“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” — Exodus 20:8

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.”Deuteronomy 5:12

At the very heart of Judaism is the Sabbath — the only ritual ordained in the Ten Commandments. In a world where there are so many distractions, it is imperative to learn about and cherish the one day a week set aside for rest and contemplation, a day Jews call Shabbat. This is one of 12 devotions exploring the many lessons we can learn from this rich observance. For more teaching on the Sabbath, download our complimentary Bible study.

Did you know that keeping the Sabbath involves two key components — remembering the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8) and observing the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12)?

Indeed, in the Jewish view, these biblical accounts describe the Sabbath in very different terms. The first account, “zakhor et yom hashabbat” from Exodus, reminds us to “remember” the Sabbath, a term that has positive connotations in Hebrew. The second command states “shamor et yom hashabbat” — to observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy. This command is a negative connotation and alludes to the negative commands in observing the Sabbath, such as laws prohibiting creative work.

Why the dual nature of our observing the Sabbath? According to the rabbis, when God proclaimed the Ten Commandments, He actually spoke both words — shamor and zakhor — together in order to teach us that we sanctify the Sabbath only as we observe both its negative and positive commandments.

While Jews observe the various prohibitions of the day — the “thou shalt nots” — such as abstaining from lighting fire or doing business, we must also rejoice in the spirit of the Sabbath by observing its positive dimensions, such as studying the Torah, praying, eating the festive meals, and spending time with family and friends.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Without the positives, the Sabbath would become a day of don’ts and legalism. And without the negatives, the day loses an aspect of its holiness that comes from the discipline of obeying God’s commands. We need both elements to bring the desired balance and proper attitude that allows us to enter fully into God’s rest and blessing.

I believe we all can benefit from observing the Sabbath, and for Christians, the Lord’s Day, in this manner — by remembering and keeping it. We remember God’s ordained day of rest by focusing on Him and spending time in worship and fellowship with family and others. We observe God’s Sabbath by taking time out from our busy routines and setting boundaries around that day.

God invites us every week to partake of the abundant blessings awaiting us if we remember and observe this special day. The question is whether we will indeed avail ourselves of this heavenly experience and grasp the majesty and significance of God’s holy rest, for if we do so, we are promised God’s blessing of shalom, peace.

Learn more about the traditions and meanings of Shabbat in this free issue of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s Bible study series, Limmud (“study” in Hebrew), Shabbat:  A Day of Delight

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