What Constitutes ‘Work’ on Shabbat?

SHABBAT AFTERNOON FIRESIDE DRASH

 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to set it apart. “Six days you labor, and shall do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of YHVH your Elohim. You do not do any 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. “For in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore YHVH blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart.

Shemoth (Ex) 20:8-11 (TS 2009)

This, the Fourth Mitzvah of ‘The Ten’, seems to be quite straightforward in what it has to say, doesn’t it?

And yet the word ‘work’ as used here, the Hebrew word מְלָאכָה mĕla’kah, has fueled endless hours of debate over centuries of time and caused page after written page of instruction on how to avoid it in order to observe the Fourth Commandment correctly.

Should or shouldn’t one start the car on Shabbat? And what about the light switch? We could avoid flipping the switch (work) if we just left the lights on at sundown on Erev Shabbat, or just light a twenty-four-hour candle, or some such thing couldn’t we? And what about preparing food to eat on Shabbat (that is if it’s OK to perform the act of chewing and swallowing)? And we could go on and on with getting dressed on Shabbat, carrying a Bible or creating a written page on Shabbat. No telling where the lunacy would go if we were to pursue it further. And yet there are those who concern themselves with these things while watching others in their level of observance. No wonder people equate Torah observance, and particularly that of the Shabbat with legalism!

We can trace this line of thought back through Orthodox Rabbinical Judaism to early Pharisaical Judaism, and the perceived need to build a ‘hedge’, or ‘wall’, around the Mitzvot of Torah. This is especially so when it comes to the Shabbat. In order to protect its holy hours from being profaned by those who don’t understand how to observe it correctly, centuries of technical arguments as recorded in the Talmud (based on the ‘Oral Tradition’) if followed correctly; will bring its adherents to become ‘Shomer’ Shabbat. That is, able to observe the Shabbat perfectly and without error (according to the Pharisees).

Of course, in today’s Orthodox Judaism, all one has to do is to rely upon the local Rabbi if questions arise concerning what is, and what is not permitted under the heading of correct observance, I.E.; suppose I wanted to prepare a Shabbat table for unexpected guests, when nothing had been prepared on Erev Shabbat for such an occasion and they brought nothing with them? Should they fast? Would it be OK for me to eat my prepared food without feeding them, or should we all fast? And then we find out one of them needs food to take their medication, it’s a dark day, can we turn on the lights to prepare something for them (then there is that light in the fridge, didn’t we take that bulb out a while back?)! You can see the level this craziness can go too! But then, never fear, your questions have most likely already been answered by Rabbi Snoozer of Snoozer in Talmud Tractate 52b. You do have the complete set of Talmud available for such occasions right!

Now all of us who follow Rabbi Y’shua, Ben Elohim, Sar Shalom, our very Jewish Mashiyach, Natsarene or not, aren’t involved in this nonsense are we? We have come to know Shabbat as a blessing of Shalom, and Simcha (Peace and Joy) haven’t we? We do not engage in work for hire or buy and sell on Shabbat, nor do we travel with exception of what might be necessary to help those in dire need or to attend services. We take time to meditate, write about, talk about, live out His Torah, especially on this holiest and most blessed day, don’t we?

As Natsarenes we follow the example of our Rabbi, HaAdon Y’shua, The Master Y’shua on Shabbat. Attend service (as was His custom) or hold our own, eat just what is needed (lavish spreads not required, simple basics are best), serve Elohim through teaching, ministering, healing, caring for the widow, the orphan, the less fortunate, the stranger within our gates, the prisoner, and those who are simply downtrodden or in need of encouragement, (which, by the way, is all work). We welcome Shabbat with great joy and thanksgiving, and we leave it’s special hours with a heavy heart while counting the days and hours to its welcome return!

Don’t be afraid to work for the King and the Kingdom on Shabbat, you can do so and still be perfectly ‘Shomer’ while turning those lights on or off!