Blessing After The Meal
This is probably a new concept for many. In Christian homes, it is common to pray before the meal, but not after. But that is not the only difference between Jewish and Christian homes.
In a Jewish home, you will never hear anyone bless the food you bless God, to show gratitude for His provision.
The blessing after the meal is colloquially called benching, from the Yiddish term bentshen to bless. It is rather long, in its traditional form, and consists of four parts. That is, to give thanks for the food, for the land of Israel, for Jerusalem, and for Gods goodness. The origin of this tradition is also biblical:
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Good News Not Bad News
Before we leave the Old Testament, there is one other passage that clarifies a common misunderstanding of the sabbath. It is Isaiah 58:1314. It is a shame that for so many people sabbath keeping is thought of solely in terms of what you can’t do. Its original intention was certainly intended to be good news not bad news. The sabbath command is in fact a command to experience joy.
If you turn back your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth.
God’s Purpose for Us on the Sabbath
God’s purpose for us on the sabbath is that we experience the highest and most intense joy that can be experienced, namely, that we “take delight in the Lord.” And yet what he finds again and again is professing Christians who prefer little human-sized pleasures from things that have no close relation to God at all.
Why So Many People Think of the Sabbath as a Burden
God Blessed And Hallowed The Seventh Day
Both Genesis 2:3 and Exodus 20:11 say that God “blessed” and “hallowed” the rest day. What does it mean for God to bless a day? I think it means that he makes the day a time of blessing. When God blesses a man, the man becomes rich with blessings. When he blesses a land, the land becomes rich with blessings. So when he blesses a day, that day becomes rich with blessings.
And what does it mean that he hallows the day? “Hallows” is the same word as “sanctifies.” It means set the day aside for special focus on what is holy, namely, God and his holy works.
Now consider the two words together. He blessed the day and he hallowed the day. How do these fit together? He made it a source of blessing, and he made it to focus on himself. Isn’t it obvious that the hallowing is included in the blessing and the blessing is included in the hallowing. When you hallow God and focus your attention on him, you receive more blessing than if you keep on busying yourself seven days a week with secular affairs, thinking that professional advancement and money are the route to true happiness. And when you seek your blessing in God rather than in the products of human labor, you hallow him and honor his holiness as the greater wealth.
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How Sabbath Is Represented Throughout History
Beyond the recorded history of the Bible, the perception of the Sabbath morphed over time. Though nothing in Scripture gives any indication for changing which day to keep the Sabbath, the timing and traditions for Sabbath-keeping, or whats considered the day of worship, has differed between various denominations of Christianity.
This chart gives an overview of the Sabbath from the beginning of the Bible to the present day:
|The Council of Laodicea condemned the 7th day Sabbath 4|
|400s AD||Early Celtic Church and St. Patrick of Ireland kept the 7th day Sabbath|
|12th Century AD||Waldensians kept the 7th day Sabbath in France and Italy|
|1845||Joseph Bates, a protestant minister who eventually became one of the founders of the Adventist Church, rediscovered the 7th day Sabbath in his studies|
|1863||The Seventh-day Adventist Church was formally established|
Gods original seventh-day Sabbath persevered through history, despite many attempts to water down its holiness or sanctity, or to change the very day it is meant to be observed.
And as time grows closer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, its foretold by the prophet Daniel that the Sabbath will continue to come under subtle attack by those who oppose God .
But why this focus on the day of worship?
But rather than be fearful about such things, God asks us instead to trust Him. The covenant upholds the Sabbath as a reminder that God is the One who sanctifies us. We can claim this promise that God will lead us if we follow.
Celebrating Shabbat With Songs And Blessings
The Sabbath is set apart from other days of the week by involving no work, no rush, and no distractions. God established this very first holy day not to restrict us, but to bless us. It is to our health and spiritual wellbeing.
That is why the Sabbath is considered to be a very joyous occasion and Jewish families fill their homes with songs. A hymn that is commonly sang around the Shabbat table is Eshet Chail, which is Hebrew for Woman of Valor. Sang usually by the head of the household, it is a tribute to the virtuous woman described in the 31 chapter of Proverbs. The husband sings it over his wife.
We follow the song with blessings over the sons, to be like Efraim and Menashe. Blessings over the daughters are to become like Sara, Rebekah, Rachel and Lea. Often the father recites the Priestly Blessing over them, which is recorded in Numbers 6:24-26:
The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
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The Fourth Commandment Says To Keep The Sabbath Holy How Can A Sabbath
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy .
Those words begin the fourth of Gods 10 Commandments. But what does it mean to keep the Sabbath day holy? What exactly is God telling us to do on the Sabbath day?
Before we answer these questions, we must go back to the origin of the Sabbath day in Genesis 2. We read that after the creation week, God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done . We next read: Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it .
The seventh day was blessed and sanctified. That means that God set it apart from the other six days of the week for a special purpose.
Because of this unique blessing and sanctification, the seventh day of the week is very special to God. But He didnt just rest and bless it for His own use. He did this as an example and a gift for people. When God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses, He included the seventh-day Sabbath as the Fourth Commandment .
God did not create the Sabbath to be a temporary or burdensome law. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man . It was a gift God made for us. Thats why Jesus, the apostles and the New Testament Church continued observing the Sabbath.
Once a Christian accepts that the seventh-day Sabbath is holy and a law of God, the question ariseshow does a person keep the Sabbath holy?
Let Us Share The Truth About Gods Truth
Exodus 20:8-11 gives the fourth of ten commandments. This fourth commandment is about the Sabbath day that God commanded Israel to observe, when he gave Israel His law through Moses, at Mount Sinai.
The fourth commandment does not say to cease from ordinary work and engage in religious work, as many of its advocates seem to suppose. On the contrary, it prohibits all kinds of workeven picking up sticks for kindling a fire . Often Sunday is as busy a day as any. How many who claim to keep this commandment do more work in the way of cooking, etc., than on other days?
If that law is now in force and has by any means extended beyond the Israelites , so as to cover Christians, then every Christian violates it repeatedly, and is under jeopardy for they that violated Moses Law died without mercy.
But for two reasons we dissent from the idea of the Sabbath common to the majority of Christian people. First, if their claim that we are under the Law , be true, the day they keep as a Sabbath is not the day mentioned in that command. They observe the first day of the week, while the command designated the seventh day. If the Fourth Commandment be binding at all, it is binding as stated, and cannot be changed.
The apostle Paul also wrote to the Colossians about the ordinances of the Law. He said that Jesustook it out of the way, nailing it to his crossLet no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.
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Why Did God Give Us The Sabbath
God seems to mandate a Sabbath for a number of reasons:
1. God wants us to trust Him.
When the Israelites wandered the desert before they reached the Promised Land, God would make manna, a type of bread-like substance that would give them sustenance, and quail rain from the sky .
Every day they would go out and collect that days rations and only that days rations. Any extra they tried to collect would end up full of maggots in the morning. But on the sixth day, God commanded them to gather twice as much so they wouldnt work to get their food on the seventh day.
Like the Israelites tended to do in the Old Testament, some didnt listen, and they wound up hungry on the Sabbath because they didnt collect enough the day before. God wants us to trust Him. He will provide for us, even if we dont work one day of the week.
2. We fall apart if we dont rest.
There were also practical reasons God commanded rest on the Sabbath. Those who work without taking a days break will encounter physical exhaustion and breakdown, according to the American Association of Christian Counselors. We are not meant to work nonstop. When we work seven day weeks, we exhaust our brain so its creative functionscannot work properly. We become more stressed and wear ourselves out to the point we become susceptible to more illnesses.
3. We avoid idolatry when we take a Sabbath.
If we work and do nothing but work, we run the risk of placing it before God in terms of importance.
Clear Your Calendar Of Obligations
Most careers keep us working Monday through Friday, so Saturday is already the first day off. To emphasize this day as one of rest and refocusing, it can be helpful to reschedule household projects, odd jobs, or other tasks that feel like work. It may be that most of them could easily be postponed until the next day.
This might not be possible right away, but as you make the seventh-day Sabbath a habit, you can start adjusting your schedule around it.
For those who often work on Saturdays, it might take more effort to devote the day to worshiping God. While some service jobs will inevitably require you to work on the Sabbath every so often, such as medical workers, caregivers, law enforcement, etc., some jobs will allow for schedule adjustments so you can better keep the Sabbath.
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Look For Opportunities To Worship God
Corporate worship is a wonderful blessing, so finding a church to attend can add to your Sabbath experience with God.
If youre not yet involved with a local congregation, there are many other ways to keep Sabbath in the meantime.
- Take time to read your Bible, praying before and after
- Take a walk outside, making a point of noticing the small wonders of nature we often miss when were in a hurry
- Visit a friend you havent seen in a while. You might even find an opportunity to talk with them about your new experiences in learning about the Sabbath.
- Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, nursing home, community service project, etc.
- Join a Bible study group or local Sabbath school
- Visit a nearby park, wildlife preserve, or scenic area
There are limitless ways to celebrate the memorial of the first Sabbath day after God created the earth. When we truly take time to notice what God has done for us, our faith can grow and we can claim Jesus promise to have life more abundantly when we follow Him .
Shabbat Element #: Prayer Over The Bread
After the blessing of the wine, it is time for the blessing over the bread. Traditionally, there are two loaves of challah bread. They symbolize the double portion of manna provided to the children of Israel in the wilderness for the Sabbath.
The head of the household lifts the two bread loaves and recites:
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
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Summary Of The Sabbath Command
In summary then, Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15 and Exodus 31:13 teach that the sabbath is a way of remembering and expressing the truth that God is our creator and deliverer and sanctifier. We are dependent on him for all we have in the world, for our deliverance from enemies, and for our holiness. He has indeed designed that we work. But our work neither creates, nor saves, nor sanctifies. For these we depend on the blessing of God. All things are from him and through him and to him. Lest we ever forget this and begin to take our strength and thought and work too seriously, we should keep one day in seven to cease from our labors and focus on God as the source of all blessing.
What Activities Constitute Work
In the years after the temple was rebuilt following the exile , scribes and rabbis studied the words of Scripture, interpreting every detail. What kinds of work could be allowed on the Sabbath within the Law? For example, according to the Law, no work was to be done on the Sabbath, so that meant burdens were not to be carried on that day. So scholars debated what constituted a burden. On the surface, the scribes had good reasons for interpreting the Law carefully since they did not want anyone to break it inadvertently. But their interpretations increasingly emphasized external adherence to the Law rather than cultivating an attitude of submission before God. Obeying their own interpretations became a source of pride instead of an expression of love for God.
Jesus healings on the Sabbath enraged the religious teachers who classified healing as work and therefore prohibited it . He revealed the rabbis hypocrisy with his response.
The Pharisees said to him, Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath? answered, Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.
Then he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
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Is The Seventh Day The Sabbath
The New Testament is in agreement as to which day is the seventh day of the week. One of the most straight-forward references is found in Luke 23:53-56 & Luke 24:1, and describes Joseph of Arimathaea taking the body of Jesus down off the cross. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on theSabbath according to the commandment. Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
This Bible passage shows the chronology of the week including how the Sabbath day and the first day of the week relate to each other. According to Luke 23:54, Jesus died on the preparation day which we now call Good Friday. The next day, Sabbath, the women rested according to the commandment. Finally, after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, Jesus was resurrected.
Preparation day or sixth day = FridaySabbath day or seventh day = SaturdayResurrection day or first day = Sunday
The Sabbath In Other Pentateuchal Passages
These four passages provide us with the most extensive teaching on the Sabbath. There are several other passages to which we shall briefly refer, pointing out the unique contribution of each to the Sabbath theology.
Exodus 34:21: Adds in plowing time and in harvest you shall cease to workthus more specifically applying Sabbath instruction to new conditions in land.
Exodus 35:2-3: No fire can be kindled on the Sabbath in Israelite homes. While alluded to in Exodus 16, it is clearly prohibited here. This prevented the women from becoming absorbed in preparation of hot meals. In effect, this clarification meant cold cuts for dinner on the Sabbath.
Leviticus 23:3: Leviticus provides the Israelites with instruction concerning their worship which included the Sabbath. The various religious Sabbath celebrations for which Israel will gather include:
A convocation each Sabbath .
A celebration of the Passover .
A convocation on the seventh month, including a celebration of the day of atonement and the Feast of Booths .
Leviticus 25 and 26: In Leviticus 25, God adds the requirement that the land must have its Sabbath rests, just as the people and their animals do. On every seventh year, the land must not be worked, as in the other six years.
Every 50 years there was to be a year of jubilee . The land was again to lie fallow. Property was to be restored to its original owner. Since the land belonged to God, He had every right to require this .