By: William Jackson
Where to go for Sabbath; stay at home, go to a place of worship, meet with a group or does any of it matter? The Tanakh appears to give us the answer but sometimes it feels that these answers are in conflict. People are no different. Depending on who you ask, their answers are as varied as their religions. Nevertheless, those that are Torah observant just want to follow God’s will. In order to root out the answer, we will reflect on God’s word, in context, as it pertains to the Sabbath?
Some do not believe we should leave our homes on Sabbath. Usually, they draw on a single verse to support this reasoning, Exodus 16:29. Here it says “…. Let each man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day”. The seventh day here is refereeing to the Sabbath. Interestingly, this was a statute given before the Sabbath was established as a Law (Exodus 20:8). So we need to read Exodus 16:29 in context. If you go back to verse 22 you will see that God was telling the Israelites to gather a double portion of manna the day before Sabbath. On Sabbath, they were not to leave their homes and gather more manna. This could serve as an modern day analogy of how we are not to be in “the world” working for a paycheck on Sabbath.
Yet, much, much later in Nehemiah 13:19, Nehemiah commanded that the gates of Jerusalem to be closed on Sabbath. Does this not imply we are not to leave our homes on this Holy day? If we read all of chapter 13 we will see that merchants were frequenting Jerusalem on the Sabbath and many Israelites were still trading on this day. Nehemiah, through the help of his people, was trying to remove temptation from the Sabbath. In closing the gates, the influence of the world was kept out and a community of believers was kept in. So it appears community during Sabbath is a good thing. Even Leviticus 23:3 inspires us to have a Holy “miqra” (assembly or convocation) on Sabbath.
Still, what if you’re not blessed in having a local community of likeminded believers. This is why many turn to the internet for Torah teachings and cyber internet groups of followers. Is this wrong? Many sects have imposed rulings on electronics for the Sabbath1. This would be religion. Studying God’s word, whether in person, over the phone, or on-line it is still an assembly (miqra). However, we should be cautioned. Isaiah says it best “…don’t peruse your personal interests on Sabbath…” (Isaiah 58:13). If we use our computers as a tool during Shabbat for Sabbath we should not be reading and responding to personal posts about our own interest or surfing the net for things outside of Torah.
In an attempt to not profane the Sabbath, many find themselves creating healthy habits such as, stocking up before Shabbat, turning phones to silence and warning friends & family you won’t be available until Saturday’s sunset. But; to impose restrictions for the expressed purpose of feeling pious is a burden. As Tanakh tells us, we are to rest in God and have a Holy “miqra”. The word “miqra” can mean gathering and/or a reading, and both can be done on the internet. Remember the Sabbath is not a burden, it is a delight (Isaiah 56:2-6, 58:13, Psalm 92:1-2).
- Rabbis Broyde & Jachter, “The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov”, Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society, No. XXI – Spring 91.