Sabbath. That can be such a daunting word. As a Christian, I know God commands us to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20:8). The second commandment goes on to explain that for six days people shall labor, but on the seventh day they shall do no labor, as it is “a sabbath to the Lord your God.” This is because God created the world in 6 days, and rested on the 7th, so we are to follow his example. We are supposed to have a Sabbath day every week. I have to admit that I tend to avoid this subject for two reasons: 1) I’m not exactly sure what Sabbath means, and 2) I’m not sure I can do it.
Enter our homeschool curriculum for this year. We use My Father’s World, and for this year, 4th grade, we are using the “Creation to the Greeks” set. Because it begins with creation, Jewish history is included. In order to better understand Jewish history, our curriculum includes celebrating Jewish feasts. The first one we were assigned: Sabbath. The book we are using is Celebrating Biblical Feasts by Martha Zimmerman. The tag line says, “Experience the New Testament significance of Old Testament celebrations,” so the author explains how each Old Testament feast has meaning for Christians. I love studying the Bible, Jewish history, and finding connections between the Old and New Testaments, so when I discovered we would be learning more about the Jewish feasts this year, I was over the moon. I couldn’t wait to get started.
But, I put the brakes on so hard they were squealing when I realized that upon completion of our first week of school, we were to celebrate the Sabbath as a family. I read through the celebration, and honestly, was overwhelmed. There was all of this food we were supposed to eat, decorations to gather, and a script to follow. However, there was a spark of excitement as I read through how the various parts of the Sabbath celebration point to Jesus. In essence the Old Testament Jews were celebrating Jesus every week, and didn’t even know it!
Well, being the planner I am, I started making lists and read through the chapter again. I made plans to make challah (Sabbath bread — the braided loaf), golden yoich (golden chicken soup), candlestick salad, and strudel for the Friday evening meal. There is also a fairly traditional meal for the Saturday noon meal — cholent, which is a beef barley stew. (This part didn’t make sense to me at first, but then I realized that because the Jewish Sabbath begins Friday at sundown, they then go to a service on Saturday morning, like we traditionally do on a Sunday morning. So, this cholent goes in the oven Friday evening, just as Sabbath begins, at a very low temperature, cooks all night, and then is ready when the family arrives home after service. Saturday is like our Sunday!)
The weekend arrived. I had everything to make our lovely meal and went to work Friday afternoon. Now, I have to interject for a minute to tell you that it was a difficult morning. There was some arguing that happened in our house, and I began to doubt if we should even celebrate the Sabbath because (in my woe is me state) I didn’t think anyone else was interested in it. Being the logical one, Vence talked some sense into me, and we carried on with the plans. And, I am glad we did.
The Friday evening meal is scripted, and began with a prayer of preparation spoken by the mother. She then lights the two candles, one for creation and the other for redemption. The father blesses each child, which was a sweet moment between Vence and Minnie Mouse (although I’m not sure she could appreciate it completely), then the husband compliments his wife, quoting Proverbs 31:10, 27-30. This was a beautiful, special moment for me as Vence read these words to me. We then sang a song of blessing.
At this point, the father blesses the cup, and suddenly, as Christians, the meal began to take on a different meaning, as we remembered that Jesus blessed the cup. Then, we “washed” our hands before the blessing over the bread. The father begins, and each one at the table then repeats it as we tear off a piece of bread.
With all of the blessings done, we could partake of our meal. Isn’t the candlestick salad cute? (It is the banana in a pineapple ring with a cherry on top!) Minnie Mouse made the beautiful challah cover for our table. An interesting piece was the grace said after the meal. It is done as a way to thank God for the food that was just provided.
The weekend continued. We had our Saturday noon meal, and didn’t do much all day except sit around, read, and relax. Minnie Mouse spent the entire day Saturday outside playing with neighborhood kids. As I reflected, I realized we were each having our own Sabbath. Our book/guide quotes a children’s book called The Jewish Sabbath: “Some people rest by closing their eyes and thinking. Some people rest by walking or visiting, or reading, or playing. Rest means being free to just be. A person is a person on the Sabbath.” It was a freeing epiphany for me to realize that Sabbath isn’t the same for everyone, and when we try to fit it in a box, we lose the meaning. Sabbath is about being free to be. It is about communing with God, celebrating who God is and who God created each of us to be. It isn’t about not doing manual labor, because for some it might be in the laboring where they best commune with God. Sabbath is about taking time out of the daily busyness of life to reflect on God, find ourselves, and connect those two things in order to then go back into our daily lives carrying the light of Jesus.
Now that I better understand Sabbath, I realize that I can do it. It isn’t as daunting anymore.