Dear Refiner's Fire...
Could you please put into simple English, plain language how to properly keep the Sabbath? I know the rabbis of old were basically insisting that the act of just getting out of bed on Sabbath mornings made one guilty of "work" - but it seems Yeshua tried to clarify this issue by showing that the rabbis were guilty of "adding to" and/or twisting the Word. Yeshua even healed on the Sabbath which shows that we are allowed to do those which have to be done - in other words, use common sense about what constitutes "work". Am I right?....
You're absolutely right! While YHWH commanded us to keep the SEVENTH Day Sabbath, He never meant for it to be a burden, or something that would be a huge effort to observe. It is merely a day where we are to rest and "regroup" and concentrate on Him and realize that we can shake off the dust from the former week's mistakes and burdens, etc., and look forward to a brand new week in Him.
YHWH told us to "Guard and remember the Shabbat." (See Exodus 20:8-11.) But the bottom line is, Shabbat is all about having a real two-way relationship with our ELOHIM via Bible study and prayer (whether at home or at a congregation); and to spend time with family, or reconnect with friends and even with oneself. Most of all, we are to REST from our daily work, whatever it might be. Of course, the best way to spend Shabbat is with a local Messianic congregation where you can fellowship after the service. But not everyone has the that luxury, and so we must do what we can to make the day joyful and relaxing.
So, the short response is: Yes, it's a day to concentrate on God and the Bible, but you don't have to sit around all day reading the Bible or watching videos concerning God and the Bible. (Many write to our website asking if they have to sit and read the Bible all day long.) The Shabbat is a day of "rest"; not a day of "feeling forced to be in Scripture all day." On Shabbat, you stop doing your income-producing work, and just REST. Your "usual work" (dishes, house cleaning, lawn mowing, yard weeding, etc. - all those things can WAIT until Sunday.
Take naps, if you want. Play games with your children, read a book, take a walk or even a drive somewhere to "get away from it all" (as long as you don't gas up the car or eat at a restaurant, or even buy a Coke from a local burger joint - because we're not to commit commerce on Shabbat or cause others to work). Just basically RELAX. YHWH just wants your body to recuperate.
In short, "do no work" refers to our income-producing work and activities that expand our domain (like mowing the lawn, painting the house, plowing the fields...things that can wait for another day besides Shabbat)! (Yes, emergencies do arise, so just use some common sense to take care of them.) "But, it's the weekend and my day off!" is NO excuse! The bottom line is, whom are you serving if you refuse to obey your Creator?
Below are some suggestions on how to "keep" the Sabbath (Exodus 35:1-3)...but first, it is important to realize that God placed tremendous importance upon His "Shabbat" - so much so, that He called it a "sign" between Him and His people, so please DO NOT TAKE IT LIGHTLY! Please pray and ask for guidance about what YOU are to do on Shabbat....
Exodus 20: 8 "Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. 9 You have six days to labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Shabbat for ADONAI your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work -not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. 11 For in six days, ADONAI made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why ADONAI blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.
Exodus 31: 13 "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 Lord who sanctifies you."
Exodus 31: 16 "Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.'"
Isaiah 66: 23 And it shall be that from one New Moon to another New Moon and from one Sabbath to another Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says the Lord.
Jeremiah 17: 21 Here is what ADONAI says: "If you value your lives, don't carry anything on Shabbat or bring it in through the gates of Yerushalayim; 22 don't carry anything out of your houses on Shabbat; and don't do any work. Instead, make Shabbat a holy day. I ordered your ancestors to do this, 23 but they neither listened nor paid attention; rather, they stiffened their necks, so that they wouldn't have to hear or receive instruction. 24 However, if you will pay careful heed to me," says ADONAI "and carry nothing through the gates of this city on Shabbat, but instead make Shabbat a day which is holy and not for doing work;
In this scripture about the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy, we can clearly see that God's "day" begins and ends at sunset:
Nehemiah 13: 19 So when the gates of Yerushalayim began to grow dark before Shabbat, I ordered that the doors be shut; and I ordered that they not be reopened until after Shabbat. I put some of my servants in charge of the gates, to see to it that no loads be brought in on Shabbat. 20 The merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Yerushalayim once or twice, 21 until I warned them, "Why are you spending the night by the wall? Do it again, and I'll use force against you!" From then on they stopped coming on Shabbat. 22 Then I ordered the L'vi'im to purify themselves and come and guard the gates, in order to keep the day of Shabbat holy. My God, remember this too for me, and have mercy on me in keeping with the greatness of your grace!
And here we see that He even presented us with with the basics concerning His Shabbat!
Isaiah 58: 13 If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call Shabbat a delight, ADONAI'S holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them. If you do, you will find delight in ADONAI - I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya'akov, for the mouth of ADONAI has spoken."
Some general suggestions on Sabbath keeping:
The first thing to remember is to not "wrap yourself around the axle" worrying about whether or not you're "doing it right." The main thing is that you obey the command to do it! There is no set way to do it; it is a CUSTOM to do liturgy, not a command. On Friday evenings, around sunset, do a simple (or indepth, if you wish) ceremony which goes something like this:
Gather your family and do some liturgy as outlined in our website's free Siddur which can be found toward the bottom of the Essays and Articles page; just scroll until you see "Siddur/Prayer Book". A woman lights the candles, since it was a woman who brought Messiah, the light of the world. Basically, the woman covers her head, lights two candles, cradles the "light" of the candles with her hands and then draws it toward her face (a kind of graceful waving motion) three times and covers her eyes and says:
Blessed are You, Yahweh our Elohim, King of the Universe, Who has set us apart by His commandments and given us orders concerning the Sabbath.
Hebrew (roughly transliterated):
Baruch Atah Yahweh, Eloheynu, Melech ha-olam
Asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav, v'tzivanu al haShabbat.
Then the husband does some liturgy which includes something like this:
From Exodus 31:16-17 16 'So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.' 17" It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed."
Then the family together turns towards the East and says the Sh'ma:
Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Barukh sheim k'vod malkhuto l'olam va'ed.
Hear, Israel, ADONAI is our God, ADONAI is One. Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
At that point, everyone lifts his glass of wine(or grape juice) and says the following together. (See also John 6:31-35 and John 6:53-58):
Barukh Atah, Yahweh, Eloheynu, Melekh ha-olam,
Borey p'ri ha-gafen.
Blessed are You, Yahweh our Elohim, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Then, the head of the house holds up the bread and everyone chimes in with the following:
Baruch Atah, Yahweh, Eloheynu, Melekh ha-olam,
Ha Motzi lekhem min ha-aretz.
Blessed are You, Yahweh our Elohim, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Afterward, the husband blesses his children (either doing some kind of liturgy or just speaking from the heart); then the husband blesses his wife, and she blesses him.
Of course, don't forget to bless and thank YHWH for bringing in another shabbat!
And then you eat and rest and relax! Some people do a longer version which includes symbolic hand washing, while others prefer the shorter version.
On Saturday morning (there's no prescribed time to start), unless you attend a Messianic synagogue where you are likely to spend a good part of the day, do your own Torah studies. Pray. Spend time with YHWH/Y'shua. Bibles such as Stern's Complete Jewish Bible, lists the pertinent Tanakh and New Testament passages to read along with the Torah portions. The study, if done properly, takes at least an hour or more.
After synagogue (or after your Bible studies), stick around to fellowship or return home - or take a walk in the park, etc. Do NOT order "take-out" foods or participate in anything that requires someone else to have to perform work for you (i.e, eating out at some restaurant, or going to the movies where others are earning a paycheck by selling you a ticket). If you do, you will be guilty of causing others to work on the Sabbath and of committing commerce!) The day, after all, is all about REST for everyone, including as God said, "your donkey" and any other working animals - so if you live on a farm, don't make your animals work, either.
Nehemiah 10: 31 "If the peoples of the lands bring merchandise or food to sell on Shabbat, we will not buy from them on Shabbat or on a holy day.
It doesn't matter whether or not cooks and waiters/waitresses at your favorite restaurant, or theater ticket takers, etc. don't observe YHWH's Sabbath; the point is that you do! Every Torah observant believer is supposed to REST on Shabbat. If you want to rent some nice movies for the kids to watch on Saturday afternoon, obtain them before Shabbat begins. Don't work in your garden (unless it's to water the plants on extremely hot days where they would be in distress if you ignored them) or throw wild parties. Don't do housework; it can wait until Sunday. It cannot be stressed enough that the main purpose of Shabbat is REST and relaxation while remembering, above all, to concentrate on, and to keep nurturing your relationshnip with YHWH your God. Shabbat is your "date" with Him every Saturday!
While there are, of course, some circumstances where we are forced to spend money (i.e., your child suddenly has a bad fever and you either need to go to the emergency room or your local pharmacy, etc.) the point is to try to follow the "rest" command as much as possible.
Leave the dishes for after sunset on Saturday; they're not going anywhere. These types of things will become habit after awhile and they are not that hard to do once you get into the swing of properly observing the Shabbat.
Don't cook on Shabbat - BUT IF YOU DO (after all, YHWH didn't say we couldn't EAT on Shabbat!), make it something quick and easy, something you've either prepared beforehand or that you can just toss into the microwave. In Torah we read that YHWH commanded His people to not gather any manna on Shabbat (Exodus 16); and He said not to build a fire - and that's partly because it was a lot of work to build a fire in Old Testament times. Today, contrary to what some are teaching, turning on our stove to heat soup, or putting it into the microwave is NOT "building a fire" nor is it a lot of work to push a button or flip a switch!
This brings us to another point - Emergencies on Shabbat: In your Torah walk you will no doubt encounter people who will try to "get all rabbinic" on you and tell you you're guilty of breaking the Sabbath if you dare lift a finger for ANY reason. But didn't we see Y'shua healing, "picking grain" and performing miracles on Shabbat? Weren't we told that if our donkey falls into a ditch that we shouldn't leave him lying there until Shabbat was over? Who in their right mind would allow a child or an animal to suffer, just because it's Shabbat? Emergencies happen, whether it's Shabbat or not. Babies arrive when it's their time to arrive. People get sick. Things happen....
This means SOMEONE has to "work" on Shabbat - i.e., medical and fire department and other emergency personnel....Torah does not tell us that emergency workers of any kind cannot "work" on Shabbat. If you are an "emergency worker" you sometimes HAVE to work on Saturdays; that's just part of the job. But if you are in the newspaper or magazine business, or in any vocation that does not provide "emergency services" then you need to rearrange your deadline/publication dates!
While we should never make excuses to break Shabbat to "increase our domain" or "do whatever we wish" - like, take the kids to the zoo or head to the nearest football/baseball stadium to watch our favorite team playing - we must use some common sense. Shabbat is to be a "day of REST" from our usual work day activities. Don't go to the office, or to plow the back 40 or spend the entire day watching football on TV.
Hopefully, the above suggestions have helped you to understand "what to do on Shabbat!" Just remember - It is, above all, a day of REST - spiritually, emotionally and physically! Spend time with YHWH/Y'shua, with your family or friends. And if you have an emergency, use common sense to do what needs to be done. Nothing in Torah tells us we cannot handle emergencies on Shabbat!