Hebrew Voices #35 – How to Keep Shabbat

How to Keep ShabbatIn Hebrew Voices, How to Keep Shabbat, Nehemia Gordon discusses what it means “not kindle a fire on Shabbat”, where the Rabbinic tradition of lighting “Shabbat candles” come from, and a reminder to show grace to those who don’t keep Shabbat the same way you do.

I look forward to reading your comments!

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10 thoughts on “Hebrew Voices #35 – How to Keep Shabbat

  1. Thanks for addressing this issue Nehemia. There is still an aspect I wish you had touched on though, namely; why is “thvaaru” although translated kindle, generally recognized as having additional implications of removal and lack of intellectual requirements, beside the primary meaning of “burn”. I have tentatively concluded that the word “incinerate” might have more merit than “kindle” as incinerate shares all the aspects of the three generally recognized meanings of “ba’ar” of burning(diligently in piel?), removal, and lack of intellectual requirement. In other words, isn’t the verse(Ex35:3) telling us “don’t be a dummy by burning your trash on shabbath”? If a translation with this meaning is possible, I think it would completely remove controversy from the verse. Who could argue in favor of burning trash on shabbath?

  2. This is a much better presentation than the others, where Nechemia is pushed to the background and two other commentators capture the microphone. I would much rather listen to Nechemia.

  3. 2 questions:

    1. is about judging. Why does Israel have the responsibility of dealing with sin if judging (of that same activity to determine whether its sin or not) is not to be done? Doesn’t that go against Lev 5:1, Lev 19:17, Ezek 33?

    2. how do we explain a Sabbath where preparing a meal is allowed and another Sabbath where it is not (Ex 12:16)? Couldn’t the kindling of a fire have to do more with the work (for provision/payment) that the israelites did during the other 6 days and not a fire to keep warm or eat? I know that Ex 16:23 gives an instruction about cooking today but isn’t the point of that verse about the going out and getting the food and not specifically about the cooking of that food? Doesn’t it say that there would be “some left over” but it doesn’t specify that it’s only the cooked portion. Why can’t it be “some left over” of the uncooked that may also be cooked the next day just like Ex 12:16 says may be done? I guess I go back to why cook on one Sabbath and not on another Sabbath? Wasn’t a sacrifice made both morning and evening even on Sabbath and wasn’t that sacrifice cooked and consumed?

  4. The principle of Shabbat is simple and from the beginning. Yhvh created all things for Himself then He ceased. So when Shabbat rolls around, I cease from any activity that causes me to increase. Shalom.

  5. My family keeps Shabbat in different ways. My dad and I are Jewish and my mother is messianic. My father takes a strictly scriptural approach to the Sabbath and has worked out what he believes should not be done based off reading the Tanakh. For instance a big thing for him is not to spend money based off the book of Erza-Nehemiah and the closing of the gates of Jerusalem on Shabbat to prevent commerce. He’d also rather not drive, but will if it’s to go to synagogue an hour away. My mother lights candles and enjoys participating in traditional Jewish activities and makes challah regularly. However she has no real scruples about prohibitions regarding the Sabbath. For myself, I am pretty traditional. I’ll break my own prohibitions but I don’t like to do it. I light candles to identify with the Jewish people and our interpretation of Sabbath observance. The custom of lighting oil lamps before the Sabbath (so one doesn’t sit in the dark) goes back to Roman times. However the traditional blessing, as Nehemia points out, comes from the Rabbinical vs. Karaite wars. So I change the words at the end. Instead of “and commanded us to kindle the Sabbath lights” I say in Hebrew “and commanded us to remember and keep the Shabbat.” The custom is pre-rabbinical, the blessing is not. Before changing the blessing, I used to enjoy singing Shalom Aleichem as I lit the candles. This is a song based off a midrash, and it’s generally acknowledged to be so.

    I know some are against all Jewish traditions. I think it’s important to remember that the traditions are Jewish and therefore represent the way Jewish people interpreted the commandments. We’ve been doing it longer than anyone else so it’s natural we have more traditions (both Karaite and Rabbunical Jews have many traditions). I think non-Jews who are joining themselves to G-d through the Torah can come up with their own interpretations of how to carry out the commandments too.

  6. Nehemia,
    Great short discussion. I’d love to hear more, especially from you.

    Just thinking through all the “Rules”… kinda makes me smile. Just at President Trump’s inagural adress, I was really impressed with President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka’s interpretation of Shabbat for the media. Obviously her and her husband Jared are religious Jews under the definition of Rabbinic Judaism because they went so far as to ask permission to travel on Shabbat after her dad’s inauguration. (Who else would ask and respect the range of possible answers to traveling on Shabbat.) Ivanka did not go into explaining the “Rules” as she and her husband observe Shabbat, but she went to the heart of the issue. (I will bet after converting, she can reiterate hundreds of does and don’ts.)

    What I pieced together from various sources was that she responded that Shabbat was time their family spent with God and with each other. She presented that she and her husband spend time together. They each spend time with their children. Implied they spent time at a local synagog. She even made a point that they don’t answer the phone the phone on Shabbat. Wow. What a positive way to put observing the Shabbat!

    Nehemia… I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on modern practical application of what Shabbat limitations are in Torah. What are some things you do scripture and tradition?


    Fort Collins, CO

  7. When read in context, this particular detail of not kindling a fire (Ex. 35:2-3) seems to be in reference to work being done to build the tabernacle. Exodus 16:23 refers to the work involved in food preparation (and it is WORK–even though we now have all these modern conveniences). Isaiah 58:13-14 provides further insight as to how to keep the Sabbath Holy (set apart). When we purposely set aside all the mundane activities that we’re involved with during the week, and focus our attention on our Creator, we honor Him and
    His Gift (Instruction/Commandment) of rest, which He gives us for our benefit.
    I don’t know Hebrew, but that’s how I understand it.

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