By: William Jackson
This is an emotionally charged topic amongst Tanakh (Old Testament) believers. Should those of us that are non-Jewish honor the Sabbath as outlined in Tanakh? Many Rabbinics would say “no”, and those that say “yes” qualify their answer by saying that the non-Jews are not to keep it completely. Let’s delve into HaShem’s word where we will gather answers to this question.
HaShem identified to the Jews that the Sabbath serves as a special “sign” or symbol between Himself and the people of Israel (Exodus 31:13, 17, Ezekiel 20:12, 20). Not only that, in Deuteronomy 5:15 the Jews are ordered to keep it. Many Jewish sources, like the Talmud, believe that the Sabbath is exclusive to the Jews only. In the Babylonian Talmud, Maharsha (Sanhedrin 58b) compares Shabbos to the bride of the Jewish people, and compares gentiles observing it to adultery (1). In the Mishneh Torah, Rambam pushes it further and writes that gentiles are not allowed to rest during any day of the week, be it Shabbat, Sunday, or even Wednesday (2). The Talmud takes the privilege of Sabbath handed down by HaShem, and builds in its restrictions.
Conversely, over and over again, in Torah, it states that there is only one law for the Jew and the “Ger” (foreigner), Exodus 12:49, Numbers 15:16,29, Leviticus 24:22. Yes, the Jews have the requirement to observe Sabbath, as before mentioned, and HaShem also tells us, who are not Jewish, to look toward the Jews for the concepts of worship (Deuteronomy 4:6-7, Isaiah 2:2-3, 45:14, 55:5, 60:3, Malachi 1:11). Additionally, the Torah never tells us that the Sabbath is exclusively for the Jews.
Isaiah 56:3, 6-7 tell us that the foreigner who joins himself to Adonai and keeps the Shabbat will be accepted by Adonai. In the Babylonian Talmud (Rashi on Yevamot 48b) adds what he thinks on this matter by saying, “Every non-Jew who renounces idolatry, needs to keep the Sabbath; because every act that desecrate the Sabbath, is itself, a species of idolatry.” An example of this would be the holy anointing oil. In Exodus 30:32 it talks about how the oil is “sanctified” and “restricted” for HaShem’s designations. In Genesis 2:3 Adonai sanctified the Sabbath, and a millennium and a half later, He extended it to the Israelites to honor. But we need to remember, He never gave restrictions against anyone else honoring it. Like with the anointing oil, HaShem has no problem identifying His restrictions, and we need to remember that the Sabbath was not restricted from the foreigner.
For those of us that honor HaShem’s word, we honor His 10 Commandments also, and honoring the Sabbath is one of them. If we just apply what the Tanakh tells us about His wishes for us on Sabbath, we will be honoring the Sabbath as HaShem requires us to, therefore; we should do those things specified by Torah pertaining to Sabbath… such as;
Not working: Exodus 20:10
Not Leaving Home: Exodus 16:29
Resting: Exodus 23:12; 34:21
and focusing on study and prayer.
This Thursday (April 30th) we will publish a list of Sabbath requirements, as per Tanakh only.
Even though Talmud goes on both sides of the isle about who is and isn’t allowed to honor Sabbath, we need to always remember that HaShem Himself never restricts the Sabbath to only the Jew. As well, if we look into Leviticus 23 we will see the seven feast and Festivals. It never says that the nations or the foreigners are to participate; but in other areas of Tanakh they are encouraged (Numbers 15:13-16, Isaiah 66:18-23, Zechariah 14:16-19, Malachi 1:11, Psalm 86:9). I personally am grateful that the Master of the universe allows me to dedicated one day a week, on His Sabbath, to rest in Him and to honor Him.