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Shabbat in the Home

In The Torah Calendar, in the chapter on “The Sabbath (Shabbat)”, we saw that Yahweh calls the Shabbat a set-apart convocation, or what in Hebrew is called a miqra qodesh (מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ).

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:3
3 “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a set-apart convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of Yahweh in all your dwellings.”

A miqra (מִקְרָא) is a set-apart gathering, and also a prophetic rehearsal of things to come. Strong’s Hebrew Concordance defines it this way.

OT: 4744 miqra’ (mik-raw’); from OT:7121; something called out, i.e. a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal.

The Hebrew word karaw (קְרָא) means called, and the letter mem (מ) refers to a massing. Therefore a miqra (מִקְרָא) refers to a mass of called-out set-apart ones (i.e., a public meeting). The idea is that Yahweh wants His people to gather publicly, to serve Him. This is also what Yeshua did. Because of this, we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves, as is the manner of some.

Ivrim (Hebrews) 10:24-25
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Not Giving in to Excuses

There are always excuses to avoid meeting. We may not like this person, or that person, or there may be some personality issues. Only, Shabbat is not about us. If we wait for leaders or people to be perfect before we can assemble, then we will never assemble. However, Yahweh calls us to put our differences aside and learn to love each other for His sake (and our own).

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 19:18
18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am Yahweh.”

Yet while it makes a much better witness for our King if we gather for His sake, it is not always possible. You might be the only one (or the only family) in your area that walks in a clean way. And in many families, only part of the family feels called.

Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 3:14
14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says Yahweh; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Tsion.”

If there are no other families to meet with, what should you do? Remembering that Shabbat is not about us (but about serving Yahweh) the answer for most of us is that we should try to keep the Sabbath in such a way that if Yahweh sent someone, they could join us. That way, if Yahweh does decide to send someone, we are ready for him. If this happens enough times, then a public fellowship becomes possible (which is what would glorify Elohim’s name the most).

Home Fellowships: Cradles for Synagogue-Homes

As we have seen in other studies, as the apostles began the Great Commission, first they went to the existing synagogues. However, if the synagogues rejected the Word, then they started a home fellowship. However, once they had an opportunity to move to a public space they did so, as a public space set apart for worship is a much better witness).

Ma’asei (Acts) 18:4-8
4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Shaul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Yeshua is the Messiah.
6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped Elohim, whose house was next door to the synagogue.
8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on Yahweh with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were immersed.

Every home fellowship should have the goal to grow into a public service (as Yahweh allows).

Avoiding Rabbinic and Church Traditions

Our goal is to keep the Hebrew ways, and at the same time, to avoid the traditions of the rabbinical order and the church. Much of rabbinic tradition is influenced by Cabala (Kabbalah), and much of church tradition is influenced by Greco-Roman demonism. Therefore, the rule of thumb is, if we see it in Scripture in a good (non-rabbinic) context, we should probably do it. But if we do not see it in Scripture in a good context (i.e., if it is rabbinic) we should avoid it.

The Five Principles of Acts 15

No matter whether we meet in a home, or in a proper beit knesset, we need to obey the five principles of Acts 15. The first four (no idolatry, no sexual immorality, no strangled [or unclean] meat, and no blood) are summations of the things which Yahweh says will get us cut off from the nation of Israel.

Ma’asei (Acts) 15:19-21
19 “Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the gentiles who are (re-)turning to Elohim,
20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moshe has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

In the Nazarene Israel study, in “Acts 15 and Rabbinic Authority”, we saw how Yaakov ruled that if the returning gentile Ephraimites would begin by abstaining from the four abominations that will get one cut off from the nation of Israel, then they could enter into the synagogues on the Sabbath (as they would not be defiling the space). Then they could learn the rest of the Torah over time (traditionally within a year’s time).

The fifth principle is implied. It is that if we have Yeshua’s Spirit, we will be eager to help Yeshua’s body grow. We will be eager to help the servant-leaders fulfill the Great Commission, so that the body may grow and edify itself in love.

Ephesim (Ephesians) 4:13-16
13 …till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah;
14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Messiah—
16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

The first four principles are non-negotiable. If anyone worships idols, or is sexually immoral, or eats the wrong things, we may meet with them outside the beit knesset, like Yeshua met with tax collectors and sinners in the streets. However, he may not enter the beit knesset. The beit knesset must be kept set-apart.

While the fifth principle is also non-negotiable, we are to have much more patience with it, primarily because Yeshua wants our giving to come from the heart. When His people love Him, then they want to do all they can to help Him build His kingdom. When they love Him, they are glad to give for His cause.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 6:19-21
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

However, as we said earlier, if you are a leader you must safeguard your time. The harvest is enormous, and the demand for services is usually greater than the supply. If you love His people, one of the hardest lessons to learn is that the ministry is not to the needy, but to the hungry. Because of this, you must spend your time with those who already want to help you build Yeshua’s kingdom (or you will run out of time and resources). This applies to home worship groups as much as it applies to batei knesset. You must spend your time with those who already want to help Yeshua.

Bread and Wine in Honor of our High Priest

Many Christian churches take communion with a wafer they call the eucharist. (These terms are not found in Scripture.) The Christian churches mistakenly believe they are following Yeshua’s example in the Passover.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 11:24-25
24 And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

The problem is that Yeshua did not command an altar-call to pass out wafers and cups of wine or grape juice. Rather, Jewish tradition has always been to break bread and share wine at all religious gatherings, going all the way back to Melchizedek.

B’reisheet (Genesis) 14:18-20
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of Elohim Most High.
19 And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Avram of Elohim Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be Elohim Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And he gave him a tithe of all.

Jewish tradition is to break bread and take wine together at all Sabbaths, new moon days, and feasts (except the Day of Atonement). Usually the bread and the wine is taken at the start of the meal, but it can be done at any time in the meal (as Yeshua did).

There is important symbolism in the bread. In Hebrew, bread is lechem (לֶחֶם). That which comes from bread is milchamah (מִלחָמָה), which means (spiritual) war. Thus, breaking bread and taking wine is to be joined to the body of our King. It implies an utter commitment to Him, and His cause, even at the cost of our lives.

Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 11:26-29
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim Yahweh’s death till He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of Yahweh in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of Yahweh.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning Yahweh’s body.

As far as the blessings over the bread and the wine go, the rabbis have a well-known prayer for the bread called HaMotzi, and for the wine they have Kiddush. However, as well-known as they are, these are precisely the kind of formulaic rote prayers Yeshua disapproved of. Rather than regurgitate some ancient formulaic prayer, Yeshua wants us to pray and thank Yahweh from our hearts. We can thank Him for the food, for those who prepared it, for His wonderful provision, or whatever else comes to our hearts in the moment. In the beit knesset this is ideally said by the worship leader or elders, and if in a home the prayers are ideally said by the man of the house, as the priest of the house. (And if the man of the house is not inclined, the woman of the house may do so.)

Traditionally, our Jewish brothers use a slightly sweet braided bread called challah. If you can get challah, it is nice. But if you cannot get challah, any bread will do. The most important thing is that it is fresh, and ideally free from chemicals (i.e., organic, or natural). It is not always possible to find bread free from chemicals, but if you can, it is better.

Snuff the Rabbinic Candle Tradition

Rabbinic Jews love their traditions, and the Talmud spends a lot of time talking about the minutiae of rabbinic customs and traditions regarding the Sabbath and the feasts. One of the customs is lighting candles just before sundown. According to an ancient rabbi (Huna), this leads to having scholarly sons.

R. Huna said: He who habitually practises [the lighting of] the lamp will possess scholarly sons; he who is observant of [the precept of] mezuzah will merit a beautiful dwelling; he who is observant of fringes will merit a beautiful garment; he who is observant of the Sanctification of the Day [i.e., Kiddush, the ritual blessing over the wine] will be privileged to fill barrels of wine.
[Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 23b, Soncino]

Because of rabbinic opinions like this one, rabbinic Jews focus a lot on their candles. The rabbinic tradition in Europe is to light them 18 minutes before sundown, but in Jerusalem it is 40 minutes before sundown. According to tradition, the woman of the home lights the candles, covers her eyes, and then motions her hands to draw the light to her. Then she says a traditional rote prayer, “Blessed are You, Adonai, King of the Universe, who sanctified us by His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath light.

One problem is that Yahweh never says to light Sabbath candles, so this is adding to His word. Another major concern is that if Yahweh did not command us to kindle Sabbath candles, then from where does this tradition come? Pagans everywhere practice various candle lighting rituals, and these have nothing to do with serving Elohim. Rather, they have everything to do with serving demons. Further, as we saw in “About the Pronunciation ‘Yehovah’” (in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 4), when the term Adonai is used as a substitute for the divine name, it refers to pagan deities.

There is nothing wrong with eating dinner by candlelight, or by an ancient oil lamp. It can be a nice way to slow down and refocus on the people one is eating with. Only, we recommend that you completely avoid the rabbinic ritual, the rote prayer, and the false name Adonai.

About Fires and Electricity

The reason rabbinic Jews light the candles either 18 or 40 minutes ahead of Shabbat is that they want to avoid kindling a fire on the Shabbat. As we explain in “The Sabbath (Shabbat)” in The Torah Calendar, the reason for this is that they misunderstand the commandment in Exodus 35, not to burn a work or cooking fire on the Sabbath. Because they do not understand the greater overall context, they misread verse 3 as meaning that we cannot burn any kind of a fire on Shabbat.

Shemote (Exodus) 35:2-3
2 “Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a set-apart day for you, a Sabbath of rest to Yahweh. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.
3 You shall kindle [actually burn] no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”

To see the confusion, let us look at verse 3 in Hebrew.

Exodus 35:3
3 “You shall kindle [burn] no [work] fire in any of your communities on the Sabbath day.”
(3) לֹא תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם | בְּיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת:

The word kindle is ta’va’aru or ta’ba’aru (תְבַעֲרוּ), which is related to the English verb to burn. This is the same word used to describe the burning bush in Exodus 3:2. Thus, the command is not to avoid kindling a fire on the Sabbath, but to avoid burning a fire on Sabbath. Yet we know Yahweh cannot mean not to burn any fires at all, because the Levitical priesthood offered sacrifices on the Sabbath (e.g., Numbers 28:9-10), and the menorah was to burn continually (e.g., Leviticus 24:2). Plus, in cold climates one has to burn a fire to keep warm in the winter. In ancient times, fire was the only source of light and heat. If one did not burn some kind of fire, one spent Shabbat in the cold and the dark. So what can Yahweh mean?

To solve this riddle we need to understand the meaning of the phrase your dwellings. In Hebrew, your dwellings is moshavotheichem (מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם), which means, your communities. And in context, what Yahweh is prohibiting is the burning of a community work or cooking fire.

In ancient times, wood had to be gathered by hand, and wood was not always abundant. Further, extended clans all dwelt in the same house. Because of this there was usually a communal work and cooking fire. This is where the extended family cooked and conducted all manner of work requiring fire (such as blacksmithing). Thus, what Yahweh was really prohibiting was the burning of a work or cooking fire in our communities on Shabbat, which is why the context in Exodus 35:2 specifies work.

The Renewed Covenant also testifies that what Yahweh actually prohibits is a work fire, because there were many lamps in the upper room where Shaul taught.

Ma’asei (Acts) 20:7-8
7 Now on the first day of the week [on one of the Sabbaths], when the disciples came together to break bread, Shaul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.

Many scholars dispute the translation “on the first day of the week.” The Greek reads, “mia ton Sabbaton” (μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων), which many scholars maintain is more correctly translated as “on one of the Sabbaths.”

The Peshitta Aramaic reads “on one of the Sabbaths” (וַביַומָא דּחַד בּשַבָּא). Further, if this gathering took place on a Sabbath (which it undoubtedly did) it would show us that Shaul believed one could burn non-work-related fires on the Sabbath for light (in this case, lamps).

The Rabbis Do Not Agree

Rabbinic Judah does not agree. He has drawn up a list of 39 legalistic rules regarding what kinds of work he feels must be avoided, on penalty of death. These are called the 39 melachot. Of course, one of these rules is to not kindle any type of fire. That would be fine except the rabbis consider electricity to be a type of fire. This is why you can find so many appliances with timers in Jewish stores. This is also why many wealthier Jews hire a Sabbath goy to turn their lights on and off for them on Sabbath. Many wealthier Jews feel it is acceptable to use electricity on the Sabbath, so long as their gentile servant is the one to flip any switches, or turn any dials. Of course, that violates the fourth commandment.

Shemote (Exodus) 20:9-10
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh your Elohim. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.

However, the Talmud says that gentiles (or heathens) are not fully human beings. Rather, they consider us to be on the same level as cattle, and so they believe the commandments do not apply to us.

OR USES OIL OF ANOINTING. Our Rabbis have taught: He who pours the oil of anointing over cattle or vessels is not guilty; [likewise] if over heathens or the dead, he is not guilty. The law relating to cattle and vessels is right, for it is written: Upon the flesh of man [adam] shall it not be poured; and cattle and vessels are not man. Also with regard to the dead, [it is plausible] that he is exempt, since after death one is called corpse and not man. But why is one exempt in the case of heathens; are they not in the category of adam? No, it is written: And ye my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are adam: Ye are called adam but heathens are not called adam.
[Babylonian Talmud, Tractate K’ritoth 6b, Soncino]

Just to highlight the absurdity of rabbinic Judah’s logic, notice how Yahweh even forbids working one’s cattle on Shabbat—and yet rabbinic Judah has justified working his goy servants on Shabbat (whom he considers to be like cattle).

The 39 melachot are also why rabbinic Jews do not drive on the Shabbat. This is because they believe that the fires of a car’s engine violate the Torah against kindling a fire. Further, they will not drive electric cars, or use cell phones, computers, or anything which uses electricity on Shabbat. We disagree.

With all due respect to brother Judah, the idea behind the Sabbath is to rest and be refreshed, and to spend the day with Elohim and His people. It is not a “party day” or a “free day” or a day to go hiking. Rather, it is a day to stop our lives in the world, and to spend 24+ hours with Yahweh-Yeshua, His Spirit, His people, and His word. If we truly have His Spirit, we will want to do this, because this is what Yahweh is doing.

It is very sad that rabbinic Judah is trapped in Babylon. He will only be freed after the fires of the Tribulation and Armageddon, so even though rabbinic Judah is against us and plots our destruction, we need to pray for him, knowing that Elohim will protect those who are truly His.

Finally, we should also add that many people postulate a spiritual meaning behind the commandment not to kindle a fire on the Sabbath, which is not to kindle an argument on the Sabbath, and also not to bear a grudge. While this is a spiritual application, it does seem to match Yeshua’s words about forgiveness.

Engaging Millennial Judah

If someone from a rabbinic Jewish background asks you why you use electricity on Shabbat, remember that at least in a certain sense, rabbinic Jews can be like the Catholics in that while they may read from the Scriptures for themselves, the rabbis prohibit them from interpreting the Scriptures for themselves. Instead they are taught to imitate their rabbis, and adopt rabbinic beliefs without asking any questions. For this reason, if they ask you why you use electricity on Shabbat, the short-and-simple answer that most of them want to hear is that we do not believe electricity is a type of fire (i.e., “we don’t believe that way.”)

If you start with the summation, many rabbinic Jews will be satisfied. However, if you start by explaining the details of Exodus 35, you may lose them because they usually want to hear the summation before they hear the details. Once they hear the summation, then they may show some interest in the details. Then you can talk with them about Exodus 35, the daily sacrifices, and the menorah.

A 2017 CE study by the reputable Barna Group found that 21% of Jewish millennials believed that Yeshua is the son of Elohim, while an additional 28% felt that he was not the son of Elohim, but was nonetheless an important rabbi or spiritual teacher. That is 49%.

Certain Jewish messianic organizations believe that the best way to witness to Jewish millennials is to invite them over for a Shabbat dinner. That way they can get to know you in a personable context. While Jews can oftentimes understandably be guarded, most Jews are very loving people once you get to know them in a personal context. If you can build a personal connection to them, it can be a strong witness. An erev Shabbat (Shabbat evening) dinner is a good way to do that.

About the dinner, you might pray about explaining up front that we only have one Rabbi, and that while He lived in the Second Temple era, He taught that prayers should always come from the heart. That is why we pray by heart, and only read from prayer books on occasion, using them only as guidebooks (as they were intended). You might also offer up front that Yeshua taught His followers to obey the Scriptures closely, and that He rejected most of the changes that took place after the Exile to Babylon. This type of friendly approach stands a good chance of connecting with lost and seeking millennial Jews, who are searching for meaning in their own religion. If you can show them that we are also seeking for meaning in the ancient Israelite pathways (before Babylon), it can make for an excellent personal connection (which is how most Jews can be reached).

Traditionally, Jews also sing psalms and other traditional Hebrew songs on erev Shabbat. For this reason, it is good to know these songs.

Musical instruments are also traditional in the Jewish home, and are always a welcome addition.

Cooking Ahead of Time

We should always do our cooking before Shabbat. (In rabbinic Judaism, one of the purposes of lighting the Sabbath candles is to signal that preparations for the Sabbath are over, and that the Sabbath has begun.) On Sabbath, all we should need to do is to warm up our food and eat it. This maximizes the amount of time we can spend with Yahweh-Yeshua, His Spirit, His people, and His word. It makes the best use of the time.

Traditionally, many Jews use a slow-cooker (aka a crock pot) or other appliances that can be plugged into a timer for Shabbat. The one time we recommend this is when Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) falls the day before the Sabbath. You can prepare the food before Yom Kippur begins, and then store it in the refrigerator. When Yom Kippur is over, place the food into the slow-cooker to avoid doing any preparation work. This scenario happens one year in seven, on average. (For more details, see the chapter on “The Sabbath (Shabbat)” in The Torah Calendar, and also “When Yom Kippur Abuts the Shabbat”, in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 3.)

Face Jerusalem

It is traditional to face Jerusalem for prayer. There are many apps for cell phones which can show you which way to face (e.g., Jew Compass, etc.).

We will talk about clothing in another place, as well as why we should avoid certain forbidden images.

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