Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Shabbat Explained



The 4th out 10 commandments (see this post) speaks about The Day of Rest/Intermission (Shabbat). Let's take a look:

Exodus 31:16

‎16 ‏וְשָׁמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת לַעֲשׂ֧וֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם׃
16: And shall keep sons of Israel the Shabbat to do the Shabbat for their generations as a covenant eternal.

‎17 ‏בֵּינִ֗י וּבֵין֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל א֥וֹת הִ֖וא לְעֹלָ֑ם כִּי־שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבַיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י שָׁבַ֖ת וַיִּנָּפַֽשׁ׃ ס

17: Between Me and between sons of Israel sign it is for eternity, for six days was making Yahweh the Heavens and the Earth and in a day the seventh He ceased and was refreshed.

First and foremost, as you can see from the above verses, Shabbat is an Eternal Sign of The Covenant between Yahweh and Israel, just like the Circumcision of males (Genesis 17:10). 

Now, let's take a look at the definition of the Shabbat which can be found in the Decalogues (aka The Ten Commandments/Sayings) (Exodus 20:1-17 and Deut. 5:6-21):

Exodus 20:8-11:

‎8 ‏זָכ֛וֹר֩ אֶת־י֥֨וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖֜ת לְקַדְּשֽׁ֗וֹ
9 ‏שֵׁ֤֣שֶׁת יָמִ֣ים֙ תַּֽעֲבֹ֔ד֮ וְעָשִׂ֖֣יתָ כָּל־מְלַאכְתֶּֽךָ֒
‎10 ‏וְי֙וֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔֜י שַׁבָּ֖֣ת׀ לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֗יךָ לֹֽ֣א־תַעֲשֶׂ֣֨ה כָל־מְלָאכָ֡֜ה אַתָּ֣ה׀ וּבִנְךָֽ֣־וּ֠בִתֶּ֗ךָ עַבְדְּךָ֤֨3 וַאֲמָֽתְךָ֜֙3 וּבְהֶמְתֶּ֔֗ךָ וְגֵרְךָ֖֙ אֲשֶׁ֥֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶֽ֔יךָ
‎11 ‏כִּ֣י שֵֽׁשֶׁת־יָמִים֩ עָשָׂ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֶת־הַיָּם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֔ם וַיָּ֖נַח בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֑י עַל־כֵּ֗ן בֵּרַ֧ךְ יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־י֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖ת וַֽיְקַדְּשֵֽׁהוּ׃ ס 

8 Remember a Day of the Sabbath, to sanctify it.
9 Six days you shall serve, and do all your work:
10 And day the seventh is a Sabbath to Yahweh, your God. Not you shall do any work, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your servant, nor your female-slave, and your animals, and your sojourner who is in your gates:
11 For six days made Yahweh the Heavens and the Earth, the Sea, and All which is in them, and He rested in a day the seventh: therefore blessed Yahweh a Day of the sabbath, and hallowed it.

Let's go word by word and verse by verse:

Verse 8: 

Traditional "remember"(זכור) replaced with "guard" (שמור) in the Samaritan Pentateuch. However, it only means that text of the Ten Commandments was redacted. However, since the word "guard" is used in Masoretic Text in Deuteronomy I do not see any problem with such reading. 

"To sanctify it" (lekadsho לקדשו) - This means to abstain from "work of service"/"slave work"(מלאכת עבדה) (this will be explained below). And by slaughtering a slaughter to Yahweh (Numbers 28:9-10). This word also used in the description of the Shabbat during Seven Days of creation (Gen 2:3). In Exodus 19:10 and Exodus 19:14 there is an implication of washing one's garments as well. 

Verse 9

"Six days you shall serve, and do all your work:" תעבד (taavod - you-shall-serve) is an expression of paramount importance, which provide the clue to the whole Shabbat issue. As you can see, we are required to perform "work of service" (slave work) (מלאכת עבדה) six days a week. 

Verse 10

"And day the seventh is a Shabbat to Yahweh" - Shabbat(שבת) = a Day of Rest or a Day of Intermission

"Not you shall do any work," - This means that "all work" (כל מלאכה), namely all "work of service"(מלאכת עבדה) is prohibited. This is obviously deducted from the previous verse, where is says "serve"(תעבד). Thus, it is not just "any"/"all" (כל)  work that is prohibited on Shabbat, but rather ONLY "WORK OF SERVICE" (מלאכת עבדה). Please see detailed explanation below.

"you, and your son, and your daughter, and your servant, nor your female-slave, and your animals, and your sojourner who is in your gates:" - Many interesting things here... First of all, "your wife" is not mentioned. This is because Shabbat commandment, aside being a communal commandment, is also a personal commandment and it is directed toward both a man AND a woman. Secondly, everything that is in ones' gates (aka say a fence surrounding the property or a house) is required to be released from "servile work"(מלאכת עבדה). The absence of a mention of a "hireling" is also perhaps due to the fact that if all would observe the Shabbat, there would be no one to hire.

If you are still unconvinced that Torah speaks only about "work of service"(מלאכת עבדה), consider this: In Leviticus 23:2-3 the Shabbat is called "miqra qodesh" (מקראי קדש) (meeting of holiness). In most instances where "miqra qodesh" is mentioned the text speaks ONLY ABOUT "WORK OF SERVICE" (מלאכת עבדה) and NOT about "ALL WORK" (כל מלאכה).  See Ex 12:16, Lev 23:2-4, Lev 23:7-8, Lev 23:21, Lev 23:24, Lev 23:27, Lev 23:35-7, Num 28:18, Num 28:25-26, Num 29:1, Num 29:7, Num 29:12.

One argument that is usually presented is that the text using an expression "all work" (כל מלאכה) only in regards to Shabbat and Yom Kippur. However as the Decalogue implies, it really talks about "all work OF SERVICE". My theory that the text was edited and the word "service" was omitted. Here is why: In Exodus 12:16, the text clearly states that during "miqra qodesh" (meeting of holiness) "all work" is prohibited, except for "which is being eaten by every soul, it alone shall be done by you." So as you can see the term "all work" here implies "servile work" and cooking/food is not considered "work".

It may seem that Exodus 16:23 prohibits cooking but this is just one possible and incorrect interpretation. We are not commanded not to cook on Shabbat. We are commanded to leave the remainder of raw manna for the next day (Shabbat) and eat it on Shabbat. Exodus 16:23 does not prohibit cooking but rather gathering of manna as explained further in Exodus 16:25.

Another clue is that Exodus 12:16 speaks about 1st day of Passover and uses the above mentioned "all work" (כל מלאכה) expression to define it. However, the other references to the 1st of Passover provide completely different information. In Lev 23:7-8 it says "any work of service" (כל מלאכה עבדה ) and in Deut 16:8 it simply says "work" (מלאכה) without "all" (כל) or "service" (עבדה).  However, I found one manuscript of the Masoretic text where it says "work of service" in Ex. 12:16, instead of current "all work". And Samaritan Pentateuch says "all work of service" in Deut 16:8 (see Kennicott Vetus Testamentum). This inconsistency is clearly due to editing of the text or perhaps (un)intentional mistake, so the correct understanding of prohibition should be "all work of service".

There is also inconsistency between Decalogues (Ex 20, Deut 5) and Ex 23:12, Ex 31:15, Ex 35:2. What is prohibited? "all work"(כל מלאכה), "work"(מלאכה) or "deeds"(מעשיך)???

One last argument that usually comes up is that only Shabbat (שבת) (Lev 23:3) and Yom Kippur (Lev 23:32) is referred to as Shabbat (שבת) and therefore "all work" is prohibited on Shabbat, while during other "miqra qodesh" only "work of service" is prohibited. This is true and it is a good argument, but only somewhat. Shabbat and Yom Kippur are not the only days that are referred to as "Shabbat"(שבת). In Lev 23:24 Torah calls Yom Teruah "shabbaton"(שבתון). Lev 23:39 is even more interesting as not only it calls Sukkot 1 and 7 "Shabbaton"(שבתון), this word is also being used instead of the expression "mikra qodesh" in Numb 28:25, Num 29:12. And from Lev 25:4-6 we can conclude that expression "shabbat"(שבת), "shabbat shabbaton"(שבת שבתון) and "shabbaton" (שבתון) mean the same thing. So as you can see, Shabbat and Yom Kippur are most definitely considered "mikra qodesh"(מקראי קדש) and therefore only "work of service"(מלאכת עבדה) is prohibited and NOT "ALL WORK"(כל מלאכה)

Now, lets take a look at further clarifications of the Shabbat commandment provided in the Torah:

Exodus 35:2-3

‎2 ‏שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַיהוָ֑ה כָּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֥ה ב֛וֹ מְלָאכָ֖ה יוּמָֽת׃
‎3 ‏לֹא־תְבַעֲר֣וּ אֵ֔שׁ בְּכֹ֖ל מֹשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶ֑ם בְּי֖וֹם הַשַּׁבָּֽת׃ פ

2 Six days shall be done work, and in a day the seventh it shall become for you a holy sabbath of cessation to Yahweh. Everyone Doing in it work shall be put to death.
3 Not you shall eradicate fire in all your dwellings in a day of the sabbath.
Verse 2

This verse delineates punishment for the violation of the Shabbat. Its death. As you can notice, Torah does not provide any information as to how Shabbat violators were to die. I will discuss it in more details below. Please note that in this verse it says simply "WORK"(מלאכה) and NOT "ALL WORK"(כל מלאכה).

Verse 3

Exodus 35:3 is one of the most famous and oldest mistranslation of the Torah. The traditional interpretation of "lo-teva'aru" (לא תבערו) is either "do not kindle" or "do not burn". Therefore, most religious Jews either do not kindle fire on Shabbat or do not burn it at all. This is of'course not only a major misunderstanding of the commandment but it is also a source of very bizarre observance of the Shabbat, as well as a huge inconvenience. I.e. eating cold food or not using electricity/fire e.t.c. So as you can see, traditional translation and interpretation of this verse is grossly incorrect. And here is why:

First and foremost, the fire is not mentioned in the Decalogues and in all other places in the Torah where Shabbat commandment is repeated. Under traditional interpretation one would think that its a great omission because traditional interpretations make fire issue almost a definition of the Shabbat, therefore just this fact alone seems very strange and not in favor of the traditional interpretation.

Secondly, the proper form that would imply burning/kindling is tisrof baesh (תשרף באש) (burning in fire) (Ex 12:10) instead of "baer baesh"(בער באש) (consuming in fire) (Ex. 3:2-3). However Torah chooses "tevaaru" (תבערו) (you shall eradicate).

In most places in the Torah where form of the root "baer"(בער) is used, its meaning is that of "eradication" and not of "burning"/"kindling". Check out these verses: Ex 22:4-5(5-6), Ex 35:3, Lev 6:12, Num 11:1, Num 11:3, Num 24:22, especially Deut 13:5, Deut 17:7, Deut 17:12, Deut 19:13, Deut 19:19, Deut 21:9, Deut 21:21, Deut 22:21-22, Deut 22:24, Deut 24:7 and a similar form in Deut 26:13-14.

Grammatical argument:

1 Exodus 3:2 בֹּעֵר burn qal
2 Exodus 3:3 יִבְעַר he is being burned qal
3 Exodus 22:4(5) יַבְעֶר he is causing to graze down hiphil
4 Exodus 22:4(5) וּבִעֵר and he eradicates piel
5 Exodus 22:5(6) הַמַּבְעִר the one causing to graze down hiphil
6 Exodus 22:5(6) הַבְּעֵרָה the burning noun
7 Exodus 35:3 תְבַעֲרוּ you shall eradicate piel
8 Leviticus 6:5(12) וּבִעֵר and he eradicates piel (although it is possible that it is qal "and he burns")
9 Numbers 11:1 וַתִּבְעַר and she is burning qal
10 Numbers 11:3 בָעֲרָה she burned qal
11 Numbers 24:22 לְבָעֵר to to be eradicated piel
12 Deuteronomy 4:1 בֹּעֵר burning qal
13 Deuteronomy 5:23 בֹּעֵר burning qal
14 Deuteronomy 9:15 בֹּעֵר burning qal
15 Deuteronomy 13:5(6) וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
16 Deuteronomy 17:7 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
17 Deuteronomy 17:12 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
18 Deuteronomy 19:13 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
19 Deuteronomy 19:19 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
20 Deuteronomy 21:9 תְּבַעֵר you shall eradicate piel
21 Deuteronomy 21:21 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
22 Deuteronomy 22:21 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
23 Deuteronomy 22:22 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
24 Deuteronomy 22:24 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
25 Deuteronomy 24:7 וּבִעַרְתָּ and you eradicate piel
26 Deuteronomy 26:13 בִּעַרְתִּי I eradicated piel
27 Deuteronomy 26:14 בִעַרְתִּי I eradicated piel

So as you can see, in Exodus 35:3 "baer"(בער) should be translated as "eradicate" or "burn down/up/away/out" and not as simply "burn" because it is INTENSIVE form of the verb "burn".
From the table above we can come to a conclusion that qal form of the verb "baer" means "burn", hiphil form means "cause to consume/eaten/grazed" (since it is more intensive as we are causing it). And piel form of the verb means "eradicate"/"destroy", since it is the most intensive form.

It is interesting to note that Samaritan Pentateuch uses hiphil form of "baer" - Taviru (תבעירו) meaning "you shall cause to consume/eaten/grazed" which is clearly in error.

Contradiction can be found in mentioned verses of Exodus 12:16 and Exodus 12:10. These verses speak of 1st of Passover when a lamb was to be slaughtered, cooked and burnt. Since 1st of Passover can most certainly fall of Shabbat, we have no choice to admit that fire is permitted on Shabbat and the proper meaning is that you SHOULD NOT ERADICATE FIRE and NOT "you should not burn fire". Those of you who think that this is an exception, please show me exact verses where such exception is explicitly mentioned (a good example of an explicit exception is Numbers 9:6-14)

This is why the fire issue can't be found anywhere but in Ex 35:3. This is because it is not part of the Shabbat but rather a clarification about a fire. As you know fire is required for heat, cooking, light and protection. Therefore the Torah is telling us that "you should not eradicate fire" so that you are comfortable on your day of rest. AND BECAUSE starting fire from scratch is most certainly "work of service" which is prohibited by Shabbat definition. Starting fire from scratch requires one to go chop or collect wood, arrange it, kindle it and let it burn - definitely "work of service". Therefore Torah tells us that we have to have fire in our dwellings on Shabbat and we should make sure that fire will not be eradicated because of lack of wood, kindling material, gas, coal, electricity, e.t.c.

It was suggested to me that as God would provide a double portion of manna for bread a day before Shabbat (Exodus 16:22-30), so are we required to "not eradicate fire" by preparing a double portion of "fire" wood, kindling material, electricity,e.t.c) so as not to violate the Shabbat by having to do "servile work" (starting fire from scratch).

There is also an evidence in the Jewish tradition. Karaite Jews used to take Ex 35:3 literally and would not allow any fire in their dwellings. They would eat cold food, sit in the dark and cold. Eventually such understanding of the commandment was rejected and replaced with more lenient observance (not kindling fire instead of not burning it at all). This is similar to how Rabbinic Jews observe this commandment. However, there is absolutely no basis in the text to translate "tevaaru" as "you shall kindle" as it does not fit with any verses where the root "baer" is used. From this we can see that the only proper understanding of Exodus 35:3 is "not you shall eradicate fire".

This brings me to the last Shabbat clarification, namely Numbers 15:32-36. I most certainly disagree with the traditional interpretation that it has anything to do with "burning" fire. However, there is a connection.

As you can read from Numbers 15:32, the man that was found violating the Shabbat was violating all of the precepts/clarifications of the commandment. Namely, he was chopping/gathering wood which is most certainly "work of service" and since Torah decided to make an example out of him, it is clear to me that this man was collecting wood with an intent to start a fire from scratch which is also "work of service". Thus, he completely violated the Shabbat.

Another conclusion that can be drawn from Numbers 15:32-34, specifically verse 34, where it says that the man who was violating the Shabbat was left "under guard" or "in charge?" (במשמר) (bamishmar).
As far as I understand the word "bamishmar" it means that there are people present, so it does not just mean unguarded prison, but rather a place which is guarded by people (guards).
As I suggested, the Shabbat prohibition refers only to servile work. Meaning that essential services such as police, medical, fire services e.t.c (or guards in this case) must be operational on Shabbat. At least that is what I deduce from this case in the Torah.

Just imagine a modern town (i.e Jerusalem or New York) without these essential services. It would be catastrophic. I would go even further and say that during the wondering in the desert they surely have had similar services available on Shabbat. Considering that Exodus implies over 2 million people in the desert, some form of these essential services had to be present.

I am not saying that police (or guards) should work on Shabbat. Perhaps they should be on a relaxed schedule but they still should be available.

Important clarification can be found in Numbers 15:35-36. These verses indicate the way in which Shabbat violators are to be put to death. Its death by stoning. This is the only place in the Torah where it is mentioned.

In Numbers 28:9-10, Exodus 30:7-8, Leviticus 24:2-4 and Lev 6:12-13 we can read that they burned fire in the Tabernacle (on the Copper Altar) and "kindled" Menorah and Incense on Shabbat. There was also a "pillar of fire" every night (i.e Exodus 13:21-22). So as you can see, all of these are the arguments in favor of my interpretation, as it would be strange that God would burn fire for Himself and would not allow his servants to do the same so that they are comfortable. And once again, if you think that it might have been an exception, please do let me know exact verses where such exception explicitly mentioned.

Last but not least, in Leviticus 24:8 priests are commanded to bake 12 Showbreads on Shabbat, which means that cooking is allowed as well as fire (since cooking requires fire).

So in summation, Exodus 35:3 can be translated in two possible ways:

1) Not you shall eradicate fire in all your dwellings in a day of the shabbat.
2) Not you shall burn out fire in all your dwellings in a day of the shabbat.

In other words, our God is the Merciful God, so I refuse to believe that He wanted us to freeze and eat cold food 52 times a year. What about people who need fire? Sick, babies, old people? You see the picture...

Another clarification can be found in Exodus 16:29. Here the word ממקמו (mimekomo - from place of him) or מקמ (mikum - place) can be interpreted as a place of dwelling. But it does not speak just about the house or property. This word can also mean a city or inhabited area. In other words, it is ok to travel LOCALY on Shabbat. However, one can't travel long-distance on Shabbat. Modern transportation, particularly intercontinental airplanes, raise difficulty with determining the start/end of the Shabbat due to a time difference and time dilation during travel.

One other important fact is that Torah does not specify the day of the week for Shabbat. It simply says - the seventh day. This means that one can observe the Shabbat on Wednesday if the one wants. Of'course, traditional observance of Shabbat from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset is also acceptable.
In other words, it is unclear if traditional Jewish Shabbat managed to preserve the actual day from the time of Moses when no manna would fall out. 

One can spend money on Shabbat as long as it is not in one's gate (see Exodus 20:10) or house and as long as it is not for "servile work" (i.e business). More specifically, since we do not live by the laws of the Pentateuch, and because we live in exile, there is no explicit prohibition not to spend money on Shabbat. Yes, it may not be very ethical to make non-Hebrews work, but it is acceptable and does not violate any of the Shabbat commandments. And the non-Hebrews would work anyway. This is optional and I myself prefer not to do it unless I absolutely have to. On the other hand, if everyone would live by the Torah and observe Shabbat there simply would be no place to spend money.

Jewish tradition deducts prohibited types of work from the tasks that were required to build the Tabernacle. However, it is a very far-fetched assumption. Yes, in Exodus 36:3 (or Ex. 35:24, e.t.c) it does say למלאכת עבדת (limelechet avodat hakodesh - for work of service of the sanctuary) and yes, the construction of the Tabernacle did involve "servile work"(מלאכת עבדה). However, I do not see direct connection here except for the similar wording. Especially considering the fact that the Tabernacle service would not be interrupted even on Shabbat (i.e Numbers 28:9-10). In my opinion the commandment simply refers to "work of service"(מלאכת עבדה) or work that one would do for money or due to obligations (i.e a slave).

Another interesting observation is that during the Messianic Event (aka Exodus), the Shabbat is being reestablished and renewed. And it would be indicated by a double portion of manna that would be provided a day prior. See Exodus 16:22-23

In Deuteronomy 4:6-8, Torah explicitly tells us that "that is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of all the peoples who shall hear of all these statutes and will say: Surely this great nation is a people wise and understanding." As well as "what great nation is there which has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law that I am putting before you today?". Surely, not burning fire on Shabbat and classifying life-essential tasks such as cooking as "work" will never be accepted by the "nations". There is simply no justification to call current traditional interpretation of Shabbat commandment "wise", "understanding" and "righteous".

In conclusion, I would like to point out that Shabbat was made for Rest from "work of service/servitude" because God brought us out from Egypt, from the house of SERVANTS (עבדים) (Ex 20:2, Deut 5:6). Yahweh gave us A Day of Rest from the "WORK OF SERVANTS" (מלאכת עבדה) one day a week. Therefore, this commandment should be interpreted in such a way as to make the Shabbat as pleasurable and restful as possible, so we can all Bless it and Hallow it just as God did (Deuteronomy 5:15)!

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