One lesson we cannot seem to teach often enough is that Shabbat truly is easier than people want to believe it is.
One way to look at preparing for the Sabbath is treat it like it is the same as finding out on Monday that your best friend is going to come visit on Friday, but she can only stay for 24 hours. You know how the two of you are when you get together and want to catch up on everything that has gone on since your last visit. You hope to make a good impression plus you will probably talk for hours and hours, so you want everything to be JUST RIGHT when she arrives. From being organized to the house being cleaned and food prepared, you know it is going to take some time to get everything accomplished, but you have four whole days to get it done. Waiting until the last minute will clearly cause confusion and likely stress - something you are certain you want to avoid.
Your hope is that by preparing early you can alleviate the majority of tension that could arise for you or the family. You start by putting together a menu plan, get as much done Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as you can, shop early for ingredients you might need, clean on Thursday, cook early Friday, and then make sure that everything is wiped up and ready for when she arrives that evening.
You plan ahead by making sure you have something special baked for snacking on, some kind of drink that is her favorite - coffee, tea, lemonade, or something else delicious. You make sure the kids have PLENTY to keep them occupied while the two of you talk with as few interruptions as possible. It isn’t that you want to neglect the children, but you are praying for some quiet time to just catch up and have adult conversation.
You want to make sure the house is tidied up before she gets there, too. You clean the bathrooms, bedrooms, dust every nook and cranny, vacuum, mop, every imaginable thing you can get done, you get done well in advance.
You know that those 24 hours you are going to spend as much time talking together as possible, so you create meals that are easy to re-warm. The more prepared you are, the more time you can then spend enjoying each others company, eating together, maybe praying together, and just resting and relaxing. You are all excited and anticipating her arrival so that you can enjoy this special time together. When she arrives, you take her coat, tuck it away, make her comfortable, and viola! It is as simple as Shabbat!!
Sounds almost too simple, doesn’t it? Yet Shabbat really can be all that and less. Sadly, in an effort to do our absolute best to try to please Yahweh, we can become over-vigilant and create more work than is necessary for resting on Shabbat. They make their yoke difficult and the burden very heavy. By over analyzing, over preparing, over doing, we can then over stress.
Yahweh’s commandments for Shabbat are not complicated:
1) No Work
(Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
We find when someone is new to honoring the Sabbath, those two things don't seem to be enough yet those are the only things that need to be the focus. We often believe there MUST be more to it than that, especially if we came out of a denomination that had “Sunday sabbath" where there were a lot of meetings, prayer groups, gatherings, meals, and such. Our subconscious is accustomed to busy-ness all day on what we thought was “Sabbath", and discovering that it is just those two simple tasks makes it seem almost impossible to believe.
Shabbat doesn’t need to be anything major, fancy, or extravagant. You just follow Yahweh’s instructions for no work and for rest. A great example of the simplicity is the story from scripture about the manna. When planning for prep day and for Shabbat, Yahweh instructed them to gather every day, and then for the Sabbath, "On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily." Exodus 16:5 The people were to gather manna on the sixth day, their prep day, and on the 7th day they were to just eat what they had prepared for that day and rest. That was it.
While many websites will counsel you to incorporate numerous traditions such as candle lighting, specific prayers, or large feasts each and every week, this can get overwhelming, time consuming and expensive. These teachers often will also counsel on Rabbinic (Pharisee-type) micro-details such as turning on light switches, not being allowed to tear toilet tissue on Sabbath so you must pre-tear it in sections before sundown, not tying or buckling shoes, not driving a car, and so many other “micro-tasks”. These things are all man-made traditions, and Yahweh did not intend for it to be such an overwhelming burden. Shabbat (Sabbath), is a blessed day that Yahweh set aside (sanctified - Gen. 2:3) for you and your family and for your physical and spiritual rejuvenation (Mark 2:27).
Our hope is that you see that truly your Shabbat can be as easy and as exciting as having your best friend come to visit. By preparing early throughout the week, when the day finally arrives, we can rest in His Shalom and enjoy the day in His presence.
Blessings and Shalom.
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
Torah For Women
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