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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Shabbat Explained

FOR RUSSIAN VERSION OF THE ARTICLE CLICK HERE.
РУССКАЯ ВЕРСИЯ СТАТЬИ ЗДЕСЬ.

The 4th out 10 commandments (see this post) speaks about The Day of Rest/Intermission (Shabbat). Let's take a look:

Exodus 31:16

‎16 ‏וְשָׁמְר֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֑ת לַעֲשׂ֧וֹת אֶת־הַשַּׁבָּ֛ת לְדֹרֹתָ֖ם בְּרִ֥ית עוֹלָֽם׃
16: And shall keep sons of Israel the Shabbat to do the Shabbat for their generations as a covenant eternal.

‎17 ‏בֵּינִ֗י וּבֵין֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל א֥וֹת הִ֖וא לְעֹלָ֑ם כִּי־שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבַיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י שָׁבַ֖ת וַיִּנָּפַֽשׁ׃ ס

17: Between Me and between sons of Israel sign it is for eternity, for six days was making Yahweh the Heavens and the Earth and in a day the seventh He ceased and was refreshed.

First and foremost, as you can see from the above verses, Shabbat is an Eternal Sign of The Covenant between Yahweh and Israel, just like the Circumcision of males (Genesis 17:10). 

Now, let's take a look at the definition of the Shabbat which can be found in the Decalogues (aka The Ten Commandments/Sayings) (Exodus 20:1-17 and Deut. 5:6-21):

Exodus 20:8-11:

‎8 ‏זָכ֛וֹר֩ אֶת־י֥֨וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖֜ת לְקַדְּשֽׁ֗וֹ
9 ‏שֵׁ֤֣שֶׁת יָמִ֣ים֙ תַּֽעֲבֹ֔ד֮ וְעָשִׂ֖֣יתָ כָּל־מְלַאכְתֶּֽךָ֒
‎10 ‏וְי֙וֹם֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔֜י שַׁבָּ֖֣ת׀ לַיהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑֗יךָ לֹֽ֣א־תַעֲשֶׂ֣֨ה כָל־מְלָאכָ֡֜ה אַתָּ֣ה׀ וּבִנְךָֽ֣־וּ֠בִתֶּ֗ךָ עַבְדְּךָ֤֨3 וַאֲמָֽתְךָ֜֙3 וּבְהֶמְתֶּ֔֗ךָ וְגֵרְךָ֖֙ אֲשֶׁ֥֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶֽ֔יךָ
‎11 ‏כִּ֣י שֵֽׁשֶׁת־יָמִים֩ עָשָׂ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֶת־הַיָּם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֔ם וַיָּ֖נַח בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֑י עַל־כֵּ֗ן בֵּרַ֧ךְ יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־י֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖ת וַֽיְקַדְּשֵֽׁהוּ׃ ס 

8 Remember a Day of the Sabbath, to sanctify it.
9 Six days you shall serve, and do all your work:
10 And day the seventh is a Sabbath to Yahweh, your God. Not you shall do any work, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your servant, nor your female-slave, and your animals, and your sojourner who is in your gates:
11 For six days made Yahweh the Heavens and the Earth, the Sea, and All which is in them, and He rested in a day the seventh: therefore blessed Yahweh a Day of the sabbath, and hallowed it.

Let's go word by word and verse by verse:

Verse 8: 

Traditional "remember" replaced with "guard" in the Samaritan Pentateuch. However, it only means that text of the Ten Commandments was redacted. However, since the word "guard" is used in Masoretic Text in Deuteronomy I do not see any problem with such reading. 

"To sanctify it" (lekadsho) - This means to abstain from "work of service"/"slave work" (this will be explained below). And by slaughtering a slaughter to Yahweh (Numbers 28:9-10). This word also used in the description of the Shabbat during Seven Days of creation (Gen 2:3). In Exodus 19:10 and Exodus 19:14 there is an implication of washing one's garments as well. 

Verse 9

"Six days you shall serve, and do all your work:" תעבד (taavod - you-shall-serve) is an expression of paramount importance, which provide the clue to the whole Shabbat issue. As you can see, we are required to perform "work of service" (slave work) six days a week. 

Verse 10

"And day the seventh is a Sabbath to Yahweh" - a Day of Rest or a Day of Intermission

"Not you shall do any work," - This means that "all work", namely all "work of service" is prohibited. This is obviously deducted from the previous verse, where is says "serve". Thus, it is not just "any" or "all" work that is prohibited on Shabbat, but rather ONLY "WORK OF SERVICE". Please see detailed explanation below.

"you, and your son, and your daughter, and your servant, nor your female-slave, and your animals, and your sojourner who is in your gates:" - Many interesting things here... First of all, "your wife" is not mentioned. This is because Shabbat commandment, aside being a communal commandment, is also a personal commandment and it is directed toward both a man AND a woman. Secondly, everything that is in ones' gates (aka say a fence surrounding the property or a house) is required to be released from "servile work". The absence of a mention of a "hireling" is also perhaps due to the fact that if all would observe the Shabbat, there would be no one to hire.

If you are still unconvinced that Torah speaks only about "work of service", consider this: In Leviticus 23:2-3 the Shabbat is called "miqra qodesh" (meeting of holiness). In most instances where "miqra qodesh" is mentioned the text speaks ONLY ABOUT "WORK OF SERVICE" and NOT about "ALL WORK"  See Ex 12:16, Lev 23:2-4, Lev 23:7-8, Lev 23:21, Lev 23:24, Lev 23:27, Lev 23:35-7, Num 28:18, Num 28:25-26, Num 29:1, Num 29:7, Num 29:12.

One argument that is usually presented is that the text using an expression "all work" only in regards to Shabbat and Yom Kippur. However as the Decalogue implies, it really talks about "all work OF SERVICE". My theory that the text was edited and the word "service" was omitted. Here is why: In Exodus 12:16, the text clearly states that during "miqra qodesh" (meeting of holiness) "all work" is prohibited, except for "which is being eaten by every soul, it alone shall be done by you. So as you can see the term "all work" here implies "servile work" and cooking/food is not considered "work".
Another clue is that Exodus 12:16 speaks about 1st day of Passover and uses the above mentioned "all work" expression to define it. However, the other references to the 1st of Passover provide completely different information. In Lev 23:7-8 it says "any work of service" and in Deut 16:8 it simply says "work" without "all" or "service". This inconsistency is clearly due to editing of the text or perhaps un/intentional mistake, so the correct understanding of prohibition should be "all work of service"

One last argument that usually comes up is that only Shabbat (Lev 23:3) and Yom Kippur (Lev 23:32) is referred to as Shabbat and therefore "all work" is prohibited on Shabbat, while during other "miqra qodesh" only "work of service" is prohibited. This is true and it is a good argument, but only somewhat. Shabbat and Yom Kippur are not the only days that are referred to as "Shabbat". In Lev 23:24 Torah calls Yom Teruah "shabbaton". Lev 23:39 is even more interesting as not only it calls Sukkot 1 and 7 "Shabbaton", this word is also being used instead of the expression "mikra qodesh" in Numb 28:25, Num 29:12. So as you can see, Shabbat and Yom Kippur are most definitely considered "mikra qodesh" and therefore only "work of service" is prohibited and NOT "ALL WORK"

Now, lets take a look at further clarifications of the Shabbat commandment provided in the Torah:

Exodus 35:2-3


‎2 ‏שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִים֮ תֵּעָשֶׂ֣ה מְלָאכָה֒ וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י יִהְיֶ֨ה לָכֶ֥ם קֹ֛דֶשׁ שַׁבַּ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן לַיהוָ֑ה כָּל־הָעֹשֶׂ֥ה ב֛וֹ מְלָאכָ֖ה יוּמָֽת׃
‎3 ‏לֹא־תְבַעֲר֣וּ אֵ֔שׁ בְּכֹ֖ל מֹשְׁבֹֽתֵיכֶ֑ם בְּי֖וֹם הַשַּׁבָּֽת׃ פ

2 Six days shall be done work, and in a day the seventh it shall become for you a holy sabbath of cessation to Yahweh. Everyone Doing in it work shall be put to death.
3 Not you shall eradicate fire in all your dwellings in a day of the sabbath.
Verse 2

This verse delineates punishment for the violation of the Shabbat. Its death. As you can notice, Torah does not provide any information as to how Shabbat violators were to die. I will discuss it in more details below.

Verse 3

Exodus 35:3 is one of the most famous and oldest mistranslation of the Torah. The traditional interpretation of "lo-teva'aru" is either "do not kindle" or "do not burn". Therefore, most religious Jews either do not kindle fire on Shabbat or do not burn it at all. This is of'course not only a major misunderstanding of the commandment but it is also a source of very bizarre observance of the Shabbat, as well as a huge inconvenience. I.e. eating cold food or not using electricity/fire e.t.c. So as you can see, traditional translation and interpretation of this verse is grossly incorrect. And here is why:

First and foremost, the fire is not mentioned in the Decalogues and in all other places in the Torah where Shabbat commandment is repeated. Under traditional interpretation one would think that its a great omission because traditional interpretations make fire issue almost a definition of the Shabbat, therefore just this fact alone seems very strange and not in favor of the traditional interpretation.

Secondly, the proper form that would imply burning/kindling is tisrof baesh (burning in fire) (Ex 12:10) instead of "baer baesh" (eradicating in fire) (Ex. 3:2-3). However Torah chooses "tevaaru" (you shall eradicate).

In most places in the Torah where form of the root "baer" is used, its meaning is that of "eradication" and not of "burning"/"kindling". Check out these verses: Ex 3:2-3, Ex 22:5-6, Ex 35:3, Lev 6:12, Num 11:1, Num 11:3, Num 24:22, Deut 4:11, Deut 5:23, Deut 9:15, especially Deut 13:5, Deut 17:7, Deut 17:12, Deut 19:13, Deut 19:19, Deut 21:9, Deut 21:21, Deut 22:21-22, Deut 22:24, and a similar form in Deut 26:13-14.

Now, traditional interpretations create several contradictions as well. First one is in Exodus 3:2-3. If we translate "baer" as burn (Ex 3:2), such reading would not make sense in the following verse (Ex 3:3), because Moses wondered why the bush would not BURN DOWN and NOT why it was BURNING.
So as you can see, "baer" here should be translated as "eradicate" or "burn down/up/away/out" and not as simply "burn".

Second contradiction can be found in mentioned verses of Exodus 12:16 and Exodus 12:10. These verses speak of 1st of Passover when a lamb was to be slaughtered, cooked and burnt. Since 1st of Passover can most certainly fall of Shabbat, we have no choice to admit that fire is permitted on Shabbat and the proper meaning is that you SHOULD NOT ERADICATE FIRE and NOT "you should not burn fire". Those of you who think that this is an exception, please show me exact verses where such exception is explicitly mentioned (a good example of an explicit exception is Numbers 9:6-14)

This is why the fire issue can't be found anywhere but in Ex 35:3. This is because it is not part of the Shabbat but rather a clarification about a fire. As you know fire is required for heat, cooking, light and protection. Therefore the Torah is telling us that "you should not eradicate fire" so that you are comfortable on your day of rest. AND BECAUSE starting fire from scratch is most certainly "work of service" which is prohibited by Shabbat definition. Starting fire from scratch requires one to go chop or collect wood, arrange it, kindle it and let it burn - definitely "work of service". Therefore Torah tells us that we have to have fire in our dwellings on Shabbat and we should make sure that fire will not be eradicated because of lack of wood, kindling material, gas, coal, electricity, e.t.c. It was suggested to me that as God would provide a double portion of manna for bread a day before Shabbat (Exodus 16:22-30), so are we required to "not eradicate fire" by preparing a double portion of "fire" wood, kindling material, electricity,e.t.c) so as not to violate the Shabbat by having to do "servile work" (starting fire from scratch).

This brings me to the last Shabbat clarification, namely Numbers 15:32-36. I most certainly disagree with the traditional interpretation that it has anything to do with "burning" fire. However, there is a connection.

As you can read from Numbers 15:32, the man that was found violating the Shabbat was violating all of the precepts/clarifications of the commandment. Namely, he was chopping/gathering wood which is most certainly "work of service" and since Torah decided to make an example out of him, it is clear to me that this man was collecting wood with an intent to start a fire from scratch which is also "work of service". Thus, he completely violated the Shabbat.

Important clarification can be found in Numbers 15:35-36. These verses indicate the way in which Shabbat violators are to be put to death. Its death by stoning. This is the only place in the Torah where it is mentioned.

In Numbers 28:9-10, Exodus 30:7-8, Leviticus 24:2-4 and Lev 6:12-13 we can read that they burned fire in the Tabernacle (on the Copper Altar) and "kindled" Menorah and Incense on Shabbat. There was also a "pillar of fire" every night (i.e Exodus 13:21-22). So as you can see, all of these are the arguments in favor of my interpretation, as it would be strange that God would burn fire for Himself and would not allow his servants to do the same so that they are comfortable. And once again, if you think that it might have been an exception, please do let me know exact verses where such exception explicitly mentioned.

So in summation, Exodus 35:3 can be translated in two possible ways:

1) Not you shall eradicate fire in all your dwellings in a day of the shabbat.
2) Not you shall burn out fire in all your dwellings in a day of the shabbat.

In other words, our God is the Merciful God, so I refuse to believe that He wanted us to freeze and eat cold food 52 times a year. What about people who need fire? Sick, babies, old people? You see the picture...

Another clarification can be found in Exodus 16:29. Here the word ממקמו (mimekomo - from place of him) or מקמ (mikum - place) can be interpreted as a place of dwelling. But it does not speak just about the house or property. This word can also mean a city or inhabited area. In other words, it is ok to travel LOCALY on Shabbat. However, one can't travel long-distance on Shabbat. Modern transportation, particularly intercontinental airplanes, raise difficulty with determining the start/end of the Shabbat due to a time difference and time dilation during travel.

One other important fact is that Torah does not specify the day of the week for Shabbat. It simply says - the seventh day. This means that one can observe the Shabbat on Wednesday if the one wants. Of'course, traditional observance of Shabbat from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset is also acceptable.

One can spend money on Shabbat as long as it is not in one's gate (see Exodus 20:10) or house. More specifically, since we do not live by the laws of the Pentateuch, and because we live in exile, there is no explicit prohibition not to spend money on Shabbat. Yes, it may not be very ethical to make non-Hebrews work, but it is acceptable and does not violate any of the Shabbat commandments. And the non-Hebrews would work anyway. This is optional and I myself prefer not to do it unless I absolutely have to.

Jewish tradition deducts prohibited types of work from the tasks that were required to build the Tabernacle. However, it is a very far-fetched assumption. Yes, in Exodus 36:3 (or Ex. 35:24, e.t.c) it does say למלאכת עבדת (limelechet avodat hakodesh - for work of service of the sanctuary) and yes, the construction of the Tabernacle did involve "servile work". However, I do not see direct connection here except for the similar wording. Especially considering the fact that the Tabernacle service would not be interrupted even on Shabbat (i.e Numbers 28:9-10). In my opinion the commandment simply refers to "work of service" or work that one would do for money or due to obligations (i.e a slave).

Another interesting observation is that during the Messianic Event (aka Exodus), the Shabbat is being reestablished and renewed. And it would be indicated by a double portion of manna that would be provided a day prior. See Exodus 16:22-23

In conclusion, I would like to point out that Shabbat was made for Rest from "work of service/servitude" because God brought us out from Egypt, from the house of SERVANTS (Ex 20:2, Deut 5:6). Yahweh gave us A Day of Rest from the "WORK OF SERVANTS" one day a week. Therefore, this commandment should be interpreted in such a way as to make the Shabbat as pleasurable and restful as possible, so we can all Bless it and Hallow it just as God did!



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Modern Literal Torah Translation (Sublinear and Interlinear): Genesis/Bereshit

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