first time and appointed to be a feast. Everyone was to rest on that day: all people, also workers, slaves, foreigners and even animals:
This day is so special to God that He considered it important enough to add it to the Ten Commandments: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV).
This does not mean at all that God needed a resting day after his creational work. Remember, "And God said, let there be..." - and it was!!! This means, a single word was enough and the world and all life in it was called into existence! I don't think that words tired God out, He never gets tired at all. Read this fantastic promise about Him: "He won't let your foot slip. He who watches over you won't get tired. In fact, he who watches over Israel won't get tired or go to sleep" (Psalm 121:3-4, NIRV. "never slumbers nor sleeps" is the commonly better known translation).
Yet it is very different for us - we do need times of rest! If it were for the market economy of this world, there would most likely be no resting times at all, only very little vacation; all strengths would be pressed out of people to extremes. Partly, this is already happening. And the stress is crippling people; they become ill of their soul, the waiting rooms at doctors and therapists are more and more crowded, but they can't help people on the long term, either.
God has foreseen this right from the beginning. So with all festivity and happiness, Shabbat is a necessity of which, in the meantime, even more and more therapists become aware. Hence, Shabbat serves to the well-being of all of us, just like everything else does that Gods is saying to us. And that He sanctified this day serves the fact that beyond it we won't forget about Him or His word... something which regrettably happens all too often - a commonly made error, especially among us Christians (no matter how weird this may sound), since Shabbat had downright been taken away from us and we even don't understand its meaning anymore after so many centuries of ignorance...
Yet no matter how often and how much people try to criticize, denigrade and deny God... HE IS - and He is right in whatever He is saying! It is His day, He says and He wants us to keep it. It took me quite some time, but eventually I understood that this goes for me, too! God never 'imposed' things on me - unfortunately, we wrongly often think He'd be doing such things. When I opened up toward the subject of 'faith roots' (unkowingly at first), God very gently began preparing me for Shabbat. And then, when I celebrated it consciously for the first time, it was such a blessing and joy I can hardly put into words!
The 23rd chapter of Leviticus it is about biblical feasts: "These are my feasts", says God very clearly in verse 2. The description of the feasts begins with the Shabbat - this is how important it is for God! He loves celebrating and so there are several yearly feasts and one weekly feast - the Shabbat! It is celebrated with family and often friends on friday evenings at a festively decorated dining table, beginning with a beautifully deep and festive ceremony and blessings. A wonderful tradition is the special blessing of the family - the father first blessing his wife and then the children. If there is no man in the family, of course the blessings are spoken by the woman. I have been told that, in case the blessing cannot be said in a certain moment, the whole family is missing them! After that everybody sits down for a good dinner.
If possibilities exist, some people attend a Bible study at their congregation afterwards, for every Shabbat has its own continuous special torah readings, the Parashah, which is being combined with the Haftorah, the readings from the prophets. Messianic believers add readings from the new Covenant.
having lunch together followed by a special afternoon program.
On the day of Shabbat, saturday, there are Shabbat services at one's congregation, honoring our Lord with liturgy and torah reading and a worship time where people also dance a lot. It is a feast in expectancy of the returning of our Messiah! Afterwards, people often enjoy a good fellowship,
In Isaia, God clearly tells us how important the Shabbat is to Him and that it should be celebrated delightfully, happily: "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD,..." (Isaia 58:13-14a).
Earlier, I would have never considered it possible, but in the meantime, Shabbat has become a time to me that for days ahead, I am looking forward to! I can imagine that some people might see it as an exaggeration - but if one Shabbat is over, I begin looking forward to the next one! It is a very special time and I noticibly feel the blessing that God has promissed!
According to the Jewish Calendar, the day begins at sunset of the previous evening (Genesis 1:5: "And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day"), this is why the Shabbat celebration begins on friday evening. At the end of this article, there is a little date display that shows the exact time of sundown so to know when the Shabbat begins (it also has the corresponding Torah portion and the Havdalah).
Christians who are discovering their Jewish-Hebraic faith roots usually start celebrating the biblical feasts again, for it is evident that each one of them is indicating toward Jesus. So by scripture, they can celebrate them now even more under Christian aspects! This, of course, also goes for Shabbat. The prayers are very similar to the Jewish ones, yet we address them to Jesus or say them in His name.
who has sanctified us in His word and given us Yeshua, our Messiah and commanded us to be the light of the world. Amen."
This is a photo taken at one Shabbat that I had shortly ago by skype with a friend of mine - a great technical opportunity! To the left you see the Challah, a braided yeast bread, typical for Shabbat, a wine glass (at that point, I had not yet filled it) and the two Shabbat candles.
The candles are usually lit by the wife or the woman of the house. She then says the blessing: "Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu bid varecha ve natan lanu, et Yeshuah Maschichenu, ve tzivanu le hiyot or l’olam. Amen."
Which translates: "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe,
A wonderful blessing - the whole gospel in a nutshell!
There is a special blessing spoken over the wine and bread, the Kiddush. For the wine it goes: "Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech ha'olam, boreh preh ha'gafen. B'Shem Yeshuah ha'Maschiach. Amen." = "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who bring forth the fruit of the vine. In the name of Yeshuah ha'Maschiach (Jesus, the Christ). Amen."
And the blessing over the bread: "Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech ha'olam, ha'motzi lechem min ha'aretz. B'Shem Yeshuah ha'Maschiach. Amen." = "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, who bring forth the bread from the earth. In the name of Yeshuah ha'Maschiach. Amen."
The Kiddush can simply be spoken, but there are also several melodies with it and everybody joins in clapping and singing - for it is a joy to think of what the Lord is bringing forth from the earth to our well-being! This is why God is being blessed and not the meal. I think this is really more logical than asking God to bless the meal. And so people thank Him after the meal.
We can assume that Shabbat and the other biblical feasts back then were celebrated in a very similar way as they are nowadays. So also Jesus celebrated the feasts like we do now! I think this is a remarkable knowledge!
Shabbat ends on saturday evening at sundown with a short ceremony, the Havdalah. It marks the end of the Shabbat and the beginning of a new week. For, as I already said, according to the Jewish calendar, this is the beginning of the first day of the week.
Here is a beautiful example of a Havdalah celebration. Shabbat officially ends with the immersion of the three braided candles and the new week begins:
Outside Israel, prayers are being said in Hebrew or bi-lingual. Hebrew is the only "dead" language that actually was never really dead and was being revived (in contrast to Latin or Koiné, the ancient Greek). By the end of the 19th century, Elieser Ben-Jehuda revived it back to a spoken language. Ever since the dispersion of the Jews into all the world after the Temple destruction in 70 AD, Hebrew slowly turned into a mere sacral language spoken only for Torah study purposes. Yet today, it is spoken by a whole nation again and beyond! New words have been added, of course, since people back then had no TV sets and couldn't fly to the moon, either, etc! But I have been told that apart from this, the present day Hebrew is not too different from the old one. I think it's awesome to envision the fact that Jesus moved in the same language, celebrating the same feasts - the whole Bible has become so vivid to me as if things would have happened not too long ago in my very own past!
The fact that for centuries, the Sunday is being celebrated as the (Christian) resting day, is not biblical at all. In the 4th century, it was arranged by emperor Constantine to abolish everything Jewish from Christianity. Very explicitly, God has determined the seventh day to be the resting day and not the first day! The first day, Sunday, is dedicated to the pagan god Sol, which can still be seen in the names of that day in German and English: Sonntag and Sunday.
In the whole Bible, no statement can be found saying that Gods instruction of Exodus 16:23 doesn't apply anymore! Like everything else is still valid, for God is eternal yesterday, today and forever (Hebrew 13:8). Isaia 56:1-8 is very clear on it as are many other scripture verses, too. It is amazing how often the Old Covenant indicates to the importance of holding the Shabbat! Jesus and the apostles and all Christians of the first two centuries celebrated the Shabbat. This is evident in many parts of the New Covenant.
In the course of time, several human laws were added to the Shabbat rest, which had to be complied with like punishable laws. This is why the Pharisees criticized Jesus harshly, because He healed on such days and His disciples pulled grain from the fields, because they were hungry. Such things were seen as "work" which was forbidden on Shabbat. So Jesus had to remind the people yet again of what Shabbat really means: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28).
Jesus says here very clearly that He is the one to decide what is or is not allowed on Shabbat - for He is the Son of Man, meaning the incarnate Son of God. It does not mean that Shabbat doesn't apply anymore - just the contrary!
So to all of you who celebrate Shabbat and those who
would like to get to know it, I bid a happy
[It says 'Jerusalem' here, but by clicking on
"Hebcal Shabbat Times" you can change it to your own location.]
Here are 2 video clips by church of Ebenezer in Honduras. Even if you don't understand Spanish - but isn't it completely overwhelming to see how people are celebrating here? Look at the masses of people and the happiness that jumped right through my screen here and made me dance on my chair!!! Next to other things, it is this what God means when talking about the believers of the nations! It can look like this when people praise God in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23-24)!
Everywhere on this planet Jesus, Yeshua, will be worshiped and celebrated! When I saw these 2 clips the first time, the thought crossed my mind that this must be similar to God's Throne Room in Revelation 7, with innumerable people from all nations and tribes standing in worship before Him!
This tiny little Central American country, yet so many people celebrating Yeshua so enthusiastically! Everytime I watch the clips, I am overwhelmed! And sad at the same time, knowing that my own country is far from even similar.... We shall not get weary praying for our nations for such an enthusiasm for our redeemer to break through!
This song is called "Así como David danzaba" - "The way David danced"!
"Me gozaré en Yehová" they sing - "I rejoice in Jehovah"!
And look how this joy takes over in the room!!!