The commandment of Shabbat is one of the most important commandments in
the Torah. God speaks of it several times, always emphasizing its significant
place in the life of the Torah observant Jew. A few of the passages relating
to Shabbat that may be found in the Torah are listed below, and they illustrate
this fact very well.
The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array. On the
seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased
on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And God blessed
the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all
the work of creation that He had done.
Mark that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you
two days’ food on the sixth day. Let everyone remain where he is: let no
one leave his place on the seventh day.” So the people remained inactive
on the seventh day.
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease
from labor, in order that your ox and your ass may rest, and that your bondman
and the stranger may be refreshed.
And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelite people and say:
Nevertheless, you must keep My Sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and
you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated
you. You shall keep the Sabbath, for it is holy for you. He who profanes
it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be
cut off from among his kin. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh
day there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever
does work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. The Israelite people
shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant
for all time: it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people
of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh
day He ceased from work and was refreshed.
When He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the
two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of God.
On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath
of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it
shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements
on the Sabbath day.
You shall each revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths:
I the Lord am your God.
You shall keep My Sabbaths and venerate My sanctuary: I am the Lord.
One of the most
pressing questions asked relating to Shabbat is "What is work?" This is
a question that has been asked for thousands of years. In understanding
what work is, the Neviim (the prophets) help us greatly. Below are some
of the passages contained in the prophets that address the issue of work
If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath,
From pursuing your affairs on My holy day;
If you call the Sabbath “delight,”
The Lord’s holy day “honored”;
And if you honor it and go not your ways
Nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains—
Thus said the Lord: Guard yourselves for your own sake against carrying
burdens on the Sabbath day, and bringing them through the gates of Jerusalem.
Nor shall you carry out burdens from your houses on the Sabbath day,
or do any work, but you shall hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your
fathers. (But they would not listen or turn their ear; they stiffened
their necks and would not pay heed or accept discipline.) If you obey
Me—declares the Lord—and do not bring in burdens through the gates of this
city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day and do no work on it, then through the gates of this city shall enter kings who sit upon the
throne of David, with their officers—riding on chariots and horses, they
and their officers—and the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And this city shall be inhabited for all time.
We are told that those who keep the Shabbat will be blessed. Shabbat, as
with all the Torah, was given for our benefit, not our detriment (Dt. 10.13).
Let not the foreigner say,
Who has attached himself to the Lord,
“The Lord will keep me apart from His people”;
And let not the eunuch say,
“I am a withered tree.”
For thus said the Lord:
“As for the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
Who have chosen what I desire
And hold fast to My covenant—
I will give them, in My House
And within My walls,
A monument and a name
Better than sons or daughters.
I will give them an everlasting name
Which shall not perish.
As for the foreigners
Who attach themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him,
And to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants—
All who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it,
And who hold fast to My covenant—
I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My House shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples.”