There is an old formula about the Sabbath (Shabbat) that comes from the two primary commands of the scriptures about it: remember it (Exod. 20:8) and keep it (Exod. 31:14). We keep it or observe it on Shabbat and we remember it all the other six days of the week.
Shabbat becomes the center of our week and in the dimension of time, it is the concentration of our spiritual yearnings.
Shabbat has become for me and I’m sure for multitudes of others a holy habit, a day for which I prepare by reading and studying and a day on which I spend time praying, teaching, discussing, and being in community.
It is not just Saturday or Friday night with the family around the table that becomes hallowed by the Shabbat command, but other days as well.
This morning, Tuesday, I lay in bed deciding whether to roll over another hour or get up (I don’t always have the choice) and asked myself a question: how many of the six working days does Shabbat really impact in my life? In other words, do I begin preparing on Sunday for the next Shabbat, wait until Friday, or something in between?
My experience, of course, is colored by the fact that I am a congregational leader and prepare teaching for each Shabbat. Still, it is a good question for me and for all who are part of a Jewish expression of faith. You don’t have to be a rabbi to have plenty of activities leading up to Shabbat.
The daily prayers and prayer times, the seven aliyot of each Torah reading, the haftarah or prophets reading, the various New Testament readings available to complement them — all these and more are activities to prepare for Shabbat. Washing the family tablecloth, making sure we have candles, planning a Friday night meal, a Saturday oneg Shabbat meal, and some food to have ready for after synagogue and before Shabbat ends — these weekly rituals give the Sabbath meaning as well. Will it be pot roast on Friday nights? Why does the worshipper lean his hand on the animal at the sacrificial ritual in this week’s Torah portion? Why does Isaiah call Israel Jeshurun in this week’s haftarah? Is my tablecloth clean and should I buy some flowers to decorate the kitchen for Shabbat?
Jewish life is rich and makes it nearly impossible to forget that God sanctifies all of life, from the cooking to the reading to the words we use.
Of course, this all assumes that we remember the Sabbath and keep it.
Need to brush up on Shabbat basics? http://www.aish.com/shabbat/
Want to read a rather advanced article by a Messianic rabbi about one of the Shabbat prayers? http://bethavinu.org/learning/articles/kdushat-hayom-the-holiness-of-the-sabbath-day