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Jews and the Sabbath

VIEWPOINT



A little research revealed a surprising fact about a majority of the modern Jews and the Sabbath day - they don't observe it the way God commanded them to do. What reason do they give? Read on.

FACT



The seventh-day Sabbath is known throughout the world as a Jewish institution. Instituted by God after the sixth day of Creation, it was established by Him as a Holy day - set apart as a day of rest (Genesis 2:1-3
1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

).


BLUE VIEWPOINT



A majority of non-Orthodox Jews are abandoning the Sabbath.

I can just hear it now. Sunday-keeping Christians by the thousands are cheering about the Jews finally catching up to modernity. Many are saying that it's about time they got the message about Jesus and His new day (Sunday). But, that's not what is happening. They are still Jews, but non-Orthodox does not necessarily mean Messianic Jews. They are still Jewish, but they do not observe the Sabbath according to the fourth commandment of God.

Oh, they have their "reasons"

As you will see, this is not because they have converted to "Sunday worship", but because they feel that the modern world has made it too difficult to discern what God means in His commandment regarding the Sabbath. So, in the same way that "Sunday worshipers" decided to create their own reason for not keeping God's self-declared holy day, a majority of secular Jews have decided not to keep it at all, but without replacing it with another.

How widespread is it?

Let's start at the beginning. After writing the page at Why aren't more Jews Christian?, I got curious about a comment made by some of my wife's Jewish acquaintances. She told me that of the five or so Jewish denominations or branches, a large majority of their members do not keep the Sabbath as described in the Ten Commandments. (See Wikipedia for more specifics).

The major divisions are Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform movements, with some smaller ones in there as well, each having a different degree of compliance with the instructions of God. These separations are mostly visible in the United States, while in Israel, the largest recognized division is between the Orthodox and the rest which are generally called non-religious. The Orthodox are those who follow the commandments of God and consider the other divisions as having abandoned the God-given instruction because of worldly influences or personal preferences.

That sounds familiar...

This is surprisingly similar to the variations between the denominations and groups of worshipers in America. The main difference is the phenomenal number of church denominations in America, each certain that it is the correct one, each one with a difference from the others that makes it necessary to break from them.

Direct from the source

In fact, when we asked my wife's Jewish friends about the Sabbath, they said, "What? What do you mean, 'Sabbath'? Oh, you mean Shabbat! That's just a little short ceremony we do on Saturday. We don't keep the seventh-day Sabbath as a day of rest any more. That is only done by the stricter sects."

Well, as you can imagine, that started the ball rolling on another investigation. At a site called my Jewish Learning, there is an article by a Rabbi Ira Eisenstein that has the following title and summary:

Shabbat in the Modern World

In modern times, non-Orthodox Jews have largely abandoned Shabbat observance, despite many innovations intended to encourage it.

In order to make sure we were speaking of the same thing, clicking on the highlighted word "Shabbat * " on the page, revealed this:


So, yes, we are talking about the seventh-day Sabbath as described in Genesis 2:1-3
1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

above. That means that the people above to whom we spoke about the Sabbath have taken the commandment of God and turned it into a short ceremony so they can treat the rest of the day like any other. Why would they do this?

Too much trouble to do it right?

Where have we seen that before? Remember the Passover meal eaten by Jesus and the Apostles right before the Jews had Him killed on the stake (that would be cross for you Sunday Christians)? You know, the meal for which some of the Apostles had to go and make arrangements - prepare the room and the lamb for a meal of particular significance to Jesus - that we "Christians" have incorporated as supposedly important to us. However, modern day "Christians" have taken that "Jewish" meal and reduced it to a tiny cracker and thimble of grape juice ceremony that lasts all of 5 minutes. It took the Apostles longer than that just to find the house with the room!

There must have been a good reason, right?

Why would we change things like that? Surely there must have been of some earth-shattering heavenly pronouncement that informed mankind that the statements of Jesus during the Last Supper in Luke 22:19-20
19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

can now be taken lightly? Or, maybe we were told by the Holy Spirit that we can now take a day that anticipates the time when our deserved punishment passes over us because of our unwavering faith and compress it into a 5-minute "cleansing" pacification ceremony. Well, the reasoning for this change seems very similar to the reason for the non-Orthodox Jews abandoning the Sabbath.

We are not so different

If you read the my Jewish Learning site at all, you will see that this change causes them the same questions and concerns:

If Shabbat has meant so much to Jews throughout the ages, and has symbolized so many important religious and moral values, why is it that so many Jews today in the United States neglect Shabbat altogether? Why has the period from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday become "just another day" for them?

(If not specifically stated to the contrary, the following boxes will contain quotes from the site at my Jewish Learning.)

The "natural man" coming through

You see, even they see that the reasoning for the abandonment has everything to do with human desires and the complications caused by modern life, as the Rabbi says on the site:

The answer lies in the radical changes that have occurred in the thinking and in the problems of living which have taken place in modern times. Formerly, Jews looked upon the Sabbath as a day set apart by God, to be observed and honored because on it "He rested from all the work which He had done." In the biblical book of Deuteronomy, Israel is commanded to observe the Sabbath in order to recall that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and to be inspired by the Sabbath to act justly toward their workers by allowing them a day of rest. Thus, in the tradition, the Sabbath was regarded as God-given, and its observance commanded by God Himself.

We have to decide

So, what do we take away from this? Modern people feel that it is too much trouble to follow the commandment of God with all these modern considerations. Rather than figure out what God wants us to do, we will just do what we feel is right. The phrases from Leviticus 23:3:

"There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD."

are evidently too hard to figure out because we don't know if it is OK to watch TV, or drive a car, on the Sabbath because it might be work. Some go so far as to say that picking up a fork is labor, so that is not allowed on the Sabbath. This is where the statements Jesus makes in Matthew 12:11-12
11He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

come into play, letting us decide what is work, what is rest, and what is good. But, most of the "church" in America, and now evidently in Israel as well, feel that we don't have to worry about figuring out what God means so we can just chuck it all. We decide that it is better to follow what we want rather than He said to do. Huh. And, that will be much better for us?

Decide, without leaving God out of the decision

And then you start to see the really human part of the decision:

Conditions today are very different. But while it is true that many Jews are in a position to abstain from work on the Sabbath, they have lost the habit of setting this day apart for prayer, study, and relaxation. The five-day-week has transformed Saturday into a day for shopping, going to the doctor or dentist, taking music lessons, going to the movies, playing golf, and many other activities which are obviously not part of Shabbat.

Or, you can let your pastor decide for you

As often happens when you get many "Christian" denominations involved in making decisions, the Jewish sects are no different:

In order to adjust Sabbath law to modern conditions, the majority of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly of America (Conservative) have interpreted the halakhah (Jewish law) to permit riding on Shabbat provided the use of automobile or public transportation is for the purpose of attending synagogue service. Another decision permits the use of electricity on the Sabbath. The Orthodox, however, including the great rabbinic scholars, have taken the position that [these laws are] not subject to such interpretation and that we cannot interpret Jewish law simply to sanction what is, according to Jewish religious law, a violation.

Notice the clarification of the word halakhah as being Jewish law instead of God's law. This is what men have added to the law of God to make it safe. This committee decision evidently gives them the right to change something that men have set up. This means that they have added something to the law of God. The committee is not changing His rules, but their own.

The Sabbath was made for all mankind

The Sabbath was for our benefit, whether Jew or Gentile, so we should use it as such. And, God created it as holy - something to be set apart from the normal and permanently treated as such (Genesis 2:1-3
1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

). Don't think so? Notice what Isaiah said to all nations in Isaiah 56:6-7:

6And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
        to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
        and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
        and who hold fast to my covenant -
7these I will bring to my holy mountain
        and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
        will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
        a house of prayer for all nations."
(emphasis mine)

Then and now

And notice that the last highlighted section contains the words "will be called", as in "at a future time". But, for those of you who want something a little more current than the Old Testament, remember the words of Jesus:

27Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27)

Notice again, He did not say, "The Sabbath was made for the Jews...", but, "The Sabbath was made for man...", and He is Lord of both Jews and Gentiles. Well, those who believe in Him and do what He says (Luke 6:46
46Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?

).

Now the Jews are giving up the Sabbath because it's too hard?

We must remember that Jesus created the Sabbath for man, all men, and it was not designed to twist man around a law or trick him into failing. It is for our rest, reflection on Creation, and comtemplation and worship of the Lord God and His ways. If people cannot figure out whether or not something is work, then we have passed some sort of landmark where we cannot figure out what God meant by His commandments. That can only happen if we let the world get in the way.

How bad can it get?

What's really scary is when, at this rate, the time comes when we can't figure out what He means by statements like "Thou shalt not commit murder." and "Thou shalt not steal." without some committee defining it for us. If no one will stand up and point to the clearly stated commandments because he might hurt someone's feelings, then perhaps we will not deserve the gift that Jesus has come to give us. No, wait, we don't deserve it now. Does that mean we get it even if we tell Him and the Father, "Go jump in the lake. We're doing it our way."? That doesn't feel right either.

Someone must stand for God, regardless of the cost

Think about that. If Jesus had looked at the future of mankind, which He did, and known what we would do, and He did, and because of that decided that it was far too hard for Him to do what few would ever really appreciate, where would that leave us? Many look at the Sabbath as something only for Jews, which it never was, and as something far too restrictive for what they want to do, and decide that they aren't going to follow it.

So, what is your stand?

What does this mean about what you are telling God? If you feel that way because you have thought it through, then at least you know the consequences. If you think this because someone told you that it is OK to disobey any of the commandments of God, are you sure that person knows of what they speak? Do you know the consequences of disobeying God based on the words of another person? Think about the meaning of Matthew 23:15
You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

. You are the one who believes what another tells you. At least check it out with someone other than the one who convinced you (Acts 17:11
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

).

Many Jews are abandoning obedience

Today, it is the Sabbath, something given to all mankind. What will it be tomorrow? The Jews seem to be following the same path as the Gentiles did beginning in the second century. Many of the reasons may be the same, worldliness and modern life complications, but some are more selfish, or even based on the admittedly anti-Semitic hatred of the "church fathers".

Regardless of what it is that leads you down the wrong path, that path is no longer leading you toward the narrow gate. When you make a personal decision not to follow God, whatever the issue, you become an idolater. No, not a worshiper of a small carved thing, but a worshiper of a personal desire that gets between you and the will of God. Contemplate of the meaning of Paul's statements in Colossians 3:5
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

. You don't have to carve an image to have an idol.

Don't abandon God, please!

Whether Jew or Gentile, the Sabbath is a sign of the permanent covenant He made with the world. For the Jews, He said it in Exodus 31:16
The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.

. The Gentiles, which were always included in this covenant, were officially included by Isaiah 56:6-7
6And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
        to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
        and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
        and who hold fast to my covenant -
7these I will bring to my holy mountain
        and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
        will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
        a house of prayer for all nations."

and other passages. So, there is no excuse for anyone, Jew or Gentile, to not keep the holy day of God.

Of course, that is, unless you are not one of God's people.







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