We Gotta Get Shabbat Right! The Fourth Commandment, part IV Rabbi Michael Weiner
I prayed long and hard about this piece today. After much prayer, (and as you can see from the above subject line) I decided to write one last piece on the Fourth Commandment, to both remember and keep the Shabbat holy. The Hebrew word Kadosh is translated as ‘holy’. But we have a hard time quantifying ‘holy’. No one ever went to the store and came home with one pound of “holy”.
So, what does it mean, to both “keep and remember” the Sabbath Day holy? Kadosh means separate or distinct. We ask at the Passover Seder, the introduction to the four questions … “Why is this night different from all other nights?” On Shabbat we should ask, “How is this day different from all other days?” This day was set apart by God because on it He completed His work of creation and rested. More than that, He blessed the Seventh Day.
We worship God by obeying His commands. The great debate is how to do that well. And remember, this is not a debate we should have with each other, but an inquiry we should make to God Himself. Psalm 51:17-19 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. For You would not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it, nor be pleased by burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
The reason I’m writing this today is to highlight a distinction between Messianic Jews (and by extension, all followers of Yeshua) and rabbinic Jews (followers of Talmud and other rabbinic teaching). The Talmud identifies 39 types of work that went into the Beit HaMikdash (The Holy House), the Temple. Since no work was done on Shabbat to build the Temple, the rabbis have prohibited these same 39 types of work on Shabbat. It’s the definitions that get exhaustive. https://www.ou.org/holidays/the_thirty_nine_categories_of_sabbath_work_prohibited_by_law/
The Bible itself provides us an outline of principles, but not a lot of specifics. If the rabbis have the Talmud and other writings of their sages to guide them into all righteousness, what do we Messianic Jews have? Hear the words of Yeshua … John 16:13a But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. The Spirit of Truth is the Holy Spirit. Let the Holy Spirit lead you into obedience. And remember this. The Holy Spirit will never tell you something that will contradict the written word of God.
The difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law is significant (not just semantic). 2 Corinthians 3:6 He also made us competent as servants of a new covenant – not of the letter, but of the Ruach. For the letter kills, but the Ruach gives life. It’s the difference between “Do I have to, and if I do ‘have to,’ how much?,” and Psalm 40:9 I delight to do Your will, O my God. Yes, Your Torah is within my being.
To obey the 4th Commandment is really quite simple. Rest and be blessed. Thank You, Lord for such a great gift. Shabbat is a weekly celebration of Your goodness, a sanctuary in time. Lead us as we desire to honor You and make Your commanded day of rest holy. In Yeshua’s name, Amen.