The Sabbath is not incumbent upon the other nations, nor is it an obligation for the Christian Church (Acts 15:23-29). However, as a principle that teaches the need for humanity to rest in God, it should be applied to the lives of all believers (Mark 2:27).
A sign between God and the people of Israel that teaches a principle of rest for all humanity
The instruction for ethnic Israel to keep the Shabbat, or Sabbath, is found in Exodus 31:12-16
- It is an instruction to the nation of Israel
- It is a sign between God and the nation of Israel
- It is a representation of creation’s completion
- It is a promise of the eternal rest of God
- It is an example of rest to humanity
- The Sabbath is not incumbent upon the other nations, nor is it an obligation for the Christian Church (Acts 15:23-29). However, as a principle that teaches the need for humanity to rest in God, it should be applied to the lives of all believers (Mark 2:27). For many Christians, Sunday has become a day of rest and celebration of the resurrection of the Messiah, there is nothing wrong with this practice: all days were created by God and through Messiah and each one is an appropriate day to worship God
- Messianic Jews continue to keep the Shabbat, just as our Messiah Yeshua [Jesus] did during His earthly ministry (Luke 4:16; Mark 1:21; ), as a representation of our unique identity and the continuing plan of God’s redemption of the nation of Israel
- The Shabbat begins on Friday evening at sundown and ends on Saturday evening after sundown. This follows the pattern of recording all Jewish days which is taken from the Genesis 1 account of the creation days which are recorded from evening to morning, this signifying the beginning of each of the 12 hour divisions that make up a 24 hour day
Traditional Jewish observances begin with the lighting of two candles:
- Observance [Shamor]
- Remembrance [Zakhor]
A woman (usually the Matriarch of the household or a young woman of bat mitzvah age ) lights the candles. This is because it was through a woman that sin [darkness] entered the world and it is through a woman that redemption [light] has entered the world.
- Eve [Chava-life] (Genesis 3:6)
- Mary [Miriyam-bitterness/rebellion] (Genesis 3:15; Luke 2:4-7)
The light of the candles symbolizes the light of God. For Messianic Jews this light reminds us of the fact that Yeshua [Jesus] is the light of the world (John 8:12).
The candle lighter draws the light toward herself three times and then covers her eyes. The rabbis of Jewish tradition have many explanations for this. As Messianic Jews we see the unity of God represented in this practice as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We understand that God is one (echad: a complex unity), and that He reveals Himself in many ways. We are inviting the light of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and at the same time we cover our eyes to acknowledge the Holiness of God.
We welcome the Shabbat rest of God with traditional songs and prayers called Kabbalat Shabbat prayers. Kabbalah means to receive, we are receiving the rest of God, His rest is not something we can earn or achieve. In order to receive God’s rest we must acknowledge our inability to rest without Him. One of the most common songs sung is Lecha Dodi, which means, “Come beloved”. As Messianic Jews we see the unity of God’s rest and His Son our Prince of Peace in the invitation offered by the words of Lecha Dodi. Therefore we are inviting the Messiah Yeshua to bring us rest in God.
Kiddush is the celebration of God’s provision for us. Kiddush means to sanctify, to set apart. Wine is used to represent the sanctifying life of God. Wine represents the life blood, during Passover the wine represents the life blood poured out as a sacrifice but during the Shabbat ceremony the wine represents the life blood as the means of our existence and vitality. Kiddush is lengthened by a recitation of the instruction to keep Shabbat. This reminds us of the Shabbat’s connection to God and His creation and causes us to look forward to the Olam Habah (World to come) and the eternal Shabbat rest of the New Jerusalem.
Two Challot: The traditional bread used for the Shabbat is called Challah. The two loaves represent the double portion of manna given to Israel on the eve of the Shabbat when we wondered in the desert. For Messianic Jews these loaves also represent the Jew and the Gentile. When the Challah cover is lifted from the bread the light of the candles illuminates both loaves, making them echad (a complex unity). In this we see the light of Messiah’s redemption making the Jew and the Gentile echad (one) in Messiah.
The Challah does not represent the body of Messiah. This is because the challah has yeast in it. In Biblical Judaism yeast is always seen as a symbol for sin. The body of Messiah is represented in the unleavened bread of the Passover meal which is celebrated once a year at approximately the same time as Easter.
The Challah, like the Kiddush cup, is blessed and shared among those present. It is dipped in salt to remind us of the tears of Israel and the destruction of the temples. It is a reminder to Messianic Jews that the temple sacrificial system ended when the Romans destroyed the second temple in 70 AD. This seems appropriate to us given that the one sacrifice to cover all sin was made by Yeshua, the Lamb of G-d, once for all (Approx. 30AD). There is therefore no longer a need for the covering sacrifices of the temple sacrificial system.
Blessing the Matriarch, the children and the community is an essential part of the Shabbat.
- The Father of the home blesses his wife, the mother of his children with a blessing called Ayshet Chayil (Proverbs 31:10-31)
- The Father then blesses the children with a blessing called Bedikat Yeladim. In our congregation we bless the children beneath a Tallit which reminds us that God surrounds Himself with light as with a garment (Psalm 104:2) and that His covering is eternally over us in our Messiah Yeshua.
- Finally the Father blesses the entire family with the Birkat Kohanim [Priestly Blessing] (Numbers 6:23-27)
© Yaakov Brown 2016