Are we guarding the Sabbath?

A week ago, we had a couple friends over for dinner on Friday night to enter the Sabbath with us.

As many of you know, we always have burritos on Friday night. It allows us to put Friday night dinner on auto pilot. Every Friday morning, our oldest son puts about a half gallon of dried pinto beans in the crockpot. Click here for my recipe. Our daughter makes rice in the rice cooker. When it gets closer to dinner, each of our children prepares part of the meal, such as chopping the onion or fetching another jar of salsa from the pantry. Well, that had nothing to do with what I want to talk about today, but hopefully you can get some ideas for making your prep day meal a bit easier.

So, we had friends over to share burritos with us. We had a really delightful time, laughing and sharing. Before we knew it, it was 9 pm. So, they decided it was definitely time to call it a night and head home. My husband and I are both rather introverted and don’t have people over very often, so we had kind of reached our energy max as well. To be good houseguests, they offered to help with the dishes and clean-up.

Without thinking, I responded, “Thank you, but no. It’s Shabbat and the dishes can wait.”

Many years ago, I read the book ‘The Sabbath’ by Abraham Joshua Heschel. (affiliate link) It made such a huge impact on my mindset towards Shabbat. The following concept in particular really stuck with me.

Then, suddenly, it was time: twenty minutes before sunset. Whatever hadn’t been finished in the kitchen we simply left behind as we lit the candles and blessed the arrival of the Sabbath. My father writes, “The Sabbath comes like a caress, wiping away fear, sorrow and somber memories.

The Sabbath, page viii

While our family does not follow strict Judaic guidelines for Sabbath observance, we do try to make Sabbath different than all other days. When Sabbath arrives, the work stops. Each family’s definition of work may look slightly different as we seek to obey in a world that mocks the Sabbath. But once you have defined your “lines,” they need to be kept. Reading this book helped me to understand the definite and clear line between the Sabbath and the other six days. To truly keep the Sabbath, it must be set apart. Our work needs to cease, and we need to eagerly enter into the rest that YHVH provided for us in the Sabbath.

Back to my story….

We all exchanged Shabbat Shaloms and called it a night. It had been a blessing to share the fellowship together, and then we promptly fell into bed in much need of rest. ๐Ÿ™‚

Later, the husband shared how my response had served as a gentle reprimand and reminder of our duty to guard the commands. He knew that, of course, but was trying to be helpful and considerate. But he was refreshed to see a family actively guarding the commands.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

Deuteronomy 7:9-11

The word often translated ‘keep’ in our English Bibles is also the word guard. In the Hebrew, it is the word samar (shin, mem, resh). It is usually translated: to keep, guard, observe, give heed, and also includes the idea of a watchman. To guard a command, we need to go beyond checking boxes and lists of rules and move to protection of that command. To guard the Sabbath means that we protect those lines between Sabbath and the other days as a precious gift, regardless of what those around us are doing.

YHVH wants us to guard and protect His commands as we would guard and protect our precious family. I would defend my children without thinking. I am to defend His commands, such as the Sabbath, as naturally as I would my children.

That brings to mind a story, which I’ll go ahead and tell you to illustrate my point.

I’m afraid of cows. I find their size unsettling, to say the least. We had a couple cows several years ago and I did not enjoy it at all. If I ended up in a position where I had to cross a space that they were in, I had a real physical tightening in my chest, among other things. One day, our two-year-old daughter was running around in the pasture with nothing but a diaper, and I saw one of those massive cows heading her way. Intellectually, I know that the cow meant her no harm. But, my fear of cows said that there was danger afoot. Without thinking, I swallowed my fear and ran in to scoop up my child and bring her out of the pasture. It was a completely involuntary response born out of my love for my child.

Do we truly guard the commands as we would guard our children? Do we protect commands like the Sabbath without a thought out of our love for our Creator? Keeping His commands is not a burden, but rather a way to demonstrate our love for our Heavenly Father and His ways.

I share this, not to say look at me, far from it. I want us all to actively evaluate whether we are checking boxes or truly guarding and protecting the commands as we would our family. This idea of guarding is all throughout Scripture and I plan to start marking and taking note of the Biblical directions to guard.

Are we being good watchmen? Are we guarding?

Please share in the comments a simple way that you have found to guard the Sabbath, and set it apart from all other days.

If you have younger children or grandchildren, I also want to invite you to sign up below to receive a printable book I created to teach young children about preparing for the Sabbath. It’s a PDF that is part of my free resource library exclusively available to email subscribers. The file name is My Little Torah Books 1. You will also find a prep day checklist to help you prepare better for welcoming the Sabbath each week.

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