Sunday, August 8, 2021

Does YaHuWaH Want Us to Freeze in the Dark on the Sabbath?

By Maria Merola

Shemoth (Exodus) 35:

2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a Sabbath of rest to YHWH: whosoever does work therein shall be put to death.

You shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day.

This commandment has puzzled me for many years, until recently when I decided to pray and ask YaHuWaH what he meant by not kindling a fire on the Sabbath. At first glance, it seems pretty straight-forward. We are not allowed to burn any kind of fire on the Sabbath day. 

In ancient times, before the invention of indoor electricity, heating and air-conditioning, etc. people needed to build a fire out of wood to keep themselves warm, or they would die. Does it sound reasonable that our Creator would put his people at risk of dying in freezing temperatures? 

And what about having light so that we do not stumble in the dark and hurt ourselves? Are we allowed to have light, so that we can read the Towrah on the Sabbath? Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the only available light to read by was an oil lamp or candles. Why would our Creator ask us to be miserable on the Sabbath, when he tells us to make the Sabbath a delight? (Isaiah 58:13).

The first thing we must understand, is the prohibition against kindling a fire on the Sabbath, is based on building a fire for the purpose of employment or type of work. Look up the Hebrew word for “work” in Exodus 35:2:

#4399 mlakah mel-aw-kaw' from the same as 4397; properly, deputyship, i.e. ministry; generally, employment (never servile) or work (abstractly or concretely); also property (as the result of labor):--business, + cattle, + industriousoccupation,  officer, thing (made), use, manner of workmanship.

As we can see, the type of work that is prohibited on the Sabbath day is employment work--work that brings in a paycheck. YaHuWaH is not forbidding us from cooking food, or doing the kind of work that is required for our basic sustenance and survival. 

We are not prohibited from doing the following things on the Sabbath: Use the bathroom, cook food, eat, drink, clean up something that has spilled onto the floor; change a babys diaper, etc. 

Some people have gone so far as to suggest that married couples should abstain from sexual intimacy on the Sabbath day, because it is considered “work.”

In Leviticus 23, we are commanded not to do any “servile work,” on the Sabbaths and on the feasts. What is servile work?

#H5656 `abodah ab-o-daw' or mabowdah {ab-o-daw'}; from 5647; work of any kind:--act, bondage, + bondservant, effect, labour, ministering(-try), office, service(-ile, -itude), tillage, use, work, X wrought. 

#H5647 `abad aw-bad' a primitive root; to work (in any sense); by implication, to serve, till, (causatively) enslave, etc.:--X be, keep in bondage, be bondmen, bond-service, compel, do, dress, ear, execute, + husbandman, keep, labour(-ing man, bring to pass, (cause to, make to) serve(-ing, self), (be, become) servant(-s), do (use) service, till(-er), transgress (from margin), (set a) work, be wrought.

The above word for “servile work,” implies work that is not related to keeping the Sabbath or the Feasts. If Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, of course, we must still obey the Towrah by roasting lamb, and baking Unleavened Bread (See Exodus 12).

The only work we are prohibited from doing on the Sabbath days, or the Feasts, is work that is for “our own pleasure,” and is not directly inline with keeping the Feasts, or the weekly Shabbat.

However, this fallacious argument is not consistent with the rest of Scripture. Especially in light of the fact that the very first thing YaHuWaH commanded us to do as humans is to “Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:22-28). For some married couples, their work schedules make it almost impossible to maintain any kind of intimacy, and this could eventually damage a marriage. Some married couples may choose to abstain on the Sabbath to fast and pray according to the Apostle Sha’uwl’s (Paul’s) recommendation:

1st Qorintiym (Corinthians) 7:

3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

4 The wife has not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband has not power of his own body, but the wife.

5 Defraud you not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

As you can see, if a married couple chooses to abstain purposes of fasting and prayer, it must be by mutual consent. If one of the parties wants to be intimate, we are not allowed to defraud or withhold affection from our spouse. Our bodies are no longer our own when we are married. Our body belongs to our spouse, and we have no right to withhold affection.

A basic principle, (an important rule of thumb) for how to obey the Towrah, is that we must always ask the question “Does this activity save life or destroy life?Our Messiah taught us that saving life, and doing good are the basic premise of how to keep the Sabbath:

Mark 3:4 And he said unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 

Luke 6:9 Then said Yahuwshuwa unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

The religious rulers of his day falsely accused our Messiah of doing “workon the Sabbath day, because he healed a man. However, our Messiah was making a point of showing us that the kind of “workwe are required to pause on Shabbat, is the type of work that involves earning a paycheck. The kind of work we are required to do on the Sabbath is work that involves saving souls, and saving lives. 

This includes also “producing lifeor procreating. Since the devil is preoccupied with trying to depopulate the earth, via abortion, wars, famines, disease, unethical medical practices, etc. one way that we are required to “save life on the Sabbath is to procreate, by reproducing. This is meant to insure that the human race does not become extinct.

Earning a Paycheck versus Saving Life

One might ask “But is it not saving life to earn a living so that we can provide life-sustaining food, shelter and and clothing for our family?” 

Yes, earning a living is meant to save life. However, the Sabbath day is a reminder to us all, that YaHuWaH is our provider, and without him, we can do nothing of ourselves. By taking a day off from working, we are showing him that we trust him to provide for us.  

In the same context of “working for a paycheck or employment, business, etc. the very next verse in Exodus 35:3 tells us not to kindle a fire. So let’s take a look at the Hebrew words for kindle and fire:

#1197 ba`ar baw-ar' a primitive root; to kindle, i.e. consume (by fire or by eating); also (as denominative from 1198) to be(-come) brutish:--be brutish, bring (put, take) away, burn, (cause to) eat (up), feed, heat, kindle, set ((on fire)), waste.

The Browns Driver-Briggs uses this definition, which makes it more clear: 

To begin to burn, be kindled, start burning.

#784 'esh aysh a primitive word; fire (literally or figuratively):-- burning, fiery, fire, flaming, hot.

As you can see, the word for “kindle can mean to be brutish, from the Hebrew word #1198 (foolish), so it can mean starting an argument, a heated discussion that leads to sinning against your fellow man. But that is the secondary meaning. The first meaning of kindle means to burn or to consume. The Hebrew word for “fire” is “esh,” and it means exactly the same thing as it does in English---fire. Hence, the meaning of this commandment is pretty straight forward. 

We are commanded in 
Exodus 35:3 not to burn a fire on the Sabbath. However, the previous verse (verse 2), tells us not to do employment or business work on the Sabbath. Therefore, in the proper context (remember that the verses and the numbers were added later by the English translators), the entire thought of verse 2 and 3 are the same. Do not burn a fire for the purpose of doing employment or business type of work!

The following article is taken from the ministry Hoshana Rabbah, and it is a pretty good explanation which agrees with what I have just explained.

Posted on 02/28/2016 by Natan Lawrence

Exodus 35:2, The seventh day … shall be … a set-apart day. In our journey through the Towrah, the subject of the seventh day Sabbath keeps popping up. When YaHuWaH said in Exodus 20:8 to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it set-apart (kadowsh),” he keeps reminding them of it, so that they won’t forget it! What does this tell us about the importance YaHuWaH places on the weekly Sabbath? With each reminder, he gives additional instructions about how to keep the Sabbath (see Genesis 2:2–3; Exodus 16:23–30; 20:8–11).

Exodus 35:3, Kindle no fire…on the Sabbath day. There are several prevailing viewpoints as to the exact meaning of this passage.Lets explore them.

The Orthodox Jews take literally the Towrah’s prohibition to kindle no fire on the Sabbath. As such, many do not even turn on a light switch or start their cars (i.e., fire in the spark plugs) on the Sabbath for fear of violating this command. To counter balance this viewpoint, the Towrah does indicate that the priest lit the menorah in the tabernacle each morning, the Sabbath not excluded (Exodus 27:21–21; 30:7). So, for ministry purposes, lighting a fire seems not to be prohibited.

There is also the viewpoint that since the next verse (Exodus 34:4) begins YaHuWaH’s instructions to build the tabernacle, the immediate context of the Sabbath-fire passage has to do with not starting fires that pertain only to one’s trade or job—in Israel’s case, their job was the building of the mishkan. Fires would have been needed for tanning hides, working with metal, and possibly bending wood and dying cloth along with other activities.

No Creating on the Sabbat

This we know for certain. On the Sabbath, YaHuWaH’s people are not to bake, cook or prepare food from scratch (Exodus 16:23), but reheating food seems not to be prohibited—something that is even permitted in Orthodox Jewish circles today. What is the bottom line issue here? We are to cease creating on the Sabbath, and cooking food from scratch (as opposed to reheating) changes the chemistry of the food which constitutes creating something (i.e., transforming something from its original state into another state). So fires for cooking would have been prohibited, to be sure. Food must be prepared ahead of time on the sixth day.

Is this Towrah command forbidding the lighting of fires for heat and light? Some would say yes, since part of preparing for the Sabbath involves insuring that your heating fire and lights will stay burning through the Sabbath without having to relight them. Was this always possible in ancient times? 

That’s a question we’ll explore below.

For one thing, it is doubtful that YaHuWaH would have expected his hapless people to sit in the cold darkness on the Sabbath should their fire have gone out—especially in the winter months when the days are shorter and colder, and when snow and cold rain are realities. This would result in the loss of the delight of the day, which, in itself, is a violation the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13).

The harsh realities of life in a primitive agrarian culture are evident. The ancient Israelites, obviously, didn’t possess electric or gas push-button heat or lights. If YaHuWaH forbad them from lighting a fire for heat and light purposes, then they would have had to start a fire on Friday before sundown and keep it burning all night and through the Sabbath. 

This means that if the fire happened to go out during the night because someone slept too soundly and didn’t wake up to add wood to the fire or olive oil to their small terra cotta lamps (which burned only for a short time), then they would either sit in the cold and dark on the Sabbath, or they’d have to fetch some coals from a neighbor who hadn’t let their fire go out. The Israelite who lived in town had another option as well. 

Often in towns, there were public ovens built into the earth with clay cooking tubes for baking bread. For those who lived nearby, they could bring back some embers from these public ovens to restart their home fires (Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, pp. 47–48, by Fred H. Wight).

In modern times, for those who heat their homes with a wood stove, the most energy efficient home-sized wood stove will burn only for six to eight hours if one has access to hardwoods (like oak, maple or fruitwood) as fuel.

Despite one’s best efforts to keep the stove burning all night and the house warm, at times the fire goes out. In the land of Israel, large hardwood trees aren’t prevalent. In ancient times, if they had been, no doubt several million Israelites constantly foraging for hardwood to keep their fires burning would have quickly depleted the region of trees—especially in that arid land where trees grow slowly.

In reality, the Israelites were more likely to have used sticks (1st King 17:10), thorn bushes, bundles of dried grass (Matthew 6:30; Luke 12:28), charcoal (John 18:18; 21:9) or dried dung for fire fuel (Ezekiel 4:15; Ibid., p. 30). Furthermore, warming fires were often built in courtyards (John 18:18). Such fires don’t burn long. At the same time, making fire wouldn’t have been an easy process either, since this was accomplished by rubbing sticks together or by striking flint and steel (Ibid. p. 31).

For sure we know that in days before matches, lighters, push-button furnaces, lights and stoves, starting and maintaining a fire wasn’t a simple task. At the same time, it seems that YaHuWaH wouldn’t have expected the Sabbath to end up becoming a miserable, weekly lesson in wilderness survival in having many of his servants freeze to death in the darkness on this day of joyful rest because their fires went out. He did, however, expect his people to make every possible effort to prepare for the Sabbath ahead of time to keep it from being just another day of laborious work (Exodus 16:23).

However, this author finds it hard to believe that the Towrah forbids starting a fire for heat and light if necessary—especially during the winter months. Therefore, I maintain that starting fires for work purposes was forbidden, but for heat and light purposes, if unavoidable, was and is permitted.

1 comment:

  1. I've been trying for so long to figure out how as a mom of ten kids to keep the sabbath, because it's impossible not to do any work at all when you have 10 kids to take care of.
    all day every day i have to take care of them, change diapers, do cares for my special needs child who is a teenager but needs full care like a baby, clean up after them, feed them ect.
    doing pre-made microwave food instead of cooking is easy! they prefer instant food anyway. making a meal from scratch for my large family is something i have to plan a day in advance sometimes and takes the entire day!
    but things like making a bottle for the toddler, breastfeeding the twins, changing diapers, reheating leftovers, making instant mac n cheese in the microwave ect people have told me in the past is a no-no for sabbath keeping so i always fear that i'm not doing right.
    thank you for this article it really helps clear up some things!