Torah and Shabbat

candles As well as encouraging weekly Torah reflection, Light of Torah invites Christians to find appropriate ways to acknowledge and appreciate the Shabbat.

 Shabbat is the Hebrew word for ‘Sabbath’ and it refers to the holy day that occurs every seventh day of the week, i.e., Saturday. (Note: Shabbat begins at sundown on Friday.)

Shabbat (the seventh day of the week) is distinct from Sunday (the first day of the week) which for Christians is 'the Day of the Lord', the day of Christ's resurrection.

In Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter 'Dies Domini' (1998), these two days of holiness are clearly distinguished, while acknowledging a relationship between the two. "In order to grasp the full meaning of Sunday, therefore, we must re-read the great story of creation and deepen our understanding of the theology of 'the Sabbath'" (n.8). Further, Dies Domini observes that "there have always been groups within Christianity which observe both the Sabbath and Sunday as 'two brother days'" (n.23).

In Jewish communities, the Sabbath (Shabbat) is observed and kept as a day of rest, relationship, worship and renewal. It celebrates the God of creation, as well as important themes of liberation and redemption. Shabbat typically includes a festive meal in the home with family and friends, and a special awareness of the Lord’s presence.

The Jewish people have a long tradition of reflecting on the meaning of the Sabbath, of observing and keeping this day of holiness according to specific laws and customs. According to the Jewish perspective Shabbat is also considered to be God's gift to all humanity, described in the creation acount in the opening chapters of Genesis.

Thus, while respecting the special relationship between the Jewish people and the Shabbat, as well as the integrity of Christian tradition, this Light of Torah ministry invites Christians to explore ways of experiencing both days of holiness - Shabbat and Sunday - as part of their weekly rhythms of prayer and celebration.

 We do this in the knowledge that:

  • Our tradition is profoundly linked to that of the Jewish people;
  • Jesus celebrated Shabbat according to the customs of his day;
  • Shabbat is God’s gift to all humanity, enshrined in the act of creation (see Gen. 2:1-3), and observed in a unique manner by the Jews;
  • Shabbat is a day distinct from Sunday. For Christians, Sunday is ‘the Day of the Lord’ and the liturgical high-point of their week.
  • Our early Christian ancestors celebrated Shabbat, even as they developed the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.
  • By rediscovering the beauty of Shabbat as a holy day in its own right, we Christians can experience powerful biblical and spiritual themes that enrich the flow of our week in its orientation to the Day of the Lord.

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