Modern Commentary

Torah & Spirit
Family Life







The commandment of Shabbat is one of the most important commandments in the Torah. God speaks of it several times, always emphasizing its significant place in the life of the Torah observant Jew. A few of the passages relating to Shabbat that may be found in the Torah are listed below, and they illustrate this fact very well.

Genesis 2:1-3
The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array. On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that He had done.

Exodus 16:29-30
Mark that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you two days’ food on the sixth day. Let everyone remain where he is: let no one leave his place on the seventh day.” So the people remained inactive on the seventh day.

Exodus 20:8
Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

Exodus 23:12
 Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor, in order that your ox and your ass may rest, and that your bondman and the stranger may be refreshed.

Exodus 31:12-17
And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My Sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you. You shall keep the Sabbath, for it is holy for you. He who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin. Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. The Israelite people shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time: it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and was refreshed.

Exodus 31:18
When He finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of God.

Exodus 35:2-3
On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day.

Leviticus 19:3
You shall each revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I the Lord am your God.

Leviticus 19:30
You shall keep My Sabbaths and venerate My sanctuary: I am the Lord.

One of the most pressing questions asked relating to Shabbat is "What is work?" This is a question that has been asked for thousands of years. In understanding what work is, the Neviim (the prophets) help us greatly. Below are some of the passages contained in the prophets that address the issue of work on Shabbat:

Isaiah 58:13
If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath,
From pursuing your affairs on My holy day;
If you call the Sabbath “delight,”
The Lord’s holy day “honored”;
And if you honor it and go not your ways
Nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains—

Jeremiah 17:21-25
Thus said the Lord: Guard yourselves for your own sake against carrying burdens on the Sabbath day, and bringing them through the gates of Jerusalem. Nor shall you carry out burdens from your houses on the Sabbath day, or do any work, but you shall hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. (But they would not listen or turn their ear; they stiffened their necks and would not pay heed or accept discipline.) If you obey Me—declares the Lord—and do not bring in burdens through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day and do no work on it, then through the gates of this city shall enter kings who sit upon the throne of David, with their officers—riding on chariots and horses, they and their officers—and the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited for all time.

We are told that those who keep the Shabbat will be blessed. Shabbat, as with all the Torah, was given for our benefit, not our detriment (Dt. 10.13).

Isaiah 56:3-7
Let not the foreigner say,
Who has attached himself to the Lord,
“The Lord will keep me apart from His people”;
And let not the eunuch say,
“I am a withered tree.”
For thus said the Lord:
“As for the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
Who have chosen what I desire
And hold fast to My covenant—
I will give them, in My House
And within My walls,
A monument and a name
Better than sons or daughters.
I will give them an everlasting name
Which shall not perish.
As for the foreigners
Who attach themselves to the Lord,
To minister to Him,
And to love the name of the Lord,
To be His servants—
All who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it,
And who hold fast to My covenant—
I will bring them to My sacred mount
And let them rejoice in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
Shall be welcome on My altar;
For My House shall be called
A house of prayer for all peoples.”