Setting the Sabbath Apart
The meaning of the word "holy" is to "set apart." We make our Sabbath
set apart by having a nice, almost formal dinner on Friday nights. The
great thing about Biblical practices is there are not very many specific
details in the Word. Most of the current practices are tradition only.
That means we can pick and choose what seems good to us within the
framework of the specifics in the Word.
The only specifics
concerning Sabbath are to "sanctify" it or set it apart as holy (Ex.
20:8, Lev. 23:3), remember it (Ex. 20:8; Lev. 19:30), rest from working
(Ex. 16:29; 20:10; 23:12), don't kindle a fire (Ex. 35:3 - although it
was a whole lot of work back then to kindle a fire), and work the other
six days (Ex. 20:9). Later on, buying and selling were added as
restrictions (Nehemiah 13:15-22) because of causing other people to
work. Check out Leviticus 23:12 where the Word says to "rest your ass"
on the Sabbath (okay, I slipped that pun in there). Work is not
specifically defined in the Word, but with a little thought we can
probably figure out the difference.
Our family usually uses 6:00
pm as a start time, instead of the traditional sundown, because we try
to make it more consistent. However, one of these days we may switch to
sundown although there is no specific command about the start and stop
time. I suppose if we didn't have clocks it would be a little harder to
figure out a start time, unless we could learn to read a sundial
correctly (but they're a little hard to strap to your wrist). We use the
best dishes we have (that we don't use the rest of the week), my wife
Susan cooks a special meal, and she bakes bread for us (two or three
loaves - Ex. 16:29). Everybody pitches in to clean the house so there
won't be anything to do on Saturday.
There is symbolism in some
of the options we choose to do for Sabbath dinner that is meaningful and
enjoyable. For instance, Susan bakes two loaves of bread, and we have
some wine (well, actually wine coolers - we like to use the Manishewitz
kosher Elderberry with 7-Up). Baking two loaves of bread reminds us that
God provides for bread on both days, even though we are resting, just
like He provided manna in the wilderness for Israel. The bread and wine
can also be symbolic of the body and blood of the Messiah, if you
choose. But these are just neat things you can add as you begin to
understand, or as you feel comfortable.
Another meaningful option
is the blessing of the rest of the family by the Father (that would be
me). After Susan lights a couple of candles and says a blessing to kick
everything off, then I bless the wine and we pass around the cup. Then I
go around and say a blessing for each person, placing my right hand on
his or her head. My family enjoys this so much that they get really
bummed out if we don't do it for some reason that week.
wash our hands (saying a blessing before), then I bless the bread, break
it, and pass it around, each person saying a blessing and breaking off a
piece (see the book I mentioned earlier for the blessings and other
ideas). Don't worry if you don't know what exactly to say or do in these
cases, there is a lot of fun in learning. There are songs you can sing,
other blessings you can say, head coverings if you like those, special
candleholders, special food, saying the blessings in Hebrew, and many
other interesting and fulfilling options to add (or not) as you learn.
Practices that are good guidelines for Sabbath activities include study
of the Word; family sharing; games; socializing with others; relax and
sleep late; fellowship through group meetings; and watching movies
Preparation is needed for some of the activities. Some
people light a couple of candles for light through the Sabbath because
we're not supposed to kindle a fire. But we shouldn't have to worry
about the finer points of what constitutes work or kindling, so don't
sweat the details - they will come as you develop your understanding. We
try to have enough ready-to eat or microwave-able food to eat through
the end of the day so no one has to cook. Dishes are usually left until
sundown, although dishes from Friday are usually washed right away,
otherwise it would be a whole lot more labor to clean them on Saturday
The admonitions in a couple of Paul's letters on not
letting others "judge" you according to Sabbath or special days (such as
Romans 14 and Galatians 4) most probably are connected with these types
of practices (note the emphasis on "elemental things" which are not what
the Torah is about). The Sabbath itself was never "optional" unless you
consider God's Word "optional" also. Unfortunately there were, and are,
many traditions that get raised by some to the same importance as
commands from our Father. And some people can be very critical with
their traditions, watching closely to see if someone does something
"wrong" and refusing fellowship to the "wrong doer."
Father bless your Sabbath practice and increase the fruit of it.
Bruce Scott Bertram