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What is Shabbat?

What is Shabbat?

By Eric Carlson on November 28, 2022

Why do we enter into and Keep Shabbat? Shabbat is our weekly Moedim, a divine appointment, a feast with God.  It is the time that we lay down everything from the week and world, all of our concerns, worries, and stress.  All the things that we have allowed to occupy our time during the week and enter into God’s rest to minister to and worship Him.  God knew we needed rest and without all the distractions we can fully enter in His presence. Shabbat is our weekly reminder that we serve the God of creation. Shabbat goes from sunset on Friday evening until sunset on Saturday evening.  Biblical days begin at sunset and end on sunset:

Genesis 1:5. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. So there was evening, and there was morning, one day.

Darkness in Hebrew is: “Choshech” means lacked, missing, unenergetic, lacking energy, powerless, beyond repair, aimless, hopeless, feared, suspected, worthless, and meaningless.  Darkness or Choshech is all of these descriptions!  The enemy, HaSatan, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness is Chosech or Darkness. Light in the Hebrew is: “Or”,  means light, illumination, joy, happiness, instruction, teaching, directive, order, puts in order, woke up, and roused. Light is all of these terms! Yeshua is “Or”, the light of the world!

“Or” and “Choshech” are structured and unstructured energy.  Torah states that both Or and Choshech are Echad, that the two are one, chaos and order are one just as we are to be one! Every day begins at sunset and is a recreation, a reminder of God’s creation of the universe.  Each day begins just as the universes began in darkness, powerless, beyond repair, aimless, hopeless, feared, suspected, secret, worthless, meaningless and streams towards the light, the knowledge of God Himself who separated this hopelessness with His very being which is joy, happiness, instruction, teaching, directives, power, order, perfection, holiness, righteousness, purity, and love.  Shabbat is the culmination of this understanding, just as the day begins in chaos and streams towards the light, the week begins in such a manner and streams towards Shabbat, God’s blessing and perfection. Shabbat separates the profane and mundane from the Holy!

Just as Light was the first act of creation, the first act we do on Shabbat is to light the Shabbat candles. First, two Shabbat candles are lit and a blessing is recited. The lighting is performed by the woman of the house who is the keeper of the light.  Why, because it was a woman who removed the light from the world (Eve) and it was a woman who returned the light to the world (Miriam/Mary who gave birth to Yeshua).  The wife (woman) is the keeper of the light for her entire family and holds the honor of lighting the candles and reciting the blessing.  Lighting the Shabbat candles is an eternal bond linking us to thousands of years of heritage and tradition that defines Biblical life and culture!  The holy flames of the Shabbat candle are our link to the future generations while connecting us to our past!

The flickering flame is a reflection of the divine spark within each of us. It is a focal point for the family, united in Shalom, to gather around the “light” which represents Yeshua, to pray together, to spend time together, to pause and share the Shabbat meal together, united in Messiah!  Light is significant in many ways.  It represents truth, purity, trust, and the removal of darkness and sin through the revelation of God’s Glory, the Light of the World! Yeshua, commanded us to be a light:

Matthew 5:14-16. “You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.

The candle lighting officially marks the beginning of Shabbat.  Two candles are used for several reasons:

  1. The two candles represent the two biblical commandments concerning Shabbat: zachor (remember) and shamar (observe & Guard).

  2. The first candle represents Creation "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...And God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light." -- Genesis 1:1,3. The second candle represents Redemption, Yeshua said, "I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12.

As the woman lights the candles she waves her hands over them three times.  This is not only to welcome in the Shabbat but to also invite the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be with us!  She will then cover her eyes to remind herself that it is not the lights she worship but the Radiant One, the giver of the light, the one who made it that we are worshipping! This is the candle blessing that is recited:

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheynu melech ha-olam, asher kid-shanu b’mitz-votav, v’tzinvanu l’hadlik neyr shel Shabbat 

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe

who has set us apart by Your commandments and has enjoined upon us the kindling of the Sabbath light.

The man of the house then recites Kiddush (Blessings), a prayer over wine and Challa bread sanctifying the Shabbat blessing which is not communion but represents the double portion blessing of Manna given in the desert wanderings! The Hamotzei (bread blessing) Two covered, braided or twisted loaves of challah, the traditional Shabbat bread, are used and eaten every Shabbat.  Two loaves of bread are used, they are interwoven together making a braided bread in remembrance of the double portion blessing of manna God caused to rain down every Friday during the Israelites wandering through the desert.  It is also a reminder of two arms folded together in rest for Shabbat.  The Children of Israel were able to collect enough bread to last through Shabbat, when no manna fell. This is the bread blessing:

Baruch ata adonai elohenu melech haolam, hamotzei lechem min ha-aretz.

 Blessed are you ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread from the ground.

Then the wine kiddush, the blessing said over the wine: The kiddush is said over wine as a reminder that everything in our world was created by God.  It is interesting to note that when Yeshua “gave thanks” in Matthew 26:27, he would have recited this ancient blessing used here.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheynu melech ha-olam, boaray peree ha-gofen

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Shabbat is a taste of the heavenly World to Come and is often misconceived. Some people think of Shabbat has been done away with, some think Shabbat is a day filled with legalistic constrictions, others think Shabbat as prayer day. 

Those who observe Shabbat, those actually observing it discover a precious gift from God.  The arrival of Shabbat is greatly anticipated, a day of great joy when the mundane and profane of the weekday are set aside as we pause to devote ourselves to ministering to and serving Adoani!  In biblical Jewish culture, poetry, and music, Shabbat is described as a bride or queen, as in the popular Shabbat hymn Lecha Dodi Likrat Kallah (come, my beloved, to meet the [Sabbath] bride).  There is a deep, profound understanding with this: We don’t keep Shabbat, Shabbat keeps us!  The word “Shabbat” comes from the root Shin-Bet-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest.  Shabbat is the first of seven moedim, divine appointments God gives to us in Leviticus 23.  Shabbat is considered the most holy of biblical feast days for several reasons.

  1. Because Shabbat was made first before the other feast days in Genesis Chapter 2.

  2. Shabbat is so Holy a Feast Day that He made 52 of them.

  3. Shabbat is the only Moedim mentioned in the Ten commandments, the only commandment with the statement “Remember” attached to it. "Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God.” Exodus 20:8. (zachor (remember) and shamar (guard and observe).

Often times I hear people say that Shabbat is only for Jews which isn’t the case. Who is Israel?  Ephesians 2 states that before Yeshua Gentiles had no God, No Messiah, no hope, and were estranged from the national life of Israel. But through Yeshua, Gentiles were grafted in and have been made one with us:

Ephesians 2:19. So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family.

Gentiles have become part of the national life of Israel: 

Ephesians 3:6. that in union with the Messiah and through the Good News the Gentiles were to be joint heirs, a joint body and joint sharers with the Jews in what God has promised

The first blessing mentioned in scripture is God blessing His creation then blessing Adam and Eve in Genesis 1.  The next blessing is about Shabbat!

Genesis 2:3. God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy; because on that day God rested from all his work which he had created, so that it itself could produce.

This passage is the spiritual key to this day and is what makes Shabbat special: “God blessed the seventh day and separated it as holy” God states that Shabbat is a sign of the covenant between Himself and the His people:

Exodus 31:17. “It is a sign between me and the people of Isra’el forever; for in six days ADONAI made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and rested.'”

The late Rabbi David Stern, Translator of the Complete Jewish Bible Comments on this verse:

“We learn that the essence of Shabbat-observance for believers is not following the detailed rules which Halakha 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).”

Hebrew 4:9-11. So there remains a Shabbat-keeping for God’s people. 10 For the one who has entered God’s rest has also rested from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Therefore, let us do our best to enter that rest; so that no one will fall short because of the same kind of disobedience.

For over 3,000 years there is no known Jewish community, regardless of geographical location and political status that did not remember, celebrate, and keep Shabbat!  Shabbat is the heavenly thread that weaves us alive today into the fabric of time with ancient Jewish history and tradition, binding us together as one with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Yeshua!

Exodus 20:8-10. “Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. 9 You have six days to labor and do all your work, 10 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.

We are commanded to remember the day, Shabbat! Remembering means much more than not forgetting to observe Shabbat. Shabbat is set apart, its consecrated for God. It means to remember the significance of Shabbat, both as a commemoration of creation and as a commemoration of our freedom from slavery in Egypt. It’s not just an understanding of what Shabbat is that brings the blessings, it’s those who do and keep:

Romans 2:13. For it is not merely the hearers of Torah whom God considers righteous; rather, it is the doers of what Torah says who will be made righteous in God’s sight.

James 1:25. But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.

The last act done on Shabbat is the Blessing the Children and the wife!  It is customary on Shabbat for the father to lay his hands upon and bless each of his children then his wife.  This custom originated from the blessings Isaac gave his sons Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:49), as well as from the blessings Jacob gave to Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:20). Shabbat is when the King is off the throne and among His people, as His word states! It is a date night with God, ordained by God and established by God forever! May the Living God of Israel bless you and keep you as you honor Him by observing and keeping Shabbat!