Sabbath

Good Morning Brothers…

I was wading through a crick yesterday hoping my feet wouldn’t slip on the muddy bottom. The water was about 3 inches below the seam of my chest waders and I didn’t feel like getting wet, or drowning. In fact, neither one of those options seemed especially attractive. It was about 45 degrees out and sunny, but still to cold to be dripping wet. I was checking beaver traps along the bank and wasn’t having much luck. I was thinking about my upcoming schedule and just how much I can pack into one day. Of all the 10 commandments, I think I break the one about ‘keeping the Sabbath’ the most frequently. Part of the reason is downright confusion, I’m not even sure I know what this commandment truly means. My early Christian tradition taught me that the Sabbath meant Sunday. That keeping the Sabbath meant ‘thou shall not work’ on Sunday; unless you were the Pastor, or my mother, or the NFL. The Pastor was allowed to work on Sunday because he was proclaiming the truth and that was important. My mother was allowed to work on Sunday because she was making the meal and that was important. The NFL was allowed to work on Sunday because the rest of us needed to rest so their work was…important. It gets confusing as a kid because I couldn’t really tell what was important and what we just ‘assumed’ was important.

The 10 commandments tells us to honor the ‘Sabbath’ day, which means to keep it holy. Which brings up the question, “Which day, or what is a day?” The Hebrews recognize days different than we do. The Jewish calendar is based on three astronomical phenomena: the rotation of the Earth about its axis (a day); the revolution of the moon about the Earth (a month); and the revolution of the Earth about the sun (a year). These three phenomena are independent of each other, so there is no direct correlation between them. On average, the moon revolves around the Earth in about 29½ days. The Earth revolves around the sun in about 365¼ days, that is, about 12.4 lunar months. The Jewish calendar coordinates all three of these astronomical phenomena. Months are either 29 or 30 days, corresponding to the 29½-day lunar cycle. Years are either 12 or 13 months, corresponding to the 12.4 month solar cycle. My calendar doesn’t follow the lunar cycle specifically, only generally. This means my calendar and the Jewish calendar do not correspond with each other. Other than ‘Sabbath’, the name of the seventh day of the week, the Jewish calendar doesn’t have names for the days of the week. The days of the week are simply known as first day, second day, third day, etc. Sometimes they are referred to more fully as First Day of the Sabbath, etc. The seventh day of the week for Jews is considered the Sabbath Day, for us, we call this day Saturday, even though we “celebrate” the Sabbath on Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Which really doesn’t matter because our calendars don’t line up anyway. To make matters more confusing, the Jews consider the Sabbath Day actually starting at sundown and not sunrise.

Sabbath is celebrated in this manner by the Jewish people:

At the beginning of Shabbat (Sabbath), candles are lit by the woman of the household. They are lit before Shabbat begins, at least 18 minutes before sunset on the 6th day (Friday night). She lights two candles, passes her hands over the candles a few times, then covers her eyes and recites this blessing. After the blessing is complete, she uncovers her eyes and looks at the lit candles as if for the first time. The blessing is:

Blessed are you, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us, to light the lights of Shabbat. (Amen)

Kiddush (Jewish ceremony and custom) is recited while holding a cup of wine or other beverage, no less than 3.3 ounces. The wine or other beverage is held in the right hand while standing when reciting the blessing. Drink the wine after the blessing is complete. The blessing is:

And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. The heavens and the earth were finished, the whole host of them. And on the seventh day God completed his work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, because in it He had rested from all His work that God had created to do. Blessed are You, Lord, our God, sovereign of the universe. Who creates the fruit of the vine (Amen). Who made all things exist through His word (Amen). Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us with His commandments, and has been pleased with us. You have lovingly and willingly given us Your holy Shabbat as an inheritance, in memory of creation, because You have chosen us and made us holy from all peoples, and have willingly and lovingly given us Your holy Shabbat for an inheritance. Blessed are You, who sanctifies Shabbat (Amen).

After Kiddush and before the meal, each person in the household should wash hands by filling a cup with water and pouring it over the top and bottom of the right hand and then the left hand. Before wiping the hands dry on a towel, the following blessing should be recited:

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe. Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us, concerning washing of hands.

Immediately after washing hands and before eating, the head of the household removes the cover from the two challah loaves, lifting them while reciting the following blessing. The challah is then ripped into pieces or sliced and passed around the table, so that each person may have a piece. The family meal may then begin. The blessing is:

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. (Amen)

This ritual would be followed the 7th day in the morning, again in the afternoon, and a vigil would be kept until 3 stars were seen in the night sky. This would mark the end of the Jewish Sabbath and mark the beginning of the first day of the week. While all of this is interesting, I’m not sure it helps me understand what I should be doing to keep the ‘Sabbath’. I’m interested in your opinion…what kinds of traditions and rituals do you keep to observe the ‘Sabbath’? Is it in word only, or also in deed? Send them to me and I will write them in to next week’s post as we continue this look into one of the 10 commandments.

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