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The Fourth Commandment:
Honoring the Day of HaShem as a non-Jew


Part 1 of 4: How and Why Shabbat Was Given
By Shlomo Phillips © August 30, 2009 (last update: May 21, 2015)

Go to: Study Home Page.
Go to: Study Overview.
Go to: Part Two: Jesus and His Disciples Were Shomer Shabbat.
Go to: Part Three: Jesus and His Disciples Were Shomer Shabbat.
Go to: Part Four: How and Why the Sabbath Day Was Rejected.

Origin of the Sabbath

'Guarding the Sabbath' (Hebrew: שומר שבת) is commanded in both biblical versions of the Ten Commandments:

          God spoke all these words, to respond:
1. Exodus 20:2,3 -- Deuteronomy 5:6,7 "I am the Lord your God... You shall not have the gods of others in My presence.
2. Exodus 20:4-6 -- Deuteronomy 5:8-10 You shall not make for yourself a graven image
3. Exodus 20:7 -- Deuteronomy 5:11 You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain
4. Exodus 20:8-11 -- Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Remember (zakhor) and Observe (shamor) the sabbath day, to keep it holy
5. Exodus 20:12 -- Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother
6. Exodus 20:13 -- Deuteronomy 5:17 Thou shalt not murder
7. Exodus 20:14 -- Deuteronomy 5:18 Thou shalt not commit adultery
8. Exodus 20:15 -- Deuteronomy 5:19 Thou shalt not steal
9. Exodus 20:16-- Deuteronomy 5:20 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
10. Exodus 20:17 -- Deuteronomy 5:21 Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's house)
      Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's wife)
      Thou shalt not covet (neighbor's servants, animals, or anything else)
These dual commandments (or mitzvot) are applicable only to Jews as we will see below, however the principles they represent are for all civilized people. From the two versions of the Ten Commandments we learn that honoring Shabbat involves two related elements:

Shabbat in the Beginning

These dual Jewish commandments and traditions are not where Shabbat observance first appears however. "In the beginning" the command to observe the Day of Elohim was given to all people. To understand the universal ramifications of Shabbat one needs first to understand this important point. Even though our ritualized observances apply only to Jews -- the lighting of Shabbat candles, the specific blessings we offer, etc. -- Shabbat itself is HaShem's gift to all humankind. All the Earth should enter into the Sabbath rest, conscious of and gratful to the Creator of us all. Shabbat should be the day of global peace and rest. Alas, this is clearly not the case.

Shabbat is an established appointment (or moed) between HaShem and humanity. His divine appointments matter! Everyone who seeks harmony with the Creator should desire to make these weekly meetings with Elohim whether they are Jewish or not! To find the origins of the Sabbath we make our way back in time to Genesis one where we read:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning of Elohim's creation of the heavens and the earth.
1:2 Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the ruach of Elohim was hovering over the face of the water.
1:3 And Elohim said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
1:4 And Elohim saw the light that it was good, and Elohim separated between the light and between the darkness.
1:5 And Elohim called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and it was evening and it was morning, one day.

On this first day of the creation week the Spirit (Ruach) of the God of gods (Elohim) manifests the Holy Light (Hebrew: Ohr Kodesh: Holy illumination) that illumines our planet and our souls. This Light begins as the Ohr Ein Sof, the Primal, Inifinte Light of the Transcendant ONE. The Light shines into terrestrial existence as the Ten Sephirot Light Emanations. All that exists is found within these ten emanations of the One Light and their 49 "Gates."

It is important to understand that the these emanations in no way deflect from nor limit the eternal Oneness of the Divine Source (i.e. Ein Sof, the "Infinite" ONE). Scripture states, "For I, the Eternal, I have not changed" (Malachi 3:3). From the perspective of God's self-knowledge, the emanations remain completely united and nullified to their source. This answers early Rabbinic criticism of dualism in Kabbalah. The term in Kabbalah and Hasidic philosophy for this nullification is Bittul. In daily spiritual life (Dveikus) it inspires the mystical humility of nullification of the ego.Much has been written on this holy Light. It is the Or Kadosh

The Hebrew calendar only gives a proper name to Shabbat, the rest of the days are numbered (Yom Rishon: first day, Yom Sheini: second day etc). Each day reflects the countdown to Yom HaShabbat. This was day one, which by modern calendars is called Sunday. And when did this day begin? The text says: "And the evening and the morning were the first day."

The Bible uses a lunar (Moon based) calendar in which days begin at sunset. For this reason all Jewish holidays and observances begin with the setting of the sun. Modern calendars are solar based even though a day is usually calculated from midnight. When calculating Shabbat (the Sabbath) we must think a bit differently therefore. There is a lot in the Bible that requires us to think differently (Isaiah 55:8)! Each new day begins as the sun of the previous day sets. We begin each day with a family meal and rest. HaShem is so merciful!

Genesis one continues describing the creation week until, on the sixth day, Elohim creates Adam (aw-dawm: ruddy or red like the clay from which he was drawn) and Chavvah (khav-vaw; life-giver, aka Eve; named at Genesis 3:21), and then:

Genesis 1:31 And God saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good, and it was evening and it was morning, the sixth day.
These texts teach us, when read literally, that in six days the One God -- here called Elohim (indicating that He is the Supreme and only God, the El among the el) -- performed the 'work' of creating life in the heavens and the earth. Volumes have been written about this first chapter of Torah! I'll avoid going into the fascinating possibilities presented here for the sake of brevity. Suffice it to say that some scholarly Jews interpret this chapter literally while other equally knowledgeable authorities see it in a more allegorical light that accords with current scientific theory. In my opinion both methods have merit depending on the study at hand. However understood, these cycles are presented as seven "days" and for the purpose of calculating time and defining proper Shabbat observance we take them literally.

Each subsequent week from this point humans have recalled the Six Days of Creation with gratitude and rested on the Seventh as commanded. Through this system we symbolically take part in the ongoing creative acts for six consecutive days and then we too rest on Yom Shabbat.

At the end of the original sixth day, as the sun was setting:

Genesis 2:1 Now the heavens and the earth were completed and all their host.
2:2 And God completed on the seventh day His work that He did, and He abstained on the seventh day from all His work that He did.
2:3 And God blessed the seventh day and He hallowed it, for thereon He abstained from all His work that God created to do.
We know which day this Sabbath was and is because Klal Israel (the Jewish people) have carefully maintained the Hebrew calendar since. Historically some cultures did not use a seven day calendar but the Jews always have and they documented the sacred day. We are fortunate that modern secular calendars use this same count. It makes things much easier! But if they didn't, we would still observe each seventh day as commanded.

Shabbat is Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. We normally begin our observances at 18 minutes before sunset and conclude about forty minutes after the sunset on the next day so as not to risk missing a monment of this holy day.

At this point in the Creation Week Adam and Chavah had been created. They were living in Paradise, and they had not yet yielded to yetzer hara (the negative impulse). The Earth at this point was still a blessed and sacred place in complete harmony with Elohim's Will. There was no taint of sin, nothing in need of redemption. Humanity lived in a state of balance between yetzer tov and yetzer hara (the selfless and selfish natural drives). Everything was as it should be.

Why is this significant to Shabbat observance?

This matters because it shows that the Sabbath is part of God's original plan for the earth and all of its inhabitants. Shabbat is not something added at Sinai or because of the 'fall'. At this point in the Torah we know nothing of sin and rebellion. There are no Noahide nor Mosaic Covenants yet; there is no People Israel, no need of redemption. Everything is exactly as Elohim intends. AND Elohim clearly intends for the entire creation to observe the weekly appointment: Shabbat. Shabbat is for everyone.

Shabbat stands unique among the nameless numbered days of the week. The Sabbath was specifically set apart as holy (Hebrew: kodesh) by God Himself in the very beginning. What does it mean that Shabbat is holy? Of this word kodesh we read:

KEDUSHAH: The biblical term for holiness is kodesh; mishnaic Hebrew, kedushah, and that which is regarded as holy is called kadosh. Jewish exegetes, following early rabbinic interpretation (Sifra) of Leviticus 19:2: "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy," have consistently taken the verb kadesh to mean "distinguished, set apart." The Sifra paraphrases the command with the words "You shall be set apart" (Heb. perushim). The traditional interpretation coincides with the findings of modern phenomenologists of religion who describe "the holy" as "the wholly other" and as that which is suffused with a numinous quality. The latter is both majestic and fearsome (The Idea of the Holy, Rudolph Otto, 1923, ch. 8) or to use the term Otto popularized, "the mysterium tremendum" (Source: Jewish Virtual Library.org: Kedushah)
Shabbat is the most important external observance in biblical and Talmudic religion. Observing Shabbat is the foundational sign that one is in a covenant relationship with HaShem. Since HaShem is the sole Creator of everything that exists, everyone is commanded to honor His Shabbat with thanksgiving and praise. There are however differences in observances.

For Jews, as the holy ('set apart') nation of priests (Exodus 19:6), being Shomer Shabbat (i.e. Guardians of the Sabbath) has extra responsibilities as ascribed by Torah and Tradition:

Exodus 31:12 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
31:13 "And you, speak to the children of Israel and say: 'Only keep My Sabbaths! For it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I, the Lord, make you holy.
31:14 Therefore, keep the Sabbath, for it is a sacred thing for you. Those who desecrate it shall be put to death, for whoever performs work on it, that soul will be cut off from the midst of its people.
31:15 Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever performs work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.'
31:16 Thus shall the children of Israel observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant.
31:17 Between Me and the children of Israel, it is forever a sign that [in] six days The Lord created the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and rested."
31:18 When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, stone tablets, written with the finger of God.

Please continue with:

Go to: Part Two: Shabbat For All.
Go to: Part Three: Jesus and His Disciples Were Shomer Shabbat.
Go to: Part Four: How and Why the Sabbath Day Was Rejected.
Go to: Study Overview.
Go to: Study Home Page.

Be the Blessing you were created to be
And
Don't let the perfect defeat the good


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