Sabbath: A Practical Look at the Seventh Day
Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy

(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)
 

Sabbath and Work

When the Torah speaks of "work" it frequently uses the Hebrew word "melachah".  In reality the word "melachah" is a technical word related to "working".

Most Americans see the word "work" and think of it in the English sense of the word: physical labor and effort, or employment. Under this definition, turning on a light would be permitted, because it does not require effort, but a rabbi would not be permitted to lead Shabbat services, because leading services is his employment. Jewish law prohibits the former and permits the latter.  Many Americans therefore conclude that Jewish law doesn't make any sense.

The problem lies not in Jewish law, but in the definition that Americans are using. The Torah does not prohibit "work" in the 20th century English sense of the word. The Torah prohibits "melachah" (Mem-Lamed-Alef-Kaf-Heh), which is usually translated as "work," but does not mean precisely the same thing as the English word. Before you can begin to understand the Shabbat restrictions, you must understand the word "melachah."

Melachah generally refers to the kind of work that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over your environment. The word may be related to "melekh" (king: Mem-Lamed-Kaf). The quintessential example of melachah is the work of creating the universe, which God ceased from on the seventh day.  Note that God's work did not require a great physical effort: he spoke, and it was done.

The word melachah is rarely used in scripture outside of the context of Shabbat and holiday restrictions. The only other repeated use of the word is in the discussion of the building of the sanctuary and its vessels in the wilderness. Exodus Ch. 31, 35-38. Notably, the Shabbat restrictions are reiterated during this discussion (Ex. 31:13), thus we can infer that the work of creating the sanctuary had to be stopped for Shabbat. From this, the rabbis concluded that the work prohibited on Shabbat is the same as the work of creating the sanctuary. They found 39 categories of forbidden acts, all of which are types of work that were needed to build the sanctuary:

1.Sowing
2.Plowing
3.Reaping
4.Binding sheaves
5.Threshing
6.Winnowing
7.Selecting
8.Grinding
9.Sifting
10.Kneading
11.Baking
12.Shearing wool
13.Washing wool
14.Beating wool
15.Dyeing wool
16.Spinning
17.Weaving
18.Making two loops
19.Weaving two threads
20.Separating two threads
21.Tying
22.Untying
23.Sewing two stitches
24.Tearing
25.Trapping
26.Slaughtering
27.Flaying
28.Salting meat
29.Curing hide
30.Scraping hide
31.Cutting hide up
32.Writing two letters
33.Erasing two letters
34.Building
35.Tearing a building down
36.Extinguishing a fire
37.Kindling a fire
38.Hitting with a hammer
39.Taking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain.
-(Mishna Shabbat, 7:2)

According to Rabbinical Judaism all of these tasks are prohibited, as well as any task that operates by the same principle or has the same purpose. In addition, the rabbis have prohibited coming into contact with any implement that could be used for one of the above purposes (for example, you may not touch a hammer or a pencil), travel, buying and selling, and other weekday tasks that would interfere with the spirit of Shabbat. The use of electricity is prohibited because it serves the same function as fire or some of the other prohibitions, or because it is technically considered to be "fire."

The issue of the use of an automobile on Shabbat, so often argued by non-observant Jews, is not really an issue at all for observant Jews. The automobile is powered by an internal combustion engine, which operates by burning gasoline and oil, a clear violation of the Torah prohibition against kindling a fire. In addition, the movement of the car would constitute transporting an object in the public domain, another violation of a Torah prohibition, and in all likelihood the car would be used to travel a distance greater than that permitted by rabbinical prohibitions. For all these reasons, and many more, the use of an automobile on Shabbat is clearly not permitted.

As with almost all of the commandments, all of these Shabbat restrictions can be violated if necessary to save a life.  Also keep in mind that not all Jews observe Shabbat the same ways as every other Jew and that includes Torah Teacher Ariel.
 

Sabbath in the B’rit Chadashah

But what of the "New Testament view" of Sabbath work?

Sabbath observance can seem like a tricky subject... especially when viewing it through the lens of someone else.  I personally believe that Torah-observance (to include Sabbath) is best understood and applied from the individual perspective, especially when the Ruach HaKodesh has firmly revealed a certain aspect of it to you.  In other words: how YOU keep Torah is going to necessarily differ somewhat than the way I keep Torah, understand?

Allow me to elaborate (drawing from some of my Torah portion resources):

The Torah is a personal instruction book, meant to be actualized by each individual in the community, and lived out by the community as a whole and in unison.

Along with the fact that it is a memorial of Creation, the Sabbath day is also an identification of HaShem's authority.  Only he could set a day apart as holy (read B'resheet 2:1-3).  Only he could sanctify a day as an eternal memorial of his uniqueness.  No other created being has this authority.  This includes man.  This includes religious institutions.  When we attempt to override this authority, we undermine the very character, identification, and nature of our All-mighty God.  Once we find ourselves playing God, it is then that we are in serious trouble.  While it is true that we have been given the authority to make lasting decisions governing everyday communal matters (read Mattityahu 18:15-20 to understand an often-misunderstood application of heavenly authority), we have not been given the authority to switch God's Sabbath Day, nor to abrogate it.

Author and translator David H. Stern has this to say about the Sabbath Day, in his Jewish New Testament Commentary to a well-known passage in the book of Hebrews:

'A Shabbat-keeping, Greek sabbatismos, used only here in the New Testament.  In the Septuagint, the related Greek word "sabbatizein" was coined to translate the Hebrew verb shabbat when it means, "to observe Shabbat."  The usual translation, "There remains a Sabbath rest," minimizes the observance aspect and makes the role of God's people entirely passive.

Christians often assume that the New Testament does not require God's people to observe Shabbat and go on to claim that Sunday has replaced Saturday as the Church's day of worship (see 1C 16:2N).  But this passage, and in particular v.9, shows that Shabbat-observance is expected of believers.  From Co 2:16-17, which says that Shabbat was a shadow of things that were to come, but the substance comes from the Messiah, we learn that the essence of Shabbat-observance for believers is not following the detailed rules which halakhah sets forth concerning what may or may not be done on the seventh day of the week.  Rather, as v.10 explains, the Shabbat-keeping expected of God's people consists in resting from one's own works, as God did from his; it consists in trusting and being faithful to God (vv.2-3).  Although the specific "works" from which the readers of this letter were to rest were animal sacrifices (see 6:4-6N), by implication all self-struggle, in which one relies on one's own efforts instead of trusting God, is to be avoided; and in this the author is making the same point as Sha'ul does at Ro 3:19-4:25.' (JNTC, commentary to Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 4:9-10, p. 673)

As already listed above, in the Talmud, the great compendium of Jewish thought, since this mitzvah is juxtaposed with the building of the Tabernacle, the rabbis supposed that HaShem was hinting at defining "work" as the tasks necessary to build the Mishkan.  Therefore, they deduced that at least 39 different tasks were prohibited on the Sabbath day (corresponding to the 39 tasks that it took to build the Mishkan, that is, the portable Tabernacle).  I believe that for the most part, since the Torah is rather silent when it comes to defining all modes of work, that our sages had the right intentions.  However, the overall outlook of Sabbath prohibitions with their various halakhic rulings—as interpreted by non-Messianic Judaism, amounts to legalism.  Sadly, today many Jewish people have even added more tasks to the original 39 tasks, so that to "properly keep the Sabbath" is an enormous burden on the average Torah-observant prospect!

The Sabbath is but one command that is to be internalized using the faith of Messiah Yeshua.  When we pervert the Sabbath (or any other command for that matter) into legalism, we do damage both to the covenant of God and to our own relationship as well.

Lets apply practical, common sense: Suppose you live in a house which is warmed by a fireplace or wood-stove furnace.  Should you keep the fire lit on the Sabbath day to keep warm?  especially during the winter months?  If the fire we are talking about is the ONLY source of heat for your house during the cold months, and it can be deduced that HaShem does not want you to freeze, then by all means light it.  Even the rabbis agree that sanctification of human life is one of the most important of all mitzvot.  Left with the choice to prioritize your Torah-observance, lighting a fire to keep your house warm falls into the category of "minor rule-breaking".  Does that make sense?

Consider that when the Torah teachers of Yeshua's day interpreted Shabbat-keeping, their interpretation necessarily conflicted with the interpretation and application of that of his own and his talmidim (disciples).  Why?  Because everyone has his or her own unique set of circumstances by which to "balance" Torah -observance against, while at the same time attempting to maintain communal unity.  What may appear to be a violation of Torah on the surface, may in fact turn out to be an individual's prioritizing of those specific mitzvot which apply to his life at the time--the ones which HaShem has revealed to him... the ones which HaShem holds him accountable for.
 

Sabbath vs. Sunday

I don't believe that it is wrong to attend services on Sunday, provided that you don't replace Sabbath for this first day worship.  Sabbath has never been abrogated, as the Catholic Church would like us to believe.  Sabbath "observance" and Sabbath "recognition" go hand-in-hand; therefore, I tend to refer to them interchangeably.

The Hebrew word "shomer" means "keeper of" or to be "observant"; the Hebrew word "mitzvot" is the plural form of the word "mitzvah" meaning "command"; thus, "shomer mitzvot" means "keeper of the commands", or more properly "Torah observant".

In Judaism, keeping the Torah is central to performing the will of HaShem. Indeed, as properly understood from HaShem’s point of view, the whole of Torah was given to bring its followers to the "goal" of acquiring the kind of faith in HaShem that leads to placing one’s trusting faithfulness in the One and only Son of HaShem, Yeshua HaMashiach. To this end, the Torah has prophesied about him since as early as the book of Genesis (3:15), and continues to speak of him until its conclusion in Revelation (22:20). In this capacity, the Torah acts like its etymological counterpart ("yarah") in that it "teaches" its adherents how to properly identify with HaShem by helping them to "reach the mark". To be sure, the Hebrew word used to identify "sin" literally means, "to miss the mark".

Obedience to the Torah has long since been an oft-misunderstood subject, both in the Jewish community and the Christian one. It is my understanding that the errors can be corrected once a person resolves the issues surrounding legalism, begins to understand the intended nature and function of the Torah in the first place, and then faithfully applies it to their own lives. Because the Messiah has already come, the Torah is now a document meant to be lived out in the life of a faithful follower of Yeshua, through the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, to the glory of HaShem the Father. It should not be presumed that it could be obeyed mechanically, automatically, legalistically, without having faith, without having trust in HaShem, without having love for HaShem or man, and without being empowered by the Ruach HaKodesh. To state it succinctly, Torah observance is a matter of the heart, always has been, and always will be.

When the Sabbath is first mentioned in the Ten Words (Ten Commandments) it is for the sake of remembering the Creative work that HaShem performed during those first six days.  However, in Exodus chapter 31 we find out that HaShem wants 'Am Yisra'el (the People of Isra'el) to recognize that the Sabbath is also a "sign".  In Hebrew, this word is "ot" (say "oat").  Of what is the Sabbath a sign?  Of the formerly expressed truth—that HaShem is indeed the Creator of the Universe, and that the entire cosmos sprang forth from the creative power of his spoken word!

One other point: whether or not seventh day Sabbath-keeping is for all believers (Jew and Gentile alike) remains to be universally accepted.  However, the Torah makes it clear that when the Messiah returns to set up his Millennial Kingdom from Yerushalayim here on earth, that all of his followers will be enjoined to observe the seventh-day Sabbath, as it is eternally taught in his Torah (read Yesha'yahu 66:22-24).

The word sin, according to the Jewish mindset, means to "miss the intended mark".  If the intention is to abstain from all forms of labor on the Sabbath Day, then working is "missing the mark".  Yeshua, however, clued us into the intentions behind some of the Sabbath Day's activities.  His definition is not the legalistic point of view that is held by many of his day, as well as many of our day.  Rather, his definition of Sabbath-keeping addressed "intent of the heart", as well as procedure.  Today, whatever we do to keep God's Torah—and it is biblically acceptable to lead a Torah-observant lifestyle even as a believer—we should be convinced that there is no longer any condemnation for those in Messiah, if we fail in certain areas (Romans 8:1-2).  This includes Sabbath-keeping.  Also it must be emphatically stated that we as believers do not attempt to follow the Torah to BECOME saved—we attempt to follow it because WE ARE saved.

Here is Exodus 20:8-11 and a short review given for summarization:

"Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God.  You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for ADONAI your God.  On it, you are not to do any kind of work—not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property.  For in six days, ADONAI made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.  This is why ADONAI blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself."

Properly understood, it is impossible to over-emphasize this particular mitzvah.  The seventh day rest shares many different functions within the Torah.  As such, it carries with it many fundamental truths that are beyond the scope my commentary here.

Here, however, HaShem emphasizes the role of himself as the "Creator of the world", using the Shabbat as the "signature" of his creative genius.  Because HaShem ceased his labor on the seventh day, his creation was to also cease from their labors.  Spiritually, this speaks to our position as sons and daughters in Messiah.  Before we came to be sons and daughters, we "labored" to become acceptable in the sight of ADONAI.  But once we placed our trusting faithfulness in Messiah Yeshua’s atonement, we "ceased" to labor!  We now "rest" in the finished work that he freely accomplished on our behalf.

Don’t let the details get the best of you…
 

Sunday Worship and Idolatry

Those of Jewish persuasion have rightfully questioned Sunday worship.  Allow me to elaborate:

Isra'el was destined to be great among the surrounding nations.  Theirs was a call to holiness, vividly demonstrated by their unique, God-given calendar.  Surely, the many cultures and peoples that they interacted with had calendars of their own, identifying their various holy days and such.  Yet Isra'el was to showcase the heavenly reality, through earthly means, that there was only One, True God under heaven worthy to be identified and worshipped as Creator.  Isra'el was to teach the surrounding nations—by their own lifestyle—that "God is One" (Deut. 6:4).

During this period of the TaNaKH (Old Testament) God usually worked his truth out by means of object lessons.  His children would "do" things which the surrounding nations were not "doing"; similarly, his children would also "abstain" from the things which the surrounding nations were "performing".  In this way, the surrounding nations would catch a glimpse of the difference between what God identified as "clean and unclean", "holy and profane", "life and death".  This was Isra'el’s "special call", and as such, identified her unique "chosen-ness" (read Deut 4:1-20, specifically for this commentary, vv. 19-20).

Sun worship has been rife in the earth since the days of the Tower of Bavel.  The ancient myths tell of a supernatural being—a messiah, born of a woman, and born of the very rays of the sun itself!  This supernal being was killed by his enemies during the Winter Solstice, only to be resurrected on the first day of the Spring Equinox.  This interpretation arose out of the belief that the sun was in fact a god, which slept in death during the cold winter months, and arose to new life at the start of spring.  Because its worshippers needed the sun’s vital, life-giving energy, they revered it as such in various pagan rituals and ceremonies.  Sun worship was therefore, in many pagan cultures, mandated for survival itself.

One of the chief ceremonies involved "greeting" the sun as it made its way victoriously back from the underworld of the dead.  Its followers would meet their deity as he made his reappearance from the wintry death that held him captive for a season.  The day chosen to represent this glorious awakening would become known as the first day of the Spring Equinox.  And to ensure that the themes and symbols would forever be established among their adherents, an unforgettable name was granted to this very special day.  Thus, "Sun-day" was born.

Now at this point in my commentary, it should be rather obvious by now that the event that I am describing bears a remarkable resemblance to our modern-day Easter celebration.  This should be no surprise, as the origins of Easter can indeed be traced back to this very legend!  Christianity in its infancy swelled to overflowing with former pagans, in an effort to establish itself as a viable religion in the 3rd and 4th centuries.  It was (mis)understood that Judaism had failed, in that its lack of recognition of the Messiah placed it in a place less-favored—nay rejected—by the Holy One himself!  Christianity would take its rightful place among believers as the True expression of Christ-worship.

Now, looking back in 20/20 hindsight, we can understand that this paradigmatic shift was not entirely complete, nor would it be permanent.  It was, in fact, a shifting of responsibility of sharing the Good News with the surrounding nations, which placed Isra'el in this "less-favored" position.  The students should familiarize themselves with Romans chapter eleven.  But like Isra'el of old, the young Christian Church would make many significant mistakes, and mixing paganism with truth would become one of her errors which would permeate the very fabric of the Formalized Church like "tzara’at" (leprosy) down to this very day!

The damage was done.

The pagans brought their worship of the Sun into Christianity, and its traces can be observed even today.  Easter is rightly recognized as the "holiest" gathering within Christianity.  Billions of followers flock to sunrise services all over the world to pay homage to the True Son who was resurrected on this day—and rightfully so!  Were it not for the awesome resurrection of our LORD Yeshua from the power of death, we believers—Jew and Gentile, would have no hope in this world!

Moreover, he did defeat death on that day, and we do have reason to celebrate!  But do we have a biblical injunction to gather on this particular day?  It is my premise that we do not.  Our theology seems to be correct, yet our methodology lacks authenticity.
 

The Sabbath, Yeshua, and the Number Seven

Did you know that in a mystical way Yeshua is the Sabbath personified?

Allow me to paint a Torah picture of Yeshua as the Shabbat by drawing some resources from my commentary to Parashat B'har (Leviticus 25:1-26:2) to paint a midrash of the Yovel (Jubilee).  I am indebted to Orthodox Jewish author Greg Killian for the excellent Talmudic resources concerning the Yovel.

The number seven is very significant in biblical circles.  Seven signals the act of completion and of perfection.  The Talmud, that ancient compendium of Jewish thought, speaks about the cycles of "seven".  In Tractate Sanhedrin it is found: 'Rav Kattina said, 'The world will exist for six thousand years, then for one thousand it will be desolate, as it is said, "The LORD alone will be exalted in that day"' (Isaiah 2:11).  Abaye said, 'It will be desolate for two thousand, as it is said, "After two days he will revive us; on the third day, he will raise us up, and we will live in his sight"' (Hosea 6:2).

And in another place it is found,

"It has been taught in accordance with Rav Kattina, 'Just as every seventh year is a year of sh'mittah [letting the land lie fallow], so it is with the world: one thousand years out of seven are to be fallow—as proved by the following three texts taken together [in which the key word is "day"]: "The LORD alone will be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:11); "A psalm and song for the day of Shabbat" (Psalm 92:1), meaning the day that is entirely Shabbat; and, "For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past"’ (Psalm 90:4).

And finally,

"The school of Eliyahu teaches: ‘The world exists for six thousand years—two thousand of them tohu ["void"]; two thousand, Torah; and two thousand, the era of the Messiah.  But because of our numerous iniquities many of these years have been lost.’" (Sanhedrin 97a-97b)

In our observation not from the Talmud but from the text itself, we can clearly see that the Sabbath concept is one that deserves our attention.  Our Heavenly Abba wants us to actualize a great and important spiritual truth tied into the lesson of "resting".  What could be so important that the Holy One, blessed be he, placed this object lesson here so clearly for us to discover?  Let us first examine the word Yovel.  I shall then finish the commentary with some thoughts about the Shabbat concept.

According to Strong’s definition, the word is 3104 yowbel, yo-bale'; or yobel, yo-bale'; appar. from 2986; the blast of a horn (from its continuous sound); spec. the signal of the silver trumpets; hence the instrument itself and the festival thus introduced:-Jubilee, ram's horn, trumpet.  We see here that the word is related to the sounding and responding of the trumpet.  To be sure, the text of our parashah tells us that the sounding of the trumpet signals the Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13).  Does the Jubilee apply to all peoples or just to ‘Am Yisra’el?  And if to ‘Am Yisra’el, does it apply only when they are in the land, or does it apply without as well?  Because of our 21st century removal from this biblical injunction, I shall rely heavily on the Talmud for a historical treatment of these concepts.

According to the Gemara, a later and larger commentary to the Talmud, complied between the 3rd-6th centuries, the Jubilee only applies when all of the tribes are in the Land:

"Talmud - Mas. Arachin 32b ‘But did they count the years of release and Jubilees [after the return from Babylon]? If even after the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh went into exile, the Jubilees were abolished, should Ezra in connection with whom it is said: The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and three score, have counted them? For it was taught: When the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh went into exile, the Jubilees were abolished as it is said: And ye shall proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof, i.e., [only] at the time when all the inhabitants thereof dwell upon it, but not at the time when some of them are exiled. One might have assumed that if they were there, but intermingled, the tribe of Benjamin with that of Judah and the tribe of Judah with that of Benjamin, that even the [laws of the] Jubilee should apply, therefore it is said: ‘unto all the inhabitants thereof’, which means, only at the time when its inhabitants are there as [where] they ought to be, but not when they are intermingled! — Said R. Nahman b. Isaac: They counted the Jubilees to keep the years of release holy. That will be right in the view of the Rabbis who hold that the fiftieth year is not included, but according to R. Judah who holds that the fiftieth year counts both ways, why was that necessary [to count the Jubilees]? It would have been enough if the years of release alone had been counted! Hence [we must say], this is not in accord with the view of R. Judah."

However, in contrast, the interpretation is that the Sh’mittah applies even if only one Jew is occupying the land.  Were this not so, slaves would never be set free, as they awaited the arrival of the Yovel, since from antiquity, all of the tribes have not occupied the land.  In fact the gradual dismemberment of the tribes of Isra'el started as early as the books of the Kings (2 Kings 10:29-33).  For this reason, the Torah uses the word in plural form when referring to the Jubilee, but in singular when referring to the Sh’mittah.  Nevertheless, kindness and freedom was to be proclaimed among slaves as the Gemara once again states: ‘Our Rabbis taught: ‘Because he is well with thee’: he must be with [i.e., equal to] thee in food and drink, that thou shouldst not eat white bread and he black bread, thou drink old wine and he new wine, thou sleep on a feather bed and he on straw. Hence it was said: Whoever buys a Hebrew slave is like buying a master for himself.’ (Talmud - Mas. Kiddushin 22a)

An odd feature of the Yovel is its starting point.  The text indicates that it is to begin with the sounding of the trumpet on Yom Kippur, a festival which we learned last parashah starts on the tenth of Tishrei.  How can a Jubilee year begin in the middle of a month?  The Talmud once again helps to explain this:

"Talmud - Mas. Rosh HaShana 8b AND FOR JUBILEE YEARS. [is the New Year for] Jubilees on the first of Tishri? Surely [the New Year for] Jubilees is on the tenth of Tishri, as it is written, on the Day of Atonement shall ye make proclamation with the horn? — What authority is here followed? R. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka, as it has been taught: And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year. What is the point of these words? [It is this]. Since it says, On the Day of Atonement [ye shall make proclamation], I might think that the year is sanctified only from the Day of Atonement onwards. Therefore it says, And ye shall sanctify the fiftieth year. This teaches that it is sanctified from its inception. On this ground R. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka laid down that from New Year to the Day of Atonement slaves were neither dismissed to their homes nor subjected to their masters, but they ate and drank and made merry, wearing garlands on their heads. When the Day of Atonement came, the Beth din sounded the horn; slaves were dismissed to their homes and fields returned to their original owners. And the Rabbis [ — what do they make of this verse]? — [They say it teaches that] you are to sanctify years but not months."

Thus we see that the Jubilee is its own type of ‘new year’, commencing not ten days later on Yom Kippur, but rather on the first of the seventh month, as the Gemara explains: ‘But what of Jubilees which do not commence with the evening, and yet are reckoned in? — This follows the view of R. Johanan b. Ishmael the son of R. Johanan b. Beroka, who said that the Jubilee commences with the New Year. R. Shisha the son of R. Idi said: In fixing the number, [the Tanna] reckoned only New Years that are not inaugurated with some ceremony, but he does not reckon those that are inaugurated with a ceremony’ (Talmud - Mas. Rosh HaShana 7b).  So, now it can be deduced that the Yovel year begins on the first day of the Jewish seventh month, Tishrei 1, but the slaves do not return to their own land till the trumpet (shofar) is sounded on the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishrei 10.

All of this can seem fairly insignificant to us living with the Western mentality.  But this was extremely important to those living in the Land, during the time of the TaNaKH when the Torah acted as the living Constitution as well as a daily guide for godly living.  Here couched within this tiny parashah we see an awesome display of the mercy and compassion that HaShem has for all of his created subjects, whether they be Jew or non-Jew, slave or free!

The Torah paints a picture of work and rest, slavery and freedom, which spiritually amounts to life and death.  How so?  In the Renewed Covenant book of Galatians, Rabbi Sha’ul tell us:

"Don’t delude yourselves: no one makes a fool of God!  A person reaps what he sows.  Those who keep sowing in the field of their old nature, in order to meet its demands, will eventually reap ruin; but those who keep sowing in the field of the Spirit will reap from the Spirit everlasting life.  So let us not grow weary of doing what is good; for if we don’t give up, we will in due time reap the harvest.  Therefore, as the opportunity arises, let us do what is good to everyone, and especially to the family of those who are trustingly faithful." (6:7-10)

The better first half of Leviticus chapter 25 uses harvest language, sowing and reaping, working and resting according to faith.  To leave the ground unplowed for an entire year requires faith indeed—especially living in an agricultural land such as Isra'el!  Today, our faith lies in the fact that we have rested from our labors of self-righteousness.  Before our faith in Messiah, we worked year after year to meet our own needs.  Our harvest was the product of our own hands.  Consequently, it was a harvest of death.

But to place one’s trusting faithfulness in the atoning work of the Messiah Yeshua is to rest from one’s own labors!  To be sure, without the faith of Messiah at work in our lives, we truly do not have a proper concept of Shabbat!  To rest (the Sabbath) is to cease working in our own fields, and to begin "resting" in the fields of the Master!  When we were in the world, we were "slaves" to sin!  But now in Messiah Yeshua, we have experienced our spiritual Yovel!  We are no longer slaves to sin!  We have been set free by the power of his Sabbath rest!

What does the Torah say?

"What the Messiah has freed us for is freedom!  Therefore, stand firm, and don’t let yourselves be tied up again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

And again in another place,

"So there remains a Shabbat-keeping for God’s people.  For the one who has entered God’s rest has also rested from his own works, as God did from his.  Therefore, let us do our best to enter that rest; so that no one will fall short because of the same kind of disobedience." (Hebrews 4:9-11)

And finally,

"Keep my Shabbats, and revere my sanctuary; I am ADONAI." (Leviticus 26:20)

Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy