“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
What does it look like to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy? This is one of those things that I truly have to thank the Jews for! I, being non-Jewish, did not know anything about God’s times or His calendar. I did not know anything about Sabbath or the Feasts of God and I grew up in church. I had been there for twenty years. Now, please do not think I am putting down the church, because I am not doing that! The church is important. However, not being Jewish, not living in Israel, I had a very western mindset. I just accepted things as they were and did not question anything…until I started praying for truth. You see, Shabbat was one of those TRUTHS that God revealed to me. And it is so precious. So sweet, to just enjoy God.
As we see in Exodus 20:8-11 it is a commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. The Sabbath is a day set apart. It is unique from all of the other days, and honestly, God made it pretty easy even for those of us who live in America, to keep it! As we notice in Scripture “the evening and the morning were the first day…” and so on through the seventh day, the day that God rested. We aren’t to work, not even our animals or visitors, on the seventh day. Well, since the evening and the morning were the first day, Shabbat starts at sunset on Friday and goes through sunset Saturday.
Three main things happen on Shabbat:
- Lighting of the candles by the women and girls
- The blessing over the wine (or grape juice)
- The blessing over the bread
Because the Sabbath is a special day, I like to use my fine china instead of every day dishes because they are special. I reserve the special things for the special day. Even if dinner is pizza, it is pizza on fine china. So, why light the candles, bless the wine, and bless the bread? What is different about the Sabbath blessings and daily blessings? Let’s take a look at them:
The Shabbat candles have ushered the holiness of Shabbat into the Jewish home for thousands of years — ever since the matriarch Sarah illuminated her tent with her Friday night lights.
The primary function of the Shabbat candles is to bring peace and tranquility into the home and to enhance our enjoyment of the Shabbat meal. The candles also serve to remind us of the spiritual dimensions of Shabbat: just as a physical candle reveals the otherwise unseen contents of a room, so, too, in a spiritual sense, the Shabbat candles reveal the unseen and intangible Godly energy which permeates our existence.-Chabad
Even Sarah illuminated her tent with Shabbat candles. The sages teach that her candles miraculously burned longer than the average person’s candle because the presence of the Lord was with her.
The mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles rests upon all members of the household. But it is the woman of the house, in her role as the mainstay of the home, who does the actual lighting. If there is no woman in the house, or if she is unable to light, the obligation falls upon the man.
An age-old custom is that all women in the household, including young girls from the age they can understand the significance of the mitzvah and make the blessing (about three years of age), should each light their own candle as well. In recent years, this custom has been revived and is common practice in many Jewish homes. “We live in times that are often enveloped in darkness,” the Lubavitcher Rebbe has urged, “so every mitzvah adds much-needed illumination.” – (note: a mitzvah is a commandment.)-Chabad
We light the candles to bring light into darkness, peace into our lives and our homes. After we light the candles, we say the blessing over them:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the holy Shabbat.
Next, we bless the wine (or grape juice). The wine represents the fruit of the vine, and we thank God for providing that as a symbol of joy. The blessing is:
Bless are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates fruit of the vine.
The third thing to be blessed is the challah (bread). This is symbolic of God providing for Israel in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. It is by God’s hands that we are fed. The blessing is:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
I did not mention this last blessing in the three mentioned above, but this is an opportune time to bless your children.
The Blessing for Sons
One of the Fathers of the Jewish people was Jacob, who had 12 sons who were to grow to become the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. The next-to-youngest son was Joseph, who had two sons, Ephraim and Menashe.
Just before Jacob died, he called all his sons for a final blessing. As a special reward to Joseph, who remained righteous throughout his ordeal of exile, he calls forward Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Menashe, and gives them a special blessing, as well as two portions of the Land of Israel:
On that day Jacob blessed them, he said, “In time to come, Israel (the Jewish people) will use you as a blessing. They will say, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe’.” (Genesis 48:20)
Jacob’s blessing was that they should be a blessing, an example to the Jewish people for all time. From that day forward, they would become role models for Jewish children everywhere, as they represented qualities to emulate eternally.
What were these qualities?
Ephraim and Menashe were the first brothers among our forefathers to live without rivalry. Before them came Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and, of course, Joseph’s brothers who sold him as a slave ― all relationships fraught with conflict and competition.
Ephraim and Menashe were brothers who lived in harmony, for their life focus was the highest example of working for good for their community and people. Decisions were not based on, What is good for me? but on, What is good for the Jewish people? Concerns of ego were cast aside in favor of something greater. The words of King David ring true: “How good and pleasant is it for brothers to sit peacefully together” (Psalms 133:1). This is the hope that God holds for all the Jewish people.
In addition, of the 12 sons and their families, these two were the only ones to grow to maturity outside of the Land of Israel. Yet despite great odds, they still remained steadfast in their commitment to Judaism. We cannot always guarantee that our children will not be exposed to a negative environment. We therefore give them the blessing to be like those who were not tempted by their immoral surroundings and maintained their ethical and righteous behavior.
Thus the qualities exhibited by Ephraim and Menashe being united in their quest for the good of all, as well as possessing the strength of character to maintain Jewish values in a non-Jewish environment ― became the benchmark for raising Jewish children even millennia later.
The Blessing for Daughters
Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah… the mothers of the Jewish people. Each one possessed unique qualities that played essential roles in the strength and future of the nation. Yet there was something they all shared, something that Jewish women for all time would strive to emulate.
Each one lived in recognition that the ultimate in fulfillment is enabling others to realize their potentials as individuals and as members of the Jewish people. The Torah is filled with accounts of these women, recording their insight, their giving nature, and their sensitivity, leadership, and special ability to inspire others. Beyond this, all of the matriarchs were great, righteous women, who hailed from the homes of wicked people ― what we call today ” a bad environment.”
One example of this is the story of the sisters Rachel and Leah. One day into their lives stepped Jacob, destined to be one of the fathers of the Jewish people. Jacob fell in love with Rachel and asked her father, Laban, for her hand in marriage. Laban promised it, and yet, at the last minute told his daughters that it would be Leah who would marry Jacob instead.
Rachel could have reacted with resentment and jealousy, but instead she helped Leah to marry Jacob, for she recognized that her sister needed to do this in order to fulfill her life’s purpose and to become one of the mothers of the Jewish people.
This act of selfless giving, where the other person’s needs (which may be just as important as our own) take priority, is the quality that Rachel and the other mothers of the Jewish people truly exemplified.
But it wasn’t all so self-sacrificing, for Rachel knew that doing the right thing, enabling Leah to step into her place, was the ultimate in her own fulfillment. For when we give to others who need us and help them to realize their potential, it fulfills our own needs and our own desires to grow.
We see this in our relationships today, whether it be with friends, family, or even in the workplace. When the needs of others are our priority, our own sense of self is heightened immeasurably, and our relationships become worlds of giving, where love and self-esteem flourish.
These women all shared a special relationship with the Almighty, and used the gifts He gave them for the good of others and for the Jewish people. When we bless our daughters on Friday night, we are asking God to endow them with the qualities of their foremothers, and we remind ourselves what real giving is all about.-Aish
The blessing over the children could be something like this:
May God bless you and watch over you. May God shine His face toward you and show you favor. May God be favorably disposed toward you, and may He grant you peace.
Why Do All of This?
When we decide to keep Shabbat, we choose to invite God into our homes, into our hearts, into our families, and our day-to-day lives. On Shabbat, the essence of the day is unity and complete connection to God. Keeping Shabbat from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday doesn’t mean that you can’t go worship on Sunday in your church. Of course, you can still go to church. By choosing to keep Shabbat, you are telling God that He is holy and that you choose to follow His commandments.
Your Shabbat and mine may not look the same…and that is OK! It doesn’t have to. The important thing is that you CHOSE to keep it. Many of my non-Jewish friends asked me why I have chosen to try to keep Shabbat since I am not Jewish. My answer is simple, Sabbath is not just for the Jews! It’s for all of us, anybody willing to honor it and keep it holy. The Jews just have more practice at keeping it, and I am so thankful they do, because I have learned this practice from them, and I have been very blessed by it!
Sarah Kept Shabbat
Sarah’s Shabbat Lamp(c) Michoel Muchnik
Thirty-eight centuries ago, Abraham and Sarah embarked on a journey to bring the idea and morals of monotheism to a predominantly pagan world. Their journey took them from their native Ur Casdim to Charan(Mesopotamia), and from there to the land of Canaan, where they settled first in Hebron and later in Beersheba. They pitched their tents at the desert crossroads, and offered food, drink and lodging to all wayfarers of every tribe and creed. Wherever they went, they taught the truth of the One G‑d, creator of heaven and earth. (Genesis ch. 12; Talmud, Sotah 10a; Midrashim)
In Sarah’s tent, a special miracle proclaimed that the Divine Presence dwelled therein: the lamp she lit every Friday evening, in honor of the divine day of rest, miraculously kept burning all week, until the next Friday eve. When Sarah died (1676 BCE), the miracle of her Shabbat lamp ceased. But on the day of Sarah’s passing, Rebecca was born. And when Rebecca was brought to Sarah’s tent as the destined wife of Sarah’s son, Isaac, the miracle of the lamp returned. Once again, the light of Shabbat filled the tent of the matriarch of Israel and radiated its holiness to the entire week. (Bereishit Rabbah 60) – Chabad
May the miracles experienced by Sarah and Rebekah be experienced by you as you enter your Shabbat rest. I chose to write about Shabbat (Sabbath) today because we have looked at the Life of Sarah this week. I wanted to conclude this week recognizing that Sarah, the mother of many nations, honored the Sabbath and kept it holy. Her life was more of testimony than anything. Sure, she made some mistakes like helping God give Abraham a son by giving him Hagar and laughing when God told Abraham she would give birth in a year, but those mistakes did not hold her back! She continued to live for God and many encountered God because of her and Abraham!
I cannot make the choice for you nor will I judge you if you do not choose to do. I am simply sharing one of the things that brings joy and peace into my heart and home. May God bless you with joy and peace today. May His favor rest upon you. May He bring you good health and financial blessings. Amen.
2 Kings 6:17, 20 Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!”…Elisha prayed, “O Lord, now open their eyes and let them see.” Lord, I pray that you open the eyes of all who read this post. May something have been said here which left a spark of You in them. May each word in this post speak life into others. Thank you Lord, for Abraham and Sarah, our examples of loving kindness and keeping Shabbat. Thank you, Father, that Jesus also kept Shabbat and we can follow these examples. Lord, forgive us for not keeping your commandments sooner. Forgive us for not understanding the words we had before us. Open our eyes that your secrets may unfold before us. In Jesus name. Amen
- Shabbat Candles Tonight: To Not Abridge Our Faith (irrevspeckay.wordpress.com)
- Shabbat Shalom! (spiritualthingsnriches.wordpress.com)
- Shabbat shalom (bokertov.typepad.com)
- The Sabbath in a Cup (everydayasceticism.com)